Lobster & Canary 1. You "discover" a new species of parrot in the Amazon, brilliant blue with red feet, sweetly whistled call, very caring of its nestlings...but carnivorous, known to swarm and strip capybaras of their flesh in minutes. What do you call the species, and why?
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: Amazona Splendens Nex: The Bird of Beautiful Death!
Careful now, not too close to the cage! Yes, you'll all get a chance to see, please be patient!! *Ahem*.. Already known to Amazon natives in legend as the "Pretty Flesh-Stealer", this is the first live specimen ever captured and brought back to display in civilization. He's quite a feisty one, as you can see! You'll first notice his astounding, almost shimmering array of coloring - it is said he uses this color to attract his mate, which he will breed with for life. Easy there, fellow! Now other species of Amazonian parrot have similar coloring, but that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the similarity ends.
If I may direct you to take notice of his unique beak.. look closely... please, keep your hands away from the cage! You'll notice the fine, razor-sharp serration on each edge of his small but powerful beak. This is used by our feathered friend here... to neatly cut through the warm flesh of its mammalian prey! No, no nuts and seeds for this bird, ladies and gentlemen - this deadly bird has a taste for blood. Native legends say the spirits of human sacrifices come back as these monstrous birds to terrify villages and satiate their thirst for revenge!
Now, if you'll all just take a step back, I'll show you the true nature of this seemingly beautiful creature. That's it, a little further.. further... thank you. Howard, the raw steak please? There now. Who's a hungry birdy? Who's a hungry birdy? Now watch what happens, ladies and gentlemen, as I open the cage just enough for out friend here to get a whiff of thisAAAAAAAAAAAGGAHHHA!!! GET IT OFF!!!!! GET IT OFF!!!!! AAAHHG!!! DON'T JUST STAND THERE!!! HELP ME!!!! HELP ME!! HELP MAAGHH***.....”
L & C 2. Your imagery is brooding, mysterious: a desolate factory-scape inhabited by what may be crippled gods and indifferent angels, ogres rising from the rubble, a monstrous hedgehog. With your typical heroine trapped and wandering through this tightly enclosed and threatening world, you capture the primal power of fairytale. Tell us about the sources of your inspiration.
ZB: My first and foremost inspiration has always been my dreams – since I was young I have always had a very active dreamlife, and the wonderous things I see and the adventures I find myself on are a continual source of creative inspiration for me. Aside from that, I’ve also always had an insatiable thirst for and actively sought out the strange, the fantastic, the beautiful, and the nightmarish my whole life - in books, in history, music, movies, visual arts, places, animals, plants… and especially my friends. So much has had a profound impact on me – but I’ve always thought that the world is overflowing with magick and wonder, hiding just beneath the surface of an ‘ordinary’ world…
L & C 3. Your work reminds me of Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, Caro & Jeunet's City of Lost Children, and Northfork by the Polish Brothers. Do you find the comparisons apt? Which other contemporary filmmakers grab your attention?
ZB. Indeed. I especially love Del Toro and Jeunet's work – their visions are so unique, so detailed in their execution – it’s amazing. I think we definitely share a love of things that can be very dark, and yet still beautiful. I’m also astounded by the work of Zhang Yimou – his brilliant visual palette and work with his actors, both with emotion and incredible physical choreography, never ceases to amaze me. Another director I’ve always loved is Miyazaki – he’s a genius, and his animated films are creative masterpieces – while still speaking to the child in all of us. And Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men completely blew me away, too..
L & C 4. Experimental filmmaker and theorist Hollis Frampton wrote: "A specter is haunting the cinema: the specter of narrative. If that apparition is an Angel, we must embrace it; and if it is a Devil, then we must cast it out. But we cannot know it is until we have met it face to face." Do you agree with Frampton?
ZB: I do. However, I’ve always found personally that the narrative elements of film were inevitably the most important to me – the elements of storytelling, which is arguably the oldest art form we have. I think that is what really gets to the heart of the audience the most, more than any visual flash and bang you can conjure. That’s why I always try to include a narrative element, a little story, in each of my music videos – I want the viewer to come away with something to think and wonder about..
