Cinema Under the Influence invites you to a double screening of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and John Carpenter’s Halloween October 11th in Long Island City. Get ready for Halloween fun with a cinematic NYC night that will deliver plenty of thrills!

A repertory cinema program that presents curated double features along with full beverage service, CUI invites film lovers to enjoy great cinematic works along with a couple of nice cool drinks. We select our films to illuminate different aspects of film history, technique, and aesthetic. Overlapping in artist, theme, or genre, the films will be further highlighted by written essays from our curators. Join the CUI Facebook group to learn more about the program and upcoming presentations.

In the meantime, explore the makings of Blue Velvet and Halloween with these fantastic documentaries!

Mysteries of Love is a documentary on David Lynch’s modern classic Blue Velvet. Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, we find clips from the film immersed with intriguing footage and photographs from the production and exciting interviews with David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, and others. Certainly, Mysteries of Love leaves one wanting more documentaries of its kind.

It is often surprising to learn that many of our most loved films today were almost not made. David Lynch had been coming out of a failed experience with his work Dune, when Dino De Laurentiis approached him about Blue Velvet, a script that Lynch had been working on for years. Thankfully and surprisingly, De Laurentiis gave Lynch full artistic control, and despite not being in the contract, he promised the filmmaker final cut. All of this provided as long as the director agreed to cut his salary and the film’s budget in half. The sacrifices that are made in the name of art!

Halloween: The Inside Story is an inside look at the making of John Carpenter’s 1978 low-budget horror masterpiece. First conceived as a “babysitter murder movie” the young-gun director, along with a group of recent film school grads and a gang of eager but inexperienced actors, tackled Halloween’s 21-day shooting schedule, $325,000 budget and an ambitious four-minute long take to become the stuff of indie-film legend. This is an inspirational story of young artists coming together and a “behind-the-mask” look at one of the creepiest horror flicks of all time. Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter, Rob Zombie and more provide insightful commentary dealing with everything from having five different Michael Myers’ to the movie’s legacy as a slasher film that would spawn scores of imitations but not one equal.

Film as Remembrance: Richard Linklater and Boyhood

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Twelve years was already twice my lifetime at the point when we started. It’s hard enough to contemplate the next 12 years now for me, or probably at any age, but then it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t for several years that it really began to sink in just what the film was or why it was so different.

Ellar Coltrane was six years old when director Richard Linklater began shooting Boyhood and eighteen when the film concluded. An ambitious vision, the work is a testament to the power of cinema’s unique artistic ability of capturing time as it presents the journey of a boy through childhood and towards the doors to young adulthood. A cinematic time capsule, the film is a naturalistic and poetic ode to our early lives and experiences while shedding light on family life and how we evolve as individuals. Linklater’s Boyhood is innovative in its concept and yet at its core it brings one to reflect on the early use of the camera—the first films, those of the Lumière Brothers, captured moments of French life at the turn of the 20th century—while echoing Andrei Tarkovsky’s belief of film as the sculpting of time.

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Unlike all the other art forms, film is able to seize and render the passage of time, to stop it, almost to possess it in infinity. I’d say that film is the sculpting of time.

Andrei Tarkovsky

The film also echoes French writer Gustave Flaubert’s idea of “un livre sur rien,” or a book about nothing. Flaubert describes his intention behind writing the now classic Madame Bovary

What I would like to write is a book about nothing, a book without exterior attachments, which would be held together by the inner force of its style, as the earth without support is held in the air—a book that would have almost no subject or at least in which the subject would be almost invisible…The finest works of art are those in which there is the least matter. The closer expression comes to thought, the more the word clings to the idea and disappears, the more beautiful the work of art…There are neither good nor bad subjects. From the point of view of pure Art, you could almost establish it as an axiom that the subject is irrelevant, style itself being an absolute manner of seeing things.

In many ways, Richard Linklater brings Flaubert’s words to the art of cinema. Boyhood is made up of pieces of life to tell a story through the lapse of time, one that is closer to physical truth than fictional. Its stylistic approach brings to mind Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s idea on form and content in filmmaking: Form itself creates a kind of content. Form is not something, however, that controls the content. Form is in the center and in some ways, for some artists, content emerges from the form…Content is not content without form. As actor Ethan Hawke says so well in the featurette for the film, With the passage of time, life is beautiful and interesting enough as it is, and you don’t need to manufacture a lot of falsehood.

