Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saved by the beet

Two and a half weeks into my new diet, I'm glad to say that I'm feeling a lot better. In the last 5-6 days I've been much more energetic, and didn’t feel the need to sleep during the day (which I did throughout most of the summer). I was so energetic I started cleaning the apartment, throwing away old stuff, and reorganizing the stuff I don't want to through away.

Not only that, but I also had a comeback dream to the nightmares I've had in my bad week. Back then, I dreamt every night that I'm in physical danger and I'm helpless – there's no way to escape, or even convince anyone that I'm in danger. It was usually conspiracy-movie-type situations. Well a few days ago I dreamt someone was trying to enter my house and hurt me, and I overcame him! I sprayed some stuff on him and he ran away! Always go for the spray when you're in danger.

About the diet itself - I find that the hardest thing about it isn't what I can or can't eat or drink, but the social meaning of it. If I can't drink coffee and can't drink alcohol, and can't really eat outside, this basically means going out with friends is quite difficult. Sure I can sit with them and drink water or carrot juice, but it's not the same.

When this month is over I'm supposed to receive an updated diet for the following month. I'm mostly curious to see how long this energetic phase will last. I hope it's here to stay, but I'm also used to experience the migraines and fatigue in cycles, so I'm trying to be realistic about it. In the meantime, I plan to dedicate this long weekend of Yom Kipur to my script.

Be good, eat healthy stuff.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Case study: La Cage Aux Folles vs.The Birdcage

I've mentioned my love for "La Cage Aux Folles" (Edouard Molinaro, 1978) before. Written originally as a play by Jean Poiret, and later adapted to the screen by Poiret, Molinaro, Marcello Danon and Francis Veber, this movie is definitely one of my all time favorite comedies.

Before writing this case study, I watched the American version of the film for the first time (Mike Nichols, 1996). What a sad and interesting experience that was. Sad - to see such a great story translate into such a (I thought) mediocre film. Interesting - to try and understand what it is exactly that makes it mediocre. I guess for someone who hadn't seen the French movie, the American one might be hilarious, but for me, a devoted fan of the French version, it wasn't. I guess it's s little like watching the American version of "The Office" after adoring the British one.

The plot (you can skip this if you've watched the movie)

The American "Birdcage" is very similar to the French in terms of story, with some adjustments to the American society of course, and a few original scenes that were written especially for it. So here is the basic plot of both films:

The son of a gay couple (owner of a drag shows club and his life partner, the main performer) is set to get married with the daughter of a member of the government's conservative party. The son has no relationship with his birth mother. The fiancée, scared of her conservative father, lies to him and says the boy's father is a diplomat (cultural attaché) and his mother is a house wife. The girl's parents decide to drive up and meet the boy's parents. The boy asks his father, just for that night, to pretend that he's a diplomat, remove any signs of him being gay from the house, and get rid of his partner for the day. While the media is following every step of the girl's father, whose party just gone through a major scandal, the girl's family enters the boy's parents' house. And the mess continues.

What makes the French movie so much better:

First difference that comes to mind is the beautiful soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (the American movie begins and ends with the cheesy "we are family"). Here's one of Morricone's beatiful melodies:

In both films, the boy's adopting father is an insecure, neurotic, high maintenance type of gal. One of his main comic features is a hysteric high-pitch scream that comes out of his mouth once in a while. But while the American character seems to scream only when he encounters an alarming or surprising situation, the French one does it as a general attitude. He screams when he's scared or alarmed, but also out of joy and enthusiasm. Watch the magnificent Michel Serrault (sorry, no subtitles on this one, but that's a scene where he enters the dinner with the girl's parents dressed as a woman, pretending to be the boy's mother, even though the boy and his father asked him not to take part in the dinner):

In the French film, when the boy tells his father he's marrying a girl, the father immediately calls her a "whore", then asks him what’s the whore's name. The next day, the father tells his partner that the boy will marry a girl, and he too replies by calling her a whore. In the American film, both fathers are also upset by the news of the marriage, by they don’t use the word "whore". It might sound like a small detail, but to me it definitely sets a different comic mood.

In the French film, it is well established that both the girl and her mother are afraid of the father. In the American version, set in a different year, most of the time it seems like deep inside, the girl (Calista Flockhart) doesn’t really care what her father thinks, and has an ironic approach towards her parents – which makes the whole encounter between the families a bit less dramatic.

