Michael Bay, now respected auteur filmmaker, started his career as a commercial Hollywood director making iconic summer blockbusters. He sat down to record a video introduction to the 25th Anniversary DVD of Transformers.
I can’t believe it! Has it really been 25 years since the first Transformers was released? I guess I’ve been so caught up in preparing my new film, Paul’s Senses, for the festivals that I forgot about this big anniversary! It really is amazing to see how far I’ve come. Transformers astounds me to this day, no matter how I feel like I’ve evolved, artistically.
I’ve read Kubrick got to burn much of his early work. For some reason I took it for granted that Transformers would endure. There are a lot of universal themes, allusions, leitmotifs, et cetera, in the film, and looking back with kinder eyes I definitely see some of the forerunners of my career as a real auteur. Themes I cling to to this day, such as loss of innocence and the dynamic nature of the parent-child relationship. In the scene where Sam, Shia’s character, is confronted by his parents about masturbating, that’s a great example. And much like Transformers, Paul’s Senses deals a lot with race. In Tranformers I had the opportunity to shove the White man’s stereotype of Black America into their faces and make them witness their crimes. In Paul’s Senses a lot of the racial tension comes, actually, from the interesting casting decisions I made. Since Mos Def’s hair started going grey I saw an opportunity to make him a contemporary Morgan Freeman figure. These Transformers films were integral to my development, you see. There was a lot of to psychic issues I had to wade through before I could move on to something like Paul’s Senses.
Around the the time I was making the film Transformers, I’d say my biggest influence was my dreams. I had just seen a special on PBS about Jung and how important dreams were to the way he treated his patients. His conviction in dreams made me turn to my own dreams when I envisioned this film and its successors. There was a better part of a decade that I dreamt, almost every night, of those celestial Hasbro toys. But I was translating my dreams too literally. That was my problem for so long. Something that fantastical has a way of stretching celluloid’s ability to reproduce it, and can’t help but look a little cheesy on screen. I know this now. If I dreamt, now, of a secret government testing facility in the Hoover Damn, maybe I would look for the Hoover Dam within and inform my films in that way. Maybe the Allspark isn’t a literal cube so much as a part of my unconscious. After so many years, I think Paul’s Senses finally takes a look into that Allspark, that inscrutable part of the psyche that compels you toward evil. Paul’s Senses is my most personal, definitely my most internal film to date.
I’m going to Telluride with the film so I made a visit to my scarf merchant. I’ve got a scarf merchant now and little else. Where those first scarves I bought are I cannot say. But a man is entitled to a few scarves after he realizes that he doesn’t need to destroy a city to create real fear on screen. Films about humans facing themselves, that is what the public wants. That is what I want. Pain and Gain revolutionized my whole philosophy. The perfect admixture of comedy, action, and internal drama has made it the film that even if the Library of Congress doesn’t deem it as culturally significant, will always be significant to culture. I bought my first scarves after Pain and Gain. They were well deserved.
So cheers to Transormers, the film that made Paul’s Senses possible and, dammit, quite frankly, made Pain and Gain possible too.