Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ebbs and Flows: Gabriel Mascaro Interview

 photo 4357eae4-6f3b-48d6-9ae5-d2ef2510849e_zpsy0qjgnj2.jpg
I had a chance to get a phone interview with Mascaro to discuss his first retrospective anywhere and his new film, Neon Bull.

Brazilian visual artist and filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro’s new narrative feature, Neon Bull, is garnering much critical acclaim. On the occasion of the theatrical release of the film in New York, Film Society of Lincoln Center revisits the works of one of international cinema’s most exciting new auteurs in Gabriel Mascaro: Ebbs and Flows, a five-film retrospective, starting 4/15.

Living and working in Recifé, the cultural capital of Pernambuco, a once neglected northeast region of Brazil, Mascaro established himself as an artist delving into photography, installations, documentaries and digital animation, commenting on ever so changing political, cultural, geographic landscapes. His astute observation on the lives of margins of society using non-actors in their working environs bore layered, fascinating, impossible to categorize films.

Neon Bull is the culmination of all of Mascaro’s preoccupations and his practices as an artist. It stars hunky Brazilian TV star Juliano Cazarré as a Vaqueiro (cowboy) who dreams of being a fashion designer. Gorgeously lensed by Diego Garcia (Cemetery of Splendour) and naturally acted by non professional and professional actors alike, the film observes human body at its most natural state – at work place and subverts it in the social, cultural, political context. It’s a multi-layered, sensual, deeply complex film.

Q: Congratulations on your retrospective, Gabriel Mascaro: Ebbs and Flows at the Film Society at the Lincoln Center here in New York.

A: Thank you very much. It’s the first time that my work has been shown all together. It’s a very interesting moment for me to see them all in one setting like that. I like the title Ebbs and Flows. For me it was a short (A Onda Trás o Vento Leva) that didn’t really work. It’s a happy choice of a title because I can reflect on my own work.

Q: Your discipline as a visual artist is not limited to a feature filmmaking. You’ve done shorts, documentaries, computer animation and installation work. Now you’ve done two feature length films back to back, what is it about a feature length narrative that are different than your other work? What is it that you are exploring in a narrative feature?

A: It’s a difficult question. I don’t really know exactly. But for me it’s a natural evolution. I came to make narrative features after getting into discussions about negotiating images in making documentaries. For me, documentaries are like auto-fictions…I don’t know how to translate this, but it’s the real people telling fictional stories about themselves, like a self-made fiction. In a way I wanted to deepen that experience.

Working with experienced actors in Neon Bull was a very different experience. It was a challenge because I’ve never really worked with experienced actors before. There was a change in my approach. But interestingly, one of my favorite moments was when Cacá (Aline Santana, an 8-year old who’s never acted before) became quiet in the film. The silent moments were the time when she was actually discovering herself and building her character. It was a magical moment in directing because she’s not an experienced actress. I told Aline to only speak when it’s necessary and assured her that there is no hurry, that filming can wait. That she should speak only if she believed in what she was saying, that she should take a deep breath and speak when only necessary. So it’s a film where characters only speak when they want to, when they have a desire to speak.

Q: On that note, I was wondering about your writing process. Did you have a tightly written script for both August Winds and Neon Bull? Or is your filmmaking more of an organic process where improvisation is necessary?

A: It’s an interesting question. I do work with a structured screenplay- the traditional one with dialog. But what’s different is the process of preparation with the actors.

In case of Neon Bull, the actors all read the script and they spent two months of preparation where they didn’t use the script anymore. They were working more on the dynamic of interactions. They did exercises with the dialog from the script but they weren’t rehearsing the dialog.

Before shooting the scenes in Neon Bull, I’d read out loud the dialog to the actors. And they would try to recover the structure of the script but they would still use the dynamic that they had developed during those two month of preparation. It brought them to a special place because these mixture of two approaches.

Q: That’s very interesting. How did Juliano Cazarré (who plays the main character, Iremar) take the script when he first read it?

I think Juliano was very intrigued and happy because the script gave him the opportunity to change the image that people have of him and the role they usually associate with him - strong, tough, macho type. And with this character, he shows his sweet and sensitive side.

He was worried about the sex scene, because he realized that it was a very strong scene. But he was very nervous and insecure about doing it. It was a challenge. But they figured it out.

The process for preparing the roles was that of a…gradual deduction: shedding the typical element of their supposed characters. They were entering it and giving themselves slowly to the process.

Q: There are a lot of interesting contradictions in Neon Bull. Iremar is a big handsome cowboy but he wants to be a fashion designer and two girls - Galega and Geise are a tough truck driver and an armed security guard. Was this sexual politics something you were interested in exploring?

I think the film is about the process of transformation, transforming bodies. Economically the transformation is very accelerated in Brazil. To project these bodies to the landscape without the typical gender roles and to contextualize them in the cowboy universe was something I was interested in.

It’s not just about inverting gender roles, its about bodies that are working in different scale - the opposites of pleasure and violence, sensibility and anger, it’s all about all these things together. It’s not about masculine woman and feminine man but we are talking about more abstract categories.

Q: What’s also interesting is that Housemaids, August Winds and Neon Bull all feature working people doing manual labor. Can you elaborate on that aspect of your films?

A: It’s a great question. No one asked me that before. I do research on bodies that are contextualized in the world of work. So in some ways, my work is a gesture in trying to explore the common subject. I guess the larger meaning in my work is to try to find extraordinary experiences in ordinary work.

Their occupation, their work that I show in these films often shows impersonalized faces and movements in repetition. So these films are subversion of the work itself. For example in August Winds, they have sex in the coconut cart during their break where they work and in Neon Bull, he makes fashion out of fallen tails of the bulls. So in a way it’s imagining the work in a more personal way. I am trying to elaborate the intervals of this kind of work with an eruption of the body in a more abstract sense as well- a warm and affectionate form of a body in impersonal places.

Q: Can you tell me about Pernambuco, the northeast region of Brazil in context to your films?

A: The region is often associated with poverty and hunger and people wanting to escape. I spent my whole life there and never left nor I wanted to. So I tried to build my work there. With the characters in my films, I try to discuss how to redefine this place. They are there in the northeast and they don’t want to leave.

The way these characters are written, they are not the ones you feel sorry for. They might have simple lives but they are strong people and they are not naive. Though in some ways, Neon Bull deals with the economic transformation that is happening in the region and it shows a lot of challenges that people are facing there, but I think a lot of it is universal - like gentrification, industrialization, large scale construction everywhere.

Q: What is your assessment of the recent surge in Brazilian cinema? I’ve seen some really interesting films produced in recent years. Adirley Queirós’ White Out, Black In and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds, just give you couple of examples…

A: We are speaking of very special moment in Brazilian cinema. Many filmmakers who are working are more interested in developing a new language of film. They don’t have the pressure of the market so much. They are modest budget films but they all have one thing in common - they are all supported by the government funds. So they are able to elaborate their language of film without making any concessions.

The filmmakers you mentioned, Adirley Queirós and Kleber Mendonça Filho are doing very interesting films. Filho also has a new film out called Aquarius, and it will be a special and important film for Brazilian filmmaking.


**Special thanks to Austin Kennedy at FSLC for arranging the interview and Micheal Gibbons for translation

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Art of the Real 2016 Preview

Art of the Real, a film series showcasing nonfiction work from around the world, remains and continues to be the most essential film event for serious and adventurous cinephiles. Once again, curated by venerable Dennis Lim and Racheal Rakes, FSLC is presenting the most impressive lineup yet: new works from Roberto Minervini, Ben Rivers, José Luis Guerin and Thom Andersen among others. Tirelessly testing the boundaries of cinema, art and reality, these films assure me that cinema still is an artistic medium with much more to explore for a long time to come.

This year, they are also highlighting American avant-garde giant Bruce Baillie's films, organized by Garbiñe Ortega. The selection of Baillie's films in this year's Art of the Real pays homage to his body of work, and drecognizes his legacy as an artist as well as his outstanding work as a distributor and promoter of avant-garde filmmakers.

Previewing these amazing array of films ahead of the series year after year reminds me the reason why I am still putting up with living in New York. It's all worth it.

Art of the Real 2016 runs 4/8 - 4/21 at FSLC. Please check their website for schedule and tickets.

THE OTHER SIDE - Roberto Minervini **Opening Night Film
 photo 474684c2-b38d-46af-b551-eaff6b7d8478_zpsxfbwa8rx.jpg
Roberto Minervini's new film after his Texas Trilogy finds itself a little to the west this time, in rural Louisiana, where unemployment is high and poverty rampant. Mark, a man with a criminal record ekes out a living doing menial jobs and selling homemade drugs to pole dancers at strip clubs. Most of the time he is high on drugs and alcohol with his girlfriend Lisa in his trailer.

The Other Side is a remarkably frank document about people living on the fringes of society. Minervini, an Italian expat, got the complete access to the lives of Mark and Lisa and their extended family and friends, baring it all, in American deep south- with this fact alone, the film is a remarkable achievement.

It's a deeply immersive experience and not unlike Pedro Costa's In Vanda's Room. It's more impactful because the film takes place in America, especially when film devolves into dark territory with white militias with their assault weapons, shooting up Obama effigies and talking about imminent revolution, "when the n***a president declares Martial Law and take down your doors and trample on our constitution" in the latter part of the film.

Minervini observes all without once interfering or involving himself in any way, with real empathy, showing that all these people have left to hold on to is family and love. It's a strong, disturbing, beautiful film that deserves respect.

