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Entries in interview (161)

Wednesday
Apr062016

Interview: Chris Cooper on 'Demolition', Creating Characters, and His Favorite Actors

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...

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Friday
Mar182016

Interview: Arnaud Desplechin on 'My Golden Days' and Doppelgängers

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.

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Thursday
Mar172016

Interview: 'Take Me to the River' Director Matt Sobel and Stars Robin Weigert and Logan Miller

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.

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Monday
Feb222016

Interview: Visual FX Oscar Nominees on Lightsaber Duels and Collaborative Arts

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!

more after the jump...

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Sunday
Feb212016

Interview: Ciro Guerra on the Must-See Oscar Nominee "Embrace of the Serpent"

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...]

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Saturday
Feb202016

Interview: Joshua Oppenheimer and Adi on The Look of Silence

Amir here. I first fell in love with Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence in September 2014, at TIFF. It was the last, and best, film I watched at that festival, and it left an emotional mark that I lived with for days. I caught up with the film again when it was released for the public and my conviction that this was one of the best documentary features of all time was reaffirmed – in my book, one of 2015’s holy trinity of films. So, you can understand my excitement when I finally had the chance to speak with director Joshua Oppenheimer, and Adi, the subject of his film.

The Look of Silence, nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary, a companion piece to the director’s earlier film The Act of Killing (also nominated in its year), is about the victims of the Indonesian genocide, who live side by side with the men who perpetrated those crimes against their loved ones. In his graceful and compassionate study of these people and their haunted spaces, Oppenheimer finds the language to bring invisible pains to the screen and push the limits of documentary form.

We talk about the relationship between his two films, his experiences in Indonesia, influences on his filmmaking, where documentary cinema stands today, and Adi’s life after the film’s release.

AMIR SOLTANI: I know you’re probably tired of comparisons between your two latest films, but I feel like there’s nowhere else to start but The Act of Killing. There’s a theatrical element to the first film that The Look of Silence, despite being polished, stylized and even often staged, doesn’t have. It’s more formally understated. What initiated your formal approach to the second film?  

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: I think these two films are both rigorously about the present, or rather, the past’s role in the present. [More after the jump...]

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Friday
Feb192016

Interview: David Lang on "Simple Song No. 3" and Storytelling through Music

Lady Gaga may have understandably hogged the media's coverage of this year's Best Original Song category but she's not the only Grammy winning composer in the mix. Diane Warren (the main writer of "Til It Happens to You") and The Weeknd "Earned It" are also Grammy winners. So is David Lang, an eclectic composer best known for his classical work. He's nominated for "Simple Song No. 3" from Youth, the lynchpin song of the whole movie. Like Jane Fonda's movie star in the same film, his song is hyped consistently by the story and characters before we fatefully cross paths with it.

Lang hasn't worked in movies too often, though he did contribute to the incredibly memorable music in Requiem for a Dream (2000). After his elevating and Oscar nominated work on Youth, we're hoping he spends more time composing for our screens.

When David Lang sat down to talk to The Film Experience I warned him that I know next to nothing about music. The good humored composer joked, absurdly, that he barely knows anything either. Lang is one of very few Oscar nominees in the Academy's history to have won a Pulitzer Prize before their Oscar honors. (Here's our talk edited slightly for length and clarity.)

NATHANIEL:  Famously you wrote "Simple Song No. 3" before Sorrentino's screenplay was complete. How quickly did you write it? Did Sorrentino ask for several iterations?

DAVID LANG: I work pretty fast. The way this worked was I made a version of the song and I would get a singer to sing it and send the demo to Paolo. I basically sent him three versions of the song. I probably spent much more time having these philosophical conversations with him and reading the script and having dark neurotic nightmares about it than actually doing the work!

more...

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