Terry Gilliam Visits a Video Store & Talks About His Favorite Movies and Actors

Letting a beloved film director wander through the aisles of a well-stocked video store feels like such guaranteed YouTube fodder that it’s a surprise it really hasn’t been done until recently. But then I remind myself that the video store itself is a thing of the past, and to see one so well stocked, Library of Alexandria style, is news itself. For the above video, the director browsing the DVDs is none other than madcap genius Terry Gilliam. The video store is Paris’ JM Video. The chat as expected is marvelous. (Only 20 minutes? I’m sure many of us could listen to Gilliam rabbit on about his favorite films for twice, thrice that.)

Along the way, here are some things we learn:

  • Some of his favorite filmmakers are Stanley Kubrick, Lina Wertmuller, Federico Fellini, and one of his current friends, Albert Dupontel, the French actor-director who has used Gilliam in several of his films.
  • He is thanked in the credits of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Why? Because when Tarantino was at the Sundance Institute with his script, it was only Gilliam who immediately saw the brilliant screenplay for what it was, and encouraged Tarantino to stay true to himself.
  • He’s not a fan of Die Hard, but it was the scene where Bruce Willis talks to his wife while picking glass shards out of his foot that revealed a vulnerability in the actor. It led to Gilliam casting Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys. Similarly, he was able to work with Brad Pitt and get him to flip his cool and handsome demeanor on its head for the manic co-starring role.
  • Gilliam stole the idea of multiple actors playing the same title character in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (after lead actor Heath Ledger died during shooting) from Luis Buñuel’s
    That Obscure Object of Desire. In that film, two women play the same character interchangeably. If it’s good enough for Buñuel…
  • Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible (parts one and two) is a “dangerous” film, because it was one of Putin’s most watched movies. (Not that we should stop watching Eisenstein.) Gilliam’s way of pronouncing Putin as “poutine” is intentional, no?
  • Being a fan of Monty Python was a good way of getting cast in a Gilliam film. The director knows he would have not worked with Sean Connery (in Time Bandits) or Robert DeNiro (in Brazil) if both didn’t know his work on the classic comedy. (It also helps to have producers who go golfing with A-list actors.)
  • He disses Christopher Nolan (“technically brilliant” but then “the films become video games” with “no gravity”), and repeats a swipe against Spielberg’s Schindler’s List that he heard from Kubrick. (“It’s a film about success.”)
  • He imagines a better closing edit to Close Encounters that ends upon seeing the legs of the alien as the hatch opens. Then we would have had something to talk about on the way home, he says.

There’s another video in the series featuring David Cronenberg, along with visits from Michael Bay, Asghar Farhadi, Audrey Diwan, Dario Argento, and many more.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

A First Glimpse of Moonage Daydream, the New “Immersive Cinematic Experience” David Bowie Film

Above you can get a first glimpse of Moonage Daydream–a new film that The Guardian calls a “glorious, shapeshifting eulogy to David Bowie.” Directed by Brett Morgen (otherwise known for Cobain: Montage of Heck), the film creates for viewers “an immersive cinematic experience” and “an audio-visual space odyssey,” using never-before-seen concert footage. Moonage Daydream “not only illuminates the enigmatic legacy of David Bowie but also serves as a guide to living a fulfilling and meaningful life in the 21st Century.”

Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this month, the film will arrive at theaters in September, and then stream on HBO and HBO Max next spring. You can read more about the film and its production at Rolling Stone.

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Martin Scorsese Foundation Launches Virtual Screening Room, Letting You Watch Restored Classic Films for Free

Since 1990, Martin Scorsese has devoted the non-filmmaking part of his career to film preservation, whether that means the classics of Hollywood or world cinema. The over 900 restorations that he’s helped fund through the Film Foundation non-profit have been the subject of Criterion Collection box sets, special anniversary screenings and festival showings, and now a special monthly online screening room will give viewers a chance to see some familiar and not-so-familiar films that have been saved from destruction.

According to the welcome message at the Restoration Screening Room, “Presentations will take place within a 24-hour window on the second Monday of each month, along with Special Features about the films and their restoration process. Monthly programming will encompass a broad array of restorations, including classic and independent films, documentaries, and silent films from around the world.’”


As of this writing, the window has closed for its inaugural film, Powell and Pressburger’s 1945 I Know Where I’m Going! but you can still click through to see the extras that come with the film: an Introduction by Scorsese; an interview with Scorsese’s long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker (who was also Powell’s spouse for six years until 1990 and who worked on the restoration); Kent Jones interviewing Kevin Macdonald, the grandson of Pressburger and his biographer; the Film Foundation’s Margaret Bodde interviewing Tilda Swinton, a huge fan of the film; directors Joanna Hogg and Scorsese talking about the film; a before and after look at the restoration; an image gallery; and finally a links page called “explore” that is quite overwhelming in its thoroughness.

The 4K restoration’s next stop is the Criterion Channel, so if you subscribe to that paid service, find it there. But the Film Foundation’s premieres are completely free and feature a live chat on the screening night.

In the coming months look forward to Fellini’s La Strada (June 13), Govindan Aravindan’s Kummatty (July 11), a double feature of The Chase (d. Arthur Ripley) and Detour (d. Edgar G. Ulmer) (August 8); Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga (Sep. 12), Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks (October 10); John Huston’s Moulin Rouge (November 14); and Jonas Mekas’ Lost Lost Lost on December 12.

The site has no trailers, but we’ve got you covered:

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

R.I.P. Vangelis: The Composer Who Created the Future Noir Soundtrack for Blade Runner Dies at 79

It would be difficult to overstate the prominence, in the late twentieth century, of the theme from Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire. Most anyone under the age of 60 will have heard it many times as parody before ever seeing it in its original, Academy Award-winning context. Unfortunately, encountering the piece in nearly every humorous slow-motion running scene for two or three decades straight has a way of dampening its impact. But back in 1981, to score a nineteen-twenties period drama with brand-new digital synthesizers marked a brazen departure from convention, as well as the beginning of a trend of musical anachronism in cinema (which would manifest even in the likes of Dirty Dancing).

The Chariots of Fire theme has surely returned to many of our playlists after the death this week of its composer, Vangelis. Even before that film, he’d collaborated with Hudson on documentaries and commercials; immediately thereafter, he found himself in great demand as a composer for features.


The very next year, in fact, saw Vangelis crafting a score that has, perhaps, remained even more respected over time than the one he did for Chariots of Fire. Set in the far-flung year of 2019, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner needed a high-tech sound that also reflected its “future noir” sensibility. This neatly suited Vangelis’ proven ability to combine cutting-edge electronic instruments with traditional acoustic ones in a highly evocative fashion.

Blade Runner‘s formidable influence owes primarily to its visuals, to the “look and feel” of its imagined future. But I defy fans of the film to remember any of its most striking images — the infernal skyline of 2019 Los Angeles, the cars flying between video-illuminated skyscrapers, Deckard’s first meeting with Rachael — without also hearing Vangelis’ music in their heads. Though it took audiences decades to catch up with Blade Runner, it’s now more or less settled that each element of the film complements all the others in creating a dystopian vision still, in many ways, unsurpassable. Vangelis’ own experiences across genres and technologies, which you can learn more about in the documentary Vangelis and the Journey to Ithaka, placed him ideally to imbue that vision with musical life.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

David Cronenberg Visits a Video Store & Talks About His Favorite Movies

The excitement over Crimes of the Future, set to premiere next week at the Cannes Film Festival, suggests that David Cronenberg retains a strong fan base more than half a century into his filmmaking career. But many of us who consider ourselves part of that fan base didn’t discover his work in the theater, much less at Cannes. Rather, we found it at the video store, ideally one that devoted a section specifically to his work — or at least to his signature genre of “body horror,” which his films would in any case have dominated. Fitting, then, that the new Cronenberg interview above takes place among shelves packed with, if not the VHS tapes and Laserdiscs we grew up with, then at least DVDs and Blu-Rays.

This video comes from Konbini, a French Youtube channel whose Video Club series has brought such auteurs as Claire Denis, Hirokazu Kore-eda, and Terry Gilliam into the hallowed halls of Paris’ JM Vidéo.


“They have 50,000 movies, I think,” says the interviewer. “That’s too many,” replies Cronenberg, “so you need to give me a few.” The director of VideodromeThe Fly, and Crash turns out to have no trouble spotting and discussing movies of interest, and the list of his picks from the stock at JM Vidéo is as follows:

  • Federico Fellini, La Strada (“the beginning of my entrancement with moviemaking”)
  • Ingmar Bergman, The Hour of the Wolf  (“a beautiful movie; very much a nightmare”)
  • Roger Vadim, And God Created Woman (Brigitte Bardot “was incredibly sexual, beautiful — I was totally in love with her”)
  • Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Rosetta (which the Cronenberg-led 1999 Cannes jury selected in “the fastest vote for the Palme d’Or ever in the history of Cannes”)
  • Ridley Scott, Alien (some of whose elements “are exactly like my very low-budget film Shivers“)
  • Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall (a project for which he wrote twelve screenplay drafts, rejected for being “the Philip K. Dick version” rather than “Raiders of the Lost Ark go to Mars”)
  • Ken Russell, Altered States (which “combined a strange group of people who, normally, you wouldn’t think would make a science-fiction movie”)
  • Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue Is the Warmest Color (“a beautiful, sexy, interesting, intense movie with young actresses who are really very good, and giving everything,” including Crimes of the Future‘s own Léa Seydoux)
  • Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper (“one of the movies that convinced me to ask Kristen Stewart to be in Crimes of the Future“)
  • Matthieu Kassovitz, La Haine (his introduction to the “fantastic emotional depth” and “intellect” of Vincent Cassel)
  • Julia Ducournau, Titane (a “very dangerous” genre picture that nevertheless won a Palme d’Or)
  • Richard Marquand, Return of the Jedi (when asked to direct it, he said, “‘Well, I don’t usually direct other people’s material,’ and they said, ‘Goodbye'”)
  • Brandon Cronenberg, Possessor (“my son’s movie,” the product of “a struggle that reminded me of all the difficulties I ever had making a movie”)
  • Ed Emshwiller, Relativity (the kind of film that showed him “you didn’t have to go to film school, which I never did, you didn’t have to work in the film industry, you could make a movie yourself just because you wanted to make a movie”)
  • Kathryn Bigelow, Strange Days (“one of the movies that convinced me I should work with Ralph Fiennes”)
  • Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now (“a very, very strong movie, very strange, very much about death, but at first you’re not aware that that’s really the subject matter”)

As not just a film fan but a filmmaker, Cronenberg has plenty of related stories to tell about his own professional experiences in cinema. Not all of them have to do with the pictures that inspired him when he was coming of age in the nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties. In fact, even as he approaches his ninth decade, he clearly continues to find new ideas and collaborators in the work of emerging directors. Perhaps that’s one reason he seems uncannily undiminished here, much like this survivor of a video store whose shelves he browses. Vive JM Vidéo, et vive Cronenberg.

via Metafilter

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

An Architect Breaks Down the Design Details of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel features many notable players: Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, and presiding above all, Ralph Fiennes as celebrated concierge Monsieur Gustave H. But it is Gustave’s domain, the titular alpine health resort, that figures most prominently in the film, transcending place, time, and political regime. Such an establishment could only exist within Anderson’s cinematic imagination, which dictates the manner in which he introduces it to his viewers. “It’s obviously a model,” says architect Michael Wyetzner in the video above. “It’s fake” — an adjective that, when applied to a Wes Anderson production, can only be a compliment.

Wyetzner surely means it that way, given how much interest he shows through the video in the details of the Grand Budapest Hotel as constructed and revealed, one set at a time, by Anderson and his collaborators. Envisioned as a kind of “French chateau growing out of the mountain,” the building incorporates a mansard roof, a “rusticated base” with the look of an ancient aqueduct, and Art Nouveau canopies of the kind still seen at the entrances of the Paris Métro.


Wyetzner explains the overall image as “one of those sanatoriums you would see in the mountains of Europe up until the nineteen-thirties” but designed by the Secessionists, who intended to “unify architecture, painting, and the decorative arts.”

The atrium, the circular reception desk, the elaborately mullioned windows, the palette of pinks and reds: these features underscore the titular grandeur of the titular hotel. (They also, like the symmetry of so much of its construction, remind us whose movie we’re watching.) But before long, everything changes: the hotel finds itself in the Soviet nineteen-sixties, topped with antennae, paint burnt orange and avocado green, outfitted with plastic laminate and illuminated ceilings. “Soviet architecture has this reputation for being very drab, and very sad, almost,” says Wyetzner, and the “updated” Grand Budapest Hotel reflects this. But the Soviets were also “one of the originators of modernism,” a movement whose stern optimism comes through in the film’s set designs — as, faintly but persistently, does the fin de siècle elegance of the ever-more-distant past.

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And if you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

How Hans Zimmer Created the Otherworldly Soundtrack for Dune

Many emotional moments were made at this year’s big awards shows. The Slap, amidst so many historic wins; poignant tributes and criminal omissions; former actor-turned-wartime-hero-president Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech, the return of Louis C.K…. Everybody’s got a lot to process. Pop culture can feel like a St. Vitus dance. One half-expects celebrities to start dropping from exhaustion. But then there’s Hans Zimmer’s Oscar acceptance speech, delivered in a white terry bathrobe, a miniature Oscar statuette in his pocket, a big goofy, 2 a.m. grin on his face. The man could not have looked more relaxed, winning his second Oscar 30 years after The Lion King.

Was he still in lockdown? No. On the night in question, Zimmer was in a hotel in Amsterdam, on tour with his band. “His category was among the eight that were handed out before the televised broadcast began,” Yahoo reports, “but he made sure his fans knew just how thrilled he was.” Zimmer posted a mini-acceptance speech to social media. “Who else has pajamas like this?” he joked to the other musicians gathered in the room. “Actually, let me say this, and this is for real. Had it not been for you, most of the people in this room, this would never have happened.” He is, as he says, “for real.”


As the musicians who worked with Zimmer on his Oscar-winning Dune soundtrack (stream it here) have gone on the record to say, the process was highly collaborative. “He’ll outline the desired end result rather than prescribing a specific means of getting there,” guitarist Guthrie Govan told The New York Times. “For one cue, he just said, ‘This needs to sound like sand.'” Zimmer’s methods offer new ways out of the cul-de-sac much of the creative industry seems to find itself in, repeating the same unhealthy compulsions. “If someone has a great idea,” he says, “I’m the first one to say, yes. Let’s go on that adventure.”

Along with collaboration, there is vision, and the willingness–as Zimmer says in Vanity Fair video interview at the top–to “invent instruments that don’t exist. Invent sounds that don’t exist.” Such future-thinking has always characterized his approach, from his synth pop and new wave work in the late 70s, including a stint killing the radio star with the Buggles, to his groundbreaking film composition work on Rain Man, The Thin Red Line, and the gritty blockbusters of Christopher Nolan. Though he’s scored action and adventure films unlikely to ever be considered art, Zimmer’s own way of working is thoroughly avant-garde.

As he tells it above, the point, in composing for Dune, was to throw out the science fiction boilerplate, the “orchestral sounds, romantic period tonalities” that have dominated at least since Kubrick’s 2001. On the other hand, Zimmer says, he wanted to get rid of modern syncopation. “Maybe in the future, we will not have regular beats. Maybe we will have actually progressed as human beings that we don’t need disco beats to enjoy ourselves,” he says laughing, before going on to demonstrate how he and his collaborators created some of the most original music in film history. Of course, the disco beat is comforting because it mimics the human heart. In making his Dune score, Zimmer was composing for a kind of post-human future, one dominated not by award-show drama but by giant sandworms.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

This Is Spinal Tap Will Get a Sequel 40 Years Later, Reuniting Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest & Harry Shearer

Fans of James Cameron’s Avatar are expressing astonishment that its long-expected sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, will have taken thirteen years to get to theaters. That delay, of course, is nothing next to the 35 years that separated Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, or the 36 between Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick, which comes out next month. But the recently announced sequel to This Is Spinal Tap tops them all: “Spinal Tap II will see Rob Reiner return as both film-maker on and off the screen along with Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest,” writes the Guardian‘s Benjamin Lee. “The film will be released in 2024 on the 1984 original’s 40th anniversary.”

Critics praised This Is Spinal Tap back in 1984, but it took time to become a revered classic of the improvised-mockumentary genre. In fact that genre hadn’t exist at all, which resulted in some viewers not quite getting the joke. “When the film first came out, we showed it in Dallas and people came up to me and said, why would you make a movie about a band nobody’s ever heard of?” says director Rob Reiner. “And one that’s so bad?”


Or as Christopher Guest remembers a couple girls at the concession counter observing: “These guys are so stupid.” The befuddlement extended even to collaborators in the filmmaking process: “I don’t understand this,” said cinematographer Peter Smokler, who’d worked on the Altamont documentary Gimme Shelter. “This isn’t funny. This is exactly what they do.”

Such reactions pay indirect but great tribute to the painstaking craft and observatory wit of Spinal Tap’s creators. Those creators — Reiner, Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer — tell these stories in the Today interview above, conducted in 2019 to mark This Is Spinal Tap‘s 35th anniversary. In that time they’d occasionally reunited as Spinal Tap for live performances and real albums, the last of which came out in 2009. Perhaps that’s kept them ready to get back into character, pitch-perfect English accents and all, and put on — as they’ll be forced to in a plot shaped by realistic-sounding music-industry vagaries — one last concert. But like any belated sequel, it brings proportionally inflated fan expectations: specifically, about whether they’ll be able to go up to twelve.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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