ACADEMY OF MUSES - José Luis Guérin
 photo f7ad5b37-499a-4ca0-ad5e-654e98abfdbb_zpsaxddk7hu.jpg
Rafaele Pinto, an enegetic middle aged Italian Philology professor at Univ. of Barcelona teaches a course on 'how to be a muse' in a class largely dominated by female students. His theses, that music and poetry can reach the dead that words have power, draw a passionate debates among students and create heated conversations that spill out of classroom to cafes and parked cars. Culling from Dante's writings that a muse 'should be an active force in the lives of her subject, not a passive object of adoration', he inadvertently pushes his student to take charge in their love lives.

Pinto is played by Prof. Pinto and the flurry of female students who later come into focus as the film goes along, are played by actual students. Once again, blurring the lines between fiction and documentary art and real life, Guérin concocts a film that is intellectually, emotionally rigorous, at the same time, deliciously playful.

Pinto's aging wife is doubtful about his project and worries with the way things are going that he soon might be involving himself with female students. Indeed, the power of words sinks in to many students' minds and they become enamored with Pinto. He in turn start dating students as if he's one of Woody Allen's alter-ego. He explains to his wife's deaf ears that it's part of his experiments.

The course work takes Emanuela (Emanuela Forgetta), a fiery Italian Brunette, to Sardinia with Pinto. There, intoxicated by the beautiful surroundings and pastoral life, she finds falling for a rugged shepherd. Pinto, part jealous and part studious, protests and tells her to think with a cool head. "You have to be his muse, not the other way around."

Mireia (Mireia Iniesta), a blonde Spaniard who confesses to him about her online relationship (which is completely based upon exchange of words) that left her heart-broken. Pinto tells her that even though she is suffering, in a sense, she made him a 'poet'. Then he takes her to Napoli, where he was born, to contemplate on his own mortality.

Shot simply by Guérin himself, the film implies matter of factly the complex relationships of people by shooting through various windows.

Academy of Muses is an intellectually, emotionally and stylistically satisfying viewing experience and by far the most invigorating cinematic exercise I've seen this year.

IL SOLENGO - Alessio Rigo de Righi, Matteo Zoppis
 photo a830905e-25b6-413a-b9c4-e949a066539a_zpslml19tyy.jpg
This Rashomon style tale of a village recluse of mythic proportions is told by grumpy old residents of the rural Italy. Mario de Macetta, otherwise known as Il Solengo - a lone boar, kept his distance from everyone and lived a hermit life in a cave for the last 60 years.

This is a typical talking heads documentary that is anything but typical - it's even refreshing in its strict old-fashioned, formal approach. It unobtrusively comments and contrasts on the old Italy versus the new- all the residents who were portrayed are old men and the setting is unencumbered by any sign of technology.

We don't see the subject until the very end, but that doesn't play out like a coy device for suspense. The film has its own rhythm and its slow pace reflects the environments and its residents. Would be a great film to be paired with Sacro GRA, another great Italian documentary in recent years shot in the rural peripheries of Rome.

A MAGICAL SUBSTANCE FLOWS INTO ME - Jumana Manna
 photo 3c788932-2366-4b61-94f4-6b7db7b18249_zpsov7zjtst.jpg
Artist Jumana Manna travels through Palestine and Israel, looking for ethnic music collected by Robert Lachmann, a German-Jewish musicologist in 1935 in his radio program, "Oriental Music". He invited many musicians from Palestinian territories all over and recorded their songs. But he drew only hostilities and criticisms from both sides. Reciting through his writings and music recordings, Manna charts intoxicating investigation through time and space both cultural and political.

What strikes me first is incredible diversity of the region: the patchwork of all the ethnic groups and their music is vast - there are Kurdish Jews, Morocans, Beduins, Copts, Samaritans and many many more. Manna sets up shops in an informal settings- mostly in her subject's kitchen, them preparing food or coffee, and the music starts flowing and it's magical.

DEAD SLOW AHEAD - Mauro Herce
 photo 24276fc3-fe37-4064-b675-8c5b4a59712a_zps4bhtwo8a.jpg
The comparison with Julien Castraing-Taylor & Verena Paravel's Leviathan is unavoidable. Shot entirely on a freight cargo ship, Fair Lady, as it makes its way to the vast ocean from somewhere in European continent, Mauro Herce records with stately, ultra clean high-def images of the giant ship from various angles.

What's impressive is its sound design along with eerie, Angelo Badalamenti-an soundtrack - mingling of giant machine hums, sonar beeps, engine room, the weather and roiling waves. The crew mostly comprised of Southeast Asians, spend their time doing karaoke and calling their families.

Things take a drastic turn as the ship taking in water in treacherous ocean, the desperate radio communication is overheard, "Entire river is coming through the keel," "The water is reaching the storage tanks," "Sir, this is a disaster!"

Cut to the sequence of red water - the palette is mostly green and red in the gigantic wheat storage area, and the workers shoveling grain in a relatively tiny buckets and throwing tons of grain overboard.

A ship as a metaphor for wayward, aimless capitalism lost at sea is dully noted in Dead Slow Ahead but not as obviously stated as in Godard's Film Socialisme. Still, it's rigorous formalism and amazing sound design are something to take note.

Poet on a Business Trip - Ju Anqi
 photo 2659b579-0853-486e-8648-153f278c927f_zps34k1badw.jpg
In 2002, director Ju Anqi and his friend, poet Shu went on a road trip and spent 40 days in the westernmost Chinese province of Xinjiang, hitchhiking and visiting various prostitutes along the way. The exhausting trip made the director and his actor/subject go separate ways and the footage was shelved for 12 years. It's a good thing that Ju picked up the movie again and edited it now. Like a good wine, it's better aged.

Shot in full frame low quality video, the color had been degraded, so Ju decided to present it grainy black and white. The result is an at times idiosyncratic, funny, sad, poignant road movie full of local characters and interactions and 16 poems.

With an absurd premise- that a poet sending himself on a business trip to a remote place, Poet works not only as a existential travelogue but an intimate time capsule of Uighur people, a Turkish speaking, muslim ethnic minority some 12 years ago. As Shu hitches a ride and share cheap hostel beds with these friendly people, there is no hint of ethnic struggle that's been turning violent over the years.

There are a lot to love in Poet on a Business trip: a sheep herder and Shu exchange their mutual admiration for each other's life, "I guess we both want what we don't have. That we are all the same everywhere," the sheep herder remarks. A karaoke night with a prostitute turns confessional, revealing loneliness and yearning for that special someone to settle down with. As the constant traveling takes toll on Shu's health and mood, the trip gets a little lonelier with its colorless scenery accentuating its emptiness.

What starts out as an idiosyncratic, goofy road trip, Poet on a Business Trip gains its poignancy over time, resulting in beautiful melancholia.

I am an Animal and That's OK.

Neon Bull (2015) - Mascaro
 photo f0f72c4a-c036-4c2f-82dc-22da69b89daf_zpss206jcrd.jpg
It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that now, the pulse of the contemporary cinema could be found in Latin America. With relative political and economic stability (I use the term loosely here) after the economic crisis in the early 2000s, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil have been producing some of the most exciting new talents in recent years.

In the case of Brazilian cinema, after the initial success of the favela movies in the international market- such as Central Station, City of God and Elite Squad which still owed themselves heavily to the tradition of Cinema Novo, a new generation of filmmakers emerged, severing the ties with the past and cultivating a different kind of art house cinema with the support of government’s cultural agencies. If this morning’s news of inclusion of Kleber Mendonça Filho’s new film Aquarius in competition at Cannes Film Festival this year, I’d say the future of Brazilian cinema is only getting brighter.

Brazilian filmmaker/visual artist Gabriel Mascaro is one of the happy recipients of such support from a pro-culture government. Mascaro’s hometown, Recifé, in the northeastern region of Pernambuco became a hub for burgeoning independent filmmakers as a result of government allotting money, finally, not only to the more developed, and commerce oriented southern region – Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo but also elsewhere in the country.

Mascaro, with his documentary background, demonstrates his anthropologist tendencies and lends sharp insights into often invisible cultural, societal, sexual boundaries of rapidly changing Brazilian society.

His latest, Neon Bull, is his second narrative feature after critically acclaimed narrative debut, August Winds. The film defies easy categorization as with the former. Exquisitely lensed by Diego Garcia (Cemetery of Splendor), Neon Bull transports us to yet another marginal segment in Brazilian society in Panambuco, northeast region of Brazil. The title comes from Brazilian rodeo (vaquejada)- it involves two cowboys on their horses sandwiching the bull from both sides and taking it down by yanking their tails. Sometimes the show goes on at night and they put iridescent paint over the bulls, hence Boi Neon (Neon Bull). The film follows one such traveling vaquejada trope.

The narrative pull is a little more consistent here than in August Winds. But as in his other films, the director's interest is elsewhere. While keeping a distance, the director zeroes in on a specific societal spectrum, stripping it down to a base level.

The slight, episodic narrative tells a story of Iremar (Juliano Cazarré), a hunky vaqueiro (cowboy) and his immediate surroundings. Iremar works for a vaquejada, which makes him to lead a nomadic existence- sleeping in a hammock and making use of outdoor showers and outhouses. His makeshift family consists of a young cattle truck driver Galega (Maeve Jinkings) and her preteen daughter Cacá (Alyne Santana) and with two other ranch hands.

Getting bulls ready for the rodeo is a filthy job and vaqueiros are constantly covered in dust and cow dungs. But unlike his looming physique and the rough sport he deals with day in and day out. He has different aspirations: he wants to be a fashion designer.

When he is not dusting bull's tails or shoveling cow shit, he is hunched over his tiny sewing table, working away the nights or drawing designs over naked bodies in fellow cowhand's porn magazines. Using Galega as his model (she works as an exotic dancer in his outfit with a horse mask over her head), Iremar horns his skills and dreams of getting a professional sewing machine.

