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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, December 05, 2007

Honoured by Cities

Came back to London this weekend after a couple of jobs, some filming, mostly corporate planning and right now pitching for a big one here, all still confidential until release of final project.

What's new. Writer strike is still on, great to see the power of the written word again, but bad for my friends in California who are out of Special FX, wardrobe and cinematography jobs right now.

Also, a few weeks ago I received a hard carton envelope from the USA, inside a nice black folder with gold embroidering and inside a "Certificate of Honor" presented by the Mayor of San Francisco: "Whereas, on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco..." "..., for his contribution to the San Francisco film community. Through his vision and creativity he continues to spotlight unique artists. Congratulations and best wishes as you look to the future!" etcetera etc

I'm honestly not much into the awards and prizes thing (although the recognition can be inspiring to continue and obviously helps to get your work noticed), but this one is nice, as it has the golden seal of the City and County of San Francisco affixed and signed by the Mayor himself (I heard Snoop Dogg got one the week after). And since my first visit to that city in 2003 I consider it my home city after London and Amsterdam (and Paramaribo of course where I'm ony every so many years).

The incredible cosmopolitan mix and laid back-but driven attitude of people, the gigantic Chinatown and web of bridges to different parts of the Bay Area immediately captured part of me, so since then I'm regularly visiting good friends who're very much family and hopefully will be collaborating artists on some of the next projects.

I love natural/rural environments but the buzzing urban beehives that cities are remain exciting and stimulating to the mind. For me cities are organic entities, the brick and mortar are only extensions of the energy that goes on. One of my intentions is to keep filming on location in different cities and avoid CGI city scapes as much as possible in my career. Nothing beats shooting the unpredictabe dynamics of a city.

So this one means something, more than a formality. Many thanks to City Hall, Carmelita Harris and Ras-I-Zulu and everybody else for the warm reception and hospitality.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things to get for Christmas part 1: Films

I'm not a big fan of the whole X-mas consumer hype, but it's a good chance to catch up on some culture, reading and viewing during the holidays.

So a quick overview of some good films to catch up on (none of which I have had time to get myself):

1) The Prisoner complete box set. Classic TV-series with Patrick McGoohan. Secret agent cold war paranoia psychology mixed in with 60s psychedelica.

2) Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre DVD. The Alejandro Jodorowsky mystical film feature classics now collected together.

3) Jan Svankmayer, The Complete Short Films (BFI collection). Top class stop motion animation and wild imagination from the Czech master.

4) Iron Monkey (1981). Starring Chen Kwan Tai. Not to be confused with the 90s Donnie Yen title, this one is an absolute Kung Fu classic.

5) The Living Planet (and all the "Life" series), The Blue Planet or any of the BBC documentary series narrated and produced by David Attenborough. The man's enthusiasm and compassion is inspiring with fantastic cinematography and classic film making skills that explore the wonders of our world. The Life of Plants for example shows the world of vegetation as never seen before with violent struggles and other concepts of time than our human mind could imagine.

Check it out.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bio-Machine overdrive

No time to update weblog last week. After some very productive meetings had to leave London on intense 6 hour/day training sessions etc.

In an urban environment one can quickly get caught in the ratrace and forget that the body and mind also need to be pushed to their limit in exercise, not only in business and the constant pursuit of achievements.

For a filmmaker this is also important, as it gives a certain drive and dynamic range to the projects and the rhythm of the script. Life itself is a script we constantly write and adapt, improving on the sets of reality.

To be continued

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Welcome to Jamrock

My musical taste or at least what I listen to is broad and eclectic. Today is my birthday, so time for introspection and mental cleansing.

So some music from the roots to ponder upon. I usually see a sharp divide between music lovers, e.g. metal/rock vs reggae, or electronic vs acoustic--an unnecessary polarization. I believe in Unity rather than dualities or fragments.

For those that never listen to Reggae, I'd say you still have to check some of the classic stuff with thundering bass (e.g. Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar as legendary rhythm section) and intense performance as the energy is actually similar to Rock (with more African roots of course).

Reggae itself evolved from the 50s and 60s rhythm and blues from America (check out The Studio One Story, great little informative box set with docu and music CD). When I grew up in Suriname, Reggae was everywhere in the privately run public transport buses pumping out through 120 W speakers. But there was also a smaller niche of rock afficionados and I always scoped out both niches for what personally sounded good to me rather than following trends.

Quickly generalizing here: I don't like the extremely slow and monotonous Reggae myself, especially if the performances are mediocre. In general I prefer more upbeat and aggressive undertones, particularly with a Rasta Warrior vibe. Dub is more trippy of course with a whole range of electronic and spacy effects, but still has that incessant heartbeat rhythm going on.

Anyway, time to move.

Put up the bass on this one and enjoy a new era Jamaican artist: Damien Marley. Welcome to Jamrock.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises

It’s not in my nature to get depressed. Maybe pissed off, maybe bored, maybe extra pissed off or bittersweet, but not depressed in that modern mundane middle class kind of way. But recently the amount of bullshit films coming out has put me on this bad low down from cinema and pop culture in general--and yes, actually it is depressing.

Because I like the excitement of new works of fiction coming out, energy that seeps into our culture and consciousness from the brains of novelists, musicians and filmmakers. Film being the most accessible and immediate of all media and --despite all the headache that comes with it— still being my chosen field of profession, I try to make as much time possible for the cinema.

And then I don’t mean catching up on the classics, but simply walking into a cinema and getting surprised and actually transported to another world of experience. Then this Tuesday I realised David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises was on at my local cinema in between all the cutesy scheisse comedies, glammy Bollywood dance fests, psuedo-gritty torture horror programs and all the stuff that doesn’t justify my valuable 150 minutes of time. I missed it at the opening of The London Film Festival, so after a long but productive day of paperwork toil and biznis, popped into the warm womb of the cinema.

And from the first frame on, the film lived up to its promise and raving reviews(which I try to avoid reading before a film, but one article annoyingly gave away parts of plot , characters and the hidden homo-erotic undertones between characters etc.) and immediately transported the viewer to a realistic yet surreal world of Russian mobsters and other immigrants in a phantasmagorical kind of London.

Without spoiling it for anyone’s delicate virgin eyes, I have to say the film is incredibly well paced and terrifyingly beautiful, yet simple. The script is well written, the fight choreography very realistic and effective, the actors are all superbly intense and comfortable in their roles.

At times in his oeuvre, I found Cronenberg’s approach very cold and distant (although it deliberately seemed the intention in films like Crash or Dead Ringers), but the amount of restraint he (and the lead actors, especially Mortensen) applies here, even during intensely violent moments, is a great example of what separates the men from the boys and the old masters from the wannabe horror directors.

It’s one of those films where you feel your eyes widen in anticipation of what’s going to come and not because of some gimmicky plot twist or surprise, but simply because you want to know what’s going to happen with each of the characters. (Will be interesting to see Ridley Scott’s American Gangster too, as I saw some billboards in LA and Oakland)

In a lot of crime films there’s always something in the defiance of gangsters as rebels that the audience can identify with, because most of the time even crimes like drugs smuggling are still in a moral twilight zone (as it often is a matter of adult choice). But in this case the audience has to juggle its empathy (and secret catharsis with these men of seductive tyrannical power) with the abhorrence of slavery, the most sordid pit of human exploitation. Yet, we somehow understand the rules of the monetary game played in this world we would rather tuck under the carpets and are forced to experience the amoral nature of reality.

I saw a quote in the cinema paper Cineworld Unlimited: "Vincent Kassel portrays the volatile Kirill. "Think of Kirill like Saddam Hussein's son." Cronenberg explains: "Too much power, too little depth, and a lot of insecurities--a very dangerous combination." In fact this could easily apply to most of our politicians and policy makers on a macro scale.

Anyway, I won’t go on and ruin a fresh look at it, it’s all personal taste in the end, but it’s great to see the director who made The Fly return to incredible form in his execution of the craft. Check it out.

Posted by DeZ Vylenz  

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