Even though technology is increasing the creative limits of film, many of these advances lie in the execution of special effects and its surrounding spectacle. Unfortunately, many of these studio driven projects lack the visual ingenuity and inspiration of such filmmakers as Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Fritz Lang, or Brian De Palma.
I bring these four paragons of the moving image since they are personal heroes of filmmaker Eugenio Mira, and although Grand Piano may have been borne from his love of German Expressionism and perfectly executed suspense thrillers, the movie thankfully doesn’t exist as a one-dimensional exercise in homage.
The narrative centers on Tom Selznick (a moniker that’s an obvious nod to Hollywood legend David O. Selznick), a pianist who, due to an unfortunate mishap several years ago, has a horrible case of stage fright. When Selznick decides to return to the stage, his comeback is met with a threat from a stranger (John Cusack) who leaves him a rather nasty message: “Play one wrong note and you die.”
During the Grand Piano interviews, I asked Wood about his unique collaboration with Mira. The camera’s movements remain fluid throughout the story, and Wood enjoyed working within the filmmaker’s specified universe.
“It’s a slightly different process, in the sense that traditionally with a film you shoot a scene, potentially that scene could take two days or three days,” said Wood. “In this case it was literally shots, so our call sheet was comprised of shots, not scenes. Because all the shots were compiled within the context of the animatics, so it was highly technical but I had all the information at my disposal so there was no challenge in that. I found it enjoyable. I knew the film he wanted to make because it was beautifully articulated in the context of a moving image. We were working on a daily basis to recreate those individual moments and pieces of the puzzle.”
The film, which had the production traveling to Barcelona, Chicago, and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, took 44 days to shoot. Along with mounting his project with an ambitious visual scope, Mira also amped up the difficulty level by placing Grand Piano in a 35mm universe. It’s an extremely purist move in a world that’s completely gone digital, and it’s one of the many reasons why Grand Piano, if anything, has tons of cinematic moxie.
“I want to keep making movies until I die,” said Mira. “It’s almost a romantic expression (in regards to) making these movies in this particular way of crafting them in terms of believing that, through the size of the shot and the lens and where the camera is going to be, you’re telling something in a way that you can’t do in other mediums…I was always more interested in composing than reproducing. I’m not a performer, and the only place in my life that I feel completely comfortable performing is in the intimacy of designing a movie. I like directors who perform
Grand Piano, which also stars Kerry Bishe as Selznick’s actress wife, opens in select theaters March 7 and is also available On Demand and iTunes.