Neon Bull is a culmination of all of Mascaro’s preoccupations and cinematic skills. It might be a deceptively simple film about a marginalized society at first glance, but the film's much more complex in both theme and form. Not only he plays with the notion of machismo in cowboy and Brazilian culture in general, he also applies same matter-of-fact life observations in nature documentary to his human characters. Animal and human sexuality and bodily needs are depicted with no frills (Cazarré's sculpted body is often shown full-frontal). The film features some of the most sensual, uninterrupted long sex scenes (involving a very pregnant woman, no less) depicted in recent film history.

Mascaro is fascinated with a human body and it’s often idealized and naked (both in August Winds and Neon Bull). He throws it into rapidly changing surroundings – culturally, politically and geographically, to contrast and conform and subvert what’s seen in the frame.

He thrives in authenticity that he cultivated in his documentary days and makes full use of it in this 'ordinary people with their small dreams' narrative. He gets spectacularly naturalistic performances out from his cast - most of his actors are non-actors playing characters pretty close to themselves. Cazarré, a big TV soap star, under Masaro’s direction, disappears into the role of lowly cowboy.

Neon Bull is heady, sensual, political, layered trip to the heart of Brazil done masterfully and one can only hope that the director continues on his experiment with the narrative form of filmmaking.


After appearing at ND/NF, Neon Bull gets a theatrical run on 4/8 at FSLC. Mascaro's retrospective Gabriel Mascaro: Ebbs and Flows runs 4/15-4/21 as well. Please visit FSLC website.

Joachim Trier's Louder than Bombs is a beautifully written gem of a film

Louder than Bombs (2015) - Trier
 photo 9498f605-f304-42bc-a269-70538b222325_zpsq8efgz0c.jpg
I can't stress enough that watching Joachim Trier's films is like reading really good books. That he might be the most literary (not in a superficial sense) film director working today. With each new films, Trier and his writing partner Eskil Vogt, show what mature, gifted writers they are. Their English language debut, Louder than Bombs, is a finely tuned chamber piece about grief and family dynamics. It is a great American film that brings out nuanced, beautifully drawn, rich characters just under two hours running time and would give Jonathan Franzen a run for his money. The title comes from the Smiths' album which was the US only released compilation, taken from Elizabeth Smart's prose poem By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. It's an apt title to illustrate the state of internal grief felt by the characters. The film's so beautifully written and acted, I can't find one false note.

The Reed family is grieving the death of the family matriarch, a strong willed war photographer, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert). Her husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne) is a gentle high school teacher who had been always supportive of Isabelle and took care of their two sons while she's away in the war zones. Josh the elder son (Jesse Eisenberg), who just became a father himself, has his mother's traits - smart, driven, but has an air of a boy who grew up too fast. Then there is Conrad the younger son (Devin Druid), an unresponsive, always plugged in high schooler. Even though she's gone for two years, Isabelle is always present through numerous flashbacks, dreams and even has her own narrations. Things get a little complicated when Isabelle's colleague and former lover Richard (David Strathairn) is about to publish his article on her in New York Times and mention her suicide, a fact Gene never told Conrad about. As Josh comes home to take charge of Isabelle's photos in her untouched studio, it slowly becomes clear that the visit is an excuse for him to get away from his nagging wife and the new born. The three men have to deal with their grief in their own way.

As Trier and vogt explored before in Reprise, Bombs deals with the consequences of being a talented, driven person. Many fail to balance work and relationship. For Isabelle, her work was like an addiction, no matter how much she kidded herself with the notion of family life. Not that she was an uncaring mother, but she was unhappy, feeling that she wasn't needed every time she came home and at the same time felt guilty for being selfish. Gene, who gave up his acting career to take care of their sons, never found his place in the world and doesn't really know how to connect with his growing/grownup sons who worshiped their mom and in turn resented him. Although Josh would never admit to anyone, he regrets having to grow up too fast and made rash decisions undoubtedly because of his mom's death. Conrad daydreams and makes up scenarios how his mom really died and lives in his head most of the time.

Acting is superb throughout: Byrne exudes warmth and patience in an anti-patriarchal character that is rarely seen in American films. Added to his arrogant, intelligent kid he always plays, Eisenberg brings vulnerability in a basically a not showy supporting role. But it's Druid who is truly phenomenal as a weird kid who is much more mature than he seems. And of course, Huppert, again, makes her presence felt, even with limited screen time, playing enigmatic, complicated woman.

Despite its heavy subject matter Bombs contains many humorous moments involving Conrad's crush on one of the school's popular girls while Josh matter of factly discouraging him that it would never work out ('been there done that' defeatist nerd talk) and Gene trying to connect with Conrad through a role playing video game with resulting in hilarity. And just like in his two previous films, Trier uses fast moving montage sequences that signify meaningful moments in characters' lives (over Conrad's confessional essay) that are truly beautiful and touching. Dense yet lively, touching but not corny, mature and intelligent without being showy, Louder than Bombs is a rare gift of a movie. So good!

Joachim Trier Talks about Louder Than Bombs and His Dream Cast

 photo 5442e477-ef07-46aa-9732-ac325de24664_zpsffgba4ii.jpg
With only three feature films under his belt, Norwegian helmer Joachim Trier is quickly establishing himself as a world class filmmaker with his thoughtful, wise and emotionally resonating films. With his English language debut, Louder than Bombs, about a family dealing with the death of a matriach, releasing state side this weekend, I had a chance to catch up with him. Fiercely intelligent and extremely generous, Trier talked great length about working with his amazing ensemble cast.

This is your first English language film. What were some of the challenges you faced?

I went to film school in London (National Film and TV School) and because we grew up in Norway watching American movies with subtitles and with American voices, rather than overdubbed dialog in country like Germany, we had a real advantage to listen to the language and learn it that way. I spent in 7 years in England and I have a lot of friends in America, spent a lot of time in New York, so as Eskil (Eskil Vogt, co-writer).

But I would say it was different because Eskil and I were little more insecure. We were worried that we weren’t getting the right wording or phrasing. So we stayed open with people, like consultants and actors - we asked them to help us to correct things and they helped us change little things. At the end of the day, most of the people found that the dialog was good. The thing is dialog is more dynamic than it is just about words, and because I’m not precious about dialog, If the actors wanted to change words here and there, like they do even Norway, it's was fine with me.

But what was more challenging almost was the idea of getting the attitudes and culture right since we fitted this story into present day America. We ended up doing a High School life movie. I know that life from John Hughes movies. But we went High Schools for real and did some anthropological research so we get authenticity. I really hope we nailed it. We really spent time on it.

I think it was great.

The thing is, whenever I watch your film, I feel like I’m reading a really good book. And I mean it as a compliment. I’m definitely not saying that your films aren’t cinematic, but it’s so well written and characters so beautifully drawn. I know that you don’t want your films to be pigeonholed but I’d say you make the most literary films even more so than Woody Allen does.

For me, the word literary has two sides to it. I am a film fan. And because the film history is so young, one could strive to think ‘what is purely cinematic?’ ‘what’s so unique about this art form?’ These are the essence of how we start out the process. It sounds maybe weird but Eskil and I often say, 'it would be more filmic, if…' and then we try to find a way to do something that has to do with form, or visuality or what we call gestalt - you know, something is shown not told.

But the interesting thing about the inspiration in literature is not the story for us, it’s the freedom of the novel as a form. So the novel as a literary form as I’m sure you are aware, is not that old either. If you look back to the French naturalists in the 1860s, the idea that there have been so many stages since then, of the novel being interpreted- the poetic, the formalist, the naturalist… there are so many. So the idea of form at the essence of storytelling is what I’m often intrigued by. For example there are a lot of those chapters that is more like a diary and you see a scene from two perspectives. To me that is filmic, but it’s going off of just straight storytelling, like the best novels often do. It’s the potential of storytelling in novels I am interested in.

Another example is the visual potential in films of Terrence Malick or…Barry Lindon or in Good Fellas for instance, where a lot of narration is done, so you get a lot of the plot out of the way so images can be more filmic. you know what I mean? You can actually say that often times plot enslaves the image to tell a plot, which is not necessarily always so filmic. That’s actually something that literature also struggles with. The idea of plot is that it has to function.

My films are not plot driven. They are character, emotionally, thematically driven. So I’m having the same challenge as a lot of people in literature to find ways to let more tactile and philosophical moments mean something and emotionally engaging. This is quite complex and I don’t know If my answers are even clear. I hope it makes sense.

It does make sense.

It’s something that I ponder upon. But when you say literary cinema, I choose to take it as compliment because the same was said about filmmakers like Alain Renais or Truffaut, the people that I have been inspired by.

The film has an amazing cast. I know that we don’t have too much time but can you tell me a little about working with these actors? You have Isabelle Huppert, one of the greatest actress of our time, Gabriel Byrne whom I always thought a great actor who never gets a good role, then of course, Jesse Eisenberg and young newcomer Devin Druid…

Oh please! I’d love to talk about each of them if the time allows!

Isabelle got in touch with me after Oslo, August 31st. She liked it and she wanted to meet me and we started talking and…I think she is one of the greatest actor of all cinematic history. I think she’s one of the top people…she IS cinema history: working with her I feel one step closer to understanding why. She is a big risk taker. She is one of the bravest actress I’ve ever met. And she never goes safe. She always tries new things - you will get variations on a scene continually, which is… yeah she never goes for the safe choice or sloppy choice. She’s incredibly bold and brave.

As a side bar, I love shooting with a 50mm lens and I was talking to my cinematographer Jakob Ihre one day and she goes, “Oh, you guys, Chabrol always loved shooting with 50mm…” And it dawned on us that she’s worked with some of the cinema’s greatest directors. She knows modern film history and that she really IS film history!

