Film Courage: When I look back at some of the Danny Elfman videos did you help direct any of those?
Richard Elfman, Filmmaker of The FORBIDDEN ZONE and FORBIDDEN ZONE 2: Yes, I’ve helped produced some, directed one (PRIVATE LIFE) although it was Danny’s conception. He knows very much what he wants in the videos.
Film Courage: They are very creative. And do you see a correlation…or not a correlation but a difference in music videos from the 80’s and 90’s compared to now? In terms of the production value wasn’t there as much but the story was.
Richard: Well, a story is very important in a musical number or a video. Great videos have a beginning, middle and end (so do great musical numbers) going back to CHICAGO which had great serviceable music but it had beautifully choreographed dance numbers that had a beginning, middle and end. Extraordinary, extraordinary.
Okay MOULIN ROUGE!, unfortunately what they did was shoot tons of footage for the musical numbers and then just shot, shot, shot, shot, shot. No beginning, middle and end. You are bored by the end of the musical number. No story, just a bunch of images.
Film Courage: What did you think of BIRDMAN?
Richard: I liked it and I’m a huge Michael Keaton fan. I loved him as BATMAN. And I want to see him come back for BEETLEJUICE, they are talking about doing another BEETLEJUICE.
Film Courage: He was great in THE FOUNDER, too (I don’t know if you saw that)? About the McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc?
Richard: I did not see that.
Film Courage: But when you look at BIRDMAN, is there anything about his character that strikes you?
Richard: Well it’s a very different…he’s one of those actors who can just do anything. It was just an iconic role, not like anything he has done.
Film Courage: But in terms of…you’ve been a film director, a theater director was there something that got you about the film because it was not the most happiest of endings?
Richard: To put it mildly.
Film Courage: Without any spoilers but was there a part that you really resonated with?
Richard: I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t earthshaking for me. But I loved the film. I have other films that are my top 10, my top 20.
Film Courage: Oh! Top Ten, I’d love to hear them.
Richard: Gosh in a nutshell? Okay, Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, Scorsese’s CASINO, what’s the one with RAGING BULL, Coen Brothers O’ BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, David Lynch BLUE VELVET, Coppola GODFATHER I and II…you know the classics.
Film Courage: With Hitchcock I was watching a documentary and they were talking about how some of his sort of sexual repression was able to show…
Richard: It sure did in PSYCHO!
Film Courage: Right…so what could be a hindrance to some people actually on screen (who knows what some of the stories were on set) but that it really translated into amazing performances. Just want to hear your take on it since you seem very open?
Richard: I wouldn’t describe myself as repressed! And that’s the thing like how crazy or neurotic does an artist have to be and how does it translate through the work? I don’t believe you have to be crazy or neurotic as an artist. You can learn it in some method acting classes. I’ve learned tricks to make actors cry.
Film Courage: They [the documentary] talked about how he didn’t feel comfortable in his own body and that maybe he even used his weight as a way to kind of keep people away from him but then there was something about that which translated on screen because…
Richard: I can relate to that because I need to lose 10 pounds if I want to get into this senior boxing division next year [Richard is a former boxer].
Film Courage: Well, I don’t think you need to lose weight and I wasn’t going there but I’m just talking about…
Richard: I’m just kidding. He was a master and it’s hard to get into someone’s head and to me that was the ultimate explosion of sexual repression. It was like a perfect film…Oh! THE THIRD MAN is one on the top of my list. That I can watch over and over and over.
Film Courage: Do you think there are people like Orson Welles still in this town today? Sort of this charismatic…I mean there are so many charismatic people but…
Richard: Here is what is going to get me into trouble, CITIZEN KANE to me is the most overrated film of all time.
Film Courage: Okay?
Richard: Brilliant cinematography. I forgot the guy’s name but he actually shared his director credit with the cinematographer.
Film Courage: Not Elia Kazan but…?
Richard: No but Elia Kazan is one of my favorite directors but getting back to CITIZEN KANE so okay he takes this brilliant cinematographer and gives him free rein and does innovative shots, innovative editing and has a really, really interesting film.
I have a simple test with film being great or comedy being funny.
The film being great is how easy is it for you to turn it off? It is that simple, no rocket science. We’ve all got films that we don’t want to turn off. We’re late for the appointment and we want to keep watching. Those are our greatest films. I’ve never had trouble turning off CITIZEN KANE. I can’t turn off GODFATHER I or II, I can’t turn off Scorsese’s greatest films I just want to keep watching. I don’t know about you guys but it just doesn’t hold me?
I love the shots, I love the editing, there is genius going on but I have no trouble turning it off. So it’s not on my top 10 or top 20.
Film Courage: How do you feel about TAXI DRIVER?
Richard: Top 20. Sorry about that, RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER, my gosh! So brilliant. And then with modern films I liked WONDER WOMAN, BLACK PANTHER, and Tim Burton BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and some of my brother’s greatest work [Danny Elfman] has been for Tim Burton. So these are all on my list.
Film Courage: What would you say the difference is between film directors let’s say in the age of Hitchcock, maybe Scorsese, Coppola so we are spanning a few decades there compared to now? What’s the difference? Is it just the roles that they have to play by in terms of there is such pressure?
Richard: I mean every generation has brilliant filmmakers and a lot of junk that time sorts it out, time sorts it out.
Film Courage: That’s true because we’re not really hearing about the ones that fell by the wayside back then even though there were less filmmakers.
Richard: Right, we remember Elia Kazan’s ON THE WATERFRONT or A STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE. We think of those but we don’t think about all the junk that happened in the 1950’s.
Question For The Viewers: What are your Top 10 favorite movies?
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¡CALAMBRE! is a 53 minute episodic black and white film about a poet who returns to his hometown of New York City to rekindle an old flame, only to complicate his return with new women in his life. A film by Carlos Renaso.