Although Steven Ellison is primarily known for his work as electronic music producer Flying Lotus — and headlines the Eagle Rock Music Festival on the Low End Theory stage this Saturday, October 1st. — his first love was film. He studied it in college, where he worked on student projects as a sound designer and director of photography. Since his school days, he's scored bumps for Adult Swim, directed several mind-bending music videos for Bilal and Tim and Eric, and collaborated with Brainfeeder audio-visual artist Strangeloop on a live scoring of the 1962 avant-garde animated classic Heaven and Earth Magic at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
A couple weeks ago, Flying Lotus asked his Twitter followers to recommend the most bugged out psychedelic Bollywood movie that he needs to check out right now. What he got were suggestions to see films like Enter the Void, nothing new to the film buff. “There should be a law against suggesting Enter The Void to me,” he says. “Get out of here with this shit.” We recently talked to FlyLo about his favorite Asian movies, his most exciting recent discoveries, and the feature film he's about to direct.
What movies are you into now that aren't like Enter the Void?
I just saw this movie called Final Flesh by Vernon Chatman. He does “Wonder Showzen” and “Delocated” and PFFR–that's his company. But he's done a lot of stuff with my friend David O'Reilly. Really good stuff. Final Flesh is a really bizarre movie that was commissioned by Vernon Chatman. He commissioned porn companies to produce these scripts for him and they're like three different terrible scripts with no sex in them but they have these weird underground porn actors acting out this insane script. It's really hilarious but it's really dark and bizarre. If you get through the whole thing, I commend you! Definitely worth looking into. It's really fucking weird.
Final Flesh (Vernon Chatman, 2009)
What kind of films do you know the most about and what kind of films do you want to see more of?
I think I know a lot about Asian cinema I think. Left field, cult cinema. Yeah, that's my expertise. I want to see more Bollywood. I'm trying to find some of those psychedelic movies with deities and stuff. Like Krishna. Shit like that. Hindu gods flying through the sky. I haven't found any of that but it was kinda fucked up because I was under the impression that there was a lot of stuff out there like that, you know? And maybe there is, but it's hard to find!
What's your favorite recent release?
I really enjoyed Attack the Block by Joe Cornish. It was produced by Edgar Wright. He's the guy who brought you Scott Pilgrim and Shaun of the Dead and Spaced. And lots of good stuff. But Attack the Block was a really good representation of east London and the vibe there. Along with like some crazy monsters. A really good comedy action movie.
Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011)
What's your favorite monster movie?
Probably any of the Godzilla films. I really love Godzilla. I really think the story is very heartbreaking, how that all happened, you know? I mean how the concept of Godzilla even came about. Cuz after all the bombings and stuff that happened in Japan it's kind of like Earth's curse is this weird monster who likes to terrorize the earth. But he's the only one–he won't let other monsters terrorize Earth. Just him. Like if any other monsters come, he's like, “Fuck that, this is my planet. I'm the curse. You guys gotta go.” It's deep man! “This is my playground, you can't play here!” So after he kills the monster and he's all shit, “I'm gonna stomp around and kick some buildings over.” Yeah!
I really like a lot of the crazy, surreal movies that have come out of Japan in the last couple decades. Do you have a favorite Japanese director?
That's a tough one. I think Shinya Tsukamoto is probably my favorite director. He made Tetsuo: The Iron Man and A Snake of June. He also did Tokyo Fist and Haze. Haze … like Purple Haze. It's a short film, about 45 minutes long, and it's kind of one of those films where the main character wakes up in a place and he has no idea where he is and how he got there. It's something we've been seeing a lot in American cinema lately–that kind of scenario. But it's so obviously Asian. The perspective and how everything works out. It's really amazing–I loved it.
Haze (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2005)
What are some of your other favorite Asian films?
That depends. Action? Horror? Or…?
Let's go with horror. What are some of your favorite Asian horror films?
I really like Asian horror films. You know this movie called Thirst? The South Korean vampire film? It's great–a great film. I would say he's my favorite but he's not as prolific as I'd like him to be, so that's kind of keeping him from being my favorite. But whenever he does make anything it's always the highest form of cinema in my eyes. I think that the story he chooses to go into is something I'd really like to see. Always first and foremost is the subject matter. The stuff he deals with is always really interesting to me personally. And then obviously the approach and the flow of the story is always so entertaining and it never seems like there is any kind of dull moment. The way he paces things and kinda leaves you in the dark but brings you in, leaves you in the dark, and then he slowly reveals things to you. And the visuals–how he composes his imagery. Always very very very amazing, even when he's trying to be funny. And that happens often in his work. He manages to make these really humorous moments in some very heavy subject matter. Wes Anderson is one of those guys too. He manages to really pull some heartfelt stuff out of nowhere. He's all of a sudden really deep after you've been laughing for so long.
Thirst (Park Chan-Wook, 2009)
What's the best accidental movie discovery you've made? Something you found in an odd place, or picked out based on the cover art?
Aww, the best discovery? I wanna make sure I say the right thing here–this is so important. I stumbled on this movie called Decoder. It's this weird experimental German film that I found in this bookstore called Wacko here in L.A. It's really trippy, like all these kinda music videos, these really interesting vignettes of technology and it's from the '80s you know. It's got this weird techno and industrial soundtrack that pushes everything.
What's the most regrettable thing you've seen captured on tape?
Anything involving the Olsen twins. Or … well, I wouldn't say Kim Kardasian because she made one video that was pretty good!
You've directed several music videos–what would it take to get you to direct your own feature length film?
Oh, I am. I'm trying to write the script right now, so I'm working on it. I finally got the idea that I feel is like good enough to represent things I really would like to see in a movie you know. For a while, I was like, “Let's just make a movie because I wanna make a movie” but this one is like, “I wanna see this shit so I gotta see it through.” It's too early to say who I'm gonna work with on it but you know I got a lot of really amazing talented filmmakers in my life right now. I've just been bouncing my ideas off them trying to build the script. I don't wanna say too much about it yet. I don't like to do music videos. I did them but it's not really my game. I hope to spend next year doing a film.