Then we have, Gabriel Byrne. I agree with you who is a great actor. He is so humble, yet so precise. He always said to me, “You know I’m not really an actor. I never went to school in that way and I just do it and, I don’t know…” He is very very humble but if you get him in front of the camera, He’s always interesting. And he is a thinking man. He could be silent and observing and you go, what’s he thinking? That’s a great gift for an actor. He also takes a carer's responsibility. He is a very natural father in this family because he is a very kind and gentle in real life.

One thing I loved about his character is that he is not a typical patriarchal father you see. You don’t see that in American films often.

You see, men can also be carers. It is very important and I’m glad you bringing it up because for this film, I think many men would stay away from this role. I think there is slight prejudice. Yes we can discuss the very important issue of letting women play many different roles. In real life women play many more roles in society. I am a feminist and I believe it that absolutely. Very important. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight, at the same time, for men to be allowed to play different roles as well. We are all struggling existentially with being restricted, continually, in having to live up to expectations which don’t make us feel that we are allowing ourselves to be more than we could, you know, or be what we can be.

Gene’s story is not about patriarchy, playing the role of the authoritarian father. It’s about playing the role many mothers have played, as the carer, the one that ultimately is the pivot of the family. And he is the only one for the children to be present at the same time being pushed away, because of this idealized mother is no longer around. So that’s very much Gabriel.

Let’s touch on some of the other actors as well.

Sure.

Jesse (Eisenberg) is remarkable. He comes from comedic tradition and he is very very funny. But he’s great with structure. He understands every beat of the scene and he is so well prepared. I don’t give notes between takes. I might try to insinuate emotions or directions or try to make this discovery in the actors. But with him, you can actually be very specific. You can say, “with that line, you can do this.” Like 5 or 6 points in a long take and he’s go, “got it.” He’s the only actor that I worked with whom you can give instructions like that. He's like a waiter taking an order around the table of twelve. (laughs)

He has a great capacity to remember these things and he likes to show off a little bit. He is a virtuoso in his way of doing things. But what I’m also happy about, is that regardless of his incredible skills, he is also allowing in this film to be emotional and…

Vulnerable.

That’s the word. I knew that that was very important for the role. It took a little bit of work for us to find the tone but I’m ultimately so happy that he opened up to doing more vulnerable work and I really appreciated working with him. He is a great guy.

Then there is this last role. We were nervous about finding a young kid who has to work with these great actors. Where are we going to find this 15 year old kid? And I was so happy that Laura Rosenthal, a great casting director brought Devin Druid to our attention. He is really really good. I can recommend him highly enough to other directors. I’m not just saying this as a director being nice. I’d love to work with him again. I’m so intrigued by how emotionally available he is. Because he is so young, I imagine people will think that it’s just luck. “Oh, he’s just spontaneous but he can’t be a great crafty actor because he's so young." His instincts for preparing and knowing how to use the knowledge that he’s given to make it playable is remarkable.

I’ll tell you, sometimes he’d be in an emotional zone and he discovered already in that young age what actors take years to discover- how to sustain that emotional state. You can shoot a scene with him like that all day. It can very hard and painful if it’s an emotional scene. People run dry quick. He was able to reengage with his own technique that I don’t really know how, in an emotional state that is sustainable for a long time. And at the end of the day he goes, "Oh I need to sleep now," (laughs) and comes back in and does something else. Devin is a very intuitive guy but there is more preparation in what he does.

If you'd allow me, I’d love to mention few other people as well, because this is an ensemble.

By all means.

I never get enough time to talk about Amy Ryan, David Strathairn and Rachel Brosnahan. I wanted to make an ensemble film. Like Lumet or Coppola, all these great American directors did so many of these great ensemble films. But I never imagined I’d get people like this in smaller roles.

Amy Ryan is amazing. She’s one of the best actresses in the world. My editor (Olivier Bugge Coutté), whenever the rushes came in with the scene with her, he was like, "Who is she? Everything is good with her!"

David Strathairn is remarkable. I mean he is one of the greats.

Yes.

He is almost too cool. He is such a smart and generous guy. and there seems to be so much interesting and exciting stuff going on in his life so I don’t think he is chasing around all the available parts. He is very picky in choosing roles which I completely respect. So I felt honored that he actually came on set. I dig him. He’s like, oh I’ll drive to the set myself. He is very unpretentious. I love him.

Rachel Brosnahan, you know her from House of Cards. She is this new talent and what’s so great about her is she has natural grace in the way she appears in front of the camera. But there is no vanity with her. She came in and she does couple of scenes where she is exposing emotions where a lot of actresses would perhaps try to beautify it. But she creates beauty through just being real. She has a great instinct and knack for naturalism and I really respect that in her. In her generation of actresses, there are so many who is just choosing to be a pretty girl. She has that natural grace, she doesn’t need to, you know.

So Devin Druid and Rachel Brosnahan are the two young actors we will see more of in the near future?

Yeah I’d love that. It makes me happy to see that there are real great actors coming up in the next generation. It just makes me feel excited. That’s something that led me in the first place to make films in America, the actors.

There is a certain melancholy in your films. Even though there are many funny moments in LOUDER THAN BOMBS, There is certain sadness. I want to talk about the theme of death in your films.

Yeah. Louder than Bombs deals with, I guess, eroticism in death, a lot. We are also dealing with young mind, a 15-year old, who is going through adolescence and he is being infatuated with a girl for the first time, at the same time he is grieving his mother. So there is this sex and death thing going on. (laughs)

Also those eternal themes,I care about those things. To be personal for a second, I think I was quite concerned while I was very young. I was obsessed with memory and mortality. I was very worried about the short time we have on earth. I am an atheist, so I believe this is it. This time is all I got. I don’t believe in afterlife, at least not with this conscience. So that's a pretty tough premise. Much of our culture is in denial of that. At the same time, it gives us a purpose for action and to do things and can also be a trigger for creation even.

So my film reflects my existential curiosity. I don't want to be perceived as pretentious, I think it’s unanimous human quandary and I care about stories that deal with how we construct or accept ourselves through perception of memory and how we know that it’s not infinite and how that affects out relationships. In this film specifically - 3 years ago, a husband and two sons the mother of the family. That affects how each of them engage, with the women - the new women, new partners in their lives. What aftereffects does that have in the erotic and the ability to build a relationships. That's what we are asking in this film. And that has melancholic implications.

So what’s next for you?

I haven’t announced my next film yet because we are not one hundred percent sure yet. So I’m not talking about it so much at the moment. But what I can say on the record is that I am writing and hope to shoot it this fall in Norway. A quick one we’re working on- am working with Eskil at the moment: back in the room with my old friend. And we are coming up with some new things and we hope to get to make it and I think we will. So hopefully we will be talking soon again with something else. It’s in Norwegian this time but hopefully it will be in English again after that.

Louder than Bombs opens on Friday, April 8 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. National roll outs will follow.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Do not fear mistakes. There are none.

Miles Ahead (2015) - Cheadle
 photo f086320b-96b1-468e-a402-241f71b9a061_zpsenhauinq.jpg
Doing a biopic on a legend is always a challenge. Doing justice to the subject it is portraying, even more so, especially when it's on someone like Miles Davis. It's rather surprising that there wasn't a movie or two made about Davis already, given his status as one of the most influential musicians America has ever produced. Don Cheadle, one of the most gifted, underrated actors of his generation, was approached by the Davis Estate (son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn) to take on the challenge and with their blessings, goes on to tell the story the way he wanted and ended up directing and co-writing and starring. He even raised money through crowdfunding. Cheadle succeeds in making an energetic, entertaining cinematic ode to a true legend.

I can't think of any album that is more perfect than Kind of Blue. Its melodic, incredibly elegant musical arrangement was a revelation when complex, virtuosic solo oriented be-bop dominated the jazz scene when the album came out in 1959. His extremely emotive trumpet playing had no equal and is still instantly recognizable. It was my staple background music in my college dorm room and I have to admit, the album got me laid many times. Even though Miles Davis was responsible for putting jazz on the higher echelons in the music world with improvisation that influenced countless other jazz greats, Davis didn't want to be pigeonholed as a 'jazz' musician. He moved on to exploring other sounds, always trailblazing in things to come. Jazz purists turned their back on his music in his later years and stuck to Birth of the Cool, 'Round About Midnight, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, but In a Silent Way (1969) is a great album, so is Tutu (1986), so is Doo-Bop (1991). Along with David Bowie, Davis was one of the true innovators and musical geniuses of the 20th century.

With the phrase, "It's all about improvisation," starts Miles Ahead, a very unusual biopic on one of the most iconic musicians ever lived. It's set in 1979, at the end of Davis's 5 year seclusion (around 1975 to 80) while battling with drug & alcohol abuse, various health ailments and Columbia Records after the success of Bitches' Brew during his jazz fusion period. Blending elements of fiction and the musician's real life stories, the film is in part a love story and part genius artist struggling with his demons and part a buddy action comedy that can easily be titled as Ride Along with Miles Motherfucking Davis.

Ewan McGregor plays a fictional Rolling Stone Journalist named Dave Brill. Out of extreme personal interest as a fan, he longs to hear Davis (Don Cheadle)'s demo tape that supposedly contains yet another breakthrough masterwork the musician has been toiling away in his Upper Westside apartment during those missing years. But as it turns out, he isn't the only one who wants to get a hand on that tape. Columbia Records execs are holding Davis's payments because he is contractually obligated to turn in any new materials in order to get paid. Throw in a shyster producer Harper (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his drug addled trumpet protégé Junior (LaKeith Stanfield, Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton) into the mix and we got an unforgettable night out with the ill-tempered, crazy little man with a wild jerry curls and a raspy voice in colorful silk pajamas. Through the course of the day, the duo goes from his basement/studio for impromptu boxing lessons, to the ringside, to a Columbia University dorm room (to score some high-end cocaine), to wild car chases in the city that ends in gunfights.

