XIXAX Film Forum

Woo's Paycheck

edison · 19 · 3228

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  • Admin
  • *****
    • Posts: 22985
Reply #15 on: November 15, 2003, 01:47:08 AM
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol

Skeleton FilmWorks

Cory Everett

  • Admin
  • *****
    • Posts: 10840
    • Cinephile: A Card Game
Reply #16 on: November 15, 2003, 10:41:54 AM
let me be the first one to say "ewww."  :yabbse-thumbdown:
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

Cory Everett

  • Admin
  • *****
    • Posts: 10840
    • Cinephile: A Card Game
Reply #17 on: February 23, 2004, 02:34:53 PM

Hollywood had been making action movies for nearly a century before John Woo came along, but it took the Hong Kong-honed director to elevate the genre to an art. By the late 1980s, American action movies were virtually indistinguishable from what audiences were seeing on television -- the bigger budgets merely afforded bigger stars and bigger explosions. Meanwhile, with super-stylized movies like The Killer and Bullet in the Head, John Woo had discovered an entirely new visual language. Forget the pyrotechnics. He could create action inside the camera, rather than in front of it, by shooting from unexpected angles, swooping along with the movement and using slow motion.

Soon enough, Woo's signature techniques -- the extreme closeup on a bullet sliding into its chamber as a gun is cocked, the majesty of a windswept trenchcoat, even the sight of white doves amidst the violence -- had made their way into American action movies. Ironically, it was Western movies that had inspired Woo's style to begin with, bringing the creative path full circle. Now, with projects like Face/Off, Mission: Impossible II and Paycheck, Woo makes big-budget Hollywood movies, combining his Hong Kong techniques with large-scale production values. Find out five films that shaped his initial style and still influence his work today.


North by Northwest
(1959; dir: Alfred Hitchcock; starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint)Paycheck is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock. When I read the script, I found that the story had a lot of great suspense, which meant that I could direct it like a Hitchcock film. Since I have learned so much from his films, I thought it was a good time to do a tribute to him. There are a lot of little references to Psycho and Rear Window. The two little lovebirds came from The Birds. There's a scene where Ben Affleck is trapped inside a subway tunnel and he's being chased by a train. That sequence is inspired by North by Northwest, when Cary Grant is in the middle of nowhere and he's being chased by the plane. In another [Hithcock-inspired] moment, Ben Affleck and Paul Giamatti are talking in Union Station, and there's a killer watching them. All of a sudden, a balloon rises into the frame, and you see a little kid pull out a toy gun. He points it at the killer and says, "Bang!" and then we cut to the killer, who pulls out a much bigger gun and blows up the balloon. That moment comes from Strangers on a Train, when Robert Walker pops a child's balloon with his cigarette.

Le Samouraï
(1967; dir: Jean-Pierre Melville, starring: Alain Delon)
Le Samouraï by Jean-Pierre Melville was an action movie like I had never seen before. It was almost like a silent movie, there was so little dialogue. Instead, Melville let the visuals and camera angles tell the story. Alain Delon plays a cool assassin who works alone, but somehow gets involved in a mysterious love affair with a jazz singer who recognizes him but decides not to expose him in a police lineup. Delon comes across very brave, very tough and cold, but Melville made this killer more emotional and also gave him a great code of honor. In our country, we still belong to the old culture. We admire people who show loyalty and honor. I was studying existentialism when I saw it, and I felt that we shared a similar kind of philosophy. I also loved how Melville shot it and what he did with the camera. The Killer was an homage to this film. When Chow Yun-Fat walks into the nightclub and meets the singer, they share a little eye contact but no dialogue, and then Chow Yun-Fat goes into the room and kills the guys. The whole scene was taken from Le Samouraï, and the image of Chow Yun-Fat's character, with his nice shoes and long coat, is meant to be cool like Alain Delon.

Lawrence of Arabia
(1963, dir: David Lean, starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness)
Another movie that greatly influenced me was David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. I really love that movie. What makes a director like David Lean so great is not only that he had great technique, but also that he has a great heart. His movies have a lot of great humanity in them. I can never forget that brilliant montage moment when Peter O'Toole lights the match, and as he blows it out, we jump cut to the sunrise over the red desert. That kind of montage tells so much. As for Lean's humanity, that comes out when we see that he tried to help other people, he tried to do something great, but things became very political, and it wasn't what he wished. Lawrence of Arabia is a great epic, and all the cinematography is just like painting. It was a great movie for me to study in terms of using the camera to tell the story because visually its style has such a great impact. I also love Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif. The movie features a lot of great actors and performers, especially Anthony Quinn. Anthony Quinn was such a memorable character and so funny as well.

The Wild Bunch
(1969; dir: Sam Peckinpah; starring: William Holden, Robert Ryan)
Another important film for me was Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. I learned how to use slow motion from that film. Slow motion is so dramatic the way he uses it. Peckinpah really understands how to control the audience, to let them feel what will happen next and really draw them in for the next scene. I love the scene just before the final duel, when all the guys make eye contact, and then William Holden says, "Let's go," and they pick up their guns and walk down the street. That moment was so great. These guys, they came from nothing, and they don't care what's going to happen to them. The only thing that matters is that they're finally going to do something right, do something for a friend. It's a spiritual thing, and that kind of honor really touched me because it's very close to our culture. I took that idea for my Hong Kong film A Better Tomorrow II. The ending sequence was an homage to The Wild Bunch, and I have a similar shot of the four guys dressed all in black holding their shotguns and walking towards the main house to fight with hundreds of people.

The 400 Blows
(1959; dir: François Truffaut; starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier)
I have always been fond of French movies, and I really related to François Truffaut's The 400 Blows because I had a similar childhood. I also had a lot of difficulties with survival and growing up, and I used to get beaten up by so many people, but I had a dream: I'm always looking for love, looking for hope, just like the character in that movie. I was also amazed that Truffaut could use the camera to tell his own story and show his own feelings. That made me realize that making a movie wasn't only about entertaining, but it could also be a chance to express myself, to tell the truth and to show the way I feel. As an example, Bullet in the Head was greatly influenced by two movies: The 400 Blows and Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. (Mean Streets also felt very realistic to me, and I strongly related to Robert De Niro's character.) The first half of Bullet in the Head was based on my biography. When I was young, I had the same kind of friends. One was a troubled kid who got involved with drugs, and I tried to make him turn back. Another one was just looking for fortune. At that time, it felt like we were living in hell, so we all wanted to find heaven. We had so many dreams when we were poor, and we were very close, so I put that into the movie.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.


  • The Master of Two Worlds
  • *****
    • Posts: 5590
  • freakin huge
    • my site
Reply #18 on: February 23, 2004, 06:18:14 PM
but the thing about the trademarks with john woo is, those things were never trademarks when he was good.  his best film, the killer, had no trenchcoat, no sunglasses, and no doves, there was no extreme closeup of chambers either.  His second best film, Last Hurrah for Chivalry, was a swordsmen film.
in hard boiled he had one gun fight sequence done in one tracking shot (or supposedly two held together by one of the most invisible dissolves ever), two minutes and 42 seconds of choreographed gun battle.  I have yet to see any action sequence to top that, and I don't think Woo can top himself after that sequence.  He hasn't really tried either.  Oh yeah, and picking super cheeseball scripts doesn't really help either I guess.
Man, John Woo, put down the Ben Affleck and go back home man.
“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.”
- Buster Keaton