4.01.2011

review

From MinnPost . . .

I went to an odd locally made film last night that I am going to talk about for a moment, even though, as far as I can tell, there are no immediate plans to show it anywhere else. I'm sure it will pop up again, though. The film is called "tonight, we stay indoors," and is by a local filmmaker named Joe Larsen, and he has, functionally, made an '80s slasher film, of a sort. It has all the elements, many borrowed from John Carpenter's "Halloween," including a psychotic killer, a former psychiatrist who is now hunting his patient, a series of brutal murders in a single location, and a "last girl" with a man's name, in this case Davi (Natalie Sosnay), who confronts and bests the murderer at the end. From my description, this could be any of the tens of thousands of low-budget slasher films that came out in the '80s and '90s.

Except it is nothing like them. The film seems to have been shot with the lowest budget of all — I would guess about $6 — and how do you make a slasher film when you don't even have the money for Karo syrup to double as blood? Well, you set the film after the slashing, when the last girl's life has been reduced to sitting in her apartment and occasionally going to Kmart or the Mall of America, where she goes because she is not recognized. And that's it for what we see onscreen. Come to think of it, it's all very Jennifer Ringleyish, just a series of long, static shots of a young woman doing mundane things.

But the whole of it is narrated by a vaguely distracted voice that sounds as though the narrator were speaking far too low and far too close to the microphone. The narrator seems, at first, to be a traditional omniscient, offering up detailed descriptions of Davi, her town, and the events of the murder. But the narrator is a little off — his discussions often get lost in the nuances of and minutiae of detail, which sometimes seems to offend him. At one moment, he lists every brand of Pepsi that is no longer on the market, as though their presence in our lives, and now absence, were some betrayal. And it's a long list — it goes on for minutes. Further, the narrator sometimes admits he's not sure of the facts, although he then goes on to confidently discuss the private thoughts of Davi, the survivor.

And, once in a while, his narration is interrupted by plaintive, pained singing over a spare guitar, usually while Davi does nothing much at all — in one scene, she sort of obsessively spins in place on her desk chair in front of her computer, the way children do when they are very bored and have discovered that chairs like these swivel. Sometimes when you cry you sound like you're laughing, the singer tells us, and I don't know which it is until I see your face.

All this could get to be a bit much, but Larsen has kept his film to about one hour, which is about perfect — long enough to tell an entire story, and, especially with the narrator, create and sustain an intriguing, legitimately creepy atmosphere, but not so long that these things start to show their limitations. I'd like to see more films like this, films that aren't about the sort of momentous, transformative narrative moments that filmmakers love to indulge, even when, as with slasher films, they are primarily grim fantasies.

Instead, it's really interesting to start after those moments have ended, when things have settled back into something like normalcy, watching as the characters from the big event try to figure out their lives after the fact. With Davi, she doesn't do much of anything. As the film's narrator points out, there's not much reason for her to go outside. All of her friends are dead.

3.30.2011

press

From City Pages . . .

Trylon Microcinema screens experimental slasher film tonight
By Sheila Regan

This Wednesday at the Trylon Microcinema filmmaker Joe Larsen will be screening his experimental, post-slasher film tonight, we stay indoors, which follows the survivor of a massacre. Larsen has been working with the concept for the past couple of years, exploring how a community would react to a mass murder tragedy in a real setting.

Originally, Larsen had planned to create a traditional narrative, but he later decided that a better way to frame the film would be to write a more experimental one. Parts of the story are told in voice-over, which are interspersed with quiet scenes of the survivor's day-to-day life.

Larsen says that he was never interested in making a slasher film itself, but in looking at how characters would deal with a massacre afterward. "It's kind of like a sequel to a slasher film," he says.

The movie was shot over the course of two months, and Larson says he actually created different versions in order to figure out how to make the narrative work. Much of the film was shot locally; one scene takes place outside of the Mall of America, and others are shot in Wassau, Wisconsin, creating the backdrop of where the massacre took place.

The film centers around Miss Davi Winters (Natalie Sosnay), the sole survivor of a massacre by "The Umbrella Killer" Donovan Doring, who was responsible for five deaths in an otherwise quiet community. Winter is responsible for Doring's death. The film explores her psychological state after the incident.

The two stars of the film are not professional actors. Instead, Larsen chose people that he knew because he liked capturing the natural awkwardness of non-actors in hopes that this would get at the mood of the characters not knowing how to deal with the community.

The main actress, Natalie Sosnay, met Larsen while working at Lagoon Theatre, (he works at Uptown Theatre). As for the other actor, David Saladin, Larsen knows him through Saladin's now broken up band, Butcher's Bag.

tonight, we stay indoors is Larsen's third feature film, but his other two works didn't get a lot of play. In the past few years he's kept a low profile, working on other people's projects. Since he writes for Switchblade Comb reporting on film news, he's been paying attention to Trylon's schedule. He met up with Barry Kryshka, from Take-Up Productions (which operates Trylon) and got on its schedule. "I really love that theater," he says. "I love its smaller intimate setting."


Correction: it is spelled Wausau, actually.

3.22.2011

Kiarostami II

Abbas Kiarostami, interviewed by the AV Club about Certified Copy. Excerpts . . .

AVC: You’ve said in the past that you’re not offended if people sleep during your films, as long as they dream about them afterward.

AK: I’ve said that many times, and I’m not sure if it has been understood right, because very often they take that as a joke, whereas I mean it. I really think that I don’t mind people sleeping during my films, because I know that some very good films might prepare you for sleeping or falling asleep or snoozing. It’s not to be taken badly at all. This is something I really mean.

AVC: With the exception of your segment in the anthology film Tickets, you’ve essentially given up film for shooting on digital video. But with Certified Copy, you used the RED camera, which has a look much closer to film. How did that affect the process for you?

AK: You’re referring to the last 10 years. I have received the digital camera as a blessing. It has really changed my life as a filmmaker, because I don’t use my camera anymore as a camera. I don’t feel it as a camera. I feel it as a friend, as something that doesn’t make an impression on people, that doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable, and that is completely forgotten in my way of approaching life and people and film. So the digital camera has given me total freedom and a different way of filming. This time, with the RED, I didn’t have this impression at all. I felt that it was as heavy as a film camera. Having this great crew, with the DP and his assistants, I found it making as much of an impression as a very big film camera. I didn’t relate to it as much. I remember avoiding it during the shooting rather than paying attention to it. It was there, I had to deal with it, but I didn’t create any kind of relation with it. I’m still very grateful to digital cameras in general, but I didn’t have this feeling with the RED one.

rock & roll

Rock & Roll Ray was the first to review tonight, we stay indoors. Excerpts . . .

"watching your film was like reliving aspects of the 1990's minneapolis. the nothing of culture save for the corporate. the slow dying of a generation with nothing to say. it's not their fault they miss it."

"numerous films that use voice over to tell a story comes to mind including slave trade in the world today- narration by vincent price."

"i always like it when you capture the actors not acting and behaving in the moment."

"did you know that the chinese place me and my folks go to has the worst general tso's chicken? all it is is sweet and sour chicken with some spice. their shrimp in lobster sauce is good."

"i want to see more films made by you and i like cherry coke better than cherry pepsi."

3.15.2011

Kiarostami

It appears that Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami can explain my views on filmmaking much better than I can. So.




1.20.2011

history

I was going to post old journal entries of the attempts to make tonight, we stay indoors throughout the years, but they are boring. So.

Pre-production for the original idea, called Ruin, began in 2006. It still followed the 'aftermath of a teen slasher' theme but brought in the idea of collective-mind serial killers, who pop up like a contagion to replace the original killer. Yes, I was watching too much of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure at the time. This was taken from an earlier screenplay I had desired to write for a contest held by Laughing Boy director Joe Grisaffi (eventually resulting in Dead of Knight), but it happened at a point when I was in constant move flux and never had my computer hooked up long enough to write anything. That story is uninteresting and inconsequential.

At some point, the collective-mind plot aspect was dropped but was still focused on the horror genre. Production was ready to go, but while I was visiting Japan, I lost my cinematographer and entire budget (what little of one there was going to be). One day of shooting was attempted with myself as cinematographer, of which a behind-the-scenes video can be seen below.

It was a disaster of sorts.

Ruin was shelved at the last second for When the Sidewalk Ends, which absorbed many of the locations since I had planned to shoot there anyway. The idea would be rewritten in 2009, with much of the horror aspects removed but still attempting a traditional narrative, which at this point I was wholly uninterested in but thought was unavoidable for this particular idea.

This new version of the screenplay was given to the legendary Rock & Roll Ray, whose criticisms (characters aimlessly, pointlessly wandered just like they did in my first 2 features) led to the dropping of traditional narrative altogether. This may not have been what he intended - I think he wanted it more exciting, entertaining, and horror-focused. But still.

So the plot of Ruin, now called tonight, we stay indoors after the mlord song of the same title, would be told completely in voice-over. However, instead of the usual poetics, it would be factual and statistic, and have little to do with what was being shown on-screen.

So now you know...


(from March 8, 2007)

1.14.2011

pictures






behind-the-scenes

so I made this film

tonight we stay indoors
a Joseph Larsen film
starring Natalie Sosnay
also featuring David Saladin
music by mlord and Happy Medium

Dubbed by the media as the Umbrella Killer, Donovan Doring was responsible for the deaths of five deaths in the otherwise quiet community of Sutter Bay. The sole survivor of the massacre was Miss Davi Winters who, after some struggle, was responsible for the death of Donovan himself.

She doesn't go out much anymore. All of her friends are dead.