But it's the memories his first wife, Frances Taylor (luminous Emayatzy Corinealdi), that haunts the famous musician. In inter-cutting flashbacks shot on super 16mm film, we see suave Davis courting Frances, then an ingenue classical dancer, who goes on to give up her career to be a stay-at-home wife for him. She is a constant reminder of his happier (and tumultuous) times as she graced herself on the cover of his 1961 album, Someday My Prince Will Come Along which he somehow finds everywhere he goes. Cheadle and co-writer Steven Baigelman don't shy away from Davis's drug addled violent behavior. The couple's fight scene that lands both of them on the floor littered with shattered glasses is brutal and appropriately explains why Frances left him for good.

Miles Ahead doesn't play out like the work of a first time director. Shot on HD and film, frenetic editing, and some of the best syncopating transition shots in any movie of recent years, the film demonstrates Cheadle's cinematic flair. The film also showcases Cheadle's dexterity as a performer who can turn on the heat. He is completely at ease as the enigmatic musician, actually playing trumpet in many of the musical scenes himself. My favorite scene in the film is that of Davis working on a recording session with legendary jazz pianist, composer Gil Evans (Jeffrey Grover): it captures Davis's creative process in a natural, intimate setting among other musicians. It's so lived in, it feels like you are watching a documentary.

The fiction part of Miles Ahead, however entertaining it is, is a pulp. It doesn't resemble the incredible smoothness and sophistication of Kind of Blue. But in the spirit of jazz improvisation, Cheadle has the right attitude- the film is bustling with energy and crackling with wry humor. I remember Davis's appearance in a Miami Vice episode, playing a pimp in a flamboyant red garb. He really didn't give a fuck what anyone thought. Miles Ahead is definitely something Davis would have enjoyed watching, since he was never a classicist anyway.

Don Cheadle and Emayatzy Corinealdi on making MILES AHEAD

 photo 7f74a82f-ae74-49bb-89c5-f066f7c4a9d2_zpszxewhsv9.jpg
Got a chance to attend a roundtable interview with the star, director and co-writer Don Cheadle and his co-star Emayatzy Corinealdi for his unconventional Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead which opens this weekend in New York and LA. Clearly a passion project for Cheadle, he talks in-dept about how he became involved in the project that's been brewing for such a long time. He and Corinealdi also talk about trials and tribulations of low-budget independent filmmaking and channeling the real life subjects.

Q: How did you get in to that raspy Miles Davis voice?

Don Cheadle: It’s just listening and trying to find where it’s centered and…just working on it. It feels like a second skin, I guess in a way. And staying in it, you know. It was something that many days I had to stay in to keep it there. It was tricky because when you were directing from across the room. (laughs) So there was a lot of getting up and crossing the room to talk to people.

Did it ruin your voice though?

DC: No I don’t think so. Tried to support it and do it the right way so you are not just tearing your throat out.

The thing I like the best about the film was the energy and I really felt like your filmmaking technique was mirroring Davis’s iconoclastic, restless approach to music.

DC: That’s what the intent was of course. To create something that felt like Miles as opposed to doing a document that is kind of didactic - this is when he met Charlie Parker, then he met John Coltrane…you know, there are books that cover his life like that, there’s documentary, there’s radio play, there’s articles, there’s a lot of places that you can check off all the achievements and get cliff notes of his life. I wanted to do something that felt impressionistic and expansive and creative and dynamic and… Frances can be doing a pirouette toward Miles in the past and Dave Brill can finish her fall in the present, Miles looses Frances in a sort of a spin and then and it wakes Dave out of a dream. I wanted you to feel like you are walking around Miles Davis’s brain.

I love the transitions. They were so brilliant.

I thought this project was something you were born with that you had to tell Miles Davis story. But it was his nephew and son who said “we want Don Cheadle to play Miles Davis”. And you weren’t aware of this fact.

DC: I was looking to do anything but another movie about a historical figure. At that point I had done the Rat Pack and Rebound and Hotel Rwanda, Talk to Me… I kind of felt like I’ve done that and was getting sent a lot of those, “The First Black Man to X,”(everyone laughs) I mean I don’t really want to do The First Black Man to X, I mean they are great and if they are done right that’s fine but I wasn’t looking to do that. I wanted something modern and of the time, not unlike Miles.

But it had been swirling around a lot from different places. Like when I did the Rat Pack, I had to play drums in it so I bought a drum kit. I knew how to play but I didn’t know how to set it up. So I called my friend and he said I find somebody to set you up. So he shows up at the house with Tootie Heath (legendary jazz drummer). He said hey I’m Tootie Heath. I was like, I know who you are. And he sets up my drum set, tuning up toms and everything and he goes, hey did you ever think about doing a Miles Davis movie? I was like, no I never thought about it. So it was coming in from a lot of different places for years. Every eight or nine months someone would say Miles Davis. And I felt like that he was coming, to me.

And when this announcement was made, I went, well this was supposed to happen. I met with the family and they pitched, kind of conventional biography story. I said, "You gotta do something that feels like your uncle and your dad. It should be wild and inventive, unexpected and startling and weird and crazy and… I want to a gangsta movie with Miles Davis. I wanna do a heist movie with Miles Davis. I wanna do a movie that Miles Davis would want to star in. Don Cheadle is Miles Davis as Miles Davis in… that’s what I wanna do." And they said oh that sounds great. and I said, "OK, when you get something like that, call me."

And it became pretty apparent pretty quickly, in fact on my way home, the phone rang, they were calling me as I was about to call them, “ I don’t think anybody’s gonna come and pitch that. I think I have to do that." and they said, "Yeah that’s what we were going to say. you have to do it."

So they were pleased obviously.

DC: Yeah, I’m not going to say it was all a glide path to the promised land. There were some come to jesus moment - they were like, "You gotta talk to Cheryl and Erin," So we meet in the trailer. And I just let them talk, to each other. At the end of the day, I said, "I want you to be pleased. You are the first audiences and I wanted to make sure you guys are happy with this. If you guys in any way this is not honoring his legacy or shining a light on him that is unfavorable that you guy don’t want to carry forward you have to let me know." But I said, "Do you think he wouldn’t wanna do something in other movies in this kind of uncomfortable area that we’ve seen before that he’s gone on record to say that he did not like. Or do you think he would't wanna do something that feels that it wasn’t done before, especially with artist like Miles Davis?" And they always come down to say, yeah the latter.

And he wasn’t shy about things he’s done in his life. People might look at him and go wow you gonna show that? He was the first one to talk about these things. So if we tried to somehow whitewash or be coy with and skirt around those things in his life, then we would be blasted for that too. so I said I think we gotta tell that and let people see it all.

Also I wanted to bring miles back. I didn’t want to tell a story that is set in 1968 and I am locked in to this music or '54 and I gotta use this music. I wanted to bring all his music - I wanted to use hiphop, rock, funk, R&B, I wanna use everything he messed with.

How did you create his apartment? It looks so authentic and lived in.

DC: We shot it in Cincinnati. We did a lot of location hunting and we found a church in the process of converting into something else. We asked while they are in the process of converting it, whether we can used it as a set. We shot a very complicated sequence which took 2-3 days and we had to turn that place around quickly. That place had four different looks. We shot with this circular track and took a lot of scheduling to figure out. You still get to see different iterations of that place.

So it is a church—

DC: It is actually a four story church. There is upstairs and there is a main area and there is that basement that I walk down into the recording studio. Yeah that place actually exists in Cincinnati.

Emayatsy, I know you’ve spoken to Frances (Taylor) before. What were the some of the things she tell you about Miles Davis?

Emayatsy Corinealdi: She had so many stories that we was really excited about sharing. I was so glad that Don set that up early on because we really got to sit down with her and talk good three four lunches. She is as excited about having this movie out and telling his story as everyone else.

So she would just tell me little stories, little treasures that I think she had of him and she speaks of him very fondly despite all the trials and tribulations they went through. It seems to me that she has come to a place of forgiveness. they were friends, after all of that happened. They just couldn’t be together. But she was very excited about sharing all of the good times she had with him when they were together. She really and truly loved him and really wanted his story to be out.

Has she seen it yet?

EC: Yeah.

What did she think of your portrayal of her?

That is why it was so nerve-wracking. Again, Don having done playing historical figures before and me doing it for the first time… I didn’t know that she was in the theater when it played at the New York Film Festival. It wasn’t until there was a scene where it’s my face in the album cover (Someday My Prince Will Come Along) that is supposedly hers. And she shouts out from behind me, “Yep there she is.” I was like why didn’t anyone tell me that she was here? So the whole rest of the movie I am kind of watching and kind of listening to her reactions.

DC: That’s the worst.

EC: The worst! No one told me she was seating right there!

DC: Because I was freaked out too!

EC: So afterwords we had a party and she sits down and she comes to me and says, “I just loved that you really showed me with such strength and integrity." And that was just it. That’s all I needed to hear. So I would say that she was pleased with it.

I think that’s the fabulous thing that Don did have the cooperation of the family. There might have been disagreements and everything but the fact that you can sit down in the trailer and have a discussion, that doesn’t always happen. I think that’s been a wonderful part of getting this done.

What was the most difficult part of portraying Frances?

EC: All of it was really difficult for me. The point of entry that I was very intrigued about was her saying yes to the question of giving everything up for him. That scene for me was… when that happens in the bathtub really left me speechless - you don’t really know what to say or how to respond. And I think that was kind of the hardest part for me just because of the nature of what you are being asked to do. And because of the career she was already building for herself up to that point.

That was what was so interesting to me. She was one of the original members of the West Side Story and worked with Sammy Davis Jr. and all of that. So she had this career that was burgeoning. but again that time period, that’s what a lot of women did. It’s also not as common to women to have a career like she was beginning to build. So that might have been the hardest part for me.

And then, I was telling Don the other day in an interview that it was hard for me to see the movie where he is talking on the phone with me and he has all these women around him in bed. It shocked me watching it, “My god that’s what you are doing!?” I know it was in the script but it really gave me a different reaction when I saw it on screen. So all of that was very difficult.

Was that scene where you are physically fighting and it gets really violent. Was it difficult to shoot?

DC: Well, Emayatsi was upset with me that day because I wouldn’t let her go through the table with me. (everyone laughs).

EC: I could’ve done that!

DC: She was like, "I want to go through the table!" No no you can’t do that. If I go through the table and get hurt that’s one thing but you go through the table and you get hurt then that I can’t live with. So, stunt actress is gonna go through the table.

EC: And I was standing on the side watching her like, (giving us snake eyes)

DC: Oh man, she was really upset. But the way that scene happens in the movie editorially actually was kind of happy accident. We were playing the scene back and there were different tracks - one is dialog and one is music and one is effects and so on. And when I come upstairs and we had started our argument that turns into the fight and for some reason audio track was down for the dialog and the music was just up and I had this visceral reaction where it felt to me like putting your hands over your ears - I didn’t want to hear the fight and I knew what the fight was about, we know what the fight is- it's like we don’t need to hear the specific words of the fight and this beautiful music is playing juxtaposed against the violence that’s happening upstairs and they are tearing their relationship apart and yo uknpw what’s being said that you don’t have to hear the words to understand it. That was an accident.

Wow.

DC: And my editor starts to turn up t he sound and I said don’t turn the dialog up and lets just sit here and listen to this music as they are having this fight and tearing their relationship apart and just feel it. and we stop the scene afterwords and my editor and I just looked at each other and went, what the fuck just happened? Wow that was intense. And I’m like, "That stays. do it like that!"

You do play trumpet in the movie. Tell us about that process.

DC: Just like anything you know. You pick it up and I had a couple of good instructors. Fernando Pullum who is actually in the film in the recording session - the columbia session. But it was mostly me spending hours with that unrelenting, mean instrument, playing every day. It was important to me that I was out there trying to reach Miles and pulling Miles toward me and we met somewhere in the middle out there. and playing trumpet was an important part of it.

I have a personal pet peeve when I see actors in movies and they are playing musicians and its clear that they don’t have any real relationship with that instrument that they are playing. You are just over the back of the piano and see someone’s hands, So I wanted to play I really wanted to find that. You know I travel with my horn every day now.

I was gonna ask you. so you kept it up.

DC: Yeah I’ve been keeping it up. I actually like it and miss it when I don’t play.

So is there an album that's in the works?

DC: No no no no. But I play on the sound track a little bit.

What was that scene at the end. How did you bring everyone together? I bet it was an easy ask, like Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding…

DC: It was an easy ask? It was not an easy ask! If we didn’t have bonding in the film we wouldn’t have gotten that scene. We didn’t budget it, we didn’t know where we were gonna shoot it, we didn’t have a schedule for it. It was something that we shot after we wrapped. In Cincinnati, we were carrying the scene and my producer and I were like, "We have to shoot this." "I know. How are we gonna do this?" "We don’t know." so we had to keep figuring this out and robbing peter to pay paul and figuring out and calling favors and ultimately they all just wanted to do it for the love of the game. You know they were like if you put us up and get us there and feed us, we’ll do it.

So you shot that in Cincinnati.

DC: No it was shot here, at BAM later.

Who were the people involved for the last scene?

DC: Esperanza Spaulding, Gary Clark Jr., Antonio Sanchez, Herbie (Hancock), Wayne (shorter), Robert Glasper, Keyon Harrold. Keyon actually did a lot of overdub for trumpet playing when we were using Miles’s music I am actually playing but we are not using my sound. We are using Miles when it’s Miles but Keyon also does music for Junior (LaKeith Stanfield in the movie).

But he was doing magic because in regular ADR, you are looping to what you already said. There is a guide track and you are covering your guide track when you are doing it verbally. You watch it on the big screen and you time it and in three beeps you synch it with your lips. Keyon and Rob and all of the band had to come in after and play over what we had done improvasationally. So especially Rob, with playing with his hands and approximate what that was on the screen, and for Keyon, there’s only three valves in the trumpet. And so he had to look at pictures…

That's crazy.

DC: It’s insane and impossible. But it was possible because he is a musician. They are all musicians and they were able to do that.

Did you enjoy working in the costumes? You have these amazing period costumes. I mean Michael Stuhlbarg has a lot of those in the movie.

DC: It’s all Gersha Phillips, our costume designer. But Frances's costumes broke the budget. That’s a tricky thing when you are doing a movie at this budget level. You have a lot of extras. In the boxing scene, there’s at least 200 extras and their costume has to be right on each one of them. So you have to be very strategic where you spend money and how you spend it. The favors you are pulling, the costume houses Gersha’s calling up and grabbing things and army of people across the country and leaning on her outre relationship to go to thrift stores and pull things. Just being very creative was how she put all the stuff together.

But there were couple of things she had to build though. (to Corineadi) Like your wedding dress, my suit the first suit you see me in and I think the first dress you are in. She had to make those.

EC: Yeah she did.

DC: There were time she’d come in and say, the suits are 1200 dollars and I had to spend it. You can’t be Miles and go out there half-assed. So we gonna break the bank on this one. But you don’t get to do this over here instead. and that’s what you do when you do a low budget movie. Pamela Hirsch, one of our producers, was playing wackamole figuring out how to save and how to spend.

Ultimately, you wanna spend all your contingency money, you don’t want anything left in the bank when you are done. No reason to wrap and go, wow we saved 5 grand. But why the fuck you save five grand? Should’ve put that in there. We were actually very effective.

But I mean Miles Davis is jazz. Why wouldn’t anyone give money to do this movie?

DC: I think Miles would’ve gone off on you when you say that or he would’ve just walked out. (laughs)

When we were planning this, we would do a survey in the room: Miles Davis. Who is he? And you go… a musician? OK. You got that right. Black? you got that right. What music? Some people go, I’m not sure. So we lose people there. Jazz? OK. What did he play? What instrument? Eh…, we lose about 30 percent there. A trumpet. Ah ok. He is the guy who blew cheeks out really big? No.

This is the thing. We all kind of investigated and wanna know all about that stuff but it’s still not bigger percentage of general population knows about Miles Davis - who he was, what he did and what he played, what his music is. A lot of people think that jazz is something you put on in the background of a cocktail party or something that goes in the elevator. They don't really think about it as an American history. So it wasn’t surprising to me that this movie was difficult to get made. They attempted to do this decades ago. They predate me for about twenty years. They tried to do it for a long time.

What’s Wynton Marsalis’s contribution to this film

DC: He’s an old friend. He gave me my trumpet. I called him up and asked him what kind of trumpet I’d need when I started to learn the trumpet. I said, "I’m gonna work on this can you point me the right direction?" He said, "I’m gonna get you a trumpet. You can’t buy a trumpet. But don’t worry about it. I can get you the axe." So he called the trumpet maker, asked him, "I know it takes a year to make one but Don needs one right now." And he gave me the shop horn which was a sort of a demo horn. But everyone had played on it. Arturo Sandoval had played on it. Everyone had played on it. I almost didn’t want to touch it at first. I mean this is better than a brand new horn.

Did you ever get a chance to meet Miles?

DC: I just did a radio thing with Marcus Miller the other day and talked about this. I saw him in 1982 in Red Rock Colorado amphitheater. It was the actually the tour right after he came out of this silent period. The We Want Miles tour. It was with rock musicians, Mike Stern and Marcus Miller and I think Harvey Mason I saw that day and Mino (Cinelu)… this African percussionist. It was just crazy mix of all these different artists from all these different disciplines and they went out that night. They really played. That’s what they would do. Miles paid them to rehearse in front of people and to figure it out in front of people which to me is the highest respect that you can give. It’s like, “We are gonna show you the process, not just give you the thing that tied a neat bow and hand it to you. We gonna show you how we get to this place.

But I was with some of my school friends there not to see Miles. I was there for Miles but they listen to a song or two and they were like, we should go. We stayed for Spyro Gyra and we gonna leave? No offense to Spyro Gyra but it’s Miles Davis. So that was my last High School concert before college.

Emayatsi, there’s a lot of talk about #blackgirlmagic. What about Frances was the embodiment of that?

EC: Frances even now has this light about her, this energy, zest for life that I found very attractive from the first time I met her. As soon as you meet her you feel that she has this energy.

DC: She sure does.

EC: She really does! She does. I definitely think that she possesses that. She has this very positive outlook and was very warm to me. To me for her to just be of age that she is and still just wonderfully independent and her mind is very sharp and I think that’s beautiful.

The official Miles Davis bio section contains the line: Miles forever forged ahead, trusting and following instinct until the end. Did you find your instinct ever crossing path with Miles’s?

DC: I think Miles’ instinct was to always to follow your instinct. That’s why John Coltrane got his solo for twenty minutes sometimes because, there were other band members going, why do you let this dude play twenty minutes? and he’d say, because he is trying to find something. He is hunting for something and I’m gonna give him the space to figure it out.

Herbie said one of the first time he played with Miles. He’d go out on stage and Miles starts playing and Herbie’s like 19, 20 years old and was like, "I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to play," and he’d go, “Piano motherfucker!” He was like, I hired you because you can play. You are the man. Do it. You wouldn't be sitting here if you weren’t good. I want you to follow your instinct cause then I can follow you. I don’t want do dictate here what has to happen.

I mean Tony Williams, when he was leading the band, leading rehearsals, dictating how things would go, he was seventeen years old. Miles let seventeen year old drummer lead his band, basically. He was saying, "I’ll follow you." I mean who does that? Miles dictum was always, you follow your own instinct.

Even his Erin (his son) at the press conference at the SXSW, when they were asking him about how the movie was made and if he thinks his dad would be proud, he goes, "I watched the movie and I don’t feel like I was watching Miles Davis, I know that’s Don. That’s not my father." But he knows that Miles doesn’t want him to be me. He wants to be himself being me. "Do your version of me." And that’s how I saw the place where my imagination of him and he intersect and not do something that is pure mimicry, you know. We go to Vegas and find a cat who can probably do Miles Davis spot on perfectly. I was trying to find out what’s going on underneath there.

Small minor details I noticed: there is a scene where Bewitched is playing in the TV in the background. Why Bewitched?

DC: Well, there is a reality that things you can afford. (everyone laughs) Something that is licence-able in our price range. In fact, that clip is amazing.

I thought there was a meaning to it.

DC: And there was. In a clip, Endura is saying something about, I think she is talking about Darrin in the clip. She’s talking about him being in this state of confusion. It is commenting on what’s happening with Miles at that moment.


Was Ewan (McGregor) always in your mind to play the role of Brill? I kept thinking Velvet Goldmine.

DC: Ewan was always high on the list for me. He was definitely our first choice to play that role. That was in the script that we wrote in 2008, when we wrote that character in in the second reiteration of the reboot. But Ewan was someone we had hoped to get and we were very fortunate that he had read the script and jumped right in. There were some things people talked about the way things should be different. We need to change this and we need more of that. But when I finally sat down with him, he said, “Anything that you hear about I need to be different, that’s not me. I think the part’s great and I love it. I don’t think you should change any of it. I wanna do it just as it is. I can’t wait to be part of it.” And we were so lucky to have him. A great additive that made everything better. Him being onboard also got the ball rolling financially for us.

Not you?

DC: No. Look, there are realities of making movies at this budget level. Any movie is hard to make. Any independent movies is hard to put together and casting is a big component of it. And you have to have a foreign market sales strategy - you have to have something that appeals to foreign market not only to domestic market. And Ewan checked all those boxes for us. And he is a great actor. So it was a win-win.

Did you cast LaKeith yourself or he came to the casting?

DC: No I cast LaKeith. I mean I cast both Emayatzy and LaKeith. I mean I saw Emayatzy’s movie, Middle of Nowhere, also saw her audition and casted her. The first day we shot was the scene where she running out of the house screaming. That was her first day of shooting. Welcome to the set.

Lakeith, I cast him off tape. His audition was really interesting because it was just…he shot it himself in his house and he was reading the lines and some dude was reading off camera and it was an intense scene. He really was jumping off the screen even on the computer. I was like, who is this dude? And I met him and told him, " You have a very strong audition tape and who was the reader in your tape? I think he was great too. Can I put him in the movie too?" and he said, “That was me, too." What? And he said, "Oh I just recorded myself playing the other part with an iPhone and just played back." I was like, OK, this kid is good, "You wanna play Miles?" (laughs)

In the press notes it said you wrote the script to the musical cues. Can you talk about that process?

DC: I think many writers write with music in mind as they are creating the story. We were lucky to have Miles Davis’ library to rely on. Steven (Beigelman) and I wrote with a lot of specific music that’s in the movie in mind. And kind of imagined scenes to the soundtrack. His music is very cinematic and lends itself very well to soundtrack. We were lucky to get most of the music we wanted to get for the film. That sequence right after Bewitched where Miles is dragging Frances through the house looking for her imaginary lover and the fight scene in the present where he is trying to find the tapes, to try to get back his music, I just kinda wrote all of it in a blur to the So What in Miles’ Tokyo record. That I just regurgitated out in one sitting. I sent it to Steven and asked him and he said, "Yep, put that in." So sometimes it works like that to be inspired by a piece of music.

Do you wanna direct more?

DC: Not like this. I have been offered jobs to direct since this which is great. I’ll probably take it on after a long nap.

Are you thinking about crowdfunding for the new one too?

DC: I hope that won’t be necessary. I mean I am glad that we were able to do it and it's nice to have in a movie where main character is about social music and social media be part of it. To have it crowdfund and have that hashtag social media behind it. But I hope to be able to have a budget that it wouldn’t require me to call Pras and kevin Hart and put all my money and pay for myself and all the things we had to do to make it happen.

Now people know what you can do. so hopefully that will make a huge difference.

DC: We’ll see.

Miles Ahead opens in New York and Los Angeles on 4/1. National roll out will follow.

Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Stunning Allegory of Man's Fear

Evolution (2015) - Hadzihalilovic
 photo 87d33d59-d843-436e-9c9e-2d4b41345b8e_zpsu3ir4fl0.jpg
So more than 10 years after Innocence, Lucille Hadzihaliovic returns with a stunning companion piece, Evolution. Innocence, an allegorical tale of reaching puberty and womanhood was a cinematic feast for the eyes. This time she turns her attention to young boys. Shot by Manuel Dacosse (Amer, Strange Color of Your Body's Tears) in anamorphic format, the result is equally impressive. If all-girl boarding school in the forest served as a conditioning girls to conform to traditional female roles, or worse, be a man's toy in Innocence, in Evolution, a remote, manless white village on the jagged coast of volcanic island and coarse black sand (shot in Lanzarote, Canary Islands) with a creepy medical lab serves as the backdrop for men's fear of penetration and pregnancy.

There are no grown up men nor young girls in this white walled village, literally a stones throw away from roaring sea. All the women are uniformly androgynous, wearing the same style beige clothes, including Nicolas's mom, who feeds him some kind of green worm mush and ink drops "to make him strong". One day, diving into the bottom of the sea floor, he finds a dead body with a bright red starfish on it. He mentions this to mom. She shrugs it off, telling him that he doesn't know what he actually saw. He notices that mom sometimes goes out at night to the shore along with all other young moms in the village. He secretly follows her one night and witnesses a ritualistic orgy of women. They are all naked and putting some sort of slime all over their bodies.

Nicolas is soon taken to a decrepit medical building few steps away where they inject something in his belly. It is all perceived as a normal procedure, as his friends are all there, spending the night to recover. Nicolas senses that there is larger conspiracy and decides that mom is not his real mom. Soon he finds that his friends are disappearing in the lab and he finds bodies floating in a tank filled with green water. With the help of a kindly red haired young nurse, he plans to escape.

Anamorphic cinematography is out of this world. Underwater photography is rapturous. Its intentionally underexposed look gives the film ominous feeling whole throughout. Don't miss seeing it on the big screen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An Affecting Ghost Story Set in Death Valley

Valley of Love (2015) - Nicloux
 photo a64beffc-ae44-4e48-bfbe-02a37bfac3f7_zpswtf9p7tx.jpg
It strikes me as peculiar that Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert, two of the French cinema's titans, each appeared in hundreds of films (Depardieu 217 films, Huppert 126 to date according to imdb), had previously worked together in just 2 films - Bertrand Blier's Les Valseuse (1974) where young Huppert had a supporting role and Maurice Pialat's great Loulou (1980). But some 36 years later, they are together again in Guillaume Nicloux (Kidnapping of Michel Huellebecq, The Nun)'s Valley of Love, a film that takes place in Death Valley, playing themselves, well, sort of. Deeply anchored in these two veteran actors' chemistry, the film is much more than a coy, reflexive exercise in celeb-dom but a deeply affecting drama about grief and a physical manifestation of guilt.

Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) and Gérard (Gérard Depardieu), French actors who were a couple 30 years ago but divorced and now each with own family, are summoned by their dead son who sent each a letter just before his suicide, to be in Death Valley for a week and be at specific places at specific times because he will reappear in front of them. It's November, but the sun is blazing and temperature reaches almost 140 degrees day and night.

Isabelle gets there first, spending most of her time in the hotel pool or in the shade while fighting bad cell phone receptions. This is Isabelle Huppert we know, at least physically - a petite redhead with more pronounced freckles on her pale skin because of unforgiving desert sun.

Then comes Gérard, a beast of a man, who is sweating profusely and wheezing with his each step. He is grown more beastly now- simply gigantic, following the footsteps of other greats who let themselves go- Welles and Brando. "Are you happy?" she asks, "How could I be, being like this?" he retorts. But never a prude, he lets his girth out in the open most of the screen time.

There are some funny bits about them being famous French actors being in America. A man recognizes Gérard at a poolside, but doesn't remember any of the titles that he saw him in. He asks for an autograph and Gérard signs it Bob DeNiro. Later they were asked which one is more popular in France.

Isabelle is the one who feels more guilty about being a bad parent. She sent away their son to a prep school when he was young and never really connected with him. Gérard saw him from time to time but not much better. Their son was living in Mission District of San Fran and had a boyfriend. He had visited Death Valley before. That much we know. Did he have AIDS? The grieving mother can only speculate. In his letters, he adamantly asks both to ask each other to come because they wouldn't come alone. Out of duty (Gérard) and guilt (Isabelle), they did. He says that he is leaving early to make an important appointment before the end of promised week. Besides, he thinks the whole thing was their son's last attempt to have them get back together And it's working somehow.

As the days pass by, strange things start to happen. In a gripping sequence, we follow Gérard in his night time stroll. He looks up on Isabelle's hotel window (it's a bungalow style two story hotel) full of yearning and sees the lights inside go off. Then he hears her scream, and the camera tracks behind him as he slowly, clumsily makes his way to her room. No intruders are found but she claims that someone was in her bed and grabbed her ankles. He tries to convince her that she had a bad dream, but someone's left a physical mark on her ankles. Later in a Lynchian sequence, Gérard encounters a girl with a deformed face at an empty tennis court at night. She says she was waiting there for him, to die.

What's great about Valley of Love is two veteran actors' effortless rapport. With their complete ease with each other, you could totally believe that they were once a couple and have known each other forever. Huppert, prolific as ever, is no surprise here and gives a beautifully fine tuned, vulnerable performance as a grieving mother. Depardieu, whose real life antics drew more spotlight than his acting outputs in the last decade or so (though I haven't seen Inspector Bellamy or Welcome to New York), proves here why he is still one of the greats. Despite the physical discomforts, he gives a very understated, introspective, tender performance. The best scenes are perhaps them reading each other's letter from their son that are addressed to them. The long letters tell missed opportunities, regrets and love.

Death Valley, the place full of mysticism and spirituality, makes a great backdrop for a ghost story. Nicloux uses its physicality in cinemascope to highlight what's invisible, intangible - grief, regrets, love. Valley of Love is a quietly affecting film with beautifully nuanced performances by two of the greats.

Valley of Love played as part of this years Rendez-vous with French Cinema. It opens theatrically on 3/25 at FSLC. Please visit their website for details.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Adolescent in Spirit: Arnaud Desplechin Interview

 photo 9cc81f2d-a615-4734-80b2-eb5f7668eac4_zpsaszytukv.jpg
Arnaud Desplechin's magnificent new film, My Golden Days, opens theatrically today at FSLC in New York. It was preceded by a week long 8-film retrospective. I was lucky enough to snag an interview on the eve of the film's theatrical release with Desplechin who's known for his slightly amplified, messy, life-like stories.

Our conversation topic went from his new film, to his muse Mathieu Amalric, to other directors work he admire. It was a great experience talking to another cinephile who also happens to be a director of my favorite film of the year so far.

First of all, congratulations for winning the Best Director award at this year’s Cesár.

Arnaud Desplechin: Oh yes. I was happy. I was very happy with that.

I watched MY GOLDEN DAYS the other day and I have to tell you. It’s one of my favorite movies this year so far. It’s really fantastic.

Thank you so much.

So we saw Paul (Dedalus) and Esther characters some twenty years ago in your film, MY SEX LIFE (OR HOW I GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT). What’s the reason behind bringing them back again after all these years?

Actually I didn’t start with the idea of writing a prequel or whatever of Paul and Esther. I started with this couple with different names. In My Sex Life, the guy was already a Parisian and the girl was from the countryside you know. Then I realized that in My Goden Days, there are four characters who have to fit together and again I thought of My Sex Life. I talked with Mathieu (Amalric), “Twenty years ago, you and I regarded Paul as a sort of a hero, so if My Golden Days is going to be a prequel of some sort, you might have to go back and resume playing that character” and Mathieu said, “ No, I wouldn't be able to make the film.”

Because things have changed since then. Mathieu is a big movie star now and he wouldn’t be able to go back and play the same character the way he did. You know back then, he wasn’t an actor. He was a technician. He didn’t plan to be an actor. So in order to go back to the character, he had to find new ways to portray - the idiosyncrasies Paul had, the difficult relationships he had with his mother, how her death made deep impact on him dealing with women. You know the fact Paul was much more cautious and shy than Esther who seems solid as a rock. I thought it would be interesting to see the birth of their love.

MY GOLDEN DAYS can’t be an autobiography since the characters are about ten years younger than you. So is it loosely autobiographical or is it pure fiction?

I can see it as both. On one hand I am older than the characters, more than ten years. But I liked the idea of making a period piece. I wanted to set it during the fall of the Berlin walls, 1989. There was still the feeling of Cold War time and how we thought of Russia and all of that ended up there.

You know I’ve been a cinephile since I was ten. We cinephiles lead a very boring life. I don’t share the expanses of experience that Paul had. He is much more adventurous throughout his whole life. On the other hand, I tried to give a sense of autobiography. I like to share the feeling the characters are experiencing.

It’s funny because I could phrase it that way - I am asking actors on set not to just give me their acting craft. I’m sure their craft is wonderful and I expect that because I respect the art of acting. But I am asking them to give me the feeling of intimacy, something… the feelings that come out when they are speaking as themselves. So I’m just trying to be a good actor amongst good actors. I am trying to give you the feeling that the film is autobiographical.

I have to comment amazing performances by newcomers Quentin Dolmaire as Paul and Lou Roy-Lecollinet as Esther. I had a chance to interview Mathieu Amalric for BLUE ROOM last year. He says he owes everything to you. What is your method for actors that they say such things about your directing?

I would say Mathieu is too generous. I owe him a lot. There is a scene in My Golden Days where Paul writes a very long letter to his friend saying that he hopes he was good for Esther. I loved the words that was written and my friend (Julie Peyr of Parisienne) was helping me on the script and she was asking me how I would film that scene. Mathieu would come and we would find out the solution! I wouldn’t dare to write such long lines but he would come and help me. I owe him so much.

I don’t know about my method. But I know one thing and I am quite proud of it. I talked with Quentin before the shoot. I never behave like a teacher. When I did My Sex Life with Mathieu, we just had dialog, just simple ordinary dialog.

The only trick, if you can call it that, I have is even though I am a terrible actor, but I tried to act in front of them. So if we don’t find a solution, I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself by acting in front of them, rightly or wrongly. They see you are ridiculous. It encourages them to be ridiculous as well.

I loved where grown up Paul going off on his old friend and his wife at the end. It was such an impolite thing to do as a grownup to a friend you haven’t seen for twenty years. And that’s why I loved it. I loved Paul at that moment, his imperfections, his passion, his resolute behavior that he’s never going to forgive his friend as long as he lives.

Without Mathieu that scene wouldn’t have been possible. Absolutely not. Being serious and being humorous at the same time. It’s serious and funny at the same time. During the scene there was a wonderful moment I realized because when Paul was 19, he was behaving like he was 55. He was too reasonable, cautious, wise… and when he finally became an old man, he behaves like he is an adolescent! That’s what I love about the scene. Paul is a fool, full of rage and anger.

Do you share the same sentiment if you were in the same predicament?

(laughs) What I share with Paul is the idea to save certain things from the past- not forget it but save it. Obviously there is a price to pay if you save the past. You have to move to another chapter of your life somehow. But you also should be faithful to your younger self.

I couldn’t shake off the film’s melancholic mood. You can totally feel Paul’s heart being broken as he drifted apart from Esther. The differences in this film from something like Fellini’s 8 1/2 is that it’s so truthful to life that we never grow up and we still act like children sometimes. That life is not really a fantasy.

But now you’ve grown older and you made about 9 to 10 films, do you consider this film as your 8 1/2?


What is it?

The Fellini film?

Oh Huit et demi. Funny you mention that film. I just finished writing a script and I was so happy and full of excitement. I was discovering new writing process and et cetera, and for the first time in my life that my main character is a film director!

That’s so funny!

It's always difficult to do because with that kind of character, it could be obnoxious. I think I found a way. Mathieu told me one day that the best European actor we ever had was Marcello Mastroianni. An actor who was not afraid of being ridiculous and so beautiful at the same time. I think Mathieu has learned something from Mastroianni for sure.

He is your Mastroianni.

Oh yeah. He is not Jean-Pierre Leaud. He is definitely Mastroianni.

Speaking of Jean-Pierre and Truffaut, back in 2005 when you came to Brooklyn, you showed double bill of MISSISSIPPI MERMAID and THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS instead of your movies when asked about your retrospective. Your cinephilia is well known. This year you are here for your real retrospective. What would you have shown in place of your films if you had a chance?

Funny you ask me that question. I was supposed to present a double feature at Metrograph but because of my schedule, I had to cancel it. I was going to show Frances Ha by Noah Baumbach which I adore and The Earrings of Madame de… by Ophüls. Both heroines with no full names.

That would’ve been really excellent!

You showed your admiration for Wes Anderson and Tarantino. Who are some of your favorite contemporary directors nowadays?


Right now a lot of them for sure. One of the best directors alive is Jia Zhangke, of course. I didn’t get a chance to see his new film (Mountains May Depart) but I am seeing it tomorrow. I really have a high hopes for it because I heard about it a lot and I just couldn’t see it because of my schedule.

It's fantastic!

I am also very interested in seeing the new Scorsese series Vinyl. I heard a lot of good things about that and I can’t wait to see it.

I’m really happy that you have a very strong, mature generation of filmmakers working here in America. You've always had Hollywood but today you have Tarantino - I loved Hateful Eight, Paul Thomas Anderson, who is so fascinating, and you have Noah Baumbach, whose films I love. You have a very solid generation of directors, Wes Anderson being one of them.

That’s a great affirmation of American cinema from a reputable cinephile as yourself. One film I really loved last year was EDEN by Mia Hansen-love.

She has a new one out: L’avenir. The one that was in Berlin?

The one with Isabelle Huppert?

Yeah the one with Huppert. I haven’t seen it yet.

Me neither but I am dying to. I really loved EDEN. When I was watching MY GOLDEN DAYS--

Eden is a great film. A great film.

I can see the correlation with your film and EDEN.

I love that you mention her because she is the most important talent today. She stands alone in a way in France. She is so peculiar and singular…I was not lucky enough to catch her art in previous films before but after I watched Eden…oh I love that movie! Now I know I am a fan.

What’s the name of your new script?

Ismael and the Ghosts.

And it’s going to be Mathieu who’s going to be playing the director?

Oh I don’t know. I don’t write scripts with particular actors in mind anymore. I try not to do new projects with actors I already worked with. But I love him so perhaps he will be in it.

It’s been really honor to talk to you. As a fellow cinephile, you are an inspiration to me with your enthusiasm and your filmmaking. I loved JIMMY P and hope you make another film in the States. It will be fascinating.

Thank you. It will happen one way or another.