Linklater pushes the boundaries of what we deem is filmmaking by offering the spectator a chance to actually see and observe individuals and the relationships they partake in pass from one year to another while following the drama that is the passage of time. For the filmmaker, The manipulation of time is the unique property of cinema. If cinema is painting, time is the paint. It’s that fundamental. It is also because of this perspective on cinema that we may imagine Linklater adapting Flaubert’s “livre sur rien” for film. Instead of a book, it would be a film “held together by the inner force of its style, as the earth without support is held in the air.” Boyhood is earthly and hits home because it presents itself as moving images of the instant, portraying our human experience of life through one vessel.

Explore and learn more about the making of Boyhood with Richard Linklater and his collaborators. The Making Of featurette and Linklater’s interview with Vice magazine offers us intimate looks at the film director as he speaks about turns in his life and filmmaking career and how he holds cinema in mind. Creating a film by shooting pieces of it every year for twelve years, using the same cast, making the most of natural settings and the culture of the times, allowing for the personal stories of the collaborators in the film to inspire its story, there is truly much to take from this project as filmmakers but even much more so as individuals who love film and the endless possibilities it provides for visual storytelling.

A director is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decisions, and it’s the director’s job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible…The best education in film is to make one. I would advise any neophyte director to try to make a film by himself. A three-minute short will teach him a lot. I know that all the things I did at the beginning were, in microcosm, the things I’m doing now as a director and producer.
Stanley Kubrick
Explore and discover more about the celebrated filmmaker with Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures!

A director is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decisions, and it’s the director’s job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible…The best education in film is to make one. I would advise any neophyte director to try to make a film by himself. A three-minute short will teach him a lot. I know that all the things I did at the beginning were, in microcosm, the things I’m doing now as a director and producer.

Stanley Kubrick

Explore and discover more about the celebrated filmmaker with Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures!

I often joke when people ask if I went to film school, I say “Oh, I went to the Stanley Kubrick film school,” which means you just buy a camera and you learn how to use it and you start making movies. And that’s as good as anything else.

Richard Linklater

What matters to me is that the feeling excited by my films should be universal. An artistic image is capable of arousing identical feelings in viewers, while the thoughts that come later may be very different. If you start to search for a meaning during the film you will miss everything that happens. The ideal viewer is someone who watches a film like a traveler watching the country he is passing through: because the effect of an artistic image is an extra-mental type of communication. There are some artists who attach symbolic meaning to their images, but that is not possible for me. Zen poets have a good way of dealing with this: they work to eliminate any possibility of interpretation, and in the process a parallel arises between the real world and what the artist creates in his work…It seems to me that the purpose of art is to prepare the human soul for the perception of good. The soul opens up under the influence of an artistic image, and it is for this reason that we say it helps us to communicate—but it is communication in the highest sense of the word…My purpose as far as possible is to make films that will help people to live, even if they sometimes cause unhappiness…art can reach to the depths of the human soul and leave man defenseless against good.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky on Film Education: Art Is an Exploration of Ourselves →

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Only through personal experience we understand life, says Andrei Tarkovsky, and this same statement could be very true about filmmaking: it is through our personal experience with the process that we come to a better understanding of filmmaking. Quentin Tarantino said, I didn’t go to film school. I went to films, while Paul Thomas Anderson claimed, My filmmaking education consisted of finding out what filmmakers I liked were watching, then seeing those films. I learned the technical stuff from books & magazines…Film school is a complete con, because the information is there if you want it. If the search for knowledge is incumbent upon man, one thing is for sure: a filmmaker’s journey is a continuous search in understanding the elements of film. Here, Tarkovsky expresses how he truly came to cinema: by finally understanding in the process of filmmaking the things he learned at school. It was all in the doing

Film education can be found in institutions which often focus on theory and technique, however, much of what the arts demand from artists is an application of the self towards his or her chosen medium, and so art is an exploration of ourselves, and thus, it does not finish with school but continues throughout life. Tarkovsky believes in the importance of this exploration, and when it comes to cinema, he acknowledges that the best experience for the filmmaker is film itself: studying film works and participating in the making of films. Then there is the study of the other arts. As Tarkovsky, Tarantino, and Anderson suggest, film education starts and ends with you.

