Five Cool Things Dec 19

Photographer Brigitte Lacombe

In 2009, French born photographer Brigitte Lacombe released a monograph, anima | persona, published by Steidl Press. Ms. Lacombe’s illustrious career as an image maker has brought all of us who care to look, into the center of politics and culture and to signature players and moments in the arts. Of particular note; she’s been shooting movie stills of everything from Taxi Driver to Revolutionary Road to all of David Mamet’s productions starting with Glengarry Glen Ross. (Those stills are not to be found anywhere!) I thought it might be a cool Christmas present to show you a few of Ms. Lacombe’s images and to combine those images with related articles, memos, screenplays, etc. Special thanks to Ms. Lacombe and her staff for allowing me to share these images with you. Merry Christmas Five Cool Things Readers! (All photographs are copyright Brigitte Lacombe. The photograph of Ms. Lacombe is from the Charlie Rose show.)

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1. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Story by George Packer

Richard Holbrooke April 24, 1941 ~ December 13, 2010 photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was relentless, larger-than-life and brilliant. What follows is an excerpt from George Packer’s profile, The Last Mission, that ran in the New Yorker last year.

The Obama adviser said, “There’s almost an inevitability or gravitational force that pulls Holbrooke into relevant circles, because he makes himself indispensable.” A few days after being selected Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called Holbrooke to offer him the job. In late November, they talked for three hours at Essex House, in New York. He already had a detailed conception of the new position. For starters, he would not be a “special envoy”—the title given to George Mitchell, Obama’s chief negotiator for the Middle East. “I’ve done that,” Holbrooke told me. (Under Bill Clinton, he had been a special envoy for both Cyprus and Kosovo.) “ ‘Envoy’ is an elegant diplomatic word. . . . I have nothing against it. It’s an honored and treasured word. It means envoi—you’re sent to do things. I was given a different task.” He wanted to be a “special representative.” The difference was more than semantic: in addition to being an emissary to the region, Holbrooke would run operations on the civilian side of American policy. He would create a rump regional bureau within the State Department, carved out of the Bureau of South and Central Asia, whose Afghanistan and Pakistan desks would report directly to him. He would assemble outside experts and officials from various government agencies to work for him, and he would report to the President through Hillary Clinton. Clinton told Holbrooke that he would be the civilian counterpart to General David Petraeus, the military head of Central Command. “I laughed,” Holbrooke told me. “I said, ‘He has more airplanes than I have telephones.’ ”
Read George Packer’s brilliant profile, The Last Mission, here>>

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2. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Doubt by John Patrick Shanley

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt photo by Brigitte Lacombe

{DOUBT}

FLYNN
I can’t say everything, you
understand? There’s things I can’t
say. Even if you can’t imagine the
explanation, Sister, remember there
are things beyond your knowledge.
Even if you feel certainty, it is
an emotion, not a fact.
SISTER ALOYSIUS
You will request a transfer, and
take a leave of absence until it’s
granted.
FLYNN
You’d leave me nothing.
SISTER ALOYSIUS
It’s Donald Miller who has nothing,
and you took full advantage of
that.
FLYNN
I’ve done nothing wrong. I care
about that boy.
SISTER ALOYSIUS
Why? ‘Cause you smile at him and
you sympathize with him, and you
talk to him as if you were the
same? You are a cheat. And that
warm feeling you experienced, when
that boy looked at you with trust,
was not the sensation of virtue.

{Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley | Based on his stage play.}

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3. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Still photograph from Revolutionary Road by Brigitte Lacombe

{REVOLUTIONARY ROAD}

JOHN
And what’s in Paris?
APRIL
A different way of life.
FRANK
So maybe we are running…  We’re
running from the hopeless emptiness
of the whole life here.
JOHN
The hopeless emptiness?  Now,
you’ve said it.  Plenty of people
are on to the emptiness, but it
takes real guts to see the
hopelessness…  Wow.
John continues walking.  Frank and April watch him go.

{Screenplay by Justin Haythe | Based on the novel by Richard Yates}

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4. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | David Mamet & THE CAPS LOCK KEY

David Mamet by Brigitte Lacombe

PLAYWRIGHT SMACKDOWN! David Mamet was the Executive Producer of a special ops TV show called The Unit which ran from 2006-2009. A fascinating and memorable, ALL IN CAPS Mamet Memo {ex. “ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUE SUIT”}  leaked during the show’s run and went viral. This happened a while ago but it’s still worth a look, especially if you’ve not seen it yet. Here it is in full.

“TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. YOU THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE EVERY SCENE IS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS YOUR JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUE SUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUE SUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, YOU ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”,THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. MOST TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE RADIO. THE CAMERA CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. LET IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS DOING -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION, INDEED, OF SPEECH. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO START.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05

(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT Questions OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)”

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5. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe | Kara Walker

Kara Walker, by Brigitte Lacombe

At the perfect age of 27, African American artist Kara Walker won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. 27! At 37, she was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. What follows is a brief excerpt from a piece in Time Magazine, written by artist Barbara Kruger:

Walker’s vigilance has produced a compelling reckoning with the twisted trajectories of race in America. Her installations and films forcefully pluralize our notion of a singular “history.” They create a profusion of backstories and revisions that slash and burn through the pieties of patriotism and the glosses of “color blindness.” Restarting the engines of seemingly archaic methods, from the graphic affect of silhouette portraits to the machine-age ethos of film, she produces a cast of characters and caricatures with appetites for destruction and reproduction, for power and sex. She raucously engages both the broad sweep of the big picture and the eloquence of the telling detail. She plays with stereotypes, turning them upside down, spread-eagle and inside out. She revels in cruelty and laughter. Platitudes sicken her. She is brave. Her silhouettes throw themselves against the wall and don’t blink.

untitled, kara walker

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Bonus Gallery of Brigitte Lacombe photographs & Kara Walker cutouts.

Burn 1998, Kara Walker

Kara Walker, Excavated from the black heart of a negress

Kara Walker, An Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress

Philip Roth ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Filmmaker Michael Haneke ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Artist Nina Chanel Abney ~ Brigitte Lacombe

The Queen, Helen Mirren ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Louise Bourgeois ~ Brigitte Lacombe

Sofia Coppola ~ Brigitte Lacombe

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