Kenneth Loring - Restoration Expert for Blood Simple
We're extremely excited to be able to bring you this exclusive interview with the reclusive Kenneth Loring, artisitic director for Forever Young Films. Mr. Loring's commentary is featured on the Blood Simple DVD. Our time with Loring was extremely short and the interview was conducted extremely late at night to accommodate Mr. Loring's schedule. Thank you for taking some time out today to talk to us about Blood Simple. I had an opportunity to listen to your commentary on the film and I really enjoyed it.
It's my very special pleasure.
You've got some amazing insights into the production and behind the scenes aspects of Blood Simple. How were you able to bring together all this fascinating information?
My technical notes on the movie are based to some extent on my personal history with the movie, but primarily upon extensive - and I do mean extensive - interviews with the filmmakers themselves relating to every aspect of the production in quite extraordinary detail. Sometimes, to be frank, in tedious detail, but they were so anxious that the viewers of this special video have all the information about how the film was made. As am I - and their excitement in our interviews, I must say, was palpable! It's so refreshing - elderly now but their passion for their work unabated and how it does rejuvenate them! Their eyes shine, they wave their arms describing how various scenes are accomplished with spittle running down their chin, or chins, I suppose, literally speaking. Very, very sweet, in fact.
How did you become involved with the restoration of Blood Simple?
I was a film critic at the time when I was privileged to be at the preview screening, 16 years back. Saw the film as it was meant to be seen and I was bowled over, quite frankly. Well, then when I saw the movie again in a commercial cinema I was stunned. I'd brought several friends and sung the movie to the skies and I sat there and watched in horror as the thing played out. Completely recut. It was appalling!
I went on to Forever Young Film Restoration. I became head of research and acquisition. We have a library of over 80 movies now. Neglected masterpieces mostly and a few films like this one. They reflect my enthusiasms, I suppose, inevitably. Many of them European films. I quite like the European cinema, to me it's older than your American film. Not older, chronologically, of course, but more mature, shall we say, in terms of sensibility as compared to the American cinema which is a bit more childish, or I guess adolescent would be the better word.
There were some significant changes to the plot of Blood Simple from the original directors cut. Can you give us some insight into the changes?
The movie as originally envisioned by the filmmakers was, you see, quite a different movie; the filmmakers' cut was previewed for a test audience but after the preview the studio insisted on certain changes which were rather ham-handedly implemented. Rather an old story in Hollywood, I'm afraid. The character in the hat, never actually called by name in the movie, this snickering hat character, began the film with a splendid bit of narration. Setting the mood for so much of what follows.
His speech as it now stands, over the opening shots, now includes a rather clamorous non-sequiter. Having discussed this story's Texas milieu, the character says, "Now in Russia, they've got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else." Very wonderful speech, this opening bit of narration, marred only by that incongruous reference to Communist Russia. Well, naturally, the line feels awkward because that line was never meant to be spoken. The line, as originally written and performed was, "In Bulgaria, Dad's got it mapped out so everyone pulls for everyone else." In Bulgaria, you see, and a reference to Dad, a clue obviously meant to pay off later. A bit of intrigue. Who is this character we're listening to, we wonder, and what is his relationship to Bulgaria, and who on Earth is Dad?
I understand there were also some key casting changes which happened prior to the production of the film. Can you shed some light on the changes?
The dark unpleasant fellow, the filmakers had actually meant to cast Rosemary Clooney; they'd conceived the part quite differently. As in many films noir, many of the stories of Raymond Chandler for instance, and others, the Mr. Big figure was conceived as a large hectoring female, that's one of the stock characters in the genre, the detective genre, the massive bullying woman. Somehow more monsterous for it being a woman I suppose. The eternal feminine perfection, so we like to think, and then in our deepest nightmares.... Miss Clooeny had a number of performing dates which conflicted with the filming, and so the idea came to nought. The saddest words in the English language: Rosemary Clooney and Fred Astaire.
One of the key violent scenes happens off screen. Why do you think the Coen Brothers chose to do this?
A little suggestion goes a long way. This is my argument with the filmmaker who'll show you all the squishy body bits, be it a death scene or a love scene. I'm quite well acquainted with my own squishy body bits, thank you very much, don't need to see this fellow's. Or, more to the point, don't need to hear the whang of the shovel against the head. Heard it quite enough in my day, don't need to hear it in the cinema, unless you're being artful about it, in which case I'm the first to applaud.
I heard that there's quite an interesting story behind the dog in the film.
What is it they say? Never act with a dog or children or grandmothers. Again you have to admire the confidence. The dog you see is animatronics. Now, that's expensive, of course making the artificial dog. As compared to the set time it would have taken to get a real dog to perform all these various tasks, precisely where needed, you know hitting the marks with the full crew standing about waiting. The cost of fabricating the dog is actually all together lower. You just create the dog and have done with it. And he's radio controlled, guided by a technician just out of camera range, no underword flea scratching or licking the genitals. Also you don't have to worry about the cost of the soiled rugs and jumping up on the snacks tables. The gross bodily movements are actually rather easy to render in the model, but the finer motor operation, the facial expressions and so forth, so much more subtle and impressive. Really it's quite, quite fine model work. You have to admire what they accomplished on an extremely budget feature, the level of craftsmanship.
What was one of the biggest challenges the Coen Brothers faced in producing their first film?
Keeping the movie camera out of the shot at all costs, something these filmmakers knew so well, even though this was their first film! They were already so confident - so aware - that you must keep the movie camera out of the film itself. It must be there, of course, to record the scene, but here's the paradox: you musn't see it in the scene, even if your shooting a scene with a mirror! It can be rather a chore to conceal it - and not just the camera, but the crew and the snacks table for the crew.
Mr. Loring, thank you again for your time. You've done a great service here with the restoration of a film classic!
You're welcome.Buy Blood Simple: Forever Young Edition
- Geoffrey Kleinman
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