The Thrill Without The Tropes: An Interview Of Screenwriter Isa Mazzei & Actor Madeline Brewer On The Occasion Of Cam's Premiere On Netflix

text by Summer Bowie

portraits by Remy Holwick

film stills courtesy of Divide/Conquer


For anyone who has painstakingly worked to build and curate their Instagram page, only to have it disabled unexpectedly, you know just how devastating the loss can be. For those whose accounts have been hacked, the consequences can be much worse. Thus is the case for Alice (played by Madeline Brewer), a young and ambitious camgirl on the rise, who is relentlessly creating new shows and characters to improve her ranking on freegirls.live, a fictional camming site, designed and created specifically for the film. When Alice’s account is hacked and hijacked by someone with an uncanny resemblance, she is forced to outwit her doppelgänger while watching her own identity, both online and irl, degrade rapidly. Aside from the psychic thrill that the narrative provides, this film offers a refreshing subversion to the standard tropes that come from the sexy, horror genre. From the ways that sex work is represented in the film, to the ways that the screenwriter, Isa Mazzei and director, Daniel Goldhaber challenge the standard director-authorship, this film provides a wealth of new templates to consider that are seemingly radical, yet unsurprisingly, quite logical. In Mazzei and Goldhaber’s Cam, the hyper-indulgent and semi-private world of camming is given life in a way that is instantly translatable by the genre. A surreal, thrill ride that seeps into your unconscious mind and humanizes the very real people that hitherto have been unjustly stigmatized by the film and media industry at large.

SUMMER BOWIE: Isa, you wrote a film that is in many ways inspired by your own experience as a camgirl, but you chose to write a fictional, horror narrative. What drew you to the genre for this project?

ISA MAZZEI: First, I love genre, so that makes sense (laughs). But also, I felt like it was really important for me to bring audiences inside Alice’s experiences...and I think that genre is a really great tool for sharing subversive ideas in a way that’s really commercial and digestible. So to have an audience empathize with a sex worker and have them rooting for her to return to sex work… while there’s also so much adrenaline, and so much color, and so much action, and you’re on the edge of your seat –– I feel like that was the most effective way that I knew how to really bring audiences into that.

BOWIE: It seems the more horrific the daily news cycle becomes, the more obsessed we as a society become with horror films. What do we find so cathartic about it, and do we ever really exorcise the demons?

MAZZEI: I feel like horror can be really cathartic – absolutely – and I also think horror can be a way to communicate important ideas while still feeling like escapism, and that’s what I think is so cool about it. I don’t think anyone watches Cam and walks out going “Wow, I just watched something really political, and I just watched something really subversive.” I think those things happen on a subconscious level. I think that in a literal sense, Cam is a really fun, exciting movie that brings you into this really colorful, thrilling world for ninety minutes...and the work that it does that I think is really important is kind of on a more subconscious level than that. I think all horror can be used that way, and I think a lot of genre films do that work, and I think that’s why I love them so much. Because again, they’re kind of this way where you feel like you’re escaping from the real world, you feel like you’re in the fantasy space that is very cathartic, full of adrenaline...but actually they can communicate some really important ideas.

 
 

BOWIE: And there’s something really nice about this film and it’s approach to the genre, because I feel like horror in particular has a very rich, misogynist history, and to approach it from this perspective where you’re telling the story of a woman that is not a damsel in distress being chased by a monster is a really nice way to approach the genre.

MAZZEI: Thank you.

MADELINE BREWER: I think that’s what I found so refreshing about watching and doing the film. I’m a big slasher fan, but every situation in a slasher movie is like a young woman...with her boobs hanging out unnecessarily being chased by a much larger man, and that whole visual is just so tired to me now that I have a movie like Cam in my life. There are other ways to tell stories about women in a horror genre without that thing where the ‘slut’ always dies first. This movie still gives you the thrill without any of the tropes.

BOWIE: Madeline, how did you get a hold of the script, and did you initially see yourself playing the role, because I know a lot of reps won’t even show actors a script like this?

BREWER: Yeah, I talked to Danny and Isa about how there were some difficulties with them getting the script out, because not only actors, but actors reps have to be on board with the whole idea. My manager had said something to me like, “Hey, I have this script..I don’t know..it’s about a camgirl. Just have a look, see what you feel.” I read it and I immediately was frightened of it, because I was just like...I don’t know if I can do justice to a story like this, playing three characters. But I was stoked to play a camgirl.

BOWIE: The role demands a certain vulnerability and I understand that the on-set crew was predominantly female. How would you say that affected the vibe on set?

BREWER: Oh my god, we could not have done this I don’t think––I know personally, and I know plenty of actors that would back me up––that in this kind of situation, where you are physically and emotionally vulnerable, where you are literally and figuratively naked, you have to be in a safe environment, in which you are free to explore and express, and take yourself to another level. I’ve been on sets where women have felt uncomfortable because some random...I don’t know...crew member ogled them in a way that maybe would make them feel uncomfortable. I think that whole situation was just a non-factor for me because there were so many women, and I feel comfortable around women. But also the fact that there was a crew that….they knew what they were getting themselves into, they knew the story that they were telling, so if they weren’t supportive of that, then they would not have been there. It was already like a litmus test that everyone had passed. They were there and willing to be supportive of whatever had to go down to make this film, and a lot of that was me not being clothed.

BOWIE: Isa, you undoubtedly directed yourself in the past as a camgirl. What made you feel confident that Daniel Goldhaber was the right director to bring your script to life?

MAZZEI: I mean, a lot of things. The main thing is that he listens to me. And I think, you know, it’s easy to look back and say we’ve been collaborating for ten years, I trust him and his shot. You know, in the past I had hired him to shoot porn for me, and direct some videos that I had made, but at the end of the day the most important thing about him is that he listens to me. When I said, you know, “this is how she would hold her body in this scene,” it was kind of this three-way collaboration. She already knew those things, and I knew those things, and to have a director that would just kind of say, “Okay, I trust you and I’m not going to force anything onto the scene or onto the character that you’re telling me is not real or valid.” From day one of collaborating on the script, Danny always deferred to my judgement calls, especially on representation of the female body and performative femininity, and performative sexuality; all of those.

BOWIE: And the two of you share equal credit for the film. Was this a decision that the two of you made from the beginning, or did it happen somewhere along the way?

MAZZEI: That happened along the way. Initially, I was just writing it and he was going to direct it. But it became pretty clear in the beginning of the collaboration that we were building the story together, we were building the world together. We were discussing things like how we were going to shoot scenes while I was still writing them, and while we were still workshopping them. I had a lot of opinions and insight on the actors that I wanted, and the crew that we wanted, and what kind of DP I wanted, and how we wanted to include as many women as possible on set, and all of these decisions. So, it became pretty clear that it was something we were making together. We always like to say it’s like 100% his movie and 100% my movie, and there’s no way to tease apart the ownership more than that. It’s a shared vision, it’s been a shared vision, and that’s what we decided.

BOWIE: The platform used in the film, freegirls.live, so closely resembles that of any social media platform with live capabilities that the basic act of camming is actual pretty familiar to most people. Madeline, did you have any personal experience with going live and juggling your attention between the performance and a live stream of comments and requests?

BREWER: The act of being live online and responding to a livestream of comments was totally new to me, I had never experienced anything like that before. I mean also what we were doing was synced up and I knew what they were going to say, and then the responses and everything. But it’s quick paced, very live and interactive and I watched a lot of cams in preparation in our pre-production time, and even during shoots to get kind of a refresher. I had a few camgirls that I liked in particular for their little quirks and nuances, so I watched them and how they interact. The things they say and what kind of inside jokes they have with their room, and their guys and all of that. It was something that I was totally unfamiliar with in that aspect, but what I was familiar with was that kind of performative identity that we all have online, and that feeling of always showing your best self, and the most ‘attractive,’ for lack of a better word, part of you to your internet following. The more time I spend on the internet, the more I learn about it. For example, someone I know who knows Kim Kardashian; all of her candid shots are completely staged. Everything she does is a business, and it’s all so perfectly cultivated and curated. This film in general has made me look a lot more at how I present myself online, and even whatever level of transparency I think I do have. I’ll never be totally transparent because the only people I reserve that for are my mother and my closest friends.

BOWIE: I read that Pink Narcissus was a major inspiration for the set of Alice’s room. That film has such a great tension between intimate vulnerability and performative indulgence. It’s more peep show than porn. Why have we seen so many films about strippers, porn stars and prostitutes, but never anything about peep shows or camming? Is it just too gray an area?

MAZZEI: One of the draws of camming in general is that there is this gray area between: Are they a performer? Or are you actually getting to know the real person? There’s definitely this line that a lot of performers walk, where a lot of them don’t say, “This is my cam room,” they’ll say “This is my bedroom.” And maybe it will be their real bedroom. I worked out of my real bedroom for a long time before I built my own “pink” room that I had. There’s an appeal to that, because unlike a stripper, where you know you’re getting a performance, you know that you’re at their place of work...when you’re watching a camgirl, there is this blurring of a fantasy where you feel exactly that – you feel like maybe you’re seeing into their real life a little bit. I would often work six to eight hour shifts. I would put dinner on, I would drink coffee, I would be getting up to go to the bathroom...my roommate’s dog would wander through on my camera feed. There’s a level of reality to it that I think is really appealing, and that builds this level of personal intimacy. This is often found in any type of sex work but is especially highlighted in camming. So, for the Pink Room, we drew a lot of inspiration from that, and for me it was just important to build a space where we could not only show that Alice has a curated space that she works from – this kind of fever dream fantasy space – but also to kind of contrast this space to her real life. Because what I found when I was working, and what sex workers are often not credited with enough, is how much they dedicate their craft...how calculated and dedicated they can be. So Alice has this space that is intensely curated, very much thought out and decorated with all of her props and all the things she might possibly need. Then she has her house – and her house is not even unpacked, it’s still in boxes, it’s messy, there’s takeout food. She is giving everything to this space and, as I had mentioned, this craft. And that’s a side of sex work that I wanted to show, and I wanted to be really clear in this visual juxtaposition of this really curated space and then this kind of sloppy, still expensive, but not quite so deliberate space that she exists in outside of her work.

BOWIE: Madeline, as you were following several camgirls, what were the characters that you were drawn to? What was it about a specific camgirl? Can you give an example of one that you felt was really honing the craft?

BREWER: There were aspects of some camgirls that I would watch that would take on the persona of a little more girly...or there was a sweetness, or an innocence to them that I felt when I watched, which was totally part of an act…I believe...I don’t know, but there was a lot of quirkiness to them that I really enjoyed. It felt very human, and I guess that is what is attractive about cam – you feel like you’re watching a real person. I feel like as a performer myself - and for these camgirls as performers - we’re constantly highlighting things about our personalities that we want to make a little bit louder or exaggerating them, and then not including too much of the things we don’t want other people to see. It’s all there, it’s all underneath, whereas someone like the camgirls that I related to when I was playing Lola II, who were purely so enigmatic, and so unobtainable seemingly, that I wanted to model Lola II after, but without losing the fact that it’s based on Alice. I watched a lot of cam. I watched these girls day and night and just...the best word is “stole” from them what performative things they were putting in their shows that I felt fit Lola I or II, I just kind of stole them.

BOWIE: And I’m sure that’s a process for other camgirls. Isa, maybe you can speak to that. Do other cam girls watch each other and get ideas? Is it a very interactive evolution?

MAZZEI: Oh absolutely! There’s varying degrees of that: There are girls who draw a lot of inspiration for each other, there are girls who accuse each other of stealing their show ideas. I know when I was working there was one girl who claimed that she had copyrighted a certain type of show and that if you performed it, you would get in trouble. There was also sharing ideas, or saying “I have this really cool idea for a show that you should do because you’re also really good at this type of thing,” and even collaboration between girls is really cool because there’s a lot of creativity there. Where I would work with a model, maybe a non-nude model, and I was definitely a very nude, very sexual model, and so us coming together creatively to figure out what type of show combines my style with her style, and how we highlight each other in the best way possible, while we maintain our own boundaries and the types of shows that we like to do. It’s a really interesting thing that happens and there’s so much sharing and inspiration there….there’s so many camgirls doing so many types of things, it’s quite mind blowing.

BOWIE: In addition to playing a wide range of characters, camgirls encounter an equally wide array of fans and benefactors. It seems that navigating this landscape safely and with dignity is almost an olympian feat. In your experience, Isa, do most camgirls have to learn how to do this alone, without any guidance?

MAZZEI: I think some girls are really integrated into cam girl communities and some girls aren’t. I think an important thing to remember is that every girl that’s camming is camming from a laptop or a computer somewhere in the world, so it’s not this thing when you’re in a sort of club with all your fellow dancers around you. It can be really isolating, it can be really hard. The only camgirls that I knew were the ones that I met through Twitter and I would fly to see them. I was recognized once in a coffee shop by another girl that cammed, who approached me and said, “Hey I cam too!” but that’s the only encounter in real life where I’ve actually met someone who lived in my hometown who did it. For the most part you’re pretty on your own, and I think that girls can choose to be really into these communities; they can choose to live together, they can choose to share and get advice from each other, and they can also choose to work in isolation and do their own thing. I think there’s a wide variety of that. When it comes to men, another misconception I think is that all the tippers on the site are middle-aged divorced men. I think if you look at just my fans, most of them were men...I had a couple women viewers, and a couple non-binary viewers. For the most part they were men but I also had a wide spectrum: I had married men, I had single men in their twenties, I had, like, fuckin’ hot men, I had men that worked in porn, men that were in their sixties or seventies who really didn’t know how to use the internet. You know, different levels of income, different levels of employment, interest, and I think that’s what’s cool about camming. A cam site is a place where all these different types of viewers in general can really find a person that they genuinely connect with.

BOWIE: I want to talk about the casting a bit. For any Paul Thomas Anderson fan, Melora Walters is a god among actors, and in this film, the two of you have a very tenuous relationship that is delicate and subtle. What was it like to play her daughter?

BREWER: To be on set with her was such a gift in itself, and hanging out a little bit. She’s such a pro, but she’s also so open to conversation and to how we both interpreted our relationship. I know that on Isa and Danny’s side, she had a lot of feelings and input about the script and her lines.

MAZZEI: Yeah, I mean, Melora was awesome. She came in right away...I was very much writing a mother from the perspective of a daughter. What I was so grateful to Melora for was that she literally would come in every day and be like “I wrote this line. I rewrote this line. I rewrote this part. I want to see this happen.” And she really engaged with those discussions as a mother, saying things like, “I really sat down and thought about what it would be like if my daughter were doing cam and I found out this way.” I really was blown away by the perspective that she brought in and how well she did that, and how it was very natural for her to just embody this character. So, I found working with her a really cool process.

BOWIE: Madeline, you’ve now played several major roles in shows like Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, and The Handmaid’s Tale. In the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh circus, we can see clearly why the dystopian present and women in bondage is currently such a recurring theme. What do you think of the protesters who have appeared in Washington in Handmaid costumes?

BREWER: The fact that the design that we wear every day when we go to work on this show–– we’re just actors and we work in Hollywood, and the fact that those designs that Ann Crabtree made from her heart and from her inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s book–– they’re being taken and used as a symbol of resistance, and there is truly no better life for them. It’s great that they’re on the show but the life of this symbol of women’s resistance and women’s refusal to sit down, and shut up, and let old white men make decisions for them; it’s the best possible life that your art can take on. A whole new life as a symbol.

BOWIE: Finally, Isa aside from the release of your first film on Netflix, your first book, CAMGIRL, is slated for release in November 2019. What can we expect from the book that wasn’t expressed in the film?

MAZZEI: I think that the book serves to work along with the film to kind of normalize and bring to light this subculture that not a lot of people are talking about. The book is really fun, it’s funny, it’s not at all like the movie. But I feel like often people come out of that film saying “Whoa, is that what it was really like, and where did the inspiration come from, what were your shows actually like?” So I think the book can serve to answer those questions, and also serve as another tool to reach more people, and raise people inside this world, and say that it’s just normal people doing this. It’s just another job that people have and it can be something that is not only a career but also really empowering to women. There’s this misconception that is predominantly held by men, but also can be held by women: that selling your body is somehow disempowering. Not to pretend that there aren’t victims. In the sex work industry there is often exploitation, but there is also a huge huge portion of the industry that is women reclaiming power over their bodies. I’ve been catcalled, I’ve been insulted, I’ve been abused, I’ve been sexually harassed for my entire life, and now I’m setting these boundaries, and I’m saying “Oh, you want to look at my body? You’re gonna pay me. You want to touch my body, you’re gonna pay me.” And that reclamation of power is an incredible tool for some women to heal and again, to build empires around themselves. So, I hope that the book can speak to that and just be another piece of the puzzle of trying to have people empathize with sex workers, look at sex workers a little differently, and I definitely think when they’re going in to vote, either to put someone in office or vote on legislation that does affect sex workers, they can look at it a little differently than they did before.

Cam is available now on Netflix.

Pennies From Heaven: An Interview Of French Actress Turned Film Director Maïwenn

Maïwenn is little known in the United States, but in France, she has made an indelible mark on the world of cinema. Most Americans remember her as the seductive, singing alien, Diva Plavalaguna, in Luc Besson’s cult classic, The Fifth Element. However, her future acting and directing endeavors have indisputably eclipsed this small role she played as a teenager. As a director, she has a remarkably intuitive gift for creating masterful scenes that are powder kegs of emotion – with the fuse often lit during the first frame of the movie. The pacing, the chemistry and the fluidity – there is a preternatural authenticity. Over the past ten years she has directed four feature films and one short. Her most recent films Polisse (2011) and My King (2016) – the latter of which will be released next week in theaters – have won her critical acclaim and a multitude of highly coveted nominations. These accolades include, but are not limited to, the Palme d’Or, the César for best film, best director, and best screenplay. Her film Polisse won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Her latest film, My King, starring Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot (who won best actress at Cannes for her role), is an incendiary, piercing tale of love and loss and disillusionment weaved together with tender humor and joie de vivre. We had the chance to sit down with the French Actress turned Director to ask her a few questions about her unconventional upbringing (which includes bringing fistfuls of collected change to see movies at her local cinematheque), the joys and the trials of being a movie director, and some of the techniques that she employs in her films.

