LAFF Day One: Christopher Nolan Presents a Screening of PINK FLOYD THE WALL; A Review of CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST 3D

     June 19, 2010

LA Film Festival Chris Nolan Cane Toads slice

Last night marked the start of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.  The festival will run until the 27th and Collider will be there covering the festival every day so be sure to check back daily for highlights and reviews from the fest.

Anyway, Friday marked a solid start to the festival with a screening of Pink Floyd The Wall, which was then followed by sit down conversation and Q&A with director Christopher Nolan about the films influence on him and his filmmaking.  More on that and a review of the oddly fascinating and hilarious documentary, Cane Toads: The Conquest 3D, after the jump.

pink_floyd_the_wall_imageChristopher Nolan Presents a Screening of Pink Floyd The Wall followed by a sit down conversation and Q&A

If you’ve ever seen Pink Floyd The Wall, then you know what a weird, odd, puzzling, and especially trippy film it is.  The 1982 film, which is based off of the 1979 album by the band, tells of the story of an alienated rock star named Pink and his descent into insanity.  Alan Parker’s film still manages to stun you with its bold images and extremely cinematic sequences while it also makes you scratch your head with a narrative that jumps around every couple of minutes while never really telling you what exactly is going on.  It’s definitely a tough film to love and “get” on a first viewing.  I admired the film the first time I saw it a few years ago, but didn’t really love it.  Seeing it now in a theater with an audience only made me admire the film a lot more, but I still can’t say that I’m a big fan.  However, it’s still a must-watch film and it’s easy to see why its gathered a cult following over the years.

Even though I’m not a big fan of the film, Christopher Nolan is.  The director decided to show the film at the festival after he screened the film for his key crew before filming began on Inception.  After the film ended, Nolan was joined by film critic Elvis Mitchell as they sat down and had a pretty good conversation about The Wall and how the film has influenced Nolan’s approach to filmmaking.  After this conversation Nolan took some questions from the audience.

I took down some notes and here some small tidbits that I thought were interesting from that conversation and Q&A:

Director Christopher Nolan- The Wall is not a specific influence on his films or Inception.  It’s more of a “general thing” So, basically, don’t expect any shots being copied or “homaged” in Inception.

– Nolan saw the film the first time when he was 16 and its approach to chronology and storytelling made a huge impression on him

–  He’s not a huge Pink Floyd fan but he loves the film.

– Apart from Alan Parker, he considers Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, and Adrian Lyne as big influences on his work.

– Christopher Nolan is absolutely fascinated by how our minds respond to memory.  This is something that he kept on going back to again and again through out the conversation and Q&A. At one point he talked about how all of his films tend to deal with mysteries around characters through past memories. He says that Inception especially deals with memories.

– Believes that you can sell broad operatic moments as long as you can sell the realism of the world. To no surprise, this is what he keeps in mind when approaching his Batman films

– He thinks that sound design is an important factor in his films. He talked about how when he cuts his films he doesn’t use any temp score or sound effects and always tries to get his sound designers to not make every line clear.  He also talked about how he’s always surprised by how his films end up having a musical score going on almost non stop by the end of the film.

Cane Toads: The Conquest 3D Review

Cane Toads The Conquest 3D imageDirector Mark Lewis has a made a career out of directing odd and quirky documentaries that center around animals.  He’s directed documentaries about rats, chickens, cattle shows, and ferrets.  In his latest film, Cane Toads: The Conquest 3D, the director returns to a subject which he explored previously in 1988 with Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.  In that film, Lewis told the story of the cane toad and how it was taking over Australia.  The toad had been brought into the country with hopes that it would eliminate a pesky bug which was ruining the countries sugar plantations.  The cane toad failed at doing that job and instead began to multiply by the hundreds and began to spread around the country at a incredibly fast pace.

Cane Toads: The Conquest picks up decades later from where Lewis last left off.  The cane toad has now spread all over Australia with 1.5 billion toads hopping around and the number just keeps on getting higher.  Lewis not only revisits this odd bit of history and how it’s affecting Australia, but he also spends most of the film documenting the colorful characters that have been affected by these toads as well.

What Lewis has made is not a scientific nature documentary, but instead a deadpan comedy which just happens to be a nature documentary. From its opening scene set  “million of years ago” that ends with a giant cane toad starring you down before rushing at you while the screen cuts to black and its title card appears in the most dramatic fashion, it’s clear that Lewis isn’t taking this subject too seriously and just wants to have fun.

Thankfully, the rest of the film is filled with scenes like this.  There are dramatic inserts of toads spliced into archival footage, a scene depicting an acid trip as experienced by a dog after licking a toad, and a sequence showing an art piece done by a man who decided to pose all of his dead stuffed toads reenacting a wrestling scene and a car accident.  All of these scenes and a lot of other ones are done in such a serious manner that you can’t help but laugh.

If the documentary wasn’t fun enough by itself, the 3D surely helps.  Lewis constantly decides to use 3D to his advantage by creating a number of scenes which show the beauty of Australia, but shows the depth and distance of all of the scenery by placing a toad in the forefront.  Plus, the acid trip as seen from a dog’s perspective is also something great to see in 3D.  If you’re able to not take anything in the documentary too seriously and see it as a comedy, then Cane Toads: The Conquest really is a surprising amount of fun and I recommend you seek it out if it comes by your town.

Cane Toads The Conquest 3D image

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