LFF 2013: All is Lost

Robert Redford in All is Lost

One man adrift in the Indian Ocean is the premise for J.C. Chandor’s second film, a compelling tale of survival against the odds.

Opening with a brief, mournful monologue of an enigmatic sailor (Robert Redford), we hear a crash and are plunged back a few days to when his boat, the Virgina Jean, collided with a large metal cargo container.

We immediately see he is calm under pressure, scooping out water and doing the best he can under the circumstances: patching up the hole and trying to fix the wet radio.

Who is this man?

Cryptically listed in the credits as ‘Our Man’, perhaps he is a retired businessman who took up sailing. Maybe he is a professional sailor. Who knows?

Perhaps he represents any human being caught up in a desperate situation. The point of this film is to put us in there with him as he battles the elements.

Chandor and his crew slowly build the tension as we see all manner of obstacles: the leaking boat, storms and sharks.

Apart from a few words, it is free of dialogue, meaning there is a relentless focus on Redford and his situation.

This is surprisingly riveting, as previously routine acts such as putting up a sail or jumping into a raft become critically important.

But Chandor also has a few more tricks up his sleeve, most notably the casting of Redford. The movie star brings a grizzled gravitas to his part in what is his best work in years.

Cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco brings an immediacy to the action on the boat, whilst visualising the beauty and danger of the oceanic environment.

Cleverly blending in location shooting with work in tanks and visual effects, it paints a hauntingly plausible scenario of what it is to be stuck at sea.

The sound design is outstanding and the large sound team, headed by Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns, does sterling work in capturing the many different aural textures aboard the boat, life raft and ocean.

For writer-director J.C. Chandor this marks another remarkable film after his feature debut, Margin Call (2011).

That still remains the best feature about the financial crisis, and seems to be a world away from All is Lost.

But look closely and there may be parallel themes: crisis, dread and the aforementioned survival.

The building and firm in Margin Call which created their own financial problems could be a cousin to the boat in All is Lost – both are sinking fast.

With these two films Chandor has already created powerful parables for our time and the degree of skill and intelligence he applies to his work only makes me hungry for his future work.

All is Lost screened at the London Film Festival on Oct 12th, 13th and 14th

(It opens in the UK on December 26th)

> Official site, Facebook page and Twitter
> Reviews at Metacritic

The Legacy of All the President’s Men

Redford Woodward Bernstein

Back in April 2001 Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein recognised the 35th anniversary of All the President’s Men at the LBJ Presidential Library.

The three sat down for a lengthy discussion (around 80 minutes) and shared numerous anecdotes about Watergate and the subsequent film, including:

  • How Redford first heard about the affair in 1972.
  • Why the differences between Woodward and Bernstein appealed to Redford.
  • The reason the film focused on just a part of the investigation.
  • The book actually came out before Nixon resigned.
  • Redford becoming ‘obsessed’ with the material.
  • How Jason Robards was eventually cast as editor Ben Bradlee after his initial reluctance.
  • The reaction of the journalist duo when they finally saw the film.

You can watch the full discussion here:

> Buy the Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK
> Find out more about the Watergate scandal at Wikipedia

Wisdom

Photographer and filmmaker Andrew Zuckerman has a new project which collects the wisdom of 50 thinkers and doers.

His latest book is called Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another and it incorporates the ideas from key figures over the age of 65.

It is accompanied by video interviews which have been edited down to this trailer, which features Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Judi Dench:

In this making of video, Zuckerman describes how he filmed the interviews:

[Via Brain Pickings]

> Official Wisdom site
> Andrew Zuckerman’s official site and Vimeo channel
>Buy Wisdom from Amazon UK (or Amazon US)

Vanity Fair on All The President’s Men

Vanity Fair’s recent in-depth piece on the making of All The President’s Men (1976) has some fascinating pieces of information about the classic political drama.

Written by Michael Feeney Callan, the author of a forthcoming Robert Redford biography, it reveals the following:

  • When Robert Redford first met Bob Woodward in Washington, D.C., he also bumped into Bobby Kennedy‘s widow Ethel Kennedy (“She had seen The Candidate and, responding to the Bill McKay role—a fictional Senate candidate from California—told Redford she was no fan of it”)
  • Bob Woodward admitted Redford’s involvement in a film project influenced his book with Carl Bernstein (“…we’d been influenced by Redford in the way we compiled it. It was he who suggested we make it about the investigation, and not about the dirty-tricks campaign”)
  • Screenwriter William Goldman only got involved in the project by accident after a social meeting with Redford and a mix up at publisher Simon and Schuster (“I didn’t mean to involve him in the project, and I wasn’t commissioning him as the screenwriter.”)
  • Redford reveals that Goldman’s script – for which he won an Oscar – was heavily rewritten by himself and Pakula as they only ended up using one-tenth of his work (“Alan hated the script, and we immediately made arrangements to re-write it ourselves, since we learned Bill was tied up already, writing Marathon Man for John Schlesinger. I was furious, but to what purpose?”)
  • Redford turned down roles in Barry Lyndon (1975) and Superman (1978) so he could make the film.
  • Warner Bros chairman Ted Ashley had to dissuade Redford from his initial plan not to star in the film and shoot it in black and white (“Ted didn’t beat around the bush,” Redford recalls. “He told us he needed to sell my name on the marquee, so the movie he was funding must have me in it.”)
  • Al Pacino was Redford’s first choice for the Bernstein role (“But then I chewed it over,” Redford adds, “and for some reason Dustin Hoffman seemed more like Carl in my mind’s eye, so I called Dustin and asked him if he was interested. That was a very short phone call.”)
  • Jason Robards was offered the role of Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, even though he had recently suffered terrible facial injuries in a car crash.
  • Director Pakula and DP Gordon Willis were careful in creating the visual design of the film (“Gordon had a very novel approach to his lenses based on the notion that a good cinematographer always surprises the eye, and we were all of one mind that, since the information to be related was often complex, even tedious, we needed a very stylized look and, of course, dynamic performances.”)
  • Redford felt there was a harder side to Woodward than he let on (“Carl was the fuzzy, warm guy who tap-danced with his ego, while Bob was the hard man who went for the throat. …He has this thing about fires. He’s always poking at fires, always burning stuff”)
  • Redford felt Hoffman and Bernstein were very similar (“Carl and Dustin had a lot in common. Both were radicals, uptight and loose at the same time. And, like Carl, Dustin had a very, very healthy ego”)
  • Pakula was influenced by Elia Kazan and Alfred Hitchcock (“I grew up on [Elia] Kazan, really loved him. On the Waterfront was the most impressive movie from a performance point of view that I’d ever seen. Later I learned visual style from Hitchcock. For All the President’s Men I wanted to blend both”)
  • Redford reveals that The Washington Post set was recreated on a Hollywood sound stage because filming in the actual newsroom was chaotic (“the journalists and secretaries went crazy when Hollywood came in their midst. It was all giggling women and people doing their makeup and a general feeling of disorder. It was as bad for them as for us, and we knew we had to get out of there.”)
  • A scene was tentatively scheduled to be shot at the White House but was vetoed by President Ford (“There was no way Ford would allow Redford to come to the White House to diss the previous president”)
  • Redford had to help out Pakula in post-production because of the director’s chronic indecision and reluctance to work beyond 6pm.
  • Warner Bros believed didn’t think it would make any money because people were sick of Watergate, but it eventually grossed a highly respectable $51 million.
  • Redford and Pakula argued about the finale but settled on a compromise of the image of the Teletype announcing Nixon’s resignation.
  • The huge success of Jaws (1975) and its pioneering release strategy influenced the opening, as it was rolled out to major cities in quick succession.

Make sure you read the full article here.

> All The President’s Men at the IMDb
> Find out more about the Watergate scandal at Wikipedia
> Buy All the President’s Men on DVD from Amazon UK