Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Company You Keep

The Company You Keep - ikuiset liittolaiset / The Company You Keep [Swedish title]. US © 2012 TCYK, LLC. A Sony Pictures Classics release of a Voltage Pictures presentation of a Voltage Pictures / Wildwood Enterprises production, in association with Film Capital Europe Funds, Soundford Limited, Picture Perfect Corp. (International sales: Voltage Pictures, Los Angeles.) P: Nicolas Chartier, Robert Redford, Bill Holderman. EX: Craig J. Flores, Shawn Williamson. D: Robert Redford. SC: Lem Dobbs - based on the novel (2003) by Neil Gordon. DP (Technicolor, widescreen, HD): Adriano Goldman. DI: Company 3. ED: Mark Day. M: Cliff Martinez. PD: Laurence Bennett. AD: Jeremy Stanbridge. Set dec: Carol Lavallee. Cost: Karen Matthews. S (Dolby Digital / Datasat), Chris Duesterdiek. S designer: Steve Boeddeker. Supervising S editors: Richard Hymns, Dan Laurie; re-recording mixers, Juan Peralta, Steve Boeddeker. VFX supervisor, Adam Stern. VFX: Artifex Studios, the VFX Cloud, Lola. Stunt coordinator, Danny Virtue. Ass P: Jonathan Shore. Ass D: Richard Graves. Casting: Avy Kaufman. Loc: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada). 121 min. SF Film press screening with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Mökkönen / Joanna Erkkilä at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 10 April 2013.

Cast as edited in Wikipedia:

Robert Redford as Jim Grant/Nick Sloan, a former member of the Weather Underground and widowed father posing as an upstanding Albany lawyer
Shia LaBeouf as Ben Shepard, a reporter
Julie Christie as Mimi Lurie, a former member of the Weather Underground
Susan Sarandon as Sharon Solarz, a former member of the Weather Underground
Jackie Evancho as Isabel Grant, Jim's 11-year-old daughter, who is unaware of her father's past
Brendan Gleeson as Henry Osborne, the officer who had first investigated the bank robbery for which Grant is wanted
Brit Marling as Rebecca Osborne, Henry's adopted daughter
Anna Kendrick as Diana, an FBI agent, who had dated Ben and leaks information to him
Terrence Howard as Cornelius, the FBI agent leading the chase
Richard Jenkins as Jed Lewis, a college professor with links to the former radicals
Nick Nolte as Donal Fitzgerald, Jim's old best friend who owns a lumber business
Sam Elliott as Mac Mcleod, Mimi's boss in the marijuana trade
Stephen Root as Billy Cusimano, who runs an organic grocery store in Albany
Keegan Connor Tracy as Jim Grant's Secretary
Stanley Tucci as Ray Fuller, Ben's boss at the newspaper
Chris Cooper as Daniel Sloan, Nick Sloan's brother

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Arricam LT - Laboratory: Company 3, Los Angeles (CA), USA (digital intermediate), Technicolor Creative Services, Vancouver, Canada (dailies) - Film negative format (mm/video inches): 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema, DCP - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

From the production information: "Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a public interest lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. Grant's world is turned upside down,when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) exposes his true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground, Grant must now go on the run. With the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name."

"Shepard knows the significance of the national news story he has exposed and, for a journalist, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Hell-bent on making a name for himself, he is willing to stop at nothing to capitalize on it. He digs deep into Grant's past. Despite warnings from his editor and threats from the FBI, Shepard relentlessly tracks Grant across the country."

"As Grant reopens old wounds and reconnects with former members of his antiwar group, the Weather Underground, Shepard realizes something about this man is just not adding up. With the FBI closing in, Shepard uncovers the shocking secrets Grant has been keeping for the past three decades. As Grant and Shepard come face to face in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, they each must come to terms with who they really are."

"Secrets are dangerous things, Ben. We all think we want to know them. But if you've ever kept one yourself then you understand to do so is not just knowing something about someone else, it's discovering something about yourself." (from Jim Grant's dialogue)

Filmed in and around Vancouver, BC, principal photography for The Company You Keep began on September 19, 2011 and continued through late November of that year. Redford worked with many of his key production collaborators for the first time, including the award-winning director of photography, Brazilian Adriano Goldman (Sin Nombre), and production designer Laurence Bennett (best known for his work with Paul Haggis and, most recently, Michel Hazanavicius on The Artist).

Robert Redford: "When I was a kid I loved Frankenstein, I loved The Three Stooges, I loved musicals. I still love all of it. But when you become an artist, you do what's important to you. What's important to me are stories about American life. It's a great country, but let's look at the gray area of our country too. And that's what interests me because I've lived through it."

SCRIPT TO SCREEN

The Company You Keep can be seen as a cat and mouse game between two men – journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) and fugitive Jim Grant (Robert Redford) – both attempting to expose the truth and, in the process, redefine their lives. While the film, which is set in the present day, recalls the history and aftermath of the radical antiwar protest movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (and in particular one of its most violent manifestations, The Weather Underground), it remains a work of fiction. Indeed it was the dramatic potential of the story itself, even more so than the meticulously researched underpinnings of Neil Gordon's 2003 novel, which first attracted Robert Redford to the project.

"I thought it was a good story and it gave you a chance to look inside of an event that is a piece of American history," says Redford of the film, his first as both actor and director since his 2007 drama, Lions for Lambs. "It truly gets inside how people were living their lives thirty years later... underground and with a false identity."

"For me it was a bit like Les Misé́rables, with the character Jean Valjean sentenced to nineteen years for a loaf of bread," Redford explains. "He escaped from prison, built a false identity, had a daughter, had a good life, but the pain of that time was always going to haunt him. So how do these people deal with that? Do they change? Do they not change? That was the interesting story to be told. It wasn't so much about the antiwar movement itself, because that belongs to history."