Both movies end the same way: two mothers arrive to the dinner in which the parents of the boy and the girl meet for the first time, both of them claim they are the boy's mother. The first mother to arrive is the father's male companion, dressed as a woman, playing the part of a woman. The second mother to arrive is the boy's actual mother, whom he hasn't seen since he was a baby. At this point the girl's father asks: how many mothers does he have?

In the French version, it's his father who removes the wig from his partner's head, and says: he has two fathers. Us. In the American version it's the boy himself who removes the wig, saying: I have two fathers.

For me, the French resolution is more natural – the main characters are the two fathers, they didn't want to lie in the first place, so it makes sense that the father reveals the truth. In the American version, the boy becomes a character who has gone through some change during the day, coming to terms with his family, deciding not to lie anymore. It seems a bit forced and out of context, not to say educational.

A word about female characters

The only thing I don’t like about "La Cage Aux Folles" is the pour female characters. There are two couples of parents in the story. The two gay fathers are funny. The girl's father (at least in the French version) is hilarious. And only the girl's mother has hardly any comic depth. They could have played with her dreams of a wedding with a diplomat's son, make her more pathetic, but they chose to make her anemic.

I had the same issue with "Meet the Fockers", that has more female characters in it to begin with. And I want to declare here again, that I will try as hard as I can to make the female characters in my movie just as bold, funny and pathetic as the male ones.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guilty and weak

I wasn't sure what to write here in the last couple of weeks. I guess it's because I can't make myself sit down and write my screenplay. I feel bad about not writing the screenplay, I feel bad generally, so I lose interest in the blog. It's the first time I'm trying to write a screenplay. I have no experience in planning such a long story/text, so I've been mostly avoiding doing it. My plan was to use this summer for writing, and I feel that I have failed at that.

Other than that, I've been tired and weak all summer, which I thought might have something to do with the Tel Aviv heat, or with the no-job situation (you're at home, there's no obligation to do anything, so why would you do anything?). Along with the weakness, I've been suffering from occasional headaches. Headaches and migraines are not new to me, but in the last 4-5 months came a new phenomenon: a headache that lasts a few days. You wake up with the headache, you go to sleep with it, and you wake up with it again. It doesn’t matter how many headache/migraine pills I take, or how many naps I take – it just stays there, until one day it disappears. I found it alarming, so I went to the doctor. The doctor took some tests and said there's nothing wrong with me. So I decided to go to a nutritionist, who also does iris Diagnosis. She was much more understanding than the doctor. She looked at my blood tests, looks at my pupils, and said the comforting words: "of course you're tired".

So now I'm on a new diet, which is supposed to make me feel better. There's a green powder I'm supposed to drink every day, and there are many things I shouldn't eat or drink (alcohol, milk, coffee, sugar, wheat, few vegetables, and most of the fruits that I love). I will say, though, that the nutritionist told me that in fact I should digress from the menu from time to time, because (her words) I'm a perfectionist and I should learn to fight my perfectionism.

It's been 6 days since I started the new diet. I was actuallly very weak these last 3-4 days, and had one of those long headaches again, which I still have, but hopefully will be gone by tomorrow. To make it even more interesting, every night in the last few days I had at least one dream in which I'm in phisical danger - in most of them I forced myself to wake up because the dream was too scary or stressing to handle.

Speaking of perfectionism, I had a minor revelation today. I understood that the biggest mission ahead of me is not to write the greatest screenplay I can, but first to write a screenplay at all. Once I've written my first full screenplay, I can worry about making it perfect, or making my future screenplays perfect. Hopefully I can execute that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Make it work! September deadlines

I'm beginning to question my deadlines method. In other words – I'm not making it work. I'm trying to figure out how to make the necessary leap in my story's structure. I have a rather established structure, but it's not complete, and it's hardly developed since I started this blog.

I know that I'm good in editing and arranging material, so I'm pretty sure that when I'll have my structure, the writing process will become easier. But at this stage, when I'm still working on the story itself, I'm stuck. It’s not yet playing with material – it's coming up with the material.

What I did find is that talking about the story with someone (my boyfriend, to be exact) is much easier than thinking about it in my head. Sometimes he'll have good ideas, and other times just saying something aloud helps me get it to the next level. It's as if until I don't say it aloud, I can't think what happens next, or as a result of it, or what will make it better. Once I said it, I automatically come up with new ideas.

So I guess my major mission for September is to have as many script conversations with my boyfriend, and force myself to finish working on my movie structure.

As in the previous make-it-work posts, I'm leaving you with a Tim Gunn video. This time, you get to see the inside of his closet: