New School Horror

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Continuing a casual survey of the horror genre begun last week with some recent old school releases on DVD, this week’s New York Times column moves into the post-Romero world of non-supernatural, body-centered horror as represented by Lucio Fulci’s “New York Ripper” (1982), Joseph Ruben’s “The Stepfather” (1987), Fred Dekker’s “Night of the Creeps” (1986), and Richard Stanley’s “Hardware” (1990).

144 comments to New School Horror

  • Kent Jones

    Jean-Pierre, I agree with you about Jacquot. That’s quite a substantial and adventurous career. I’m very fond of many films – LE SEPTIEME CIEL (a partial remake of WHIRLPOOL), PAS DE SCANDALE, LA FILLE SEULE, LA DESENCHANTEE, even the much maligned L’ECOLE DE LA CHAIR. And his version of Marivaux’s LA FAUSSE SUIVANTE is very fresh, lighter than air. Do you know his television work – LA VIE DE MARIANNE, or the earlier ELVIRE-JOUVET 40 and THE BEAST IN THE JUNGLE? Like John Carpenter, he’s always had a desire to work under the studio system, to test himself against those kinds of demands and conditions. I have yet to see VILLA AMALIA, and I’m looking forward to it.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Kent, unfortunately I haven’t seen Jacquot’s television stuff. I’m glad you mention LA FAUSSE SUIVANTE, which is absolutely wonderful but alas not released in the US. Jacquot is someone who’s always willing to take chances. L’ECOLE DE LA CHAIR is a case in point.

  • I wonder what the last of the “old school” horror films would be? Not counting parodies… I was thinking of TOMB OF LIGEIA (1965), but… well, there are those Dr. Phibes movies of the early ’70s. Anybody want to cast a vote?

  • Alex Hicks

    “After years of vivisectionist splatter, here is a horror movie with real shivers.” –Manohla Dargis on “The House of the Devil”

    Sometimes reaction Can spell progress.

  • jbryant

    I’ve seen and liked Jacquot’s LE SEPTIEME CIEL and LA FILLE SEULE; will keep an eye out for more. God, I miss the days when I was able to see a large percentage of the French films that got an arthouse run in L.A. — too many other life distractions these days (even if there are fewer such films arriving).

    Glad my rather timidly expressed endorsement of WRONG TURN has found support, rather than getting me laughed off the page.

  • jbryant

    THE ENTITY and a few other titles mentioned here appear on a list of Martin Scorsese’s 11 favorite horror movies, which has just popped up on The Daily Beast:

    1. THE HAUNTING (1963)
    2. ISLE OF THE DEAD
    3. THE UNINVITED
    4. THE ENTITY
    5. DEAD OF NIGHT
    6. THE CHANGELING
    7. THE SHINING
    8. THE EXORCIST
    9. NIGHT OF THE DEMON
    10. THE INNOCENTS
    11. PSYCHO

  • Craig

    The Changeling scared the hell out of me when I was a child.

    Jean-Pierre I enjoy hearing your take or anyone elses take for that matter on neglected(in the U.S. anyway) French directors.

    I too saw all of the Jacquot films that were released in the wake of the success of La Fille Seule in 1996. La Desenchantee, La Septieme Ciel, and L’Ecole de La Chair in 1998 and 1999. Later Tosca, Sade and Adolphe. I’m guessing that the later films failed to live up to the success of La Fille Seule and this is what ended the stream of Jacquot films to New York.

    These things tend to go in cycles. Techine was all but dead in the U.S. until the success of Les Roseaux Sauvages made it safe for Ma Saison Preferee and Les Voleurs(These two films along with Rendez-vous are my favorites)Loin was bypassed for release undoubtedly because it lacked a star.

    Any thoughts on Corneau, Blier,Brisseau,Berri, Miller or Moullet?

  • Craig

    Has anyone seen l’Ete Meutrier? It is pretty trashy but Adjani is extraordinary and very beautiful. Jean deosn’t seem to have inherited his father’s greatness.

  • Kent Jones

    Craig, Téchiné had an “American moment” in the early and mid 70s with SOUVENIRS D’EN FRANCE and BAROCCO, and then “came back” not with WILD REEDS but SCENE OF THE CRIME. WILD REEDS, for legal reasons and because of timing, was the only film among the “Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge” series to obtain an American release – COLD WATER by Olivier Assayas was in some ways more popular on the festival circuit, but was never officially released here (along with TROP DE BONHEUR by Cédric Kahn, those were the only two of the series released in expanded theatrical cuts – U.S. GO HOME by Claire Denis and PORTRAIT D’UNE JEUNE FILLE DE LA FIN DES ANNEES SOIXANTE A BRUXELLES by Chantal Akerman, the other highlights of the series, were both one hour long and never subtitled). The success of WILD REEDS brought the release of MA SAISON PREFEREE, made a year before. I think that film and LES VOLEURS are two high points for Téchiné. The following film, ALICE ET MARTIN, was a little disappointing. I liked LOIN very much at the time, but I suppose you’re right that the lack of starpower made it less of a draw (it was also his first film shot digitally, although it looked very good). LES EGARES, which did have starpower and looked great (in part thanks to Agnès Godard), was very good in some ways and less good in others. CHANGING TIMES and THE WITNESSES both had stars a-plenty, but the world of arthouse distribution is extremely different from what it was in the 90s, and I think they’re less good. They’re also a little indifferent on the visual side, THE WITNESSES in particular, which was shot on super 16 and matted for a Scope image. I haven’t seen GIRL ON THE RER.

    As for Jacquot, the stream was never constant because many of his films were never released here, including PAS DE SCANDALE, LA FAUSSE SUIVANTE, his TV film PRINCESSE MARIE about Marie Bonaparte and Freud (with Deneuve) and L’INTOUCHABLE (A TOUT DE SUITE had a small release here). They did, however, do the French festival circuit.

  • Barry Putterman

    It should be noted that those who subscribe to the Tv5 French cable channel can get to see some of these items. PRINCESS MARIE, for one, was shown there.

    jbryant, let those who must laugh, but NEVER go off the page. That indeed would be a wrong turn.

  • dan

    altough i’ve never seen Jacquot’s La Bête dans la jungle, i eagerly await the new Carax’s adaptation. I red somewhere he already started filming it in England and Germany. Learning that the great Caroline Champetier acted as cinematographer on Jacquot’s version, it could really be something if Carax will use her in his new version (plausible, since she shot his last couple of shorts). Carax’s new film could also please Scorsese, especially when reading that in Daily Beast list, Scorsese’s rightfully describes Clayton’s the Innocents as “one of the rare pictures that does justice to Henry James”…

  • Johan Andreasson

    Cliff, I’m not sure that old school horror has ever really left us. As Robert Chatain pointed out earlier in this thread the classical ghost story is still around, and you don’t get much more old school than that. His example was DARK WATER, and to me the fine Spanish THE ORPHANAGE (El Orfanato) from 2007 is also a movie of this kind.

  • Michael Worrall

    Barry,

    I wish I could claim some authority on Clover’s book, but I unfortunately do not have it my small collection of film theory books. I do remember that Clover argues that horror film connoisseurs are not “immature” and lack sophistication, but rather have an advanced knowledge and understanding of the genre and can be quite discriminate in the films they watch and value.

    It’s great to see support for WRONG TURN here. I went to film school with Rob Schmidt at SUNY Purchase and I always remember him as being focused and precise when it came to what he wanted in his films, and when speaking about films in general. He has a new film out: THE ALPHABET MURDERS.

    As for THE CHANGELING, I cannot think of another director with a more erratic filmography, in terms of quality and consistency, than Peter Medak.

  • Michael Worrall

    Jonah wrote: “As Robert Chatain pointed out earlier in this thread the classical ghost story is still around, and you don’t get much more old school than that. His example was DARK WATER, and to me the fine Spanish THE ORPHANAGE (El Orfanato) from 2007 is also a movie of this kind.”

    I would add Amenabar’s THE OTHERS to that list.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Michael, you’re absolutely right about this, and Guillermo del Toro also comes to mind. Is there an affinity for the clasical ghost story among Spanish speaking directors?

  • Barry Putterman

    Michael, most people do indeed have an advanced knowledge and sophistocation within their own chosen enthusiasms. However, the question of “maturity” would seem to me to be a whole different kettle of fish.

  • Michael Worrall

    Jonah,

    Thanks you for mentioning del Toro, for I was also thinking of his film CRONOS to add to the above list, but wanted to keep the films within the realm of classical ghost stories.

    As for the affinity for such stories among Spanish speaking directors, I myself do not know.

  • Blake Lucas

    Kent, I never knew WILD REEDS was part of a group of films on that subject. That was very interesting to find out. I’d certainly like to see any of the others, especially the Akerman. Techine’s 90s films you mentioned (hope I’m dating them right) were all among my favorites of the decade, and I agree ALICE AND MARTIN was a little disappointing following WILD REEDS, MA SAISON PREFEREE and LES VOLEURS. But I wound up seeing CHANGING TIMES again recently and remembered that just like the first time, it won me over. It’s not one of those movies that enthralls you right away, and I think maybe his method of bringing you to the emotional heart of it is subtle and patient, to the film’s credit.

    I don’t know if Dave has in mind a review of the Samuel Fuller box Sony has put out; I’m sure it’s something he would consider and understand the focus on horror films the last few weeks. But in any event, I can’t resist pointing out the link between THE CRIMSON KIMONO, which I consider one of Fuller’s best films (actually I feel that way about UNDERWORLD U.S.A. as well) and LES VOLEURS. The way to take the police detective film into modernity is to have some crime investigation in place in some way but to have the personal story (in KIMONO, the love triangle) actually becoming more important for us, though the two stories turn out to have resonance of each other. KIMONO does this perfectly for me, and LES VOLEURS takes the idea to the next level (at least in my memory–I was sorry this wasn’t in that Technine box and am keen to see it again) and is likewise superb. Even TV series seem to get the idea though they don’t engage it with the same artistry and never with the subtlety of LES VOLEURS.

  • jbryant

    Michael: That Schmidt film is actually called THE ALPHABET KILLER. Looks like it went straight to DVD here after some festival screenings. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  • Richard Suchenski

    Villa Amalia is terrific, the best thing Jacquot has done in a while in my view. He is able to create a powerful sense of psychic rupture and displacement, but what’s really exceptional about it is the rhythm. The cutting is very elliptical, but it’s also jagged and brittle in a way that seems to keep circling around the central character, opening up different spaces and then shifting suddenly to create a very interesting sort of instability. He clearly made it with Huppert in mind and she’s wonderful in it. U.S. distribution of foreign films is a mess right now, but I would love to see it again and I certainly hope it gets some sort of release.

  • Michael Worrall

    jbryant,

    Thank you for the correction, just don’t let Rob know I messed it up. ;)

  • Michael Worrall

    BTW: Rob Schmidt also directed an installment for the MASTERS OF HORROR series: RIGHT TO DIE.

  • arsaib

    I believe L’INTOUCHABLE was scheduled to have a limited theatrical release at the end of ’07, but that never transpired and its distributor (Strand) eventually just put it out on DVD, so the film is available for viewing. In some ways it feels like the most experimental of Jacquot’s recent output, and while it’s never less than interesting, I don’t think it comes together as well as most of those earlier efforts Kent and others have mentioned. I regret that I missed VILLA AMALIA when it played here; may have to resort to the French DVD which just became available.

  • I might have missed its mention here, but just noticed in a local newspaper an obit for Stuart Kaminsky, film scholar, prolific novelist, and screenwriter: in the ’90s, he kindly sent me a detailed account of his experiences of working (over several years) with Sergio Leone on ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (he had a much bigger hand in bringing that script together than the official credits indicate), and he concluded with the moving observation that the “greatest moment of his career” was to finally hear, in the finished work, Robert De Niro speaking the words he had written. In fact, he had also worked closely with De Niro on crafting this dialogue. Kaminsky was a very talented guy whose talent crossed many fields, and he will be very missed.

  • Sad to hear about Kaminsky, Adrian.

    I also liked Ring 2, thought it far superior to the original remake (how’s that for a headscratcher?), and even Nakata’s own Ringu 2. Takes bits from Spiral, and Dark Water, and fashions something distinctive from all that.

    Late examples of old-fashioned horror–second Cronos, The Others, The Orphanage (not so much, but it’s in the ballpark), throw in Rico Ilarde’s Altar.

  • Kent Jones

    Blake, the idea of “Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge” (the title was from the Françoise Hardy song) was to give a number of filmmakers of varying ages small budgets to make films about when they were 16. Each film had to have a party scene, and each film was more or less obliged to make use of the Polygram music catalogue, I believe. Other than that, there was complete freedom. It was an ingenious idea. Some people put the music to stunning use – once you’ve seen COLD WATER, it’s difficult to separate the images of the cold, damp, oddly brooding party scene in the chateau from “Virginia Plain,” “Cosmic Wheels” or “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Akerman, also, made terrifically potent use of some Leonard Cohen songs. Téchiné, on the other hand, threw in some Beach Boys and Del Shannon, and his party scene was kind of an afterthought, while it was the central event in the Assayas film – TROP DE BONHEUR, on the other hand, was basically one long party scene. Actually, I’d forgotten another highlight of the series, TRAVOLTA ET MOI by Patricia Mazuy. “Tous les garçons” is the kind of thing that should happen more often.

    That’s an interesting point about CRIMSON KIMONO and LES VOLEURS. I’d like to see the Téchiné film again. It’s such a heartbreaking film. As for CHANGING TIMES you’re probably right, but I have a hard time watching Depardieu now. He just doesn’t put much effort into his acting. It seems to be going somewhere else.

    Richard, speaking of Isabelle Huppert, I hope you were able to catch WHITE MATERIAL. That’s quite a film.

  • Ian Johnston

    A word in defence of Depardieu (although I agree with Kent that his acting has been off for some time): he’s back on form in Chabrol’s latest, BELLAMY.

  • There is a tribute to Ray Browne and Stuart Kaminsky at MYSTERY*FILE:
    http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=1578#comments

    This is by Francis M. Nevins, who knew both.

  • Yikes – my link takes you to the comments section – you have to scroll up for the article.

    Kaminsky was a gifted practioner of an art form that doesn’t get much credit: the short story. Two of his best are “Find Miriam” (1997), about his private eye Lou Fonesca, and “Snow” (1999), an origin tale for his Russian cop Porfiry Petrovich Rostikov.

  • jbryant

    I liked Depardieu in Veber’s LE PLACARD/THE CLOSET from 2001, but I haven’t seen him since (except for a few moments in the Queen Latifah vehicle LAST HOLIDAY, while channel surfing). Maybe he’s overworked — looks like he’s got about a dozen projects in various stages of production.

    Happy Halloween everybody! Anyone staying in to watch horror movies?

  • Craig

    Kent, i was aware of the Techine films from the seventies and eighties that were released in New York. Rendez-vous is a film I admire greatly and not just for a twenty year old Juliette Binoche. It is a cold film that never ceases to amaze and disturb me. Vincent Canby trashed it in the Times.

  • Kent Jones

    Craig, RENDEZ-VOUS as I remember it is a fascinatingly hyperbolic film, extremely tough, dark, unsettling, physically expressive to a point that borders on excessive, and Binoche is excellent in it – that was the film that made her a star. I think the movie was directly linked to Téchiné’s experience working with Chéreau’s troupe (he made a little film with the troupe called L’ATELIER).

    There are two other films he made around that time that really slipped through the cracks. One is an hour-long drama in black and white called LA MATIOUETTE, written by and starring Jacques Nolot – a very potent, intimate film that has never been subtitled. LES INNOCENTS was his second grand failure (after LES SOEURS BRONTE), and I seem to remember that it had too many strands, too much interlocking dramatic material, but some great passages.

  • Blake Lucas

    ““Tous les garçons” is the kind of thing that should happen more often.”

    Yes, it’s a fabulous idea–no filmmaker would not be disinterested I’d guess–and so is the idea of filmmakers working to a theme, which I guess has had a few workouts.

    I saw Techine’s RENDEZ-VOUS and descriptions of it here are pretty good–one can certainly understand why I did the trick for Binoche. But I must admit I didn’t love it, and was more sympathetic than I might have been because I had seen those later Techines. Of other earlier ones I just didn’t warm up to him–probably my fault and I should get back to those sometime. I’m thinking of SCENE OF THE CRIME, which has many admirers. The one thing I most remember about BAROCCO is that homage to JOHNNY GUITAR (where have I heard that title recently?…)

  • Blake Lucas

    “why I did the trick for Binoche” was supposed to say “why it did the trick for Binoche” (but now I’m wondering what I might have meant by this seeming error?…)

  • Kent Jones

    Blake, BAROCCO’s not very good, kind of a forerunner of stuff like DIVA. I really think that Téchiné reached his peak in the mid-90s. I like most of his movies, but many of them overreach – as a mutual friend put it, his films are imperfect and that’s what’s so lovable about them. Even in LES VOLEURS or MA SAISON PREFEREE, there are moments where I felt like there was one added dramatic element too many – in fact, you could say the same of most if not all of Kazan’s films. But ultimately, what difference does it make? There are moments SAISON and VOLEURS that are unlike anything else in movies in the last few decades – no one else is even interested in going into that territory – Auteuil waking up in a sweat in his old bedroom and thinking he’s late for school, the mother wondering why Deneuve and her husband live in such a pretentious house, the declaration of love at the end of the film; and those amazing scenes with the boy in LES VOLEURS, or the hang-gliding near the end. Another film you might want to check out, now available on DVD, is HOTEL DES AMERIQUES.

  • Blake Lucas

    “the declaration of love at the end of the film…”

    Especially! I never saw a film go to the place this one did with a brother/sister relationship in those last moments. I too like those same 90s ones of Techine, but this moment was the high point. It may be for me the high point of Deneuve’s career as well, and that’s saying a lot.

    And meantime, there’s that coming-of-age theme that WILD REEDS (and those other films Kent discussed) took up. It’s always potentially treacherous–and the cliches can so easily overtake the ache of truth. But this was in my experience one of the best examples of it ever.

    I’m aware of HOTEL DES AMERIQUES and would like to see that. I didn’t know it was on DVD now–so thanks for that info.

    I missed that Bronte sisters movie. Is it really so bad? How can they be uninteresting? Your reminding me he made this movie makes me want to seek it out. Looking it up on IMDb, it seems well-cast, and is surely more biographically accurate than DEVOTION, the Warner Bros. version.

    Interestingly, DEVOTION edges LES SOEURS BRONTE in its IMDb rating (though just barely). I remember that as disappointing, though it too was well-cast and had a great Korngold score. Maybe it’s something to look at again sometime too. Curtis Bernhardt had his ups and downs and I don’t rate him too high in the end, but he did very well on some of the films of his Warners period–POSSESSED and especially MY REPUTATION.

  • Kent Jones

    LES SOEURS BRONTE is not at all a bad movie, it was just a commercial disaster for him. It was very obviously meant to be a much longer movie, and I guess Alain Sarde balked. Pascal Greggory is great as Branwell, and so is Huppert as Anne. And there in the midst of it all is Roland Barthes doing a walk-on as Thackery. Téchiné had and Nolot had their own relationships with Barthes, and I believe that the Philippe Noiret character in J’EMBRASSE PAS is based on Barthes.

  • Jim Gerow

    I was going to mention the party-scene aspect of the “Tous les garçons” series but Kent has covered it nicely. The music in that scene in COLD WATER is wonderful, the camera prowls around inside and outside the chateau, and people keep changing the records. It’s a masterful sequence.

    In Claire Denis’s U.S. GO HOME Gregoire Colin does this wild, uninhibited dance that sort of anticipates Denis Lavant in the last shot of BEAU TRAVAIL.

  • Richard Suchenski

    Kent,

    White Material is one of the best new films I’ve seen this year. Re-working some of the things Denis tried to do in L’Intrus (and, less successfully, in Trouble Every Day) in this heavily abstracted but still concrete narrative context made the film genuinely haunting and troubling. The decision to combine handheld Scope with extreme close-ups was risky, but I thought she really pulled it off, and while the absence of Agnes Godard may have affected things, I also had the impression that Denis was shooting (and framing) in a new way. She is constantly cutting between different sources of motion and action, but grounding everything within the realm of immediate tactile sensation, so while the whole film does have a certain intuitive logic, you also have a very palpable sense of the external world swirling around the action in a way that can be registered but not fully apprehended. That was very effective and it really gets to the essence of the shifting relationships in this environment. Huppert is great, of course, and it’s interesting to see this come out the same year as Villa Amalia, because Jacquot and Denis structure their films around her in markedly different ways (unsurprisingly, Jacquot’s film is much more overtly psychological).

    I didn’t think White Material was 100% successful in every respect, but it’s a formidable achievement and Denis’ willingness to follow her films wherever they might lead is admirable. She’s already made a number of great films, but I think she could be moving towards something really extraordinary.

  • That is a lovely scene in “Cold Water,” Jim — which is why I found it so disappointing when Assayas replayed it in a tisk-tisking, look-at-what-those-damn-kids-are-doing-to-our-great-culture mode in his weirdly reactionary “Summer Hours.”

    “White Material” is an interesting film for all of the reasons that Richard outlines, though it did seem a step back in terms of its very conventional narrative structure, after the effective experiments of “Beau Travail” and “35 Shots of Rum.” It presents Huppert in her least flattering light — her hysterical, grande dame mode — and turns her loose to solve all kinds of cultural, political and personal problems in the space of a very busy 100 minutes. I think I would have preferred it with Vincent Sherman directing Bette Davis.

  • Richard Suchenski

    Dave, I was bothered by the ending of Summer Hours the first time I saw it too, but changed my mind on a second viewing, in part because it became clear to me that the intimacy of the first ¾ of the film disappears entirely in that last section. The sinuous tracking shots from the first part of the film return, but the camera holds everything at more of a distance as if Assayas himself is recognizing that he’s older now and cut off from the youthful energy he treated so poignantly in films like Cold Water, just like the Charles Berling character. I don’t think he’s judging these young characters or suggesting that they don’t have vitality, but just trying to find a way to acknowledge that without losing sight of the significant generation gap.

  • I’d like to agree with you Richard, because I do admire so much about Assayas’s work. But in the context of his recent films — the moralistic rejection of modernity in “Demonlover,” “Clean” and “Boarding Gate,” and the undisguised nostalgia of “Les Destinees” and “Summer Hours” — I get more and more the sense of a filmmaker who’s aging in an ungraceful way. I had trouble buying the first part of “Summer Hours,” too, with its uncomplicated celebration of a “lost” France of fine art, philosophical conversation, elegant outdoor dining on artisanal tableware and all the other francophile virtues one finds in travel magazine writing. Given what’s going on in France today, with its underclass of desperately alienated, angry young people — M. Sarkozy’s “racaille” — Assayas’s image of teenagers rocking out in the abandoned home of French culture seems at once freaked out and far too benign. He does indeed hold these kids at a distance but it seems to me more an expression of incomprehension than a sign of respect.

  • Michael Dempsey

    I’d like to suggest that “Summer Hours” doesn’t bash anybody, including its teenagers. Instead, it chronicles — in lightly, non-judgmental, hand-held color — the transition of the home that is its central setting and the objects within it from their status as used, lived-with repositories of memories and experience to objets d’art either to be displayed in museums, transferred to collectors who don’t have the family’s personal links to them, or sold to other people who will end up using them in their own ways and attaching their own memories to them.

    There is no breast-beating in “Summer Hours”. Nobody is greedy or corrupt. Life has simply turned a big page, giving the two adult descendants valid reasons for not trying to maintain a grip on a home and what’s inside it even though these have long been part of the family heritage. The passage of life, indifferent to such tradition, has brought new concerns and troubles more pressing than trying to maintain the pretense that the world really hasn’t changed and that a cherished tradition really can be extended into the future, for one more generation anyway.

    Olivier Assayas, it seems to me, has made an unassuming, non-portentous, quietly moving film about the transience of life and its properties, and he has done so in a style whose lightness and grace reflect this transience, along with a mood of commingled acceptance and wistfulness that may arise in anyone who is suddenly obliged to face this inescapable reality.

  • Kent Jones

    As I read Dave’s comments on WHITE MATERIAL and the last few Assayas films (some of which I like more than others), I was reminded of his reaction to my comments about the end of GRAN TORINO and the Amidou Diallo shooting.

    In WHITE MATERIAL, it seems to me that Huppert’s character doesn’t manage to solve one single problem, cultural, political or personal. I thought it was a movie about someone who was operating under the delusional belief that there WERE no problems, and failing to notice that her world is falling apart. As for SUMMER HOURS, I don’t have anything to add to what Richard and Michael said.