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DeZ Vylenz Log

A captain's log of activities and projects, affiliations and developments involving the Shadowsnake ship and various guerilla film expeditions. Updated in between storms by DeZ Vylenz, Writer - Director - Martial Arts Choreographer

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Film Classics 2: Lone Wolf and Cub

Last Wednesday of the month again. As I just came back from another exhausting trip, pushing my suitcase through half deserted airport corridors, marching mile after mile from train to plane to automobile from one mission to the next, etc, I got some flashbacks from that classic manga Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Ōkami).

The film to see as an introduction to this would be Shogun Assassin. Although a simplified American edit from Sword of Vengeance (Dir: Kenji Misumi) and one or two more of the Baby Cart Assassin series, it's still a very enjoyable piece.

You won't get the same atmosphere as from the Japanese originals, but if you're in for a bloody narrative of a lone warrior on a mission of destruction and retribution, check it out. Then quickly move on to see the six Japanese originals, the first one from 1972, the last from 1974.

These films were cult classics for a long time and had influenced films like Kill Bill and so on. At times they're leaning towards the exploitation genre, but at the core of it there is a very interesting look at the philosophy of Martial Arts and a great beauty in the middle of the carnage and bloodshed. The characters and faces are fantastic, along with the Leone westerns another great reminder of the times that actors were not pampered slick teenage heart throbs worrying about getting their finger nails chipped or their botox sagging as in the last decade of celebrity driven film industry.

No point commenting extensively on these films, as they have a different effect on everybody, for some it might but just gore, for myself they have an intense personal resonance of how to follow the path you believe in with no obstacles to stop you. A metaphor for pure determination.

Fascinating late night material.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Transmission of Consciousness

Hectic week, coordinating the DVD release and first wave of pre-orders (great response so far) while preparing and translating treatments with another production company based in Amsterdam for their next two features, both based on best selling Caribbean novels. I'm not sure how much of it is confidential so far (as most of the info is transmitted by frantic phone call bursts from my producer friend), so won't release any titles or details here yet, but some interesting shoots to come.

Other than that, last Sunday's RAW tribute by Coldcut with special guest Alan Moore, at the Royal Elizabeth Hall was a very interesting collage of psychedelic back screen visuals, music and recordings with Robert Anton Wilson. Alan Moore's readings were the highlights of course as he first read an apocalyptic part of one of the Illuminatus Trilogy (or perhaps another work) and later on his own tribute drawing parallels across time and space which really made us think about that intangible concept of death.

Because Death is definitely not the end, and as people walked out after the event, RAW's work reverberated through everybody's brain. RAW's ideas and thoughts live on and as those were part of his consciousness, one might say he lives on although not on the physical plane of existence.

Occasionally, I got some deja vu moments as the Wilson comments, underscored by Coldcut's hypnotic electronic soundscapes and visuals resembled some parts of The Mindscape of Alan Moore, as a friend elbowed me when one particular piece had Wilson voice his fascination with period information doubling. But Wilson would definitely say there is no coincidence, only what vibrates around. And the way I see it, these vibrations are manifested in works of art, writing and so on, to be tuned in by those who think along the same wavelengths and frequencies.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pending release: The Mindscape of Alan Moore

Yesterday all the groundwork was finally completed on Shadowsnake Fims' infrastructure for the next few years. The plan is not only to produce feature our films and other projects, but also to create awareness of other interesting work and artists and release products in our Marketplace that we would like to see ourselves being made available in this age of mediocrity.

So over time the website and our services will obviously go through a metamorphosis, but at present we dropped most other projects and actitivies and the focus is on getting the long awaited Mindscape DVD out in April. The pre-orders have started with a great response so far.

Of course the film is best experienced in the cosy darkness of cinema, where the big screen sucks you into the vortex of a psychedelic journey with surround sound, but we've gone trhough great lengths to reproduce that feeling on DVD, with high quality compresssion and encoding, subtitles, Dolby Digital surround sound and an inspired user interface designed by John Coulthart. Besides, this film is labeled by most majors as very cult or "niche" so a wide cinema release was not possible.

All in all we're quite pleased with the outcome, as it's a very integrated package and not one element is out of place or random. In terms of contents, no point in spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet, but we're still proud of the fact that the first screen adaptations ever done, of V for Vendetta and Watchmen are in this film (shot in 2002). And getting enthusiastic approval from Alan Moore for those scenes and the film is the best and most genuine and inspiring compliment we probably will ever get in our career.

As a guerilla film company it wasn't a smooth ride to get to this stage, but hard graft always achieves results in the end. Everything else is explained in the bonus interviews and commentaries on the disc, and the 20 page booklet included.

If anything, hopefully this film will remain a standard for us to improve upon in the next feature projects.

Be seeing you...

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

From Idea to Audience

It's nearly D-Day. Just a little bit of fine tuning on our payment gateway and other technical areas before we will start taking pre-orders for The Mindscape of Alan Moore DVD. We have had great support and feedback so far from audiences, press and post-production companies in the process, but it is by no means a smooth process for any independent enterprise to produce a film along industry standards.

The film medium and the entry of different creators in the industry has changed considerably since the 1960s gave way to the author/director driven 1970s in order to go back to the executive controlled 1980s with a slow but steady stream of independent filmmakers breaking through in the 1990s.

Now individuals have other means of technology and distribution at their disposal in the 21st century, which in many respects is a very exciting and interesting time to live in.

The pessimists would like us to believe we live in a dystopian world with acid rain, global warming on a countdown to extinction, while the naive optimists believe technology will save our souls and create a utopia of equality.

The former tend to take actual fact and see it as the only reality, while the latter tend to exaggerate the potential of humanity with disregard to the inherent greed and stupidity of our species.

Artists have always manoeuvred somewhere in the middle, trying to see the beauty and the ugly simultaneously in both extremes, to occasionally explore one side exclusively. It's not a clear cut issue, as a tormented van Gogh still produced pictures of astounding beauty. But in the 21st century artists are increasingly involved in the business side and organisation of their craft.

As it is, even up to 9 years ago, I remember how difficult it was to have editing facilities at your disposal or create DVD show reels to send off to production companies. Me and most of my colleagues would log heavy bags with tapes around to meetings and interviews.

Now state of the art technology is affordable and therefore accessible to anyone with a clear vision and ideas to spare (the overkill of brainless CGI and action films is another discussion), and filmmakers can now --theoretically-- at least compete with the technical level of Hollywood.

It is a time when artists can in fact retain complete control over the conception, incubation, creation, production AND distribution of their projects. Hopefully new and interesting untold stories from all over the world will find their audience that way, but personally I think it would be a shame if cinemas would disappear all together. Because nothing really beats sitting there in the dark, with nothing else to distract (if we can train ourselves to forget the commercials and the popcorn crunching audience in the beginnng) and experience a film on the big screen. That is, if the story and characters are well developed and not just vehicles for FX-fests and bombastic sound tracks or all these psuedo-intelligent plot twisters and cliche horrors that make up the majority of available choice.

Let's see what happens.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Film classics: The Thing

Between all the writing and business, I hardly get the chance to see films anymore. I'm also in an output phase at the moment and feel slightly saturated, which is unfortunate as art is still one of the most inspiring things in life. But too much is churned out from the conveyor belts at the moment, so I find myself watching older films instead when I do get the time.

Today is the last Wednesday of the month, so I'd like to discuss a great film classic, in the sci-fi horror genre.

The Thing is obviously well known, so not much point in me going into it. Except that one of the best things about it are the visual effects, all done in stop-motion. No CGI back then, just matte paintings and ground breaking special make-up effects by Rob Bottin, all combined in an atmospheric sci-fi thriller. Probably John Carpenter's best film, with a haunting score by Ennio Morricone.

Last week I finally met up with Joachim Ghirotti, a talented Brazilian writer, finishing his Master degree in screenplay writing in London and we discussed his horror script set in Sao Paolo. Very interesting idea, so we'll see what we can do to develop it. Check out his essay on The Thing:

What's great about this film is the psychological element and paranoia in it, which seems to be lost in recent horror movies that are mostly about gore or surprise endings or shock value. Form and content are perfectly married (or should I say biologically fused) in this vignette of human desolation. A reminder of how trivial humans are, despite the existential arrogance that dominates the planet at the moment.

Horror has a very different connotation now than it used to have, and is mostly used to denote gore and abhorrence instead of the real fear and range of emotions that lurk in the depths of our imagination. For fans of the Lovecraft oeuvre and real classic horror atmosphere with a slight modern edge, check out John Coulthart's The Haunter of the Dark:

Posted by Dez Vylenz  

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