Working with fellow producers Bill Holderman, who previously collaborated with Redford on Lions for Lambs and his most recent directorial effort, The Conspirator (2010), and Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker), the project was developed over the course of four years. Adapted by Lem Dobbs, who scripted Haywire and The Limey for Steven Soderbergh, the screenplay centers on Grant's journey as he reconnects with the ghosts of his past – many still living underground – with the hope of ultimately exonerating himself from the murder charges he fled as a student linked to the radical fringe of the antiwar movement. All the while, Ben Shepard and the FBI pursue him, never more than a few steps behind his trail.

"This is about a group of people that were underground," Redford explains. "They were very close, bonded by the styles of their time, the passions of their time, and now they've grown older and they've taken different paths. Some resent that they did it. Others have remorse. Some believed in it at the time, but feel they have to spend the rest of their lives paying for it. Others feel it was a just cause at the time and still is a cause for today. So there's also all these multiple feelings and relationships – how they all interacted fascinated me."

THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND

"You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows..."
"Subterranean Homesick Blues" - Bob Dylan, 1965

The Weather Underground Organization-colloquially known as the Weathermen-was the most radical and militant faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the left-wing activist movement that shook university campuses across the United States in the 1960s and early '70s. Advocating armed revolution, the overthrow of the U.S. government, and an end to the war in Vietnam, the Weather Underground was formed in 1969 in Ann Arbor, Michigan by SDS leaders impatient with the protest rhetoric and civil disobedience tactics of the mainstream organization. The new group was both clandestine and high-profile; membership was secretive, but they seized the public stage with the "Days of Rage"riots during the 1969 trial of the Chicago Seven co-conspirators, and went on to carry out bombings and jailbreaks.

Weather Underground vowed to "bring the war home." Their stated targets were politics and property, not people. Weather Underground bombings and arson attacks targeted banks, police stations and government centers including the U.S. Capitol, State Department, and the Pentagon. To protect against human casualties, Weather Underground always issued evacuation warnings, and no fatalities have ever been conclusively tied to a Weather Underground action. They did, however, lose three of their own members when a nail-bomb they were building accidentally detonated in 1970, destroying a Greenwich Village, NY safe house.

In the post-Vietnam era, the movement contracted to a small number of fugitives. One faction, calling themselves the Prairie Fire Coalition (most famously married couple Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers) came out of hiding in 1980 to face criminal charges, do time briefly and move on to lives in academia, law, and organizing. Another faction, the May 19 Coalition, combined former Weathermen and Black Liberation Army members in an underground guerrilla campaign funded by armed robbery. The 1981 holdup of a Brink's armored car near Nyack, NY ended in the death of a Brink's guard and two police officers (including the first African-American on the Nyack police force). Former Weather Underground members Judith Clark, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert were among those apprehended.

Boudin and Gilbert's infant son was brought up by Dohrn and Ayers; Judith Clark's infant daughter by her grandparents. Boudin was paroled in 2007; Gilbert and Clark remain incarcerated.

Fictional versions of these real life stories resonate in The Company You Keep. (From the production information)

A mainstream entertainment chase thriller about The Weather Underground activists still being hunted 40 years after their radical acts. The Company You Keep can be compared with the recent high profile German and French films about student radicalism and terrorism in the late 1960s and the early 1970.

The ex-activists have been living for decades under assumed identities as good citizens and parents, in constant fear. The key discussion is between the investigative journalist Ben (Shia LaBeouf) and Sharon (Susan Sarandon). Ben asks what made Sharon turn herself in. Sharon: "Children. They change you". Ben thinks it must have been groovy being a radical. Sharon: "It was hardly groovy". The government was killing millions in wars. Students protested, skulls were cracked in Kent and Jackson, murdered on campuses. Everybody knew somebody who was drafted or came back in a coffin. Sharon: "What are you willing to take a risk for?" Ben: "Would you do it again?" Sharon: "Yes. Smarter, better, differently. We made mistakes, but we were right." Sharon acknowledges Ben for being interested in the truth. "Most people aren't". "We never betrayed each other". This sequence is the most powerful in the movie. It is well directed and performed. It also provides the core complexity of motivation. Truth is difficult. Truth is not simple.

The movie is based on the Hitchcockian structure of the chase of an innocent man who is himself chasing somebody who can provide his alibi. It's complicated because that somebody is a person who does not want to confess because of political reasons. It's still more complicated because they are ex-lovers, still profoundly attracted to each other. And what's most delicate, they have a daughter who does not know who her parents are.

Redford compares his Jim Grant character with Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, being chased all his life for old things while living under an assumed name and becoming a pillar of society and a responsible parent.

One of the backstories is the fate of investigative journalism in an age when quality media is suffering crushing blows. "I just laid off my sports department", remarks Ray Fuller (Stanley Tucci), Ben's editor-in-chief.

In many of his most memorable films Robert Redford casts a Goy (played by himself or somebody else) against a Jewish character or actor. Here it is Shia LaBoeuf, following a tradition with Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting), Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were), Dustin Hoffman (All The President's Men), and Debra Winger (Legal Eagles). John Turturro played a Jew against the Goy of Ralph Fiennes in The Quiz Show, my favourite among the films directed by Redford I have seen.

I like the sense of integrity in the performances of Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie. Robert Redford's star image has been that of the golden boy, but here the agony of the old-timer he projects is quite moving. Redford is an old guy now (he is 76), wrinkled, bulky, worried, harassed, yet carrying his age with dignity. What keeps his character spiritually young is his passion for the future, for the young generation.

I like the glimmer in Redford's eye when Jim Grant sees Ben for the last time.

The movie has been shot on 35 mm, and the digital intermediate has been performed well, but forest footage is still difficult to digitize.

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