L & C 5. I really like the fact that you create atmosphere and character through well-selected settings, bodily motion, and costumes, as opposed to computer-generated effects. Talk about how you do this. I sense that your collaboration with puppeteer and costume-maker Randy Carafagno figures in this somewhere.
ZB: I’ve always thought that no matter how perfect CG effects get, I’ll always prefer the real, live thing, be it a amazing location or a crawling demon-monster. There’s just something about seeing something you know is actually there, as opposed to a trillion 1’s and 0’s inside a computer somewhere, that I think will always be irreplaceable. Not that I dislike CG altogether, I just think we’ve gone a bit overboard with it generally. I think the Lord of the Rings trilogy especially was an amazing example of how you can combine live-action costumes, sets, and locations with CG and create a perfect balance.
I’ve so far been lucky in finding fantastic locations to shoot in, from the Badlands to run-down old churches. The Karsh Kale video, for example, was shot over 3 days in an abandoned power plant from the 1920’s. It was a crazy shoot – we had no safety gear whatsoever, crawling around on these rusty catwalks 50 ft. in the air, surrounded by asbestos and who knows what else. But it looked incredible! And my costumers, Randy Carfagno and James Vogel, worked insane hours on the costumes for that shoot to create the creature we wanted. I’ve always loved costumes – I love to transform my actors into things I see in my dreams, be it a Dark Faerie Queen, a dancing star-goddess, or a fierce fire demon...
L & C 6. What projects are you working on now?
ZB: We’re just putting the finishing touches on a new music video for the amazing Kai Altair. We made her into a kind of gypsy sorceress, dancing in a cross between an old silk route caravan ‘tent’ and a 19th century Parisian opium den, and she summons a powerful goddess in her scrying pool… It should be done and up on my site in about two weeks!
L &C 7. Your turn! Ask Lobster & Canary a question!
ZB: If you could see a film made based on an actual dream you’ve had, which would it be…? Anything goes!
L & C responds: Like you Zina I dwell partly in my dreams, in the magical place Maurice Sendak calls "The Night Kitchen." Most of my most powerful images and ideas come to me in the hours just before dawn, and I have kept a dream journal intermittently for decades. I have dreamed the following in various versions many times over the years, and would love to see it as the core of a short film.
I am standing on a stone balcony about thirty feet above the ground. Behind me is an empty, shadowed chamber with a massive, long-disused fireplace (big enough to roast a horse in), flanked by two dull black iron doors that I can never open no matter how hard I try. I must stare, like Rapunzel, out into an evening mist...a mist that slowly seeps away to reveal a dark forest of fir and beech marching down a slope that rings the (castle? fortress? temple?) from which the balcony protrudes.
No bird song, no wind, no sound at all.
As the mist pulls back, I see at the top of the slope-- which is just slightly above eye-level-- a tiger appear in the woods. Its body is elongated, lanky, ivory-colored with rusty stripes.
Another tiger appears, then another and another... until a dozen are spread out across the top of the hill, shining as Blake imagined them in the forests of the night. They stare right at me.
At the same time but without any signal that I can see, the tigers begin to descend the slope, winding through the trees with sleek and heavy grace. Slow, deliberate...stalking.
Now comes the strange part: as the tigers move through them, the trees uproot themselves and coil their trunks beneath their crowns, so that only the leaves and needles remain, floating stationary like green-black balloons behind the advancing tigers. Do you remember how the stockinged feet of the Wicked Witch of the East curl back on themselves and under the fallen house in the film version of The Wizard of Oz? That is what the trees do, only vertically...
The tigers mass at the bottom of the hill, at the wall just beneath the balcony. A dozen pairs of eyes glow up at me.
I cannot retreat. The doors behind me are forever locked.
The tigers crouch down and spring into the air as one...
The dream always ends with a dozen bone-colored tigers flying towards me, soundlessly, against a background of floating trees on the hillside.