Bowie: What do you think about the movie industry in Hollywood, as opposed to Paris?

Maïwenn: I don’t know if I’ve spent enough time here to form an opinion. In Paris we always hear about people in Hollywood being all about money and superficial things. And I’ve met really interesting people. Very free-spirited people. So, I don’t get all the things that people say, but maybe I haven’t spent enough time here.

Bowie: I read that you had wanted to be a standup comedian at some point, and there are a lot of hilarious moments in Mon Roi, despite its being a rather tragic film. Has humor always been a part of your craft?

Maïwenn: Not really. I did a show, but you couldn’t call it standup comedy. It was a show that was both funny and dramatic, but I was never trying to be a standup comedian. But all my movies are a little bit funny. I like to treat dramatic situations with funny dialogues. I like to mix both for balance. I have a passion for funny people, actually. If I could spend all my time with funny people - even if they’re silly - I would do it.

Bowie: They’re the best people.

Maïwenn: Not really, but they make me laugh.

[laughs]

Bowie: You’ve made several movies now, but I’ve read that you started writing Mon Roi about a decade ago. Why did it take so long to put it into motion?

Maïwenn: First of all, I was feeling much more than I do now. I needed to have many experiences before doing this film; as a woman, as a director, as a mother, as a friend – everything. And I think it’s really much easier to do a dramatic story first, then a love story. Because in a love story you have to start with happiness. I didn’t want to make a movie about love and have it stop when they’re fighting. I wanted it to stop when they love each other. And to do that, I needed a lot of experience. François Truffaut says – whatever, I don’t care about François Truffaut, but he says - “les gens heureux n’ont pas d’histoire” (happy people don’t have stories to tell). And it’s true. If it’s a couple, and they’re happy for two hours, I can’t make a movie out of that. So, each year I kept saying to myself, “I’m still not ready to do this movie.” I needed to create distance from my own life experience. I needed to be emotionally independent.

Bowie: Your lead character suffers a knee injury, and her therapist says that it might be the result of some kind of psychological trauma. Do you believe in this theory, and have you ever experienced such a thing?

Maïwenn: I would believe it if I had to. It depends on my mood, and it would depend on what kind of injury I got. But not especially. But the book exists and I was so inspired by the whole thing about the knee. The thing is that I spent 10 years writing the script and when I presented it to my writing partner, Etienne Comar, he said, “I don’t see the movie. I don’t see the point.” And then a few months later I told him I found an idea to help us move more quickly through the story. It’s about the knee, so we can jump back and forth throughout the ten years of the relationship. Otherwise, without the accident, I didn’t know how to explain why we were jumping ahead from time to time. And also, I like the idea of creating a puzzle, so that we start the movie with the knee and we don’t know where we’re going. Also, I wanted to give myself a challenge in the narrative writing process, and I wanted to make it difficult to understand, so that it’s a bit like a thriller.



Bowie: Your movies are packed with emotion and life. Do you have a technique that you employ to imbue your films with that much drama?

Maïwenn: It’s the writing, the actors, the cinematography, etc. It’s really all connected, and maybe it’s just my personality. I like when it’s intense. I like when it’s excessive. And I like when the energy is a little bit close to hysterics. So, I try to transmit a sense of oppression to the actors. And I like when we laugh and we cry. I like when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Bowie: You’ve said that you know all of these characters in your personal life, but you don’t judge any of them. However, is there one character in the film that you relate to the most?

Maïwenn: Yeah, her [Tony]. Of course.

Bowie: And you mentioned that Vincent Cassel had a long list of critiques when he first read the screenplay. Can you give an example of one of his critiques?

Maïwenn: Well, he had a problem with the first part when they meet and they fall in love. He thought it was too sentimental – a chick flick.

Bowie: What do you get from directing that you can’t get from acting?

Maïwenn: Ah good question. The love from the audience is really different. I feel love and respect from people in a very different way. As a director I feel they respect me intellectually, and as an actress they might like me or even love me, but it’s a lot more superficial. When you say you’re the director it’s like “Oh, okay. Respect.” But it makes sense because directing is so much more difficult.

Bowie: And you have to be more demanding of yourself as a director.

Maïwenn: You know when you’re on the set as a director, every fifteen minutes someone comes to you to tell you about another problem that you have to deal with. That’s your whole life for ten weeks. It’s like – oh we don’t have the set anymore, or the actor isn’t free anymore. So, you have to find another set in ten minutes. Or an actor is late, or he’s on drugs, what do we do? It’s always like this.

Bowie: That’s a lot to manage.

Maïwenn: And also to deal with the whole crew on the set, usually they’re all men, and usually they’re all older than me. So when you’re the boss and you have to tell a bunch of older men what to do, believe me, it’s not easy to deal with them. And it’s not just because I’m a director, it’s because I’m a woman.

Bowie: Yes, so even though women having been taking on executive positions and hiring men…

Maïwenn: It’s in the blood!

Bowie: Yeah, the psychological shift is still so difficult for them. Is it different promoting a movie in the U.S. vs. France?

Maïwenn: Yeah, it’s different because of the language, so it’s hard to find exact words in English. But also, the people don’t know me here, so they don’t start the interview with any preconceived notions. In France I have such a bad reputation that everyone says, “Oh Maïwenn, she’s crazy. She’s hysterical. She’s crazy.” So that when they arrive, they’re already shaking like, “ahh what’s gonna happen?” So, I have to expend a lot of energy to tell them that I’m normal and nothing’s going to happen. But with journalists I’m not very generous, because I don’t like to analyze my work, and they think that I don’t analyze because I’m being lazy. And I keep saying that it’s not in my nature to do that. I don’t know why I’ve done this movie. I’ve just done it. And I think that all my answers are in the movie. I don’t want to dissect myself to find all the answers. So sometimes I can give a very short answer and I can feel their frustration.

Bowie: In the film she was reading La Vie Devant Soi (The Life Before Us). What was the choice behind that?

Maïwenn: I like the title.

Bowie: It’s very appropriate for the film.

Maïwenn: And I like the book as well, but I chose it because of the title.

Bowie: And the watch that he gives her in the film, is that the watch you’re wearing?

Maïwenn: Yes! It’s my watch that I put in the movie because I like it so much.

Bowie: Yeah, it’s beautiful. What was your artistic background? Did you have artists in your family?

Maïwenn: Yeah, my mother, my father also kind of, but we were a really bohemian family. Very hard times. No money at all. They were cultured, but they didn’t know how to transmit it. They never really taught me how to communicate.

Bowie: And when did you discover film?

Maïwenn: My mother thinks it’s because of her, because she’s an intellectual. She’s a cinephile, but when I was living with her I couldn’t stand all the movies she was watching. It was so boring. So I started watching movies on TV, and then I started ditching school and one day I went to a cinema in Paris and I had collected all the change in the house to buy a ticket. And the guy saw me counting all the coins to buy one ticket and he told me, “Starting now, any time you come to this cinema, you’re never gonna pay.” So I started going every day and it changed my life. And I want so much to say thank you to him, but I don’t how to find his name. I asked a girl at the box office once and she said she didn’t know where he is, so I never got to thank him.


Maïwenn's newest film, My King, opens in New York on August 12 and in Los Angeles on August 26. text and interview by Summer Bowie. photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Activating The Vehicle Of Ascension: An Interview Of Filmmaker and Artist Floria Sigismondi

text by Oliver Kupper

Floria Sigismondi’s work, like her music videos for Marilyn Manson, David Bowie or Leonard Cohen, is a perfect amalgamation of her unique upbringing. Spending her early years in the coastal town of Pescara, Italy and her formative years in the rough steel manufacturing town of Hamilton, Ontario – with opera singers for parents – Sigismondi has developed a unique aesthetic that blends classicism with a certain darkness that harkens 1970s Giallo films and the nightmarish tableau vivants of Joel Peter Witkin. As a music video director, Sigismondi brings a distinctive world to life with an unsettling and jarring pastiche of imagery that flickers as if each scene was shot with a camera perched on the wing of a hummingbird. Lately, though, her work has taken a turn for the meditative and ethereal, like her most recent music video for Rihanna’s track Sledgehammer – made for the newest Star Trek film. The music video, set in an otherworldly atmosphere, was the first ever made for IMAX. Sigismondi is also pushing further into the world of feature length filmmaking, which is a promising venture considering the success of her 2010 debut – a biopic about The Runaways starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.  Currently, she is in the casting phase for the adaptation of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq’s comic series "Bouncer" – about an armed gunslinger and saloon bouncer seeking revenge in the vice infested Wild West. We got a chance to catch up with Sigismondi at the Chateau Marmont to chat about her upbringing, her work creating some of the most iconic music videos of the last two decades and her venture into feature length films. 

OLIVER KUPPER: Both of your parents are opera singers and music is a big part of your life. Was that your earliest introduction to music?

FLORIA SIGISMONDI: It was. I grew up on Tosca and Caruso and Maria Callas. That kind of music enters you. It’s not really just about what they’re saying, but it pulls on your heartstrings. And I fell in love with it by just hearing violin and piano and then kind of got into different kinds of music. But my parents...I always came across some strife because it was just amazing to them that these singers were having careers with this music, while I just thought they were singing the same old song and I wanted to experiment and try new things.

KUPPER: So were they very supportive when you started digging up things and discovered art?

SIGISMONDI: Yeah. My dad was a big Italian film buff and if they saw me scribble on a piece of paper they’d say it was art and that I was going to become an artist. I realized that they were the black sheep of their families and I guess that’s why they gravitated toward each other.

OLIVER KUPPER: So you knew you were an artist at an early age or that art was somehow part of your identity?

SIGISMONDI: I always did.

KUPPER: And you were mainly drawing?

SIGISMONDI: Yeah. Seeing just the tools like a little paintbrush or a professional sketching pencil got me really excited. It was this feeling almost like butterflies fluttering inside your body, and I just knew that it was what made me happy--that spirit. I think because my first language was Italian and I was kind of learning English in school, I really gravitated toward that as my means of communication. I was by myself and wanted to discover who I was by making art.

KUPPER: What was the culture like when you were growing up?

SIGISMONDI: It was rough. I lived in Hamilton, which is outside of Toronto. I was two when we immigrated [from Italy]. There were more steel factories per capita than I think in all of North America. It was a really tough town so there’d be fights at every party, every weekend. If you stared at somebody for more than 2.5 seconds they’d ask what’s your problem ­– it was that kind of thing, even as a young girl. So it was very tough. But then I’d go home and it’d be like little Italy. We’d be making pasta and singing, my mother would be sewing at two o’clock in the morning making costumes, and I’d be watching Westerns with my dad. [laughs] So it was two completely different worlds.

KUPPER: So, Hamilton was very tough.  

SIGISMONDI: Yeah it’s a very special place. I used to ride motorcycles and I remember I had a tiny baby Triumph. Loved my little English bike! It would always break down, though, so I was tired of it and was going to get a Harley – of course it had to be one of the biggest Harleys you could get, but I bought it off of a guy who was not happy he was selling it to a woman.

KUPPER: And photography is something that you really gravitated toward and you went into the direction of fashion photography, right? 


SIGISMONDI: I actually did music and fashion. The thing was, I was at school and did my four years. It was the last year and I had to pick an elective and I kind of thought, ‘okay I’ll try this.’ And I remember this roll of film just turned out blank because I didn’t even know how to expose it. But there was one picture that turned out kind of like a painting. I remember it being over exposed and having super bright colors. I was just thinking, ‘what the fuck did I do’? [laughs] So I think I stumbled into photography in a more impressionistic way where I didn’t see it as documenting things but more for asking ‘how can I use this a tool?’

KUPPER: And your approach to start making music videos…was that something that you knew you wanted to do or you thought about doing then?

SIGISMONDI: Well, it’s funny, I didn’t know that, but I read an interview when I was just taking photographs, and I was saying that I wanted to make film back then. So I guess there was something attractive to it. I grew up watching Fellini films, Pasolini, the Italian Spaghetti Westerns. And I remember watching as a kid and always asking things like, “how did they get that?” I’d always imagine what was behind the scene of getting that shot. I guess I knew sort of subconsciously about the creation of it as an art form. And when I do finish work I rarely look at it. So I think for me it’s more about the process, what you learn as you’re watching things.

KUPPER: In terms of inspirations, people throw around Joel-Peter Witkin or other artists. How would you describe your aesthetic? Because it is really unique to you…

SIGISMONDI: Obviously I gravitated to likeminded people who view the world in the same way as I do, seeing beauty in maybe the ugly or beauty in unexpected places. Also, the combination of two extremes (like in the way that I grew up with the steel-factory-rough-thing mashed together with the high art), so I kind of gravitated toward artists like that. But it’s been a long time since I’ve actually referenced anybody. For me it was more of like, ‘Wow, that person is doing what they love to do, no matter how crazy it is.’

KUPPER: And what was the connection with Brion Gysin, who made the Dream Machine?

SIGISMONDI: Oh yeah! He had this Dream Machine, that’s right. I did an interview for the documentary. I think there may have been a prior connection. He was in Toronto so maybe he’s Canadian.

KUPPER: He inspired a lot of people not only when he and William Burrough’s first developed it, but there’s weird connections between it and Kurt Cobain and stuff like that. So I was curious if there was some kind of connection between that and not just the aesthetic of your work, but also the idea of these sort of dreamlike images.

SIGISMONDI: Let’s just put it out on the table that dreams are more fun. That dimension is more fun than ours where we have to brush our teeth, this disease, that disease. There’s a lot of things we have to do that won’t allow us to completely go and daydream into different worlds. So for me it’s kind of what most excites me about life. And then you can extract that and make it into something physical to share with people.

KUPPER: Does any of your work come directly from dreams that you’ve had?

SIGISMONDI: Yeah, especially when I see them in detail. Sometimes they’re more vague and sometimes I can see the hairs almost coming out of the skin.

KUPPER: When you come up with a concept for a music video like the iconic one you made for [Marilyn] Manson, does the idea come to you right away? Or do you have to listen to the music?

SIGISMONDI: I have to listen to the music, because music to me sort of puts me in a trance. I have to listen to it so much that it actually has no form and then images starts to come up. So it’s kind of there and I’m not paying much attention to it, and I think that that’s when you kind of slip through the gap of this ‘other.’ And that’s what I used to do, I used to do a lot more sleep deprivation or listen to it when I was really tired at night, when you’re not worried about the stress of the day. It was more about a meditative or pre-meditative state whereas now things come to me while I'm walking or talking. I don’t have to put myself in those places.



KUPPER: Do you write things down or do you keep them in something like a memory bank?

SIGISMONDI: Scared of that, but yeah. I do write them down and I have so many notebooks scattered all over the house that it’s crazy for me to find anything. [laughs] I’ve actually had to go through them and put stickies on them, because one project can be in ten different notebooks. So it kind of drives me crazy and I don’t know how to organize myself. Because when you have that inspiration you have to write it down.

KUPPER: What do you notice is the biggest difference in the music videos made now versus twenty years ago?

SIGISMONDI: I don’t watch them.

KUPPER: So did they become less interesting to even engage with at all?

SIGISMONDI: I think our culture was a lot simpler back then, you know what I mean? We didn’t have all this other stuff to analyze. So you did it because you were on the fringe, or there was a real kind of just bubbling into the mainstream, but you still felt it was yours to be a part of, you know? Whereas at least for me, now you really have to search. And so you have to be particular with your time and ask, ‘Do I want to create?’ or ‘Do I want to search?’ And I don’t watch television and I haven’t had one for many years. I finally got one just to watch Netflix but I don’t watch regular television.

KUPPER: There is an art form to making music videos, it’s filmmaking. In a condensed form.

SIGISMONDI: Yeah, for me it was always important to introduce something new in every section or in a fluid way. For me, the thing with a song in a music video is that if you put it all in the first minute then you’ve seen it.

KUPPER: And you made a feature. Was it daunting to go into making a feature film? Was it a completely different experience?

SIGISMONDI: It was so daunting because I was told that a film of that size would’ve been seven weeks, and I had like four or something ridiculous. I didn’t know and that even seemed like a long time to me, but you just don’t get through it. You meet your car guy or whatever person once, and can’t think about it even if it seems like the wrong guy for the scene. So that part of it was so different and crazy. I remember when the shoot started, I went ‘Oh my god,’ because the shooting of it was relaxing even though I was moving locations every day, and even if I didn’t get what I needed to get, I couldn’t go back. So I had to move very quickly. It was nuts.

KUPPER: I want to talk about the music video you made for David Bowie, starring Tilda Swinton, which sort of played with that idea of celebrity. How do you feel about those themes regarding celebrity?

SIGISMONDI: It’s not a concept that comes up, but it’s a strange way to live. I don’t think it’s natural to have that much attention and that we’re built for it. It’s a desire that's kind of dreamlike. It’s a dream...it’s a fantasy.

KUPPER: How did you meet Bowie? How did that collaboration come about?

SIGISMONDI: After I did the Marilyn Manson music video, I guess he had seen that and wanted to meet me. I remember for our first meeting he kept me waiting for an hour. But he was so amazing and we ended up spending five hours talking about art, so it was so great. I remember he had some ideas that he wanted to do. Since they were coming from him I took them very seriously but didn’t know what to do with them. And then I remember getting this amazing message on my answering machine where he just went like, do your own thing or create your own thing. He was giving me permission to be the artist that I was or that he respected. So we met in an artist-to-artist way.

KUPPER: Which is a great way to connect.

 SIGISMONDI: He was just really supportive in the artistic process and taught me that this is all we have. I remember the record company not liking some cuts of Little Wonder and I told him, “Oh my god, they don’t like this. I don’t know what to do,” and he just laughed, saying, “You don’t listen to them!” Because if he had, he’d be manufactured art. So then it became so exciting for me to think that all I had to do was come up with weird images and I could actually live in the world and have fun like that.

KUPPER: Are there any artists that you want to work with in any sphere of music videos?

SIGISMONDI: There are three new artists that I was thinking were so interesting. My mind right now is going more to features. I’m working on a movie with Alejandro Jodorowsky, which I know you read about that.

KUPPER: Yeah, I did. That’s so exciting!

SIGISMONDI: He wrote it and it’s based on his comic book series. It’s got all the elements but it’s a linear story that follows the life of this little boy who watches his parents get brutally murdered and he goes out to search for revenge and finds out about his family and that everything is interconnected. So it’s very Shakespearean in scope.

KUPPER: What stage is that in right now?

SIGISMONDI: Casting.

KUPPER: And your current video that’s out now with Rihanna. How did that come about?

SIGISMONDI: Well we were looking for something to do and this one was very special because IMAX was involved and the film Star Trek was involved. So when Rihanna and her team approached me it was really intriguing to create this other world. It was very different to anything that I think she’d done before. But also what was so great about it too was that it’s a stand alone piece, it wasn’t about using footage from the film, so I was able to just take all the elements that I wanted and give her the power and create her as a new character in a way. So I created a mystical character living on this planet, just conjuring up all these powers and she’s able to move the elements like rocks and sand and then transform herself into the universe. So it has this transcendent theme of how I think that people have such a big power that they don’t use.

KUPPER: And you premiered it in IMAX right? It’s a much different experience than watching it online.  

SIGISMONDI: Yes it is. Quite immersive and if you actually watch it in the IMAX theatre, the sound is pretty incredible too. They took me through the regular sound, the old IMAX sound, and this new IMAX sound, and you’d think you could barely hear a difference, but it’s incredible how you could actually hear the sound going right through your clothing to inside your body. So we had to remix the song to the IMAX sound and sound effects.

KUPPER: Amazing. And right now you’re working on something for the show in Toronto?

SIGISMONDI: That is part of a show called Oblivion which has three artists. I got the square with Director X and he’s done titles like the Death of the Sun and mine’s about activating and transcendence - it’s a little bit witchy. It’s all about activating your vehicle of ascension.


You can explore more of Floria Sigismondi's work on her website. Interview, text and photographs by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Very Little Bad Vibes: An Interview With Cult Comedic Hero Tim Heidecker

text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Most people know Tim Heidecker from his brilliant Adult Swim series ‘Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!’ and ‘Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories.’ While it’s easy to use colorful adjectives to describe his brand of humor, it’s even harder to define it. Whatever it is, he’s developed a massive cult following. He’s an everyman that blends a sort of slobbish machismo with the mind of a stoner philosopher, but there is also something sinister about his wit and irreverent spin on, well, everything. Like every great comedian, Heidecker doesn’t identify himself as one. His role in Rick Alverson’s 2012 film The Comedy proves Heidecker is a brilliant, natural actor with an ability to show a haunting, dispossessed vulnerability that encapsulates a very distinct ennui and disillusionment belonging to the comedown between youth and middle age. As he gets wiser, Heidecker exudes a certain suburban boredom – a boredom that he makes seem exciting in his new album In Glendale. It’s a true ode to the singer songwriters, like Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, and Randy Newman, who wrote about their surroundings and life with a beautiful banality. Because it’s Harry Nilsson or Zevon or Newman, it works, and just like that, Heidecker can pull it off too. I got a chance to chat with Heidecker about comedy, music, getting stabbed in the back and dream projects that haven’t materialized yet. 

OLIVER KUPPER: The new album is great, by the way. I really enjoyed it.

TIM HEIDECKER: Thank you. That’s a good place to start.

KUPPER: Yeah, compliments are a good place to start. This is your first somewhat earnest album, right?

HEIDECKER: Uh huh, whatever that means.

KUPPER: What’s it like writing songs versus writing comedy? Is there a different wavelength you need to be on?

HEIDECKER: I don’t know. Songwriting is a little more meditative. Obviously, it involves an instrument usually - singing, playing guitar, playing piano, noodling around, finding phrases and subject matter. It’s something that I’ve done for years as a hobby or a way of clearing my brain of other stuff. It can be spontaneous; you can be sitting in a car with other friends and start singing something catchy. Comedy is generally driven by a project. What are the ultimate goals of this? It involves a lot more people, a lot more collaboration. I’m very productive when I’m in collaboration with comedy. I don’t sit around and dream up amazing ideas all day long. It generally involves getting lunch or going on a road trip. It’s doing something where there’s a conversation with a buddy – Eric, Gregg [Turkington], or Doug [Lussenhop]. Someone I’m close with. Music is more singular.

KUPPER: Were you craving that singular, cathartic experience?

HEIDECKER: Not really. With this record, I had always written lots of music. Certain songs would end up in a folder on my computer. Like, I don’t really know what this is. It might not be appropriate for comedy. It’s not really funny; it’s sort of sincere. I was reluctant to share that publicly. But once the first couple of songs on the record starting coming out of me, I thought, there’s a theme here that kind of works. It might be nice to put a record out without it being couched in a joke or a character.

KUPPER: How did you team up with [Jonathan] Rado from Foxygen?

HEIDECKER: Through Chris Swanson, who runs Secretly Canadian. I had known him for a while. Those guys financed the movie that I was in, The Comedy. We were friendly. He was a big fan of our work. He knew I was doing music, and he nudged me to take a stab at making records in a more current or straightforward way. He was curious to see what I could do if I did something outside of parody, if I could be a pop music guy that was doing interesting stuff. Rado and I connected on very similar interests in music - 70s singer/songwriter stuff. I love talking about the process, how those guys got the sounds they got, and getting back to that straightforward songwriting. He just wanted to help and be involved.

KUPPER: He’s super talented. That band is really great. Who were some of the singer/songwriters at the top of that list that you would talk about?

HEIDECKER: For me, it’s Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson - the greats, the big ones. I’ve been really enjoying them for the past several years now.

KUPPER: I’m obsessed with Harry Nilsson. When you decided to go in and make this album, did you feel like you had enough songs? Did you throw yourself in the studio and see what you could come up with? Half and half?

HEIDECKER: The process by which this record was made may be interesting, maybe not. Half the songs were written in a period of a month or so. The other half were songs I had written over the years; they didn’t fit into any one category. I had my little home recording studio. I would try to build up the track. You know, not just me and the guitar, but drums, bass. It’s a fun way to work, to build tracks, and getting it to sound good, but never that good. I’m not that good at it. I made a demo version of the album at home. It was in the order of all the songs, with a couple extras. I took this home demo to Rado and his garage, and we started making the songs from scratch at his place. He’s such a great piano player and drummer. We recorded on tape, and we had four or five demos out of that. But they were still demos; they weren’t what we both wanted, which was really clean studio, major-label-sounding recordings. So we took those demos, and I gave them to my band that I play with live - City City. They learned the demos, and then we went into a real recording studio. In the course of a week, we laid everything down. Very quickly, because we knew all the sounds and what we wanted to sound like. We wanted the level of professionalism and the clean sheen that those 70s records had.

KUPPER: You work with a lot of musicians. It’s like a ten-piece band, right?

HEIDECKER: Yeah, there’s a ten-piece band that I put together. It’s mostly that band, City City, and a little horn section. It’s a little bit extravagant; there’s two background singers, two electric guitar players. I could probably shave that down if I needed to. But right now, everyone just gels. They all came in and brought their own talents to the record. I’m very grateful.

KUPPER: Do you think the audience for your music is different from your comedy audience? Your comedy following is big. Will the same people come out for your music, do you think?

HEIDECKER: For right now, a large percentage of my fans will find me through comedy. With this record, we’re trying to present it to the largest group of people possible. I think some people who are coming on board either didn’t know or didn’t care for my work, but they like the music. It’s not intended just for the fans; it’s intended for people who like the music. I get a lot of, “Oh, this Tim Heidecker record is actually pretty good.” They’re surprised. Some fans who have been following me a little closer aren’t surprised because they know that I am a big music lover and music maker. That early music might be sillier, but it has the same core qualities.


"I don’t necessarily identify myself as a “comedian.” I do comedy, I do standup and sketch comedy. I make all kinds of stuff. But I don’t concern myself with what to call it or how I should be perceived...I think it’s unfortunate that we expect people to stay in their lanes."


KUPPER: It’s interesting. Not a lot of comedians can bounce between these different mediums and be taken seriously. Especially when it comes to acting. Your role in The Comedy was a really serious role. There are certain actors, like Robin Williams, whose acting is so good that you don’t necessarily think of them as a comedian anymore. Do you ever think about the implications of being too serious?

HEIDECKER: It’s a thing that’s put on us by journalists and certain people that have perceptions of what people are supposed to do. It doesn’t affect my decision making when I decide to do something or not. I generally try to do something based on the desire to do it, whether or not I think it will have quality and be successful. I don’t necessarily identify myself as a “comedian.” I do comedy, I do standup and sketch comedy. I make all kinds of stuff. But I don’t concern myself with what to call it or how I should be perceived. If anything, it’s more interesting to have different facets and abilities. I think it’s unfortunate that we expect people to stay in their lanes. Actors, musicians, directors, whatever - most of us started out just wanting to make stuff, to do something creative. There was more of a push towards doing comedy, for me. But I still have interest in lots of stuff. As long as there’s a market for it, I want to pursue those things. I also understand that there is context. There’s a challenge when someone who is usually a country singer comes out with a rap album. It’s going to be hard. But some people can do it really well. I admire Steve Martin. He can be silly, very serious and intellectual, he can play music and go on tour. I just hope that you can place this record of mine in the context of my larger body of work and say, “This guy has ideas. He has an interest in expressing himself in different ways.”

KUPPER: There’s a lot of freedom in that. If you see yourself as an artist and not specifically in one lane, you can do anything, even if there’s not a market for it.

HEIDECKER: I want to have that reputation, that you don’t know exactly what to expect when I present something. It should, theoretically make you more interested in what I’m doing next.

KUPPER: You still maintain the cult comedian aura. Is that something that you try to hold onto, or is it a natural progression of you as an artist?

HEIDECKER: It’s all just been fun, playing with identity and the media, trying to create work that leaps the dimensions of television or linear video. It’s been more fun, for On Cinema, to let those characters have a life outside the show. This record, though, is really straight. There’s really not an angle for me to be anybody but myself. If there’s something stupid, like something from the Tim and Eric Show, the work speaks for itself. Let’s just party.

KUPPER: Do you feel like you get a lot of stupid questions? Do you like doing interviews?

HEIDECKER: It depends. It’s interesting to see the spectrum of people who are interested. Our publicist works very hard to get as much press as we can. My attitude has always been, do as much as you can. You never know when someone is going to read something out of the blue, and it turns into their favorite thing. But there are so many young people doing this who don’t seem interested. Like, I had a kid come to the Decker screening, and he ran out of questions for me in, like, a minute. I don’t know if this is the best career choice for you if you can’t think of any questions. He’s like, “Yeah, my editor wanted me to talk about Trump.” He asked me three questions about Trump, and then he got tongue-tied.

KUPPER: They want clickbait.

HEIDECKER: Yeah. But generally, if there’s someone like you, someone thoughtful and interesting, I think it’s pretty harmless. It helps me figure out what the hell I’m doing. You can make stuff, but you don’t really analyze it too much until you start talking to someone about it.

KUPPER: It’s interesting how that works. That’s why real criticism is important, too. People are too focused on clickbait, and they don’t think that the most interesting thing is to analyze the work and talk to the artist to find answers.

HEIDECKER: I think some criticism tends to be very quick, not thoughtful, not researched. The negative criticism I’ve gotten has usually come without a frame of reference to me or my work. It’s a very easy, “This is just Dad rock.” I’m insecure with that person, who doesn’t know the context. It’s safer and quicker to go with a buzzword that they just heard.

KUPPER: You’re premiering Decker next week?

HEIDECKER: Yes, Friday the 17th.

KUPPER: And you’re working with Gregg Turkington again, which is great. What’s that experience been like?

HEIDECKER: Gregg and I have known each other for about 10 years now. I was such a huge Hamburger fan. I roped him into doing our show. Our wives get together. We’ve got kids who are the same age. We just share a lot of common interests. Once we started doing this On Cinema thing, it seemed like we found this endless well of material that we could keep feeding and growing and developing. We established these two characters that are so fun to write for and behave as. It keeps entertaining us, this world. And it keeps getting bigger, because we keep adding fuel to it. Also, he’s just a nice guy. I’m so grateful to do this. On the TV show, we were able to elevate things a little bit. We were doing it as a full time thing. It was one of the most stress-free, joyful experiences. Everyone doing it loves it. It’s an easy thing to make. It’s so shitty. It’s not like you’re doing tons of takes and waiting for the perfect light. There are very little bad vibes in that environment. At my age, you want to be around that kind of energy as much as possible.

KUPPER: Especially in collaborations.

HEIDECKER: Yeah.

KUPPER: It’s been ten years since you had that famous interaction with your neighbor [where he stabbed you in the back]. Do you still think about that, or is it ancient history at this point?

HEIDECKER: Strangely, I’ve been thinking about it lately. Not to pat myself on the back (and not to be ironic), when that kid did that to me, I didn’t want to press charges. It felt like such a futile thing to do. He was 19 or 20 years old. He was on some insane drug. If he was going to go to jail for a significant amount of time, he would end up way worse. He’d be a bigger problem to the world. He ought to be given another shot. Those with white privilege are treated with more leniency, and that’s not fair, but it shouldn’t be, “Let’s throw this kid in a dark cell for the rest of his life.” It should be, how can we give disadvantaged kids better opportunities? We need to look at the prison system as not the answer to our problems. It’s a heavy thing. When you’re actually faced with the choice to punish somebody, it’s a hard thing to do. If you know anything, the prison system is designed to fail. It doesn’t make any sense.

KUPPER: You have to rehabilitate.

HEIDECKER: Yeah.

KUPPER: Do you have any dream projects that haven’t materialized yet?

HEIDECKER: We’re kind of doing it all. The more of an audience you have, the easier it is to do all these things. That’s the challenge, to get the word out, to get people to tune in. The futility of that is I know I don’t have a lot of power there. It either connects with a larger group of people, or it doesn’t. To answer your question, the next record I want to do, we want to bring in some of the guys that actually played on those old records who are still around. People like Jim Keltner, those guys who are still doing sessions and available. I would love to go in with Murderer’s Row and the people who made that, just to do it, because you can. I think that adds a whole other level.

KUPPER: I look forward to that, for sure.

[helicopter-like sound]

HEIDECKER: Cool. My helicopter is here, so I guess I got to go.


Tim Heidecker's new album, In Glendale, is out now on Rado Records. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Photographs by Cara Robbins. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


The War Back Home: An Interview with Creative Polymath Nina Ljeti

Nina Ljeti is prolific. She is a writer, filmmaker, actress, and musician. Just a few of her many projects include: starring in films directed by and alongside James Franco; co-writing and co-directing the feature length film Memoria with Vladmir de Fontenay (which is out in theaters now); performing in her band, Nani; and shooting a biopic about Jerry Garcia. She has the creative output young artists have wet dreams about. But Nina Ljeti is prolific in another sense of the word. She is the daughter of Bosnian immigrants (who came to Canada at the start of the Bosnian Revolution) and a high school punk stoner; a film buff who loves Titanic and Coppola alike. Her richness isn't just in practice; it's in spirit and history as well. We got to ask Ljeti about memory, filmmaking, ghosts, and getting to play Patti Smith. Read it here.

Autre: You were born in Bosnia and Herzegovina just before the Bosnian War. Do you have any memories of that time? Did you grow up there? What was that like? 

Nina Ljeti: No. We left in 1992 when I was still a baby. We immigrated to Canada- my parents had never been there before and they didn't know the language. They were in a completely foreign setting, and they left everything they had and worked for to start a new life for me. I remember the daily struggle my parents dealt with just so we could eat and survive. And I remember them watching TV every night for any news of the war back home.


Autre: When did you know that you wanted to act and make films? Was it acting or filmmaking first? 

Ljeti: I started off wanting to be an actress/singer in high school, but I was also making films at the same time. I made my first movie when I was 14. They went hand-in-hand for me. As a kid, I was also writing a lot- poetry and short stories, mostly. I don't really act so much anymore- I'm primarily a director now. 

Autre: You've written and directed a number of films as well as acting, including co-writing and co-directing for Memoria. What's it like to be behind the camera? Do you prefer writing and directing to acting, or is it nice to be holistic in that way? 

Ljeti: I enjoy directing way more. The only time I really perform as an actress is if I'm collaborating on a project with James. My true passion is writing and telling stories- I love writing scripts and songs.  All I do in my spare time is read and write.  

Autre: What was it like co-directing and co-writing Memoria with Vladimir de Fontenay? 

Ljeti: I love Vlad. When we made Memoria he was much more experienced than I was as a director, so it was wonderful to learn from him and he was very supportive of me. He's my baguette. 



Autre: Memoria seems like your classic bilungsroman - a teenage guy struggles to find meaning amongst friends and family that "just don't get him." Did you find this was your connection to the film as well? Did you empathize with Ivan? What is your coming-of-age story? 

Ljeti: I connect with Ivan a lot. I wrote the script and a lot of the characters in the film are based on kids I knew in high school. My coming-of-age story is pretty classic. I got bullied a lot. I liked punk and thrash. I was overly sensitive and always skipped class to hang out with kids who 'understood me better.' I wrote a lot in my diary and smoked pot everyday at lunch but still got the best grades. I was also really depressed and sad all the time but, who wasn't? 
Memoria also has a great deal to do with memory (hence, the title) - is elusiveness and subjectivity.

