Jose here. In the ancient Albanian tradition of “burrnesha”, a woman takes a vow of chastity in exchange for having all the freedom of a man. Once she swears eternal virginity in front of a group of elders - all men of course - she is allowed to live in the community under a new male name that also brings benefits that will allow her to carry guns, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, work, play music and be in the company of other men. By the time we meet Mark (Alba Rohrwacher) in Sworn Virgin, he has pretty much forgotten who Hana, her former identity, was. Feeling incomplete, he decides to leave his isolated village to visit his sister (Flonja Kodheli) in Italy, where he discovers he is living within a prison of his own making.
Sworn Virgin is director Laura Bispuri’s debut film, but one wouldn’t guess that from the boldness with which she tells her story and especially because of the performances she gets from her actors. Rohrwacher, who is on a roll, having premiered Virgin at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 after winning the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for Hungry Hearts, a few months before, gives her finest performance to date. I had the opportunity to talk to her about her recent films (both Virgin and Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales open this week in New York), working with Bispuri and some of her favorite actresses.
Read our conversation after the jump.
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Interview: 'The First Monday in May' Director Andrew Rossi, on the Met Gala, Anna Wintour and Why Fashion is Like Performance Art
Jose here. The very first time I went behind the scenes at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, there was an image that immediately caught my attention. A big, bright yellow sign commanding walkers to yield to the works of art in transit. It didn’t only make me wonder how many pieces by Da Vinci, Rodin, Renoir, Van Gogh, Warhol, Kahlo and many other established legends had travelled through the corridors I was walking in, it also made me wonder how many Alexander McQueen and John Galliano gowns had followed them. If the idea of fashion as art remains to some a topic of debate, it has never been so at the Met where it plays an essential part in raising awareness of the Museum’s outreach through the Costume Institute.
A photo posted by Jose Solis (@josesolismayen) on Jan 19, 2016 at 8:20am PST
For decades, the Costume Institute has been holding a Gala to raise funds to preserve and expand its collection of over 30 thousand costumes and accessories that range from centuries old furs, to iconic dresses worn by Jackie O. The Gala is at the center of Andrew Rossi’s documentary The First Monday in May which was chosen as the Opening Night selection at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Our conversation with Rossi after the jump...
April is Actor Month at TFE. Here's Jose in conversation with one of our best.
In person, Chris Cooper exudes the same suave charm he has onscreen, when we sit down to discuss his work in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition and I refer to him as “Mr. Cooper” he shakes his head and says “call me Chris”. From his oddly approachable John Laroche in Adaptation, to his tough but sensitive Tom Smith in Seabiscuit, Cooper has perfected the art of creating “the memorable everyman”. In Demolition he plays Phil, a man who must cope with the death of his daughter in an accident, and has to learn how to forgive his son-in-law Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) for having survived. Most of Cooper’s scenes involve harsh encounters with Gyllenhaal’s character, who has lost all sense of societal propriety rather than paying tribute to the legacy of his wife.
When I speak to Vallée about the qualities his cast brought to the film, he explained “I observe and try not to interfere with the actors, they use all the space around them, they put stamina and spirit into it”, you can see this in the way with which Cooper in particular moves as if he’s completely unaware that his character exists at the service of a story. He couldn’t seem more comfortable in this fictitious man’s skin if he tried. I spoke to Chris about his process, how he uses external elements to discover the men he plays, and to celebrate Actor’s Month we ended up discussing his favorite thespians.
Our conversation follows...
Jose here. At one point during our conversation, Arnaud Desplechin says to me “sorry if my answer is long, when what I want to say is so simple”, in a way this could very well describe what’s so wonderful about his films, which surround simple messages with layers of rich characters and dialogues. Take for instance My Golden Days, in which he revisits the character of Paul Dédalus played in My Sex Life...Or How I Got Into an Argument by Mathieu Amalric, and is now played in flashbacks by Quentin Dolmaire. The film is all about the joy and terror of first love, but Desplechin sees it through a labyrinth of emotions and plotlines that involve everything from double identities, to wise college professors.
Propelled by the extraordinary performances of newcomers Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet who plays Esther (Emmanuelle Devos in the 1996 film), My Golden Days is Desplechin’s most romantic, melancholic work to date. The film was received warmly by critics in Europe, played in Cannes and the New York Film Festival in 2015, and is now opening in American theaters, it was also nominated for 11 César awards, giving Desplechin his very first win for Best Director.
JOSE: You won the César for Best Director for this film, did the award feel more special in any way because it was for this project?
ARNAUD DESPLECHIN: It sure was, I interpreted the win as being because this film explored territories I’d explored before, it was a collage of bits and pieces from my previous works. I guess it also had to do with the two young actors, they brought a sort of freshness to the film, the plot, lines and scenes are dark and they brought light to it. During the writing I went for tough situations: loneliness, despair, mourning, but who cares, because I knew we would find two young actors to enlighten it. I owe this César to them.
Read more after the jump.
Jose here. When Ryder (Logan Miller) and his parents Cindy (Robin Weigert) and Don (Richard Schiff) arrive in Nebraska for a family reunion, things spiral out of hand when the teenager is implicitly accused of molesting one of his younger cousins. Tensions rise, and family secrets come to the surface, and yet nothing in this plot description makes justice to the uniqueness of Take Me to the River. Matt Sobel’s debut feature combines the eerie mood of a horror film, with the droll work of the best Finnish masters, to create a dreamlike experience that creeps under your skin. I sat down with director Sobel, and stars Weigert and Miller to discuss the film’s mood, their approach to the enigmatic screenplay, and the reaction the film sparks in audiences.
JOSE: Take Me to the River feels like it’s always a second away from turning into a horror movie. How did you set up that mood with your cast and crew?
MATT SOBEL: Years before making the film I was describing what I wanted to do to a friend, who said it sounded like I wanted to do something “uncanny”. I said it was more than just strange, so my friend suggested I looked up the definition of the word in the dictionary, and he was exactly right, the very specific meaning of it is: something that is simultaneously familiar and welcoming, and off putting and unfamiliar. That dissonance creates a very strong feeling of discomfort in everyone, so I spoke to my DP about how to achieve this every step of the way.
For as many articles I've read and videos and movies I've seen, the realm of visual effects remain a mysterious and magical power... not unlike The Force in that galaxy far far away. Speaking recently with two members of The Force Awaken's visual team, I suddenly imagine my confusion is probably akin to how it would feel to act a scene out with Chewbacca; all the Star Wars regulars understand his throat noises but I would definitely need subtitles.
Nevertheless it was a good time sitting down with Roger Guyett, a four time Oscar nominee who does both visual effects supervision and second unit direction for J.J. Abrams -- he tells me this is somewhat normal since second unit work tends to fall in the visual effects arena -- and Pat Tubach, also a previous nominee (Star Trek Into Darkness) who attempts to explain what "plate supervision" is though my brain won't comply.
Herewith the parts of our interview that I did understand, I think, and Roger & Pat's game answers including what their loved one think of their work and seeing the movie for the first time.
NATHANIEL: You're both "visual effects supervisors," so how does the work get divvied up? Do you get specific scenes?
PAT TUBACH: Roger okays everything. We do break things up a little bit for ease given the sheer number of shots and number of people involved. I worked a lot on the opening scenes: the village raid, the TIE figher escape sequence with Finn and Poe. As well as the rathtar escaping and terrorizing the gang.
So you had Captain Phasma -- I assume she was the most difficult to pull off since her suit is so reflective and much of her environment isn't actually there!
Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia's great Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee took so long to arrive in theaters it may have well have arrived by rickety wooden boat after its grueling journey on the Amazon. But it's finally in theaters in select cities and just in time for the Oscars. Do NOT miss it.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the director Ciro Guerra about this cinematic triumph ... which I'm guessing was harder to make than The Revenant.
NATHANIEL: This is an extremely ambitious effort for a filmmaker as new as yourself. It's only your third film. How long have you been working on this?
CIRO GUERRA: I worked on it for about four years before we started shooting. I had done just two very personal films that were close to my experience, and my past, and my culture. So I wanted to go the opposite way, and take a journey into the unknown.
NATHANIEL: You did. It's hypnotically strange.
CIRO GUERRA: For us Colombians, the Amazon is the most unknown thing. It’s half of the country, but clearly we don’t know much about it. So, I had always been intrigued and fascinated and it had been a lifelong dream to do a film in the Amazon, and you know, these are the kind of films you can only do while you’re young. [More...]