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#1 Thom Stitt

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 08:40 PM

So here's an eagerly-anticipated film that seems to be flying just under the radar: Terry Gilliam's newest Tideland.

First-off, I have to acknowledge that The Brothers Grimm was a major miss, and I need to point out that Gilliam himself publicly apologized for that one. Tideland, on the other hand, he is extremely proud of, and being independently made, he had total creative control over. We can trust that this is unbridled, unleashed Gilliam. What more do you need? Git!

I saw it in late October - I still can't get the film out of my head. I know it's tough to find a theater even playing the damned thing - but if anyone here has seen it, I'd love to hear some thoughts. My thoughts of the film have been on a teeter totter ever since I saw it.

You may have heard the movie was a bit on the disturbing side. So what, right? You can handle it.

But no. Please let me really really drive the point home: This movie is going to make your insides feel like a sticky, tarry nightmare substance, your stomach will become a pit of unease, and your brain is going to reject the experience and ask you repeatedly why you just put it through such an experience. You're going to want to leave the theater. I don't care how much you like the movie - you're going to want to leave.

That being said, my fears that Gilliam may have lost his marbles I think were sated - He's at the absolute top of his game here. It's in fact one of the warmest films I've seen - It's perspective is so closely tied with the lead character of Jeliza-Rose that we are essentially made to become children again, and to experience a nightmare world the way she does. The film keeps pulling us deeper into her own inner world. You are never just watching, coldly, as the events unfold - you really take the journey with her. It's no surprise that she survives by hiding in a tainted fantasy realm all her own - Some people have criticized the film in saying that she's TOO resilient. But honestly, if I had to sit through that same movie with a more constantly emotionally-ravaged Jeliza-Rose? I don't think I could forgive Gilliam. He's had mercy on us all by giving Jeliza-Rose the kind of defense that only a child could put up.

As it is, we get an experience deeply linked with how her child mind operates in the face of what is quite literally a real-life nightmare. Gilliam pulls it off with some amazing visual poetry. I don't want to spoil any of the movie's aesthetic flights of fancy because they're so rewarding. And believe me, you really do have to earn them.

All said and done, it's on my list of best films of the year, because I was so impressed and engrossed in Gilliam's storytelling. This is a dark Alice in Wonderland - we're with a child through dreams and nightmares, and this is often an exquisitely uncomfortable thing to go through. It's biggest dilemma is that it takes the audience far over a brink they're just unwilling to go over. I also happen to believe that they DID GO way too far - If they could have just reigned in the grotesqueness a bit, we'd have a masterpiece on our hands. As it is, most of the people who see it are going to run away simultaneously screaming and vomiting. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this makes Eraserhead seem like cotton candy at Disneyland.

I also want to mention that I was extremely impressed with Jodelle Ferland as the lead character - she's made to really carry the movie, and some people might be annoyed by her many alternate doll-head personalities (don't ask), but I was extremely impressed and relieved. I had the pleasure of working with her on a short film a year ago near Christmas (I was an electric). She was an absolute joy on the set, she really had fun through the process of it - amazing considering it was late at night and she was surrounded by grown-ups who take their job entirely too seriously.

I also thought Silent Hill was complete garbage, which was unfortunate. But great for her in pulling off the giant feat of making Jeliza-Rose a real child, and one we can care about while sharing such a hellish experience.

If anyone has been brave enough to seek out and sit through this movie, I'd be thrilled to argue like crazy people about it.
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#2 Thom Stitt

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 09:21 PM

I realize I haven't even brushed on the topic of the film's cinematography. I'm anticipating this month's ASC still... STILL... Being nearly halfway through the month, I don't know what the deal is, but hey, hopefully next week.

Anyway, I can't wait to read the article. That said, I know a lot of people take issue with Nicola Pecorini's stuff in Fear and Loathing. It's not exactly subtle - and that absolutely holds true here. The cinematography's a lot like the production design - it's constantly toying with ugly and beautiful. Wide lenses, dutch tilts, putrid events, the occasional rendering of humanity as a cess-pool - and a magnificent Saskatchewan location frequently shot low and wide - it really really does look like an Andrew Wyeth painting.
Only now we get to see what's inside that ghostly house in the middle of the desolate prairie. Trust me - it ain't pretty.

I do think Pecorini and Gilliam are just a great match. I understand their pre-planned ideas tend to fall apart for the most part, and so their work, quite comfortably I imagine, occurs in a state of relative chaos. How else could you shoot a movie like Tideland? Or one like Fear and Loathing for that matter? They've got their own brand of delirious ugly-beautiful that's quite appealing to me. Though subtle it's not.
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#3 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 01:18 AM

Tideland has gotten such awful reviews....at least someone enjoyed it. I've yet to see it.
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#4 Thom Stitt

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 04:58 PM

You know what? I can understand the negative reviews. It's hard not to hate or at least dislike a movie that makes you feel so shitty. Even the sense of humor is too closely tied with the disturbing events, that it never becomes comedic relief. It can be very hard to laugh at, particularly when you're already too engaged in squirming uncomfortably.

Most of the negative reviews I see accuse the movie of being exploitative, pure shock value, morally empty. Having seen it, I honestly believe that these statements come from an attempt to justify what's really an instant emotional reaction to how grotesque and disturbing the film is. A critic can't get away with saying, "this movie made me feel gross and gave me waking nightmares. Thumbs DOWN!" You have to justify - it's exploitative, there's no payoff, it doesn't have anything to say, it was poorly-made.
I just have a very hard time believing all of these things.

Exploitative? No message? Poorly-made? How the hell did HOSTEL get mostly positive reviews, and Tideland gets trashed? Tideland, a movie that ISN'T violent in its disturbing scenes, and is responsible in its portrait of the little girl, which contains a few really stunning, poetic moments... And people accuse it of being useless, exploitative, and shocking for shock value's sake. I just don't buy it.

I admit, the movie goes way too far - I have a hard time remembering the really heart-breaking, poignant moments in the movie because I'm too busy trying to block out the nasty bits. But if it did just hold back a bit more, and the rest of the filmmaking stayed just the same, I really do think these same critics would be unanimously hailing Tideland as the next Gilliam masterpiece.
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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 07:07 PM

I'm anticipating this month's ASC still... STILL... Being nearly halfway through the month, I don't know what the deal is, but hey, hopefully next week.


Ummm, it's in the most recent issue of ASC magazine, the one with Brad Pitt from "Babel" on the cover. Nicola Pecorini talks at length about some of this techniques. I especially liked his description of the HMI as the "light without a soul", ha ha

I got to see "Tideland" late last month during its 1 week run at the local theatre. I thought it was a beautiful piece of work, I'm a little biased since I'm a total Terry Gilliam fiend, but really it's one of his most ambitious and personal films since "Brazil".

Before the film started, I was easily able to point out who would leave and who would stay. Because, honestly, if you're looking for a film witha formulaic narrative that's out to tug on your heartstrings by sticking to the norm, then you're probably not ready for this film. As with most Gilliam films, you buy the ticket and take the ride. Watch the film with the mindset of an innocent child, forgetting all your predisposed feelings set upon you by society, and enjoy the beauty of the relationships and the adventure that this little girl is on.

I loved it, as you can tell, I just wish it had a wider release.
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#6 Thom Stitt

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 08:36 PM

I know that Tideland is in the Babel issue... I just haven't gotten that issue yet. I don't know what the deal is. I know it's not renewal time, so what gives? 13 days into the month now.

Anyway - Gilliam did add the introduction to the film after some problems with audience reaction. He encourages us, as you mentioned, to approach the film with the outlook of a child, and dispose of everything we've become hardwired with.

I think it's going to be insanely difficult for 99% of the audience to be able to do that. With the extent of the atrocities that they're going to bear witness to (and be a part of) in watching this movie, it's going to be a herculean task to be able to shed a lifetime of perspective and insight about how we work mentally and emotionally. I had a tough time doing it myself, the movie just became too much at times. If I ever had the chance to talk to Terry Gilliam, I know I would really want to discuss this with him. He very much knew when he was doing it that he would sacrifice both critical and financial success in staying so true to the book.
And I really wish I had known a year ago, when I got the chance to meet and work with Jodelle Ferland, that the film was like this. I had no idea. I thought then that it would be more Time Bandits, less Psycho.

It's such prodigiously challenging movie to maintain perspective through. Gilliam tugs at you at first, and then pulls you, and right when you're dangling on the precipice, unable to bear any more and desparate for repose (this is the point where you'll want to head to the bathroom/conession/parking lot), Gilliam's going to keep pulling until you topple all the way over with him, ready or not. The difference is I think Terry Gilliam's going to enjoy the hell out of the entire ride, particularly the fact that you're uncomfortable and want to leave.

And I don't think there's any question whether or not he's at the top of his game in this film. It's stellar. But good luck to anybody who sees it, it's not a very enjoyable, likeable, or otherwise fun experience. It's quite a bit like experiencing a long nightmare. Some people, of course, are going to totally dig that.
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