Autre: What connections do you see between memory and writing, or memory and filmmaking?  

Ljeti: As a writer and filmmaker,  I draw from my memories as the main source for my work.  I always notice that small details will change in how I remember something---- I think to keep the feeling I felt in that moment alive so I never forget (i'm talking about memories of love) and then this memory will replay in my head over and over even after I've used it (and this part is torture).  

Autre: You've worked with James Franco on Rebel, Memoria, and the upcoming film Zeroville. How did you two meet, and why do you think so work so well together? 

Ljeti: We met at NYU seven years ago. It's really rare to meet someone who shares your passion for creating and exploring. He's the only person I met who is as curious as I am. I think that's why we continue to work together- there's always something new to try. 

Autre: In Zeroville, you play Patti Smith. That's amazing. Did you do anything to try to get into her head? 

Ljeti: I was just performing on stage as her, so I really just tried to emanate her performance technique. This bit of study did help me a lot with performing in my band (that I sing and write the lyrics for).  

Autre: Zeroville deals with the ghosts of cinema, how they can haunt us despite their fictions and weave their magical thread into our daily lives. Have any films affected you in that way? 

Ljeti: Titanic. I watched it when I was 6 and it set a very unrealistic standard of love for me. Also Coppola's Dracula. I wish vampires were real. And I wish Disney movies were life. And that Marlon Brando could live forever.

Autre: Along that same vein, Hollywood can be kind of this ghostly, mythical place. Have you found that in your time in Los Angeles? 

Ljeti: No, I haven't found any ghosts in Los Angeles. All the ghosts I've seen are back in New York. That's where my heart is. 

Autre: What projects are you working on now? 

Ljeti: My next film is the biopic of Jerry Garcia, which I wrote and will be shooting this July. I also have a band called Nani, and we're going to be releasing our first EP sometime this year. 


Memoria, written and directed by Nina Ljeti and Vladimir Fontenay,  is out now in select theaters. Text and interview by Keely Shinners. photographs by Kevin Hayeland. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


The FOMO Is Real: An Interview With Photographer and Filmmaker Yulia Zinshtein

Yulia Zinshtein is a photographer, filmmaker and poet living in New York City. In the FOMO (fear of missing out) generation, she paints a portrait of her friends through a sardonic lens that leaves the viewer wondering if she is poking fun or being completely serious. It's a deadpan type of humor that only the keen, or members of her generation, will understand. In her short film, entitled Girls Going Wild, inspired by early-naughts reality TV and late night infomercials, she brings to life what it means not to be the life of the party. She says, "Girls Going Wild is about searching for the best party. This video aims to show how awkward that search can be...and that the very process becomes the best party you could ever find." We got a chance to ask Zinshtein about her work and her new short film, which Autre has exclusively premiered

Autre: Where are you from and why were you in Miami?

Yulia Zinshtein: I was born in Philly and raised in Moscow. I shot the video while in Miami for Art Basel! It was my first time at that art fair and it really affected me, something about Basel brings out the worst in people! But Miami is the best, one of the most inspiring places for my work. 

Autre: Where did the inspiration for this short film come from?

Zinshtein: We had extreme FOMO the whole time we were at Art Basel...worse than general New York FOMO! Where was the “real” party at? Were we on the list? Could we sneak in? Are we having fun? Will there be free drinks? Am I cool enough? Do my parents love me?! The 13 year old inside me was inspired by the old school video camera...filming my friends doing nonsense and acting for the sake of it really brought up how it all started for me. 

Autre: This work has a reality tv feel to it, only it feels a lot more real. Was that your intention, and are you a fan of reality tv?

Zinshtein: Oh definitely! It's between Girls Gone Wild and The Real World. But the message is the exact opposite of what Girls Gone Wild represents: girls not getting wild enough! 
I actually find contemporary reality TV extremely boring, I can never get through an episode of the Kardashians (and I've tried many many times...like oysters, I never got a feel for it). I love watching old Real World episodes but mostly for aesthetic reasons.

Autre: In addition to your video work, you're also known for your photography and poetry. Which medium did you start with first, and where do you feel most comfortable?

Photography was my gateway drug into video work and poetry. I feel comfortable in all mediums, they trigger different satisfactions. However I am most confident in photography, because I am more educated in it and have been doing it longer.

What's next?

Next, I have a trip planned to a private ranch in south Texas, somewhere I've never been! I'm really excited to see the outcome. In the summer I'm planning to go to Moscow (my parents still live there) and make work about them and my old life. Mostly, I want an excuse to annoy my Mom by following her around with a camera! I can see her yelling at me already, it'll be great!


Click here to watch Yulia Zinshtein's new short film Girls Going Wild. Visit Zinshtein's website to see her photography. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Portrait of A Young Filmmaker: An Interview With CAMGIRL Director Dana Boulos

photo by Kevin Hayeland

Dana Boulos is the talented director behind a new short film, entitled Cam Girl, that Autre has premiered exclusively online. Written by Jesy Odio, Cam Girl explores the vague border between our private lives and our proposed private lives.  With the rise of adult webcam sites, where people can disrobe for a select viewing public in exchange for tips, Cam Girl is a prescient look at a humanity’s bifurcated persona; the erotic online persona and the persona of the girl who calls you up to tell you she just got her period, or the girl who calls you up to hang out. Cam Girl also reconnoiters our need to constantly communicate and digitally catalogue our lives. Autre caught up with Dana Boulos at home in Hollywood to ask a few questions about her inspirations, her love of film, her involvement in Petra Collins' all girl art collective Ardorous, and CAM GIRL, which can be viewed here

Autre: Where did you grow up and did you always know that you wanted to enter the creative fields? 

Dana Boulos: I grew up in Hampstead, London and moved to LA when I was 10 years old. As a child I wanted to be an artist. I knew I would fall into a creative field I just didn't know which one. 

Autre: Who were some artists that first inspired you? 

oulos: As a 5 year old I was obessed with Monet, I found his work so so soft and dreamy. I also look up to the works of Nadie Labaki, David Hamilton, Sarah Moon, Richard Avedon, and Larry Clark. 

Autre: You have a big love of fashion - where did this love come from?

Boulos: It definitely came from my Family, especially my grandma. She was a model in Lebanon in the 60s'. 

Autre: Can you talk a little bit about your production company?

oulos: I don't have a clothing label, but I do have a film production company called Cherry Runaway Films. My idea behind the Cherry Runaway Films is to also empower people into making films by discovering new up and coming directors, artists, and writers to produce their work. 

Autre: You are a part of an all girl art collective called Ardorous - how did that come about and is it still active?

oulos: Yes Petra Collins and I became friends over the internet in 2009. She was forming all girl collective of artists from all around the world and I was one of the first to be asked me to be apart of it. We were all excited to be apart of an all girl collective that shared the same interests in art and understood each other. I had never met any girls in my city in LA that were into the type of art I was making at the time. I had become best friend with some of the girls I had met in IRL when they were visiting in LA. At the time we didn't realize how big it would get online and how many people clicked on the site. We all got amazing opportunities working with big publishing houses and having art shows around the world. The Ardorous was just the beginning and definitely inspired a lot of female artists out there on producing work. I feel really honored to have been apart of it. 

Autre: Cam Girl is your first foray into film, where did the idea for this short film come from?

Boulos: I was at the right place at the right time. I had been hired by Oyster Magazine to photograph stills for a film they were doing a feature on and I had just met Jesy Odio who was working on set. She got my number called me the next day for a meeting she had just written her first short called CamGirl and wanted me to direct it. I read the script and instantly loved it.

Autre: What do you want young women to learn from watching cam girl - are there any defining messages?

Boulos: CAMGIRL, written by Jesy Odio explores what goes on in front of a computer screen and how it differs from what goes on in our bedroom IRL. The way we type with strangers online is not exactly the same way we talk with our friends when we got out. Although our main character is alone in her room she never takes a break from being in touch with others especially the constant digital cataloguing. I want to see more Women young or old in the film industry. Before meeting Jesy, I was studying cinematography and knew I wanted to pursue film making for 2015 and thats exactly what I did. I'm a strong believer in the laws of attraction. Anything you set your mind to you can accomplish. 

Autre: What's next?

Boulos: I'm currently working on my next film 'CRIMSON ROSE', which I've been working on the script with Jesy since the summer of 2015. I'm looking forward to be working with some amazing people on this film, I cant talk about what its going to be about but definitely look out for a killer sound track to the film as well as mini book. 


You can watch CAM GIRL here. Stay up to date with Dana Boulos by visiting her website or following her on Instagram. Photographs by Kevin Hayeland. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


For the Love of Gore: A Conversation With Teenage Filmmaker Kansas Bowling

We met up with Kansas Bowling, the young, bright-eyed filmmaker who is about to release her first film – a “prehistoric slasher film” called B.C. Butcher – at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles. It was the perfect setting for a late night nosh and chat about filmmaking; a not so unusual conversation among the famed booths of the Jewish deli where Bowling’s boyfriend, the iconic DJ and “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” Rodney Bingenheimer, has his own table. And it was at that table where we talked with Kansas about her upbringing in Los Angeles, her early fascination with low-grade horror films and B.C. Butcher, her first feature, which stars the likes of Kato Kaelin and Bingenheimer himself. The film is Bowling’s debut as a filmmaker and is being released today on the famed production and distribution company Troma’s digital streaming service. Troma is known for cult fare such as Toxic Avengers and Return to Nuke 'Em High. At seventeen, Bowling is in for a strange and wild ride with her cinematic pursuits, and being with Troma means that she is already in the right company. What you will learn in the following interview is that Bowling used a combination of production sources to fund B.C. Butcher, which include crowdfunding and a settlement from a car accident. Fate, it seems, stepped in at the right time. While other kids are gearing up for prom or college campus tours, Bowling is getting ready to “spend more money than she has ever spent in her entire life” to create a print of the film to project in movie theaters. In the following interview, you’ll understand that Kansas Bowling is surely a talent to watch.

Oliver Kupper: I want to talk about your upbringing. Did you grow up in Los Angeles?

Kansas Bowling: Yes. I was born in Beverly Hills. I lived in Hollywood, and then I moved to Topanga Canyon. I moved to Koreatown, then Mid-City, and then back to Hollywood. [Laughs.]

OK: Were your parents a part of the industry.

KB: No, not really. They did extra work, but all the kids do that. But not really. My mom works at Bloomingdale’s, and my dad works for the L.A. River.

OK: So there wasn’t really a film background. You jumped into it on your own?

KB: Yeah.

OK: You have a really interesting name. Were your parents artists or hippies?

KB: My dad’s a bit of a stoner. [Laughs.] They were in a popular grunge band in the 90s, when I was born. It was called Bottom 12. My mom was a backup singer, and my dad was a bass player. He used to get naked on stage.

OK: Was it based here?

KB: Yeah, it was based here. They didn’t have an album come out though. My dad has this big story about, “Oh, we could have made it!”

OK: Growing up, did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?

KB: Pretty much always. Ever since I knew what a filmmaker was. Before that, I wanted to be a firefighter, but that didn’t happen. [Laughs.]

OK: And then film came along?

KB: Yeah. I was a really big fan of Quentin Tarantino, since I was 7 years old. My sister and I would play Kill Bill. We had fake samurai swords. I would always be Lucy Liu, and my sister would be Uma Thurman. We would film it and stuff.

OK: How did you get access to those movies? Not a lot of kids are able to see Tarantino movies when they’re that age.

KB: My parents didn’t really care what we watched. Sometimes, they would introduce movies to us. But a lot of the time, we would just find movies on our own. They didn’t really care. Especially when I was older, like a teenager, my parents had never heard of the movies I was watching. Therefore, they didn’t care what I was watching. I watched I Spit on your Grave when I was 13. They had no idea what that was. It has the most horrific rape scene of all time.

OK: Specifically, the horror film genre—gore, exploitation films—is that what you got interested in?

KB: I don’t necessarily just love exploitation films, but I love lower-budget films. I feel like they have the most heart. Not just horror films, but also American-International Beach Party movies, Annette Funicello. I don’t know, just weird sixties and seventies sex comedies. Doris Wishman, Diary of a Nudist. Stuff like that.

OK: Can you remember the first film you ever saw? Or the first film that made an impact on you?

KB: Probably Kill Bill. And then when Death Proof came out, I liked that even more. I saw it when it came out, and that’s when I found out about those kinds of movies. I started watching Troma movies shortly after that, when I was about 12.

OK: And you started making films after that.

KB: I used to shoot little short films with my friends. It was fun. They were really silly. We’d have mini-premieres with all our parents. There were little red carpets we would set up, and we would take paparazzi photos. [Laughs.]

OK: And your parents were supportive of what you were doing?

KB: Of course. They were always really supportive.

OK: A lot of kids have no idea what they want to do. Or, their parents try to steer their kids into a different direction.

KB: They knew what I wanted to do, and they saw this passion and ambition that I had. They didn’t want to get in the way of anything.

OK: When you started making your first films, you started working with Super 8?

KB: I got a Super 8 camera when I was 13, for Christmas.

OK: Did you immediately know how to use it? Do you have any mentors that you started working with?

KB: It was pretty simple. My sister and I didn’t know about lighting at first. We shot a lot of things indoors at night that never turned out. [Laughs.] But we figured it out eventually.

OK: Let’s jump into the movie, “B.C. Butcher.” Where did that idea come from? That’s your first feature film, right?

KB: Yeah. Me and my friend, Kenzie Givens, wrote it when we were in high school, just because we were bored. I met her in high school because she opened up her locker, and she had a picture of Jack Nance from Eraserhead. I walked up behind her and said, “Oh my god, I love Jack Nance!” She screamed and fell over. [Laughs.] We became really good friends. The next day, we went to Cinefamily and saw the movie Possession together. She’s really in love with John Waters. I’m really in love with Roger Corman. So we decided to make a movie together. I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we made something so cheap? All we would have to do is run around in a state park or something, with loin cloths. We could make a caveman movie.” And then she said, “Yeah, or a slasher movie.” Then we were both like, “Oh my god, a caveman slasher movie!” And then we just started writing it together. I was fifteen when we started writing it, and she was sixteen or seventeen.

OK: Did you make it during the summer or the school year?

KB: We graduated at the same time. I graduated my junior year, and she graduated her senior year. She went off to college, so she didn’t get to help me make it. But we said we were going to make it. I didn’t want her leaving to stop me, so I went ahead and made it.

OK: Where did you get the funding for the film? Did you crowdsource it or find producers?

KB: I shot one scene to use on Indiegogo. I got the money for that one scene from insurance money from a car accident. It was such a minor car accident, so it was no big deal.

OK: So it was fate?

KB: Yeah, it was definitely fate. I did one scene and put it online for a crowdfunding thing. I didn’t really get my goal, because I was pretty naïve. I thought, “Oh, I’ll put it up, and people will give me ten grand.” But I got $1500. A lot of it was because people started writing articles about it. I went to Monsterpalooza, this horror movie convention, and I passed out flyers to everybody. I passed some out to the right people, and they wrote about it. Fangoria wrote an article about it. This website called Birth.Movies.Death did a big thing that brought a lot of money. It didn’t get me all the money that I needed, but it did get me a lot of exposure.

OK: It’s hard to get a movie made, even a low-budget film. Especially when you’re younger and people don’t know what’s going to come out of it.

KB: Yeah. After that, I still wanted to get the money from my original goal. It took me about eight more months to raise that money, getting jobs and stuff. But I love it.

OK: Your cast is really interesting, specifically Kato Kaelin. How did that come about?

KB: Rodney [Bingenheimer] introduced me to him. They go to IHOP together all the time.

OK: Were you aware of who he was in the nineties?

KB: Yeah, he’s Kato Kaelin. Rodney said one day, “You know who you should have in your movie? Kato Kaelin. Here’s his phone number.” I called and said, “Hey, Kato, this is Kansas. Will you be in my movie?” Kato is so funny and so nice. He’s a really, really good person. He was so professional and cool. He added to a lot of his lines, and they’re the best lines in the movie.

OK: Was it mainly ad lib?

KB: Kato was the only one to ad lib. Kato was only supposed to be in one scene, but we expanded the role to give him more screen time. I told him, “Say whatever you want.” And it worked.

OK: When is the release of the film?

KB: It’s going to be on Troma’s new streaming service, called TromaNow on Friday. That’s available to TromaNow subscribers. The official release date is in March. The DVD is going to come out. We’ll have a theatrical release too. Video on demand, of course. Amazon.

OK: Do you have plans to go to film school, or will you just keep making more movies?

KB: Film school is such a waste of money. My sister is an actress. The other day, she had to go to an audition at a film school. I came with her, and I was waiting outside the room, poking my head into all these classrooms. There was a classroom where the teacher was showing a class YouTube clips of Eddie Murphy stand-up comedy. These kids are paying $100,000 a year to watch Eddie Murphy clips on YouTube. [Laughs.] I’m not going to film school.

OK: You could use $100,000 to make another movie.

KB: Exactly. I could make 10 movies.

OK: Do you want to go in the direction of this type of movie?

KB: Definitely. I don’t like serious movies. I like fun movies.

OK: That’s how some movies should be. There are a lot of serious movies, but people should be able to have fun at the movies too. Do you have any ideas for another film?

KB: I have a bunch of ideas lined up. It was hard to pick, but I did pick. But it’s a surprise. I keep giving hints. It’s going to be a pseudo-documentary.

OK: Is it going to be like Cannibal Holocaust? 

KB: Sort of, but not quite on that level. Have you seen Faces of Death?

OK: I’ve heard of it.

KB: It’s going to be sort of like that, with the narrator standing there. It’s going to be like an education film, but totally fake.

OK: You mentioned Roger Corman as one of your heroes. Have you met him? Do you have plans to reach out to any of your heroes and see if they want to work with you?

KB: I have met Roger Corman once. I just ran up to him and hugged him. I was 14 probably. He thought I was so weird. I was wearing this big, black fur cape and black leather pants and white go-go boots. I saw him at LACMA and hugged him so tight. I was like, “I love you!!!” And he was like, “Thank you.” I think I did the same thing to Jack Hill, who directed Spider Baby. When I was fourteen, I asked Quentin Tarantino to marry me.

OK: What was his response?

KB: He said, “When you’re eighteen, we’ll see.”

OK: Are you a film purist? Do you want to make things on film exclusively?

KB: Definitely. 100%.

OK: What is your advice to other young people that want to make a movie?

KB: Don’t sit around thinking about it. Just do it, because it’ll be worth it. 


You can watch B.C. Butcher, written and directed by Kansas Bowling, on Troma's digital streaming service here. Follow Kansas on Instagram here to stay in loop with her cinematic pursuits. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


The Kid Stays In The Picture: An Interview With Asthma's Benedict Samuel On Acting, Hope, And Redemption

Asthma, which makes its premier today in New York and on streaming services, could be confused with a modern retelling of Godard’s Breathless, but it’s much more than that. Not that there’s anything wrong with putting Asthma in the same orbit of Breathless. Indeed, there is a galaxy of films about the outsider, the fuck up, always fucking things up, profusely apologizing, riding off into the sunset and finding redemption before the credits roll into a blur of black and white words. But Asthma is distinctly original in the sense of its cinematic nuance and its ability to crawl over your skin like warm honey. There is softness to it. It is a romantic film bent on destroying the archetype of a film about romance; whatever that means. Asthma is also the first film of director, Jake Hoffman, who shows an enormous amount of promise in the realm of telling a great story and making it look easy as hell to tell it. Another thing that makes the Asthma star shine the brightest is, well, its star: Benedict Samuel. An extraterrestrial by American standards, Samuel hails from the land down under. There is a strong history of Australian import to the American movie screen, but there is something iconic about Samuel.

Maybe it’s that he’s just cool or maybe because he’s not afraid to show his vulnerability – both things you can’t learn in acting class. In his role as Gus, Samuel shows a generous sensitivity by not making heroin addiction look fun, but where he radiates the most is in his ability to be relatable on screen, despite the tying off and nodding out. Starring alongside actress Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Big Eyes), the character of Gus plays like a magnet to her character’s own suffering and longing. Together they go off on a journey of chaotic and dysfunctional proportions, from the gritty streets of New York City – the late, great poet and bon vivant of Manhattan’s high and low life Rene Ricard makes a cameo – to a hippie hideout in Connecticut’s countryside where a band of misfit musicians will give you major FOMO.

Along the way, we learn a lot about Gus – some revelations seem obvious, but important nonetheless, but some are more shocking, but not shocking when you realize the implications. Whatever the case is, Benedict Samuel was born to play the part. Cast after sending in an audition tape, Hoffman was unsure if he was seeing the actual character or an incredibly convincing actor. When we asked Hoffman if he was surprised by Samuel’s interpretation of the character, he had this to say: "When I saw Benedict's audition I was blown away by both his talent and his take on the character...Watching the tape I thought: that's the guy. That's not to say he did everything exactly how I imagined, rather it was fun to be surprised by his choices, [choices] that were his and felt honest, but always in synch with the original vision and intention."

In today’s cinematic landscape, there aren’t a lot of films where more than one scene gives you that visceral chill. There are also not a lot of films that feel memorable in the sense of capturing the aura of a zeitgeist – one that you can look back on without feeling duped. Asthma has all these qualities and watching it will become an important part of your movie-watching digest – that’s for sure. It also has cameo appearances by the likes of Rosanna Arquette, Iggy Pop and Nick Nolte. Or watch the damn movie for the sake of seeing Samuel’s performance. In the following interview, Autre has a casual conversation with Samuel over the phone while on his way to a cemetery in Australia to have his portraits taken for this feature. We talk about the weather, his acting style, how he prepares for an intense role like that of Gus, working with Iggy Pop, and why redemption and hope are precious things in which to hold on.

OLIVER KUPPER: I hear birds chirping. It sounds like paradise over there.

BENEDICT SAMUEL: Oh man it’s a beautiful day today, it’s gorgeous.

OK: We are in downtown L.A.

BS: Very nice, I love it down there. Where abouts?

OK: We are on Spring street, we’re in the heart of downtown L.A.

BS: Oh grand!

OK: Yeah we just moved our headquarters here.

BS: Oh cool man! I was flicking through the magazine online, it’s such a fucking great mag man.

OK: Thank you! We watched the film a couple nights ago and it’s incredible. You’re really great in it.

BS: Oh thanks man! So you enjoyed the film?

OK: Yeah really enjoyed it. Jake had showed me the trailer about seven or eight months ago and I couldn’t wait to see it. And I’m glad that IFC is putting it out.

BS: Yeah they’re great at supporting films which is awesome. It’s just what the film needs, you know?

OK: Are you going to be at the L.A. premier or were you at the recent private New York premier?

BS: No, I went to the New York premier, just last week. Which was crazy man, I think I was in the air longer than I was in New York. It was real quick.

OK: That’s wild. How was it? Was that the first time you’d seen it in a theater?

BS: No, I saw it with Jake when it got accepted into the Karlovy Vary, it’s a national film festival in the Czech Republic. The first time I saw it with the clean cut and the music and everything, was in the old Czech Republic.

OK: Wow. And that was a film festival right?

BS: Yeah, it’s called Karlovy Vary.

OK: So do you want to jump into this interview?

BS: Yeah man, sure!

OK: So my first question- when did you know that you wanted to be an actor? Was there a sort of a moment where you knew you wanted to become an actor?

BS: It wasn’t like a lightning bolt situation but it kind of gradually happened. I think that interest was encouraged unconsciously by my parents. We went to a lot of theatres as kids, we read a lot of books, and then my brother started acting in school. I look up to him very much and it just seemed really exciting and intriguing. There was a kind of mystery about it that got me hooked. So I kind of followed, over a series of time, my brother into it.

OK: Did you watch a lot of movies? Were there any actors that you were really inspired by or that you sort of looked up to, besides your brother?

BS: Growing up it was more theatre, but I remember secretly Dave and I taped Pulp Fiction on VHS and because we were so young and because it was rated R, we would come home after school and watch this film for like ten minutes before mum or dad got home. So we watched Pulp Fiction over the course of about three weeks. That’s a good memory. And so now I really love the work of Phillip C. Hoffman and people like that who are completely and utterly invested in that world.

OK: So in Asthma you’re working with Rosanna right? She was in Pulp Fiction, was that sort of strange?

BS: Yeah! It was a real trip, you know? She’s a real beautiful, graceful actor and it did cross my mind - like wow! Fuck, here we are.

OK: So you watched Pulp Fiction, but there are a lot of amazing Australian films. The independent film industry in is huge out there. Did you watch a lot of Australian films?

BS: Yeah, yeah I certainly did. There’s one independent film in particular that is a must. It’s called Wake in Fright, and I think it was made in the 70s. But it’s exactly what its title suggests. And it’s phenomenal. But also watching the Edgerton brothers as I kind of grew more into acting and the creative nature surrounding it, those guys were an inspiration in particular.

OK: You went to a lot of theatre, were your parents in the theatre world?

BS: I’m pretty sure they did some amateur theatre along the way, but they’re both high school teachers.

OK: You’ve worked with your brother on a role, is that right?

BS: Yeah, I’m happy with it but it was certainly a learning curve. It’s an interesting process kind of trading notes and scripts back and forth. We’re working on a bunch of stuff at the moment which is exciting. But it’s a slow burn.

OK: Yeah, So I want to talk about your role in Asthma. It was a pretty intense character; I mean do you have a specific method that you sort of employ when you go into a character like that?

BS: It’s always tough to talk about that kind of stuff because in anything really, there’s not just one kind of technique. I always try and come from a place of honesty and not judgment whatsoever and try to talk about something real in a very creative and interesting way. So that’s always my ambition, and hopefully I don’t fall flat on my face.

OK: What’s life like between the scenes, is it hard to get out of character?

BS: I think naturally there are some things that stick with you for a little bit, more so than other things, but I don’t find it hard to excuse myself from the game that we’re playing, you know?

OK: And what was it like working with Jake?

BS: We hit it off immediately, and Jake and I developed a really great relationship. Which is really surprising because we only met over the tape that I did. But we just kind of got each other. I think Jake as a director is really calm and thoughtful. With that energy on set, coming from the person who is driving the scene, it’s infectious. That spreads through the crew. So it was fantastic, I think the world of him.

OK: And that was your first time in New York City, right?

BS: Yeah, I was there for three days driving around in a Rolls Royce, which wasn’t too bad.

OK: What was your experience like, what’d you think of New York?

BS: It was great. The funny thing is that it’s such a beautiful city and I hadn’t been there before. So, I’m playing this guy who’s like the New York fucking institution, and I’m looking up at stuff all the time, going - wow! And Jake’s like, Ben! Fuck man, people from New York don’t fucking look up. They look down. And I was like yeah, right, right, right.

OK: That’s funny. That must have been an awesome experience driving around in that Rolls Royce.

BS: Oh man, yeah I’ll never forget it, it was amazing.

OK: I guess there’s not a lot of movie roles that require you to have quite that great a time.

BS: I wish I got a Rolls for the shoot!

OK: Yeah of course. And what was your experience like, working with the late Rene Ricard and Iggy Pop? That must have been pretty cool.

BS: Yeah, I feel pretty lucky. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Firstly, working with Rene was just amazing. I didn’t know too much about him until Jake introduced me. I saw his artwork and had heard all these magical stories about him, and once I met the guy he lived up to every one of them. I think he was flirting with me. It was so much fun. He had these slippers that had dollar signs on them, I think he actually brought them himself.

OK: Wow, sounds about right.

BS: But yeah, it’s just such a shame that he couldn’t have seen the film because I think he would have been very pleased with his performance. And working with Iggy Pop was great, he rocked out, he didn’t know any of his fucking lines. The guy was drunk, (laughs) I’m kidding, but it was amazing. It was like working with one of the greats. Unbelievable.

OK: If you had an ultimate role that you would want to, or could play, what would that be?

BS: Um, tough questions mate! There’s not really one role, but one thing that I want to do, and keep doing, is working on the type of projects that allow you to have a collaborative, artistic conversation about what’s going on. That’s where I love to live- in that collaboration, and in the discussion about creating something that is a bit different, a bit skewed, a bit of a different viewpoint into the same story. I just want to exist with good people on good projects.

OK: Yeah! Are you working on anything now in Australia, or are you planning anything soon?

BS: Yeah, I just wrapped yesterday on a short called “Secret City” for Foxtel which is a political thriller, which is very nice. Jacki Weaver is in it, and a bunch of other fantastic actors. Also a show that I just finished earlier this year is premiering on Sunday, it’s a six-part mini series called “The Beautiful Lie” which is based on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s a contemporary re-telling of that. So yeah I’ve had a good year and a good time.

OK: Yeah, it seemed like after Asthma - after it wrapped - you started getting a lot of roles, which is pretty amazing.

BS: Yeah, well I’m so thankful for Jake because he really could have hired anyone he wanted to. I know that he wanted to hire the right person and I feel very lucky that he thought that was me. I’ve got a lot to thank for Jake.

OK: I mean you’re perfect for that role, it made so much sense.

BS: Thank you.

OK: When people see that film, what do you want them to take away from watching it?

BS: It’s an interesting question because I try and stay out of the way of that kind of stuff because I think what’s intriguing about this film is that it could mean so many different things to so many different people. I had a lot of responses from people coming up like, “I lost my best friend to that drug” and “I have hope now from this film,” while other people have come up and said, “this guy’s a fucking dick” or “I’ve been hurt too.” So I try and stay out of that conversation and let it happen because it’s so interesting that the thing that we all watch in the cinema can mean so many different things and I like to allow that conversation to happen. It’s delightful, it really is. 

OK: Did you watch any other films or was there any research that you did to learn about how that worked?

BS: Yeah, I think I’ve said this in a few other interviews as well, but addiction is a very real, serious thing. I didn’t want to glorify what he was doing and I didn’t want to judge it either. Because there are people who are in the throws of addiction and I wanted to be very sensitive and I wanted to represent it without saying “this is terrible” or “this guy's a jerk.” So I watched a lot of documentaries about heroin and really approached it with sensitivity because I know there are people who are going through this, and thankfully I’m not, and thankfully I don’t know anyone who is. Which is a real blessing. I guess in regard to your question earlier, what the film really is about is a notion of redemption, of hope. And I think no matter what, there is always the opportunity for redemption. It’s just whether you take it or not.

OK: Yeah, the film had a happy ending.

BS: Yeah I agree. I’m glad.

OK: A lot of films end without a happy ending, and you’re left without that sense of redemption.

BS: I think the film really needs that too, because the content is heavy; it’s true, it’s real. I think Jake didn’t compromise himself by allowing the audience to have their cake and eat it too, you know?

OK: Sure! Well thank you so much for your time.

BS: Yeah! I’ll have to shoot up by the office next time I’m in L.A., that’ll be great. I also wanted to mention how fantastic David Myrick is, the director of photography. He became a really really great friend of mine and without him too we wouldn’t have captured all these beautiful things in such a thoughtful way. The way he and Jake worked together was just beautiful. He’s a dear friend of mine, I love him a lot.

OK: It was shot very beautifully, the light was very beautiful, it was very well done.

BS: It was gorgeous, yeah we were lucky to have such great people on board.

OK: I can’t wait to see it in a theater, we saw it in an office but I can’t wait to see it in that experience.

BS: You’ve gotta see me in my undies again.

OK: Yeah, that’s the main thing we’re looking forward to.

BS: I told Jake it should be in the poster, but he didn’t want to give anything away. 


Asthma will make its premier tonight at the IFC Film Center in New York, director Jake Hoffman will be in attendance for a Q&A. You can buy tickets here. The film will also be available to stream on select streaming services. The film will make its Los Angeles premier on October 30th. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photographs by Elvis DiFazio, shot at the Camperdown Cemetery in Sydney Australia. Tuxedo jacket: vintage Gucci. Bow tie: vintage YSL. Shirt: Tom Ford. Pants: Models own. Stylist: Michael Azzollini. Follow Autre on Instagram:  @AUTREMAGAZINE



The Real Brando: An Interview With Director Stevan Riley and Rebecca Brando On A New Documentary That Explores Her Father's Life In His Own Words

Marlon Brando may be the most famous and iconic movie actor that ever lived, but he may also be the most misunderstood. In his younger years, he was handsome and brilliant and celebrated. He bulldozed his way through each flicker and celluloid frame with supernova luminance. The ladies loved him, and men wanted to be him. Brando also changed the way people act in movies, which was deeply instilled in him by the teachings of Stella Adler and her foundations for method acting. Before him, movies were like filmed plays and the lines were delivered with overly dramatic cadence. After Brando, realism seeped into performances, men could be vulnerable and tortured and show sides of themselves no one had ever seen on screen before. He made way for the rebel, the bruised outsider, and the tortured soul replicated by James Dean and every prototype since.

In his later years, Brando was considered persona non grata in a lot of social and professional circles – he refused to deliver lines and he was impossible to work with. Sometimes lines would be fed to him through a microphone in his ear. In Apocalypse Now, for which Brando was paid a million dollars for three weeks of work, he showed up to the set bloated and overweight. The part for Colonel Kurtz called for someone much frailer as it was written in Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’ Francis Ford Coppola was forced to re-envision a lot of the movie around the actor and his demands. However, there is a side to Brando that many people have never seen before. A side that they will soon get to see in a rare, intimate documentary that culls together over 200 hours of his personal voice memos that the actor kept throughout his life.

In the recounting of his life, you will learn that Brando is a hopeless romantic, a poet with a flowing, beautiful language and a deep, almost mystical understanding about the human condition. It is a side that is incongruous to his reputation. The touching documentary, entitled Listen to Me Marlon, was put in the hands of director Stevan Riley, who did a miraculous job at culling the countless hours of audio and film footage that the actor’s estate made available for the production. Not only does the film answer unanswered questions about the actor’s mysterious persona – it is also a parable of fame and disillusionment, love and heartbreak (Brando himself goes into detail about the deaths of his children), and it will no doubt be the last laugh from a man ridiculed into isolation and detachment from society. Recently, Autre got a chance to speak with Stevan Riley, as well as Brando’s own daughter, Rebecca Brando, about her collaboration on the documentary and how she would like her father to be remembered.  

Autre: How did you two meet? How did this documentary come to be?

Stevan Riley: Rebecca and I met very early on when we had the idea for the film, when access was just becoming available. That was around the very end of 2012. I received a call from Passion Pictures—a production company in London who I’ve directed a few films with. They said, “Would you like to direct a film on Marlon Brando?” I didn’t know anything about Marlon at all, but knew—especially in my early reading—that he was going to be a fascinating character.

Autre: Did you expect a challenge?

Steven Riley: It would be a great challenge to capture the real man, which people have been trying to do for decades. He remained quite elusive to biographers and other filmmakers. It would be a creative challenge. The estate—they were the ones who approached Passion Pictures. They were just, at the very same time, unpacking the archive, which had been in storage for ten years since Marlon’s death. I was very interested to see what was in there, what could we possibly use. There were loads of documentation. There were all sorts of objects and paraphernalia. And tapes as well. At the same time, I had to write an early proposal. Coincidentally, the ambition at the point was what the film ended up being. It had the same title—Listen To Me Marlon. It had this idea to use the tapes (and hope that there’s more to come), so we can tell the story in his own words. 

Autre: You had a lot of material to work with—I think it was 200 hours of footage. What were some of your emotions as you were collecting material and going through the editing process?

