Thursday, December 18, 2008
I just saw the IFC-released movie Anamorph. It was directed by a fellow named Henry Miller. I worked for Henry on a previous movie of his called Late Watch. I was the sound mixer.
Late Watch was an interesting shoot. I've never seen the final movie. (Actually, it was on Late Watch that we met Jim Mickle.) While I'm in caveat mode I should say that I used to work at the Wooster Group, so I've worked with Willem and with Paul Lazar, who plays the medical examiner. Oh, and oddly, I mixed Deborah Harry when she did a benefit for the Wooster Group. Oh and look -- Jim was one of the editors on the "making of" video of Anamorph.
Anamorph is an IFC production. I don't know if that means they actually financed it, or just picked it up. The movie made about $5000 in the IFC theater on 6th Avenue according to imdb.com and then went on to pay-per-view. My understanding is that IFC makes a buttload of money in pay-per-view. Who makes money with pay-per-view? Well, it looks like IFC and pornos in hotel rooms are the only people making pay-per-view work. Bully for them then.
I liked Anamorph. The movie really looked like something. So many movies are shot now where they just put a whole bunch of cameras everywhere and then they sort out the mess in the edit. It's a pretty artless way to shoot. But Anamorph keeps going from shot to shot with these beautiful and elegant wide shots.
Really, the framing in this picture is worth studying. It's always beautiful and well composed. In fact, the movie is about art. I suspect that the framing was Henry -- he was very good at composing frames on Late Watch. The DI is pretty spectacular -- it's an amber-and-turqoise picture. The plot is interesting.
This could have been a brilliant picture. I think they really went for brilliant but it ended up being flawed. Most movies go for mediocre and end up mediocre. I prefer the former.
I felt the flaw with the picture was all with the dialog. The writing (and especially the exposition) was a tad "on the nose" for me. I kinda felt like we were being told "Exposition Scene!!" in those scenes and it took me movie out of how good it could have been. Just one more pass on the dialog writing and it would have been fabulous.
Not just the dialog writing though. Oddly, the opening scene was very ADR-sounding, which surprised me. It had that close-mic'ed sound of a bad foreign film with bad "loopy" acting and breathing. Which is strange, because the movie looks so fantastic and has such a great score, they really spent some money on it. But sometimes a piece of foley would jump out in such a way I thought to myself "Yipes! Are we listening to the temp mix?" I wondered if we were hearing the end of the budget... (You know, it's just a little reverb guys, that and try to roll off some of the low and high end on those looped tracks. It'll be fine.)
You know what made me think it didn't sound so great? It sounded to me like I mixed it.*
Now I'm a fairly sophisticated listener of movies so I'm perfectly capable of identifying things in the sound mix which might be awry. But to most viewers the effect of any sound issues was probably that they thought the picture didn't look as good.** Which is too bad, because the movie looked inspiringly good in a sort of an Edward Hopper noir New York of the future/past way.
I have a feeling whomever spent between $7 and $10 million on the picture. If that's IFC then they seem to think they can get that kind of money back. That's... very interesting... While "under the radar" IFC is making money in the secret window of distribution that is pay-per-view. They probably don't want the rest of the art-house film industry to know that they're raking in the dough while everyone else is complaining that "indy" film is dead.
*"Re-recorded it" would be the correct term. The dialog recording (which is what's done by the "mixer" in the World of Movies) and the dialog edit were perfectly fine. And most of the final mix was perfect, just not all of it.
**That's good news for the sound department, bad news for camera department. Sorry guys, people just identify sound problems as being picture problems.