Jaap Mees

Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk






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Goodbye London
Audrey Hepburn
Talking Heads
Expression Versus Product
That Special Rapport

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The Jaap Mees Column


After lived in London for 15 years, it’s time for a change. I’m going back  to Amsterdam, to meet new people, develop new ideas and find fresh inspiration. In London I studied filmmaking at the London International Film School and made numerous Independent films, mostly in splendid isolation. Some of the  main reasons for leaving is the lack of  opportunities for new filmmakers in the UK and the overtly commercialisation of the film climate. The longer I lived in London, the more I realised that I’m a “continental” and belong there. 

On 12 November a  brand new initiative will started  here, which  is called Cinenet, organised by Docuzone, who regularly show documentaries in art-house cinemas. Cinenet is a network of 35 to 40 Dutch theatres with state of the art digital projectors. They will download their films via a satellite.  Not just for documentaries, but also for shorts, features and animation.  Another part of Docuzone is a distribution branch called Delicatessen. Risky  films will be screened,  which are often ignored by other distributors. All this will appeal to the Filmcouncil’s  Paul Trijbits, a fervent advocate of new digital  technology. Here in Amsterdam I joined  the Organisation of New Film and T.V. Makers (NFTVM) , whic is as dynamic and enthusiast as  the New Producers Alliance.


Audrey Hepburn is the personification of classical beauty, with her lively almond shaped eyes, her lovely smile, elegant way of moving and gracious way of being. It proves Keats words right that beauty is truth and truth is beauty, and that’s all you need to know. I was really surprised that she died at only 63 in 1993 in Switzerland. She looked like she was immortal, a refined and lithe angel from another world. Her most well known films were Roman Holliday (‘53) about her romance with a handsome reporter, played by Gregory Peck; Breakfast at Tiffany  (‘61) Audrey goes from small town girl to top class model in New York, written by Truman Capote.; Funny Face (‘57) a stylish musical with Fred Astaire and My Fair Lady  (‘64) a delicious musical based on Shaw’s Pygmalion. Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) transforms a little duckling( Hepburn) in to a sophisticated  lady of the world. 

Audrey Hepburn  was born in Brussels, her mother was a Dutch baroness and her father an English banker. She trained as a ballet dancer in Arnhem in Holland and worked as a model before she got her first big part in Gigi (‘51). From then on she shot to the top and became one of the most adored and loved actresses, who ever illuminated the silver screen. There was a  tribute to Audrey Hepburn from 8 July - 1 September, 2004, in the Amsterdam Film-museum  and in The Hague’s Filmhuis. A special exhibition will be set up made by Hepburn fans. Reason enough for you Brits to leave your foggy island and travel to Holland. In 1993 the Screen Actors Guild gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award accepted by Julia Roberts on Mrs Hepburn’s behalf.
From 1988 onwards she worked indefatigable as Unicef’s Goodwill Ambassador.

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Jaap Mees

Regularly, especially in trendy TV circles, you hear people mentioning the term Talking Heads, meaning big close ups of people talking on the screen. It’s fashionable nowadays to show your disdain for Talking Heads. They say they are boring and not “cinematographic” enough, because  it’s rather static and the camera is not roving about constantly. 

I can’t disagree more! First of all the argument of not being filmic is nonsense, unlike the theatre for instance, cinema can show big close ups with crystal clarity and in a well framed way.  And, Talking Heads are not as a rule boring at all, that depends on what they look like and even more on what they say. When an interesting interviewee is chosen, whom has an intriguing face and something to say, it can be utterly fascinating!

You may remember the absolutely gripping film Shoah by Claude Lanzmann about  people who survived the Holocaust. Hours and hours of talking human beings and it is utterly, utterly fascinating.

Masters of the Big Close Up in cinema who are captivated by people’s faces and show this in a beautiful way are Carl Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman and  Olivier Assayas, to name some of the most important. Dreyer always used to say: ” the face is the mirror of the soul.”
Jaap Mees


Every time I hear somebody mentioning the word product when he talks about a film,
 I cringe. Of course filmmaking is both an industry and an art form and there is and always will be a huge divide between the two. Basically there are people who make films for the money and you have people who make films to express something essential. Real filmmakers will agree, a film is made with blood, sweat and tears and it’s rather insulting to see it being degraded to just another product, like washing up liquid or car tyres. Genuine films are about the vulnerable and delicate state of the human condition, which has nothing to do with commodity thinking. 

Producers who marry artistic ability with financial expertise are David Puttnam or Mark Shivas, but those people are very rare indeed. Unfortunately nowadays big studios are run by money spinning marketing people, who often have no affinity with  cinema whatsoever, and the poor results you can see weekly on the big screen. It’s time the balance should be re-addressed and the creative and crafts people must take over the  positions of the money spinners. Otherwise all that is left is pre-programmed, conveyor belt produced and soulless films. So true cinephiles unite and ban the product thinking in the beautiful and valuable art form called cinema! 

Jaap Mees


Recently I read an article in Time Out about the special relationship between actor Jude Law and director Anthony Minghella, who worked together in the upcoming film Cold Mountain.  In the history of film there are many examples of such special rapports. The  first that comes to mind are John Ford-John Wayne; Francois Truffaut-Jean Pierre Leaud;  Martin Scorsese- Robert De Niro and Ingmar Bergman- Liv Ullmann. 

Key elements in this close rapport are a mutual trust, an intuitive reliability and a very precise communication. This is necessary with all actors, I hear you say, but especially the intuitive connection between the two is important and rare. What helps too is a similarity in ideas, taste and enjoyment in working together.

For the actor it’s enormously inspiring to know the director believes in them and for the director it’s great to know they have a soul mate, who is on the same wave length.

When a director finds their ultimate actor they often ask him/her to work with them time and again, like Ingmar Bergman who worked on no less than nine films together with Liv Ullmann. In filmmaking this magical relationship between the director and actor is one of the most intense and rewarding, drawing the very best out of each other.

 Jaap Mees
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