Stevan Riley: It was fascinating. Marlon was definitely a very complex character. Breaking that material down and forming as strong of a narrative as possible was definitely a creative challenge. I was also very keen to tell the emotional narrative. Certainly, when you’re editing that you experience a lot of it with the subject. You want to communicate as well as possible the emotions of the story. And Marlon’s emotions regarding things which were important to him, thing that concerned him. Whether it was his acting, his life, his love—all those things. But it was really fascinating. It was a real education. Marlon was such a thought-out and considerate man.


"...It’s always hard to see the tragedy. That was really hard to watch...There were so many obstacles in his life and so many situations that he had to overcome. He did, in the end. He prevailed. All the tragedies—he didn’t wallow in sorrows."


Autre: He seems like a poet or a scholar. Rebecca, did you learn anything new, or discover any revelations about your father through the making of this film?

Rebecca Brando: Did I learn anything new? I always come up with the same answer, which is that I really didn’t learn anything new. But it was just pieced together so well. It makes me very happy that Stevan was able to piece it all together, showing the human side of my father. Showing that he basically has the same struggles as anyone has—feeling very vulnerable at times, fearful even on the set. You see him talking to himself and saying, “Forget everybody else. You have a right to be where you are and do what you need to do.” He was always psychoanalyzing people when we would go to restaurants, or anywhere in public. He would psychoanalyze me if I were lying on the bed with him, reading poetry together. He would ask me, “What are you thinking right now?” It’s interesting, you have these thoughts…But back to your question. No, I didn’t learn anything new, but I’m just so happy that it talks about my dad’s background, the actor.

Autre: Did you learn anything new about him as an actor?

Rebecca Brando: I thought it was super insightful. Maybe that part is what I learned a lot. He rarely talked to us about his work. Or rather, I should say me. He didn’t talk to me about his acting and what would happen on the sets. It was interesting to see that side of him, how he was a professional. He did all of his research before he did the film. He would read about the culture and the current events if it took place in a particular country. He’d read up about everything. Then, he would totally immerse himself with all of this research. He would come to the set and improvise with the lines, make it customized. That’s the only part that I learned something new about him.

Autre: He wanted to release this footage. He was private in his life, but he wanted to release this footage later, right?

Rebecca Brando: My father was so intuitive and so forward-thinking. I’ll say it again—he was always thinking in the future. As much as he wanted to be private, I think because there were so many tapes, he had to have known that someone was going to find these one day and do something great with it. I’m sure that came to his mind many times. I think he did make the tapes for his own self-analysis, for his own healing.

Autre: Was there anything that was specifically omitted? Is there anything that you think he might object to?

Rebecca Brando: Well, it’s always hard to see the tragedy. That was really hard to watch. But I didn’t object. I can’t object, because I see Stevan’s goal in putting that in the film, to show that there were so many obstacles in his life and so many situations that he had to overcome. He did, in the end. He prevailed. All the tragedies—he didn’t wallow in sorrows. He persevered and kept on protecting all of us kids. He was still very present in our lives.

Autre: What do you hope people will learn about Marlon Brando from watching this documentary?

Rebecca Brando: My hope is that this film will clear his name. The person who was difficult on set, the person who refused the Oscar—there was a reason for him doing all these things. I hope they will understand him more as the human. The human, not the actor.


Listen to me Marlon will open in New York and Los Angeles at the end of July, 2015 and in the Bay Area on August 7th. See an exclusive clip from the documentary below. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


Tangerine Director Sean Baker Talks Monster Flicks, Shooting Feature Films on Smartphones, and His New Sex Worker Comedy

Tangerine is a film to celebrate, not only because it brings a bright beautiful shade of blooming reality to transgender issues, but also because it is a return to the inventiveness of filmmaking. Shot entirely with iPhone 5S smartphones, the film is a triumph of cinema’s capacity to capture the human condition using whatever means necessary. With past projects that include Greg the Bunny and Starlet, director Sean Baker could have gone with much more expensive cameras, but decided to stick with smartphones and all the inherent challenges – challenges that were worked out with special, newly invented rigs and filmmaking apps. The decision lends an atmosphere of spontaneity to Tangerine that wouldn’t have been captured otherwise. The film, which takes place on Christmas Eve, follows Sin-Dee (played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (played by Mya Taylor) as they search for the former’s pimp through a landscape of lascivious pleasure seekers involved in all manners of sins of the flesh – all among the neon hued and gum stained sidewalks of Tinseltown’s soiled boulevards. When watching the film, you are injected with a new enthusiasm about moviemaking – an enthusiasm that hasn’t been felt since Harmony Korine was using camcorders to shoot Gummo, or when Thomas Vinterberg was using handycams and mini-DVs to shoot the 1998 Danish film, Festen, or even when Richard Linklater was using 16mm to shoot Slacker on a shoestring budget. It seems that using unpredictable tools results in beautiful cinematic experiences. In the following interview, Autre speaks with the director of Tangerine, Sean Baker, about his falling in love with monster movies, transgender rights and why he decided to shoot his third feature film on smartphones. 

OLIVER KUPPER: When did you know that you wanted to make films? Was there a specific film that you saw that really inspired you?

SEAN BAKER: Yeah, it goes way back, actually. My mother brought me to the local library when I was in first grade. They were playing a 16mm of old Universal films—monster films. It was the burning hill scene in James Whale’s Frankenstein—that climax—that got me hooked. Up until then, I had always said, “I want to be a fireman! I want to be a construction worker!” I left the library that day and said, “I want to be a filmmaker!” From that point on, I knew I wanted to direct films.

OK: That’s amazing. I want to talk about your first effort in filmmaking. Your first effort in getting your work out there was Greg the Bunny, correct?  

SB: Well, yes, that was the first one that hit. My first film was a film called “Four Letter Words.” It was a look at guys in the suburbs. I’m hoping some day I’ll have the money to remaster it. It was shot on a 35; I made it in my early twenties. It was very much like a social-realist Kevin Smith film. Because in your twenties you see time in a different way, I let time fly by. I think I shot the film in ’96, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Matt Dentler (now he’s with iTunes, but at the time he was running South by Southwest) was the first champion of my stuff. When I was in post-production of Four Letter Words and trying to find this movie in post, two friends and I (Dan Milano and Spencer Chinoy) picked up a puppet one night. I realized what a genius Dan Milano is, when he started improvising with this puppet. The next thing you know, we have a public access show that gets recognized by IFC. Then, the next thing you know, we’re going to have some things on IFC, which lead to getting on Fox. We signed over with Seth Green, which is where we got most of our fan base. We went back to IFC, and then we had a spinoff on MTV. So I could say that this was a wonderful, happy accident that supported me through many years of making independents.

OK: You were an independent filmmaker, went to public access, made Greg the Bunny, and then went back to independent filmmaking?

SB: At my heart, my love is cinema.

OK: Your work deals with a lot of darker themes and cultures on the fringe. Where did these interests or appreciations come from?

SB: I think it’s a natural desire to explore the world, to try to understand and identify with people from different cultures, who have very different experiences and upbringings. For me, usually, it stems from a desire to explore a different location, first. Then, it’s finding the community within that location, and really taking the time to collaborate with them. For example, with Tangerine, it was about that unofficial red light district of Santa Monica. I knew of it because I lived close by. I had already been exploring sex work with my last film, so there was a natural progression. That area happens to be frequented by transgender sex workers. First and foremost, it was a look into that chaotic neighborhood. Then, it developed into exploring the lives of the transgender sex workers who are really in a place where they are forced to work the streets. They’re not given the same opportunities. Most of them are trans women of color who aren’t given opportunities because of bias, prejudice, and racism. Because of the cards they’ve been dealt, they’re living these lives. There was a natural desire to explore that. I had already had empathy and sympathy for them, but I wanted to get to know them on a human level. That was really what led to that.


"...We were shooting out on the street with very little money, so we wanted to keep our prints small. We didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. We just didn’t have the money for security. We didn’t have the money to own location....Even with Donut Time, we paid them to be there, but we could never shut down their business. We had to work around real customers that were coming in and out. So what the iPhone did was grant us a low-profile."


OK: In terms of transgender and gay rights, do you want this film to be an important document of this time to humanize these people that have been on the fringe for so long?

SB: Yes, it’s most definitely in focus right now. Especially over the last few months with Caitlyn Jenner, the public television show which focuses on the trans individual, Transparent… When we set out to make this film over two years ago, it was something that was rarely talked about. I think it’s a sign that we’re all thinking the same way in terms of our society recognizing these individuals. I’m focusing on one very small—very small—sub-community. This film is not meant to represent all trans people. It focuses on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland where there happens to be sex work going on.

OK: And the movie was shot on iPhones. I don’t think that’s ever been done before in the sense of a feature film. Where did that idea come from?

SB: It came from a very organic place. I would be the first one to call myself out if it were done as a gimmick. I’m a cinephile, as I told you. If I was given the money, I wouldn’t have shot this on a 5s. But maybe I wouldn’t have made as good of a movie. I think in the end, the fact that we shot on a smartphone, there were so many benefits that came with it. At least for this story. I’m not saying for every movie. I actually hope my next film is shot on film. But for this particular movie, it helped in so many ways. Number one, we were shooting out on the street with very little money, so we wanted to keep our prints small. We didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. We just didn’t have the money for security. We didn’t have the money to own location. We had, of course, insurance and permits. Even with Donut Time, we paid them to be there, but we could never shut down their business. We had to work around real customers that were coming in and out. So what the iPhone did was grant us a low-profile.

OK: And you were working with very green actors, right? 

SB: The second thing, and probably the most important thing… I was working with two first-time actors—Mya Taylor and Kiki Rodriguez. Those two were already aspiring actors and professionals. What I’ve learned from shooting other first-timers is that there’s always a hump they have to get through. They have to drop their inhibitions. Even with Prince Adu from Prince of Broadway—it took him a little while to get used to the camera. In this case, everybody has a smartphone. For example, these girls were taking selfies of themselves between takes with their own phones. There was no difference between what we were doing and what everybody else was doing. Their confidence level and their lack of intimidation was really there from minute one. They were on the same level as James Ransone and Karren Karagulien. It was wonderful, in that case, where suddenly I was able to jump in, and even first-timers became great actors.

OK: For someone who is a little more conservative or doesn’t understand this world, how would you invite them to appreciate this film?

SB: I would just say to give this film a chance. I have a feeling that, like me, you’ll fall in love with these characters. I fell in love with these characters. I think that no matter who you are and what your politics are, you will identify with these characters. They’re going through struggle, but we all are. Of course, they’re also dealing with hardships that we’ll never know. At the same time, Tangerine is about friendship. Tangerine is also about fidelity. We all have friends; we all understand friendship. And I’m pretty sure a large percentage of us have also had to deal with fidelity. Whether we’ve done it to our partners or our partners have done it to us, we all understand the consequence of fidelity. We all understand what jealousy is. If you go into the film understanding that this is not a “life of” movie, but is actually a human story filled with humor and characters that I think everyone will love—even if they are flawed. I’m not just talking about the two main characters, but also the characters on the fringe. Even the characters who might be a little crass in what they say are still lovable characters. That’s how I would invite the more conservative crowd in.

OK: If this movie were to play in a cult cinema double-feature, what would you play next with it?

SB: That’s a good question. I never had a double-feature in mind with Tangerine. Maybe the Estonian film Tangerine. [Laughs.] No, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that. Maybe I can text you later with my answer.


Magnolia Pictures presents Tangerine, directed by Sean Baker, opening July 17, 2015 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, Landmark’s California Theatre in Berkeley. You can also see the film in Los Angeles and New York. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


Girl Props: An Interview with India Menuez, Adinah Dancyger and Victoria Cronin on Road Trips and Independent Cinema

There is a good chance that if you live in New York and travel in a certain artsy circle, or if you flip through your favorite fashion magazine, or watch your favorite indie movie, you are going to see an other-worldly site: a poised young woman with striking copper red features by the name of India Salvator Menuez. India is a part of a crew of bright young artists exploring the fields of fine art, performative art, film, and more, under the moniker of the Luck You Collective. Currently, India, and fellow collective members of Luck You Adinah Dancyger and Victoria Cronin are raising funds to film a road trip movie called Girl Props. Not only are they directing the movie, they are also starring in the film – filling three of the four roles. The movie will tell the story of four women who embark on a spontaneous journey westward through America and discover the inherent challenges along the way. Taking visual cues from disparate references, like Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louis, Girl Props will be directed by three people, offering three unique perspectives, and it will be shot using a wide variety of cameras – including standard digital, but also non-standard mediums such as iPhones and drones. With only a week left on their Kickstarter campaign – which includes rewards such as hand-pulled silkscreened tees, a zine, and even a cameo in the film – Autre got a chance to ask the directors a few questions about their film, its impetus and its process; as well as the importance of women in cinema.

AUTRE: What are your backgrounds and how did you meet?

INDIA MENUEZ: We all grew up in NYC and met through a scene with similar interests.

A: What kind of art and film where you exposed to growing up in New York? Was there anything specific that made a strong impression?

ADINAH DANCYGER: All kinds, if you’re looking for it, chances are you’ll find something. Working in an art collective broadened my perspective of what art is and could be which really came out of being working with friends in a DIY style. I didn’t see many art house films until I went to college but occasionally we would all check out retrospectives or rare prints of films playing at Film Forum and Anthology.  

A: There seems to be this Youth Wave thing going on in New York right, do you feel like the younger generation has more to say or are they just saying something different?

VICTORIA CRONIN: I think this “New York Youth Wave” is a wave that has always come in and crashed every couple of years or so. I don’t think it has anything to do with having more to say or even necessarily saying something different, but more with being young and being a fresh face.

A: When did you all become interested in film, can you remember a film that really took your breath away?

AD: High school. Tarkovsky, in general. John Cassavetes’ A Women Under the Influence. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s, The Double Life of Veronique. Akira Kurosawa’s, Rashamon. The list goes on.

IM: I grew up watching Miyazaki, movies were always a way into the other world for me. As I started to find myself working within film, coming from art, the interest grew exponentially.

VC:  I became interested in film because my parent’s were really into Woody Allen movies when I was a kid. I liked what he offered in terms of interesting cinematography mixed with humor. Before that I had assumed “beautiful” movies were supposed to be serious, and seriously boring. It took me a while to appreciate beautiful boring movies and not see them as boring. Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia helped me with seeing this.


"....I had assumed “beautiful” movies were supposed to be serious, and seriously boring. It took me a while to appreciate beautiful boring movies...."


A: Let’s talk about Girl Props – can you tell me a little bit about the impetus behind this film?

VC: Growing from a boredom in high school we would create characters for ourselves to play when going out. In college this grew into writing down actual characters then making little videos for them. Girl Props became a goal to create a world for four of these characters to live in together and have a soul-searching adventure in.

A: You are shooting with multiple cameras to get different effects – is this a documentary, a feature or how can Girl Props be described?

AD: It is a feature film, narrative, and fiction. To say if the narrative is totally linear is a decision that is not totally decided. The film is contained within the realm of subjective perspective. The camera sees what the characters see. The second camera is in effect as the girls’ documentary camera, adding another layer of subjectivity.

A: Who are some filmmakers that you really look up to or who you will look to for inspiration?

There are so many, any list is always incomplete but here are a few of our favorites: Andrea Arnolds, Leos Carax, Agnes Varda, Barbara Loden, Wim Wenders, John Cassavetes, Josh & Benny Safdie, Luis Bunuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Chantal Ackerman, Kelly Reichardt, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Nathan Silver, Britni West, Robert Bresson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovsky.

A: I really love that you are championing the idea of movies made by women – I think that this is incredibly important because there does seem to be a lack – why do you think this is and do you think it will change?

AD: Millions of movies are being made every year. I don’t know the statistics but it seems like the percentage of female filmmakers has gone up exponentially in recent decades. There are definitely politics in the unbalanced ratio of men to women in the film industry, but a lot of that has to do with the attention men get as filmmakers that make it seem like less women are making films.

VC: The lack of women in film is not a reflection of women being less interested in film but of the obstacles they face in a male dominated industry. I’m optimistic this will continue to change as it is more discussed why it is problematic that there is lack of women directors getting attention as well as a lack of women’s stories being told in film. With three directors we hope to drive this point home while offering three unique perspectives of the four female protagonists.

A: Do you see any challenges working with multiple directors?

AD: Sure, I think any collaboration is a struggle. Three leaders, three different minds and personalities, one project. We will never know what each of us are thinking exactly, but through practicing and having worked together for a long time, we’re getting closer and closer to being able to do understand each other fully.


VC: After writing the script for this movie together we have really honed our craft of communicating together. The hardest part of being a group is being able to see when your idea is not as strong as someone else's and when compromise is best for the project as a whole.  


Click here to donate to the Girl Props Kickstarter and help India Salvator Menuez, Adinah Dancyger, and Victoria Cronin reach their $20,000 goal. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE 


Psychomagic: An Adventure and Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky

An Adventure and Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky 

by ADARSHA BENJAMIN

Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the great masters of surrealist cinema.  His trinity of violent, extraordinary and symbolic masterpieces – El Topo, Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre – have made him into an icon. Jodorowsky is not only a cult filmmaker but also a poet, author, comic book writer and spiritual mystic who holds on to the mysteries of the universe like tightly-kept secrets only to be shared with those worthy of his message. Born to Ukrainian-Jewish parents in Chile in 1929, he eventually moved to Paris to become a mime. There, he was first introduced to the avant-garde movements of performance art and cinema. His first feature film, Fando y Lis, about a young man and his paraplegic sister on an odyssey through a post-apocalyptic landscape searching for a mythological city called Tar, was beset by riots when it came out in the theater. His subsequent films proved to be midnight cult hits that earned Jodorowsky the status of legendary cineaste.  A spiritual guru, Jodorowsky heals deep-rooted psychological wounds with something he calls “psychomagic.” He has written two books on the subject; Psychomagic: The Sacred Trap and The Dance of Reality – an adaptation of which is set to start filming later this year.  Here is the story of my afternoon with Alejandro Jodorowsky. 

––––

I’m locked out of the apartment I’m staying in in Paris.  I don’t have my wallet. I have one roll of film rolling around the bottom of my bag. It’s raining. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s apartment is one hour away and I have twenty minutes to get there. No money for a metro ticket, since my wallet is locked inside the apartment I am locked out of.  Like an angel from above, a nice French gentleman hands me a ticket. Small success. I run to the metro, but get lost. I find my way by memory.  The last time I visited his apartment was on a trip with James Franco and his producer Vince Jolivette to discuss a potential creative collaboration. During that meeting, he chose three Tarot cards for me, which to this day enlighten and heal a certain side of myself, and have further inspired my artistic vision. This time around, I’m alone to photograph Jodorowsky for this story and for a future photographic series.  I arrive at his building. I’m thirty minutes late. I ring the buzzer.

 “Bonjour?”

“Bonjour Alejandro, it’s Adarsha.”

“Adarsha?”

“Yes.

“Okay.”

He tells me to come to the fourth floor – in Spanish.  I walk up the same familiar dark winding staircase. Last time, I was nervous and laughing hysterically the entire way up the spiral staircase. This time I’m out of breath, wet as a dog, and completely out of my mind with jetlag. Light peeks under the door. The hallway smells a bit funny. He opens the door and greets me kindly. The light inside is warm. Yellow Paris lights. I look around. I remember all the books. He leads me into the office. Pointing to a clock, he diplomatically acknowledges my tardiness. “Why yes, Alejandro Jodorowsky, I was thirty minutes late.” He doesn’t really mind. We move on. I’m here to photograph. He sits by the window. There is not much light. Remember, one roll of film. It’s also gray and rainy outside – Parisian skies.  A little lamp suffices. I pull out my little Honeywell.  He laughs at my modest camera. It’s a laugh of camaraderie. After all, he is an underground filmmaker, and I could only imagine some sense of nostalgia rushed over him in that moment. Snap. Snap. Snap. I take some portraits. We talk about film, but other than that it is mainly silent – silent, but comfortable.  We move to a room of plants – orchids, succulents, and cacti.  He points to a giant Bonsai. “They were once tiny plants.” “Bonsai?” I ask. “Yes!” “Now they grow,” he says wisely. His apartment is a living testament to his creative endeavors. The original film reels from Holy Mountain and El Topo sit on the bookshelf behind him. I take a few more pictures. He hands me a book of his – in Spanish – artwork from a previous, botched albeit grandiose attempt to adapt the 1965 science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert.  Jodorowsky had planned to film the adaptation as a ten-hour feature starring Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson and Mick Jagger.  Dune was later adapted by David Lynch in 1981 and panned by critics and audiences alike. I wrap up shooting – the film is almost done. I take one final photograph of both Jodorowsky and myself – kind of a self-portrait – a reminder to myself that I was there, in that magical moment, with one of the greatest artists of our time. There are not many words to describe an artist – a man – like Alejandro Jodorowsky.  I leave his apartment – back into the Paris streets – past the opera house at Bastille – into oblivion and beyond. Once again, this magic man has further enlightened my path as an artist, without even trying. I asked him to choose three tarot cards for the future of art, and I hope in their mystical alliance you also find a token of inspiration to heal a side of yourself that may have been locked or dormant. I think silently, this is Alejandro’s wish as well.

What is it about cinema that is so important? 

Cinema is a goddess becoming a bitch for the industry. Just as Christ has been converted by the masked pedophile priests. In the kingdom of dreams, the Gods are significant. Being the supreme being of art and film, the one which encompasses all the other arts, which is vital for the rise of our spirits. But now it is poisoned. 

Can you remember the first moment you wanted to make films or what brought you to want to make films?

When I was seven years old I saw, The Hunchback of Notre Dame from the genius Charles Laughton. And Frankenstein, performed by the genius Boris Karloff. I wanted to become one of those two monsters; I spent the entire day making horrible faces.

How did your collaboration with John Lennon come about and what was it like working with him?

I never worked with John Lennon. He saw my film El Topo and he admired my work. Yoko Ono said I was a filmmaker ahead by thirty years. They decided to help socially and economically. Thanks to them I got to debut El Topo at the Elgin Theater. As well thankful for Alain Klein, who was his producer at ABKO, gave me a million dollars to do what I wanted to do.... I made Holy Mountain.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Lao-Tse, because besides being a poet he was a scholar. And Heraclitus, because besides being a scholar he was a poet.

Who do you admire working in film today? Is there anyone who you think is doing truly groundbreaking work?

Nicolas Winding Refn. Bronson and Drive.

What do you see as the most important lesson that a young artist can learn these days?

Don’t make movies to make money, but to find your soul. Never work for the bureaucrats in Hollywood.


"I don´t think with ideas, but with my testicles. I don´t search, I ejaculate."


What have been the biggest misconceptions about you and your films?

Sólo pedos de culos que se creen cerebros. 

How do you think of new ideas for your comic books? 

I don´t think with ideas, but with my testicles. I don´t search, I ejaculate.  

Can you describe an interesting anecdote you’ve encountered during your psychomagic sessions?

A guru who had many followers came to see me. He asked me for a remedy to sleep because he suffered from insomnia. Surprisingly, I took him into my arms and made him suck on a baby’s bottle. He then burst into tears like a baby. Nobody could silence him. I had to hypnotize him to make him sleep.

Can society today still learn from psychomagic? 

Obviously, the psychomagic of individuals is passed to the social psychomagic. The countries are sick, like children. We have to make them grow so we can be a planet.

What art forms do you think represent the now?

The spiritual kiss. 

What does the future look like to you?

There is no future. We live in the eternal present. And this present is marvelous. As the world is, not as the world has been. If a cup of gold has mud, gold still remains.

If you were to choose three tarot cards for the coming ages, for the future of art and film, which ones would they be?

18, La Luna. 19, El Sol. 21, El Mundo. 


Alejandro Jodorowsky's epic story of his emigration from the Ukraine to Chile amidst the political and cultural upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries is told in fantastical, mythic form in the new book Where the Bird Sings Best. Jodorowsky’s book transforms family history into heroic legend: incestuous beekeepers hide their crime with a living cloak of bees, a czar fakes his own death to live as a hermit amongst the animals, a devout grandfather confides only in the ghost of a wise rabbi, a transgender ballerina with a voracious sexual appetite holds a would-be saint in thrall. This interview was originally published in Autre Issue 2 (2012). Text, interview and photographs by Adarsha Benjamin. 



Lucky As Sin: An Interview with Lou Taylor Pucci

Lou Taylor Pucci in Thumbsucker (2005)

Very rarely do you catch an actor during that chrysalis phase between crawling out of the cocoon of one character and into the skin of another. This is exactly where I caught Lou Taylor Pucci, who is an innately gifted actor, well known for playing vulnerable souls and identity seeking characters, like the thumb sucking angst-ridden teen, Justin Cobb in Mike Mills’ 2003 debut feature, Thumbsucker alongside Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onofrio and Keanu Reeves. The role made him a fixture in mid-aughts indie cinema.

Then there is his most recent role as Evan in the genre-bending, sci-fi, love story horror film, Spring, which features a more mature actor grappling with demons that are both figurative and literal. In Spring, Pucci plays the heartbreaking role of a young man who loses his mother and decides to go on an adventure of a lifetime. The film, shot on the beautiful coastline of an ambiguous Italian village, shows his character searching for meaning, destiny, self, love…anything to quell the longing. He finds his purpose when he meets Louise, a beautiful young woman who is hiding a frightening, monstrous secret that far outweighs anyone’s definition of “baggage.”

The film is the second feature by inventive directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead who start the film off during the low tide of the character’s mourning of his mother and his stages of grief. As the tide rises, the film crashes beautifully on the coast of Italy, where slow motion drone shots and multiple minute long pans follow the character into a deep, dark world where every part of his psyche is pushed to the limit. It is a Kafkaesque tale that harkens elements and overtones of German Expressionist cinema with a little bit of Jarmusch-cool.

Pucci fits into these roles perfectly. He is an actor that is not afraid to be vulnerable, which is the mark of a great actor – if not a believable one. I first met Pucci, who is a New Jersey native from a creative, folksy kind of showbiz family (think the Carter family), before the premiere of Spring. He has grown a massive beard for his next role, as Romeo 'Prickface' Griggs, in Poor Boy – a film about two misfit brothers who try to survive in the desert. In the following candid interview, Pucci talks about his unique upbringing as an altar boy, his dichotomous entrance into the world of independent cinema and his future goals as an actor in the Hollywood machine.

How did you get your start?

I started in musical theater. I grew up in a, I don’t know what the word would be, because I can’t exactly say that I was in a poor family, but I was in a lower middle class family. There was not much money. But my dad was a musician and my mom has done modeling and she loved musicals. One of the first interesting memories I have of my dad was him up on stage at a fair playing guitar.

So it was in the blood already?

Well, yeah, my name – they named me Lou Taylor Pucci, because my mom and dad both thought it was a good stage name. They thought I was going to be a musician, which is hilarious.

That’s really thinking ahead.

So, yes, I grew up in a family that was based in entertainment and art. My dad was also a graphic artist and still is. He is actually still in bands now as well. He is in a Crosby, Stills and Nash cover band. He’s a great singer with a really high voice. So I was sort of born into that. I have two brothers and a sister and I was the first one, so they wanted me to do something. My mom wanted me to take dancing lessons.

Did you enjoy it?

You know, I was about 9 or 10 and I was in school and people were such assholes about everything, so it was literally, like, “faggot this” and “faggot that.” And it was terrible. I had very few friends that I could relate to in my regular school. But I did it…I took the lessons. It took about a year of fighting – then finally I was, like, “Fuck it, I’ll take the lessons!” I was basically given this option by my parents before I even existed. They would say things, like, “All you do is watch TV and go to school.” Then they said, “You can either become an altar boy at the church or you can audition for a community theater show and we’ll bring you there and give you ten dollars.” Basically, they really wanted me to be on stage. So, I decided, “whatever, I’m going to be an altar boy.”

Wow…what was that like?

I was an altar boy for about six or seven months. I was really up for it for a little bit longer than that. I loved it…the different colored robes and different colored belts. It was actually pretty funny. Finally, though, I decided that I couldn’t do this any more. You have to wake up so early. It’s the same thing every time. You know, I did grow up with church as a big part of my life. We didn’t go to church every day, but I did go to a Catholic school for my entire life. Even during high school…I went to an all boys Christian academy.

Finally you acquiesced?

Eventually I said yes, I took the ten dollars, and auditioned for Oliver! and I got into the show. When I auditioned, I was like, “Holy crap, I didn’t know I could do anything like this. I am singing and I’m dancing right now.” And this was just at the audition! They auditioned me to play Oliver…I got up to the last callback, but I faltered at the end because I had never read any script or had done any acting stuff in front of anybody.

Did you get a part?

I was a part of the ensemble anyways, not Oliver, but all of a sudden, it was like, holy shit, I have all these friends and there’s a bunch of girls in the show and they like this stuff and I like this stuff right now because I had all these people I could relate to finally. It was great.

"...I went from wearing a sailor suit

to playing this tortured hitchhiker.

I mean, I wasn’t even going to go to the

audition, because it was so ridiculous..."

Then what happened?

Well, I started doing Broadway [after community theater]. Amazingly, long story short, I ended up on stage doing The Sound of Music running around in a sailor suit as Fredrik Von Trapp for like a year and a half. I was about 12 when that happened.

That’s an amazing trajectory!

Yeah, it was. Well, I think there was a strange motivation my whole life that maybe I didn’t know about. All I saw was my parents fighting about money and so I just wanted to fix everything. I had this complex based on fixing or helping the family. As the first born, I felt this inclination to take care of my brothers and sisters. You have to be a part of their life. And I don’t know, my dad became a huge guy…he had a weight problem that was very insane. So, it was a real concern that he was going to die. Luckily, he has since taken control of his life, but I definitely came from a real weird, fucked up family and we didn’t have any money. But the only thing that they did have is an insane amount of ambition and love and they wanted me to do something. So, they would drive me to these community theaters and they would drive me to New York.

They were really dedicated.

They would take the bus to New York and the take the bus back to New Jersey to finish whatever they had to do and then take another bus to pick me up and take me back home. This was every day.

So, when did the movie thing start happening?

I think I was about 16 and I was still in high school and I was going to a lot of auditions. I was auditioning for about a year. So, I did the theater stuff and then I decided to take time off. I decided to go to high school. I wanted to be a real kid. I wanted to go to prom. I wanted to do things that normal kids do. Because I realized that I probably was going to do things that weren’t normal for the rest of my life. So, I went to high school and I was going to auditions, but I really wasn’t getting anything. I think I was not getting what film was. I didn’t know what it took to be in a film. I mean, I came from a theater background.

But you eventually booked something, right?

So, there was this one audition…for Personal Velocity….and Rebecca Miller wrote and directed the film and Parker Posey is in it with Fairuza Balk and Kyra Sedgwick. You know, Rebbeca Miller is married to Daniel Day Lewis and is daughter to Arthur Miller. The thing is, though, that I had no idea about any of this. It was just this opportunity that came up. I went to the audition and I went from wearing a sailor suit to playing this tortured hitchhiker. I mean, I wasn’t even going to go to the audition, because it was so ridiculous from what I knew that I thought I could only fail.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Fairuza Balk in Personal Velocity (2002)

But you didn’t fail….

My dad told me that I have to try it…don’t miss this opportunity. He was always like that. In fact, he was really the only reason why I went to the audition. And then I went in and something just clicked in this really weird way. I was so nervous to go to this audition in the first place, but that nervousness was actually a part of the character. He was such a tortured, biting his fingernails until they bled, character who would not make eye contact and didn’t have a lot to say, but has a lot to react to and so in that room, I had a lot to do and something happened where, all of a sudden, because I couldn’t say anything, I finally understood what I was trying to do. I sort of understood what acting for film was.

What did you learn?

Well, when I walked out of the room, I remembered having tears in my eyes and sort of feeling very sad and terrible. I was, like, “Holy shit, it worked it! Something happened here.”

And a lot of actors don’t get that experience, right, that seems very authentic?

Yeah, I think I scared the shit out of myself and it was great for that role. And I think that’s what all roles are sort of about…you have to find out how to trick yourself into being someone. Each character or role has a different formula on how to do that. Each one is completely different. And you don’t know how you are going to do it. Usually, you figure it out two weeks before you start filming. So, I’ve been attached to my next film for about a year. I have this big fucking beard. I’m playing a guy named Prick Face who is a dirty, southern, real hickish guy – but not trying to make fun of it. It’s about two brothers who are trying to survive, they are living on a houseboat and they don’t have any education and their parents have abandoned them. And even though I have all this knowledge about this character’s story and I look like this character, I still don’t know how I am going to play this part.

Is that scary?

When I get to Las Vegas to shoot the movie, something is going to happen, which always happens, where once you start getting all the dialogue memorized and you start saying the dialogue out loud to people, it’s almost like living in a dream. You start noticing things about other people and they start incorporating into you. And there will be a snap. And, again, you’ll be like, “Holy shit, I get it!” That may not be the case for the whole role, but maybe for certain pieces of it, like this is how he walks or this is how he talks. And it all comes together in such a way. That’s why rehearsals are such an important thing to me and my career.


Did you grow up watching movies…was there a specific movie, or actor, or scene that you remember really blowing your mind?

First two movies I remember seeing, honestly, are Batman and Terminator 2 at a drive-in movie theater. The truth is, that’s what I love. I love action, sci-fi, big productions. Not just spectacle, but come on, Bat Man and Terminator 2 are staples of our lives in the entertainment business. Terminator 2 was hands-down one of the best sequels. Bat Man was one of the darkest and coolest – Michael Keaton, Tim Burton – things ever created. Awesome music, awesome acting. They were turning a comic book into basically something real. And Jack Nicholson as the Joker – holy shit!

What about independent films?

Well, independent films are not something I seek out. It’s not what I go and watch. But independent films are important, because they have the freedom to be creative and original. Who knows, sometimes they do make a splash and become big. But big studio films now can’t compete when it comes to originality…they don’t even come close.

So, you’ve done a lot of independent films. Do you have aspirations to be in bigger actions films? What is your aspiration as an actor?

Sometimes people ask me, “What characters would you like to play,” and I don’t really know. I think there’s two: one would be Lestat de Lioncourt from the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles and the other one would be Link from Zelda. So I guess my whole life revolves more around nerd stuff and video games and sci-fi. You know, Interview with a Vampire is definitely one of my most favorite films in the entire world. So, I don’t know…what would I want to do? More action films or more independent films? I think the whole point, for me, and what has become the point in my life, has become having a diverse career and maybe that’s because I’m still sort of at the beginning of my career.

How would you define your career?

When I look at a career, I take it apart, and say, ‘Look, here are the people that fucked up, like Paulie Shore and other actors like that.’ I’m not saying that he is a bad actor, he is just not the actor that I want to be. I mean, he stopped getting films because he did one thing and it faded out. But the thing is that he couldn’t do anything else because no one would let him. So, how do I extend my freedom to allow people, or trick people, into thinking I can do anything. At the beginning of my career, just like act one in any script, if you are going to make a script that’s horror and there is nothing scary in the first 30 minutes and then the horror comes along, it’s going to freak you out, especially if it’s a comedy or something. I mean, if there is nothing funny in the first ten minutes, it will be hard to laugh when the jokes come along. This is why you have to build all those genre tones into your first act to make sure that everyone is ready for what is coming next…so that they are available to it and accept it.

Building those genre tones is what was so successful about your current film, Spring, right?

The coolest thing that they did was that they knew that our little love story, which is the second act and third act, is fun. Its not necessarily two comedians talking, but they wanted the audience to laugh…to laugh with us. So what did they do? They made the first twenty minutes fucking hilarious. Even though it’s a horror film, they put so much comedy and fun into this depressed guy’s life. So, that’s basically like act one of my life and career. I want to diversify as hard as I can. Play everything that I can, so that there is nothing that people won’t accept.

"I am lucky as sin that people will actually pay

for this art because there is so much art out

there that people pay nothing for...I get to have

a life that I want. It’s really not that complex: I

just want to be doing what I’m doing."

And that would be the best-case scenario?

I want to be able to do any role that I want. That would obviously be the best-case scenario for any actor: they find a role, they say that they want to do that role and then they are allowed to.

That also seems like a recipe for not being type-casted right?

That’s exactly what I mean. I am always aiming for the long term. How do I make this last for the rest of my life? I mean, I have always wanted to play old man roles in sci-fi films - like an old mentor. I always wish that that’s what I will look like one day. I guess that’s why I have this big beard right now. I mean, I have a serious baby face and it’s going to be a weird road trying to figure out what I can do.

So, what do you think of the business aspect of acting?

It’s a business. It’s a strange, strange thing. I go out on auditions sometimes just to appease casting directors. I want them to remember me. That kind of stuff sucks sometimes. You are going out sometimes for roles you don’t even want, but you better do a good job because otherwise that casting director might think you suck. So, it becomes a real career…a business….that you have to tend to. It’s like growing a flower…you have to check in and water it every day.

Yeah, and there seems to be two types of actors: the ones that let the rejection get to them and they go back home and then there are actors – excuse the morbidity of this example – like River Phoenix that don’t think too hard about the machine aspect of it and they go into it with such passion and energy that they burn out. What do you think about that tightrope walk?

It is a tightrope walk. Most movies that I do are tightrope walks. I feel like now I do all the movies that normal people are sort of afraid to do. Maybe because it doesn’t seem like it’s been done. One of the better examples of that is Story of Luke and I played an autistic main character and it’s a comedy. I mean, try pitching that. How the hell do you do that? How does the tone match up? Is there any possibility that people are thinking that we’re making fun of autism if the main character is supposed to be funny, but has autism? The tightrope walk is terrifying. Same thing with Spring…how much of a love story are you going to treat this as? How real should you be? And how entertaining should you allow yourself to be?

Lou Taylor Pucci in The Go-Getter (2007)

What’s your least favorite thing about being an actor or being in that world?

For one thing, I think the whole system is disgusting. We’re made to be celebrities that some how entertain people into sitting on the couch or on their phone and they’re not even doing what they want to do. But one of my best friends I met when I was putting some stuff into storage and the guy working there told me that he saw The Go-Getter and decided to go to Australia for six months. We ended up going to Jumbo’s Clown Room and talking about it for hours. That is by far my favorite thing about being an actor.  

But the fame part or the fame game is what really gets you down?

I am lucky as sin that people will actually pay for this art because there is so much art out there that people pay nothing for and hold to a very low regard. Yet, in this world, acting is held at such a high pedestal that I get to have a life that I want. It’s really not that complex: I just want to be doing what I’m doing. But there are a lot of actors that can’t. I guess that’s the real hard part. But with the new modern invention of YouTube and all these pilots, there are a lot more parts now. But because we have focused so much on celebrity and because producers have so much invested in the films they make, they need to have celebrities on television supporting their investments. So, all the main parts are going to be played by celebrities that you already know and they are going to make a bunch of money.

Was it always like that?

You used to be able to move to Los Angeles and go out on auditions and wind up in roles. But that is not really how it is anymore. Everything is outsourced. Everything is shot in different cities. Casting directors still cast the main roles in Los Angeles, but the rest of the roles are cast in Louisiana or Texas or even New York. So, as an actor, it’s more worth it to go to where the work is. As a new actor, those are the roles you are going to go out for…the smaller roles. As a result, though, you don’t really need to be in Los Angeles to make your break, which is the positive side of things. If there is anything to learn, it’s that you shouldn’t come to Los Angeles if you haven’t established yourself at all yet.

That’s great advice…is that advice you would offer to young actors?

Yes, don’t come to Los Angeles if you want to make it. I think there are some laws being passed that will make it easier to make movies in Los Angeles again. I think that Hollywood should be brought back to its original glory. That’s why we’re all here competing in the first place, right?

You can watch Spring on Amazon Instant Video and most on-demand platforms. It is also in select theaters, distributed by Drafthouse Films. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow AUTRE ON INSTAGRAM to stay up to date with art, culture, and more: @autremagazine

Trailer for Spring

Reluctant Pornographer: An Interview With Bruce LaBruce

Bruce LaBruce is a filmmaker, an artist, a self-professed “reluctant pornographer,” and one of the progenitors of the enigmatic, self-marginalizing queercore movement. His underground Super 8 films of the 1980s and 90’s (including his debut feature, entitled Skin Off My Ass, about a hairdresser obsessed with a skinhead – which Kurt Cobain has cited as his favorite film) have made LaBruce an icon of gay cinema. His more recent films experiment with the same extreme and sometimes profoundly shocking themes: Otto; Or Up With Dead People is a porno-zombie flick with a political twist, while L.A. Zombie stars French porn star François Sagat as a schizophrenic homeless zombie (or so he thinks) roaming the streets of Los Angeles bringing back the dead by having sex with men.  But even if LaBruce’s films are wrought with searing homoeroticism and overwhelming violence, underneath the blood-soaked sheets and layers of half-rotting flesh, LaBruce proves himself to be one of the greatest offbeat auteurs and romantics of the last two decades. There is a strange and wonderful sense of tranquility in the orgiastic tableau vivants of amputees and naked, masked men in rooms splattered with so much blood one would think a massacre had occurred within them.  It’s not so much a glorification of violence but a visceral, analytical exploration of the darkest depths of the human psyche. LaBruce, who grew up in the 60’s on a small farm outside of Ottawa with its innate, paradoxical backdrop of slaughter and serenity, has come to view the entire fabric of life as a delicate, barefoot balancing act on the edge of a razor blade – and, in his view, our instinctive bloodlust is just as great as our ability to love.  It would be remiss not to mention that many disagree with this point of view – LaBruce enjoys pushing boundaries.  Entire countries have banned his films, and once an entire shipment of his Polaroids were confiscated and labeled “obscene” by Canadian customs. Obscenity, LaBruce’s latest exhibition in Spain, included sexually provocative religious imagery, such as a priest’s face covered in semen, and caused a near-riot among Catholics and conservatives who declared the show to be blasphemous, sacrilegious and depraved.  What we mustn’t forget, though, is that some of the greatest art of our time has stemmed from a staunch refusal to abide by the rules. By that definition, all artists are outlaws in their own right – making Bruce LaBruce an outlaw amongst outlaws of the highest regard.

Firstly, you grew up in rural Canada in the 70s – what was that like? Can you always remember wanting to be an artist?

Well, I grew up on a farm, and sometimes I call it the “cruel farm,” because there was a lot of slaughter and castration going on. On a daily basis, so I’d routinely see animals being – we slaughtered our own animals and castrated our own pigs. You know, my father and grandfather would drown the kittens and all that stuff – so you know there was a lot going on that was kind of horrific, but on the other hand it was very idyllic too – it was a small two-hundred-acre farm. As a kid it seemed huge . It was really beautiful and we had our own vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

You just mentioned drowning kittens?  

Yeah.  Well, actually we had a little dog that was – I mean, my father was a hunter and a trapper as well, he was kind of a Daniel Boone type – and I would never kill anything myself, but I would go with him and watch him shoot and trap animals. Coon hunting was always really cool in the fall, because you would run through these cornfields at night with the hounds and the flashlights – so we had this little dog when I was like two or three years old that was named Tippy that was more like a pet, because the hound dogs were strictly for hunting, and they were kind of mean – it was okay, but they were a bit scary – and then the little dog [Tippy] was jealous of me, because – I guess this is the way the story goes – it was biting me, so my father took it out behind the barn and shot it. 

Wow.

That’s my favorite childhood story.  

So, those kind of stories, or those kinds of memories had a profound effect on your art?  Yeah, I would say so. Because I was always a little sissy. My parents were amazing people – really gentle people – even in this harsh environment. And they are still married after 57 years or something and still living on the same farm, so when I go up there it all comes flooding back. But yeah, I think my work expresses some of that violence and also it was kind of – I don’t know – it was a time where the world wasn’t so global – so it was very isolated and you kind of were able to live your life without processing so much negativity and everything – so it was a little enclave of sanity in a way.

So, were you creative as a kid? Did you know you wanted to become an artist? A creator?  Well, the weird thing is I never took art classes so much – I mean I did in public school, in high school – and I was always more cinema oriented, but I did take theater classes in high school. So, yes, I always had creative impulses from a very young age, and I always knew I was gay from the beginning as well.

And your parents were pretty supportive? They are – they obviously don’t like my work and really haven’t investigated it much. But they are also very rural. I guess they’re more hooked in now than they used to be. My mother got her first email account when she was like 75 years old. 

Amazing. I can remember the first text I got from my mom. 

Mine aren’t that advanced. 

So where did the name Bruce LaBruce come from and when did you become Bruce LaBruce? 

Well, I mean, should I talk about this? I guess I talk about this sometimes.  My real last name is Bruce and I was born in Bruce Township, which is in Bruce County, and I worked at the Bruce Nuclear Power Development Station as a summer student, and it’s on the Bruce Peninsula and it’s near the Bruce Trail….so, in other words, it’s all about Bruce, you know? It’s Scottish – I’m almost directly descended from Robert the Bruce, the king of Scotland  – it’s obvious that the Scottish lineage is really strong. My friend Kathleen Maitland Carter - when we started going to university she started calling me LaBruce, because I was always acting grand.

In the eighties you co-published a zine called J.D.s, which was one of the main voices of the queercore movement - can you explain what queercore is? And if Johnny and Joey Ramone were the fathers of punk, would you consider yourself the father of queercore?

I mean I did J.D.s – my co-editor was G.B. Jones and my friend Kevin Hegge is currently doing – she [G.B. Jones] was in a band called Fifth Column – so Kevin is doing a documentary on Fifth Column which I’m interviewed in, but they sometimes called them them “the grandmothers of the riot girls.” But there were other people doing similar things at the same time – that’s how I met Vaginal Davis who was doing a fanzine called “Fertile Latoya Jackson” and there was kind of a – it was sort of a spontaneous movement that was an offshoot of punk, because there were obviously a lot of people at that time who were into punk and the punk aesthetic, but with the advent of hardcore and the mosh-pits it had gotten kind of macho and there was some homophobia – also with the intersection of the skinhead movement with the punk movement – so there was some of us that really wanted to adamantly be more sexually revolutionary, so we started these fanzines. It was a historical moment in a way.

So what did J.D.s stand for?

Juvenile delinquents was the main thing, but we always liked other J.D.s - like James Dean, Jack Daniels, not Judy Dench – Joe Dallesandro….I can’t remember them all….

This is kind of a simple question, but it’s open for elaboration. Who or what inspires you? 

Well, it’s always been a juxtaposition of opposing forces, like classical Hollywood versus punk – two things that are seemingly incompatible. Lately, with YouTube, I’ve just been watching so many Hollywood movies, mostly from the 30’s and 40’s that I’ve always heard about or read about that I’ve never had access to, and now I’m just kind of obsessed with them – the sophistication of them and the writing and the performers and the stars and the direction – I mean, it’s light years ahead of what’s going on now in Hollywood, which doesn’t interest me at all. But I’m totally into revolutionary youth culture as well – so I’m totally inspired by the Arab Spring and that kind of stuff that’s going on. In terms of artists, new kids like… Ryan Trecartin is pretty amazing - I like his surrealist vibe. 

So, what was the catalyst for you to start making movies?

Well, strangely enough, like I said, my parents were really simple farm folks, but they were totally smart and totally in tune with Hollywood cinema, so they would take all us kids to the movies.  So I was really interested at a really young age. When it was time to go to university I went into film school and I actually planned on being a critic. I was more into theory – I took some production courses – but I intended on being more of an academic or a critic and then it was only after I graduated that I got into making Super 8 films and art films.

And your work focuses on a lot of the gay culture, but also amputees, hustlers, the transgender, zombies, etcetera - Do you think you intentionally set out to de-marginalize the marginalized, and why do you think we put everything in categories and subcategories in the first place?

Well, I mean, for me, it’s a question of your philosophy of homosexuality, and mine is more along the lines that the difference and the idea of being an outsider and being a misfit – or even a criminal – has always been my sort of romance about homosexuality, which doesn’t really translate so much in the current zeitgeist, because it’s all legitimization and domestication, which is fine, because there always have to be people who go against the grain, and just as a fairy growing up in a very harsh environment I learned to use my difference as a weapon, or live by my wits, and maybe I have a bit of a combative personality in that regard. And you know I made a short film recently in Berlin that will be premiering at the porn film festival at the end of October, which is a tranny porn that has two female-to-male  transsexuals, so I think transsexuals, transgendered people are really at the vanguard of the gay movement, because they’re the ones that have to put up with the brunt of a lot of the judgment and fear and misconceptions about gender and they are also redefining gender – which is really a lot more interesting than the gay marriage movement which seems to be reinforcing old gender stereotypes. 

Yeah, androgyny is really interesting right now. I see a lot of people trying to explore it in a way. 

Or live it.  It’s tricky because androgyny can be aesthetically challenging, but when people make it work – you can tell when someone really tries to make a leap forward and take it in a direction that is really avant-garde or revolutionary somehow. 

So, what do you say when you read reviews of your work – I mean what do you say to yourself when people just don’t get it?

Well, I mean you have to acknowledge that a lot of people just aren’t that into you. You can’t kill yourself over that. Everyone can’t please everyone, but one the other hand, because of the nature of my work, people have a kneejerk response to it: a lot of people turn it off after the first five minutes or they look at the surface of what’s going on and they don’t really bother to explore the work. I think with my films, you really have to also look at the whole body of work, because I’m super referential, not only to other people’s work, but also to my own work and so…For example, I made two films that are companion pieces for each other, Skin Flick and The Raspberry Reich; one is about the extreme right wing and one is about the extreme left wing – so in a way you have to look at them both to really understand what I’m getting at, and you can even say that Hustler White and L.A. Zombie are kind of both investigations of Los Angeles and the street world; street people, made fifteen years apart – they kind of together give a really, what I consider, it’s a portrait of LA that’s rarely shown – the underworld street reality that’s rarely shown in movies. So, yeah, I would say don’t judge a book by its cover.  

So, throughout the last few centuries there have been a few archetypes of homoerotic culture who created entire worlds behind their personalities  - off the top of my head I can name Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, and Andy Warhol - do you think you fall into that vein? 

Well, that’s August company.  I do like to think that I work in a tradition of the gay avant-garde. The people you mentioned, or Kenneth Anger and some of the great porn directors like Fred Halsted and Peter Berlin, Jack Smith, all these people are very specifically dealing with the history of homosexual aestheticism and a very specific kind of avant-garde expression that has to do with the position of the homosexual in culture and what that means historically, the development of aesthetics, the aesthetic dimension – which homosexuals have always been the catalyst for all aesthetic movements - for many aesthetic movements - so for me it’s a really significant thread to continue. That’s why I find assimilation so disconcerting in a way, because the position of the homosexual as an outsider or as someone who can observe culture at a distance that, in some ways, gives them this opportunity to be avant-garde or to critique or comment on mainstream culture.  

You wrote a memoir called The Reluctant Pornographer – what does pornography mean to you?

Well, lately I’ve been saying, which has sort of gotten me in trouble, because lately I’ve been calling myself a pornographer and saying I express solidarity with pornographers – that all pornography is art, really, because it’s a form of creative expression, it’s the mediation of reality, it’s made by people who use the tools of cinema, or making art, so why shouldn’t it be considered art as well? There’s good art and there’s bad art and there’s good pornography and there’s bad pornography, but it’s all sort of an artistic expression as far as I’m concerned. 

How important is sexuality in art, or expressing sexuality through art?

For me personally, sex has always been an engine behind my work, both in terms of representing and in terms of making it, on a personal level, but I think the sexual and the creative drives are very much linked, but on the other hand I know people who are relatively, or fairly, or completely asexual who have very strong artistic drives, so I don’t think that’s necessarily the case for everyone. Certainly the gay movement was always based on that kind of sexual engine as well, which for me is yet another reason why the assimilation movement, which tends to be more domesticated and kind of based on ideals of monogamy borrowed from straight culture - it kind of dissipates the energy of the gay movement in my opinion. Yeah, sex is so ubiquitous in pop culture and advertising that it’s kind of hard to ignore it as an artist. 

Do you think it’s more ubiquitous now than it has been?

Well, I think that what’s been happening in the last ten to fifteen years is that violence supplanted sex as the main driving force of popular fetish and popular advertising and certainly the media sells violence and death in a very titillating kind of sexualized way - which is kind of creepy. 

Yeah, especially because it’s so blatant.

It’s blatant and it’s… in a way I don’t even know how conscious it is – you could talk about Naomi Kline’s Disaster Capitalism and how it’s a way the media keeps everyone frightened - inundated with terrorism and images of violence and that I think just pop culture and advertising almost unconsciously feed on that fear and turn it into capital. 

Which is disturbing. In your work you deal with violence in a much more visceral way that sort of explores it in a much more human way, not for gain. 

My argument is that my work isn’t corporate by any stretch of the imagination, for example, which makes a big difference, when you have a film like Final Destination in Imax 3D - and it’s this grotesque, brutal violence that is so magnified – I find that personally not entertaining.  But I make L.A. Zombie for example - which is a micro-budget film with really, almost crude special effects that were all done in front of the camera – no special effects stuff – it’s more in the tradition of B movies where the fun is creating – it’s more like being very playful, and I think that has a different effect and your motivation isn’t quite so sinister somehow, and also my work tends to be a critique of popular culture or popular violence, so I always have a distance from the violence that I’m presenting.

And there always tends to be a tender, romantic notion behind it - hidden meanings come through. 

Sure, and when I show extreme fetishes, