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October 12, 2006

David Koepp's Track on "Stir of Echoes"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Back here and here, a bunch of us swapped recommendations of DVDs with worthwhile commentary tracks. I have a new one to add to the list, David Koepp's track on "Stir of Echoes." (Amazon, Netflix.) The film -- which Koepp wrote and directed from a Richard Matheson novel -- is well worth a look in its own right: an understated and gritty little horror movie, with effectively-sprung and resonant scares; scads of working-class Chicago atmosphere; and super-committed and first-class character work from all the actors, led by Kevin Bacon and Kathryn Erbe.

Koepp's remarks and observations add a lot. Though he's a well-known and successful screenwriter who has worked with Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma, "Stir of Echoes" was only his second time out as a director. He talks about the film from the point of view of someone who's still a learner, still unsure of himself. And he's open, frank, and articulate about his discoveries, successes and failures.

Not yet a Recognized Master, Koepp keeps the pretentiousness to a minimum and instead wonders out loud about practical narrative-entertainment matters. Why do so many digital effects seem so weightless? What's the difference between shooting a two-person scene conventionally and getting it all in one shot? How to deliver the expected (and needed) genre elements with enough of a twist to make them feel fresh? When to jump into a character's point of view, and how to justify the move? What can a director do to keep the screen alive and the audience awake when he has an awkward chunk of exposition that needs relating?

Where moviechat goes I usually love discussions like these far more than high-falutin' "criticism." Critics often seem to enjoy the fantasy that filmmakers have ideas on their minds. They want to think of their favorite filmmakers as philosphers, or as giants with visions. But as far as I've ever been able to tell, it's the mundane, "Good lord, how do we put this across?" questions that consume 95% of a filmmaker's brainwattage.



posted by Michael at October 12, 2006


This one would be on that list as well. Great little movie with a very sexy scene towards the beginning when the Kathryn Erbe character wakes up the Kevin Bacon character for some late night sex. I love it when my wife does that.

Posted by: the patriarch on October 12, 2006 5:25 PM

For a film-school commentary, it's hard to beat Dylan Kidd on Roger Dodger.

Not only is the movie one of the best character dramas of the last decade, but it has two tracks: one is the director joking around with the actors, the other is Kidd and his DP doing a high-speed rap on how they did everything and why.

It has Isabella Rossellini, too...

Posted by: Mencius on October 13, 2006 1:24 AM

Patriarch -- It's always nice to step up to the plate when the gal needs herself some lovin', isn't it?

Mencius -- Thanks for the recommendation, I'll be checking it out.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2006 10:27 AM

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