Saturday, December 13, 2008
It all has to add up to something
A couple of years ago, we worked with Jesse Dylan on a pro-safe sex commercial for MTV. Jesse shoots music videos, commercials and movies. He shot the will.i.am Obama video. His dad is Bob Dylan, which isn't mentioned on the wikipedia page. Jesse is a nice guy, very likable.
MTV needed messaging to encourage women to take responsibility for condom use. The idea of our commercial was simple: associate condoms with hot sex and not with being a bummer, as it is in most PSAs - make sure you always wear a condom.
We planned on shooting a series of women seductively looking into camera while opening condoms. The shoot was not awesome. The women looked too skinny and fashiony and I hated the styling - sent them back more than once to remove makeup and was told "you have to put on makeup to make it look they're not wearing makeup." Um, yeah.
There ended up being one take of one girl that we used 60 seconds of with no cuts, and I think it worked okay.
The best part of the shoot was hanging out with Jesse talking about movies. He found out I had never seen Kurosawa's Ikiru, and a few days later he sent me a copy of the Criterion version.
It is one of those movies I can watch four times a year. It stars Takashi Shimura - who played the leader of Kurisawa's Seven Samurai - as a career bureaucrat who gets untreatable stomach cancer late in his life. He begins to live, as the title of the film translates to, for the first time in the last month of his life.
That's the first half of the movie. The rest takes place at his memorial service and shows people completely misunderstanding everything this man had done in his life, including the end.
Anyway, great movie. I call Jesse and thank him, tell him it changed my life, that I had listened to all the commentary tracks and watched all the extra features, and he says, "If you liked Ikiru, you're going to love Andrei Rublev."
Andrei Rublev was a 15th-century Russian icon painter. Tarkovsky uses this dark and violent and bleak life to tell a story about faith and the creative act.
Tonight, I am watching it for maybe the third time.
The movie is made up of eight chapters and an epilogue. I'm watching the last chapter now. In it, a kid, the survivor of a village, talks his way into a community by telling them he is the son of the deceased bellmaker, the only person alive who knows how to cast a bell.
Here, after months of work, he leans against his bell after it is fired. Tomorrow it will be hung in the tower and struck. People have come to believe this boy is a fraud, and few expect the bell to ring.
When the bell is struck and makes a dull thud, this boy will be hanged. But he is calm. He has worked hard and had faith.
You should know: this boy, like Andrei Rublev, is an archetypal character, representing a creative person - me, and maybe you? - and that bell is a symbol.
Will the bell ring? Let's see.