Get inspired with Andrei Tarkovsky and this excerpt of an interview with the filmmaker.

What do you feel about the training at VGIK?

People have to study, but really if you want to be a director you would do better to take part in the making of one long film. The best course is the Advanced Course in Directing. It is absurd to spend six years studying in the Faculty of Directing, you might as well spend twenty years there, when you take into account the fact that only twenty percent of the total time is allowed for your speciality.

You can’t teach a person the art of cinematography any more than you can teach him to be a poet! The profession as such can be taught in a couple of months. Piano playing has to be taught by someone, whereas writing you can learn only yourself, by reading other people’s writings. And of course you have to be taught how to be an actor, only they are not being taught the right things. They don’t know other languages, they can’t ride. Nor can they fence, swim, or dive, or drive a car or motorcycle. Doubles have to be used for all those things. The actors can’t pronounce their words properly, they are not natural, but on the other hand they pass dozens of exams. What they need to be taught are things like hygiene and diet, and intense physical exercise. But all of that has to be done professionally. VGIK ought to enlist the services of leading cineastes who know how to teach. In my view, film actors should be taught by good film directors. Sergey Gerasimov is right to teach actors and directors together.

At the moment a lot of people straight off the street are being taken on as actors. And quite rightly. They will have parts in films, and they will become real actors, because they know what they want. There are plenty of VGIK graduates who imagine they are fully-fledged actors or directors, when in fact VGIK is merely a place where you can get a good degree; the whole thing only starts after VGIK. When you leave.

The main trouble with VGIK is that the professionals are not interested in it. None of the Studios know anything at all about people at VGIK. It is vital to break down the wall that separates VGIK from actual film production. I think they ought to have a year’s practicum, working on an entire production. A year of specialist study and then a year of practicum, working on a full-length feature. Or maybe the other way around: the practical year first and then the Institute. The point is that VGIK can’t go on being divorced from production. When we first came into the studios in our fourth year, we felt as if we were in some dense forest. The rules there were different, we had to do things we hadn’t been taught to do. On the other hand a studio can’t guarantee work for twenty people.

And then—how should candidates be selected? I only realized what I wanted to do when I was in my fifth year; before that I hadn’t the slightest idea why I had come to VGIK. Only after working under Marlen Khutsiev did I begin to understand that this was something real, and important, and art. Earlier I had been working on screen adaptations, and working with actors, but without knowing any of the whys and wherefores. I wanted to become a director, and I imagined I knew why, but in fact I only really understood why very recently.

First you have to be bitten by cinema, you have to ask yourself if you are going to be able to do something in cinema, and only then should you go on and study. Lots of people who graduate from VGIK have a difficult time. We don’t have a satisfactory selection system, and there is a tremendous amount of wastage. We remain oblivious of all the endless psychological tests that exist to establish what a person is likely to be good at. Surely there must be a way of finding out about somebody’s professional potential? Then, of course, nobody actually knows what it takes to be a film director. That ought to be established. One is told that it is not possible to develop any system of that kind, but the fact is that nobody is giving it any thought. One way would be for a student to be apprenticed to a master, as they were in the old days. Apart from all that, how can anyone live on twenty-eight roubles a month? The students are quite simply unfit for work; it’s hardly surprising that no one will take them on. Engineers are needed all over the place, but directors are pretty well redundant. A director only becomes necessary when he has proved that he can do things better than other people. Then he’ll be an artist. All the rest are doomed to eke out an existence of the periphery of art, on the periphery of cinema. Once a person has been studying one thing for a year or two he hasn’t the courage to give it up and start doing something else.

There ought to be quite a different form of training. They ought to see more films. The whole “new wave” was a result of film critics sitting in cinemas and watching huge quantities of films, after all! It’s important to see the work of the great masters, and know it well, in order not to start reinventing the wheel. There aren’t very many of them, perhaps only five; Dovzhenko, Buñuel, Bergman, Antonioni, Dreyer, and one or two others.

And then there’s no time at VGIK to read. All you have time for is getting through the reading for the seminars. You don’t read beyond certain works, or even just extracts, on specific themes. That’s very bad. A person can only really assimilate what he reads when it has time to become part of him. If they were to read more at the institute, and watch more films, they wouldn’t then start inventing things that have been invented long ago.

(emphasis mine)

The meaning of cinema and its colossal popularity is based on the fact that the viewer approaches it in search of his own un-accumulated experience, so to speak. I am not speaking of inexperience in life, but of the fact that our age offers one such a large amount of information and people are so busy that they do not have time sometimes even to find out what is surrounding them on a day-to-day basis. Cinema’s task is to substitute for this lacking experience. It stands before the very serious and profound task of speaking truthfully and sincerely, never deceiving the viewer.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Each one of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films is an intense exploration of the possibilities cinema offers to storytellers. They also ask much of the viewer. With each invitation into their cinematic landscapes, there is in addition a challenge to learn the language of these film worlds and the essence behind the visually and aurally presented life. As a filmmaker, Tarkovsky’s touch is very much present in how I personally understand and relate to film, and coming from a background in poetry, for me, this acclaimed “poet in cinema” channels the true poetry that cinema is capable of offering to audiences.

When I speak of poetry I am not thinking of it as a genre. Poetry is an awareness of the world, a particular way of relating to reality, said Tarkovsky. From the perspective of a filmmaker, Tarkovsky allures with his grasp for the art of cinema. Still, and more importantly so, from the stance of one who shares in this experience of human life, Tarkovsky allows us to connect with the heart of cinema through his portrayal of emotions and truth, in other words, what makes us human. In a Tarkovsky film, we face life.

Mirror is a true masterpiece and an unforgettable cinematic experience. It is a world that I enjoy visiting. Nostalghia and Stalker, masterpieces in their own right, share a close spot to it. It is difficult to rate the films of Andrei Tarkovsky; however, this order of these sculptures of time will have to suffice for now. To one of the great artists of cinema…cheers.

(original artwork by Mark Neil Balson)

On Defining the Director’s Job

For me it’s different on different movies. I mean, it’s your taste, the vibe you lay down the visual and the working rules, that you lay down for everyone that you’re working with. So I think you set a tone for everything. Even if I’ve written it, once I’m directing it, my job is to make the film work, and I don’t care who wrote it, whether it was me or someone else. I’m more collaborating with the actor than the writer at that point. I’m trying to make it come to life in some way. You’re trying to bring something to life along the way and tell the story you’ve set out to tell, so whatever it takes. And a lot of it’s who you’re collaborating with, what department heads, what creative people you’re working with. I love it, because it hits on everything. As a younger person, I think I wanted to be a writer. That seemed to me my only area I could express myself in. I didn’t know other mediums were even open to me. But once I realized I was a filmmaker and had films in my head, I realized that was so my calling because it answered the need in me to work with others, to collaborate. When I was young, I was kind of left on my own, and just reading. I’m pretty solitary. Film got me actively engaged with others in a collaborative, creative way. That’s what I find probably the most rewarding, the collaboration aspect. It’s perhaps one-sided, because I kind of have veto power and ultimate say, so there’s a certain amount of dictatorial power in the structure, but I think within that structure you can make it work in a lot of different ways.

Richard Linklater

(via cupofcoldsick)

You don’t want the bumpers. Life doesn’t give you bumpers.

Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

E. E. Cummings

A Brief History of Boyhood: 2002 - 2013

12 years in the making, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood captures the journey of a boy through childhood and towards the doors to young adulthood. A cinematic time capsule, the film is a naturalistic and poetic ode to our early lives and experiences while shedding light on family life and how we evolve as individuals. The film also portrays how culture changes with the times. A Brief History of Boyhood takes you on “a 12 year trip through pop culture” as seen by Ellar Coltrane’s coming-of-age character, Mason Jr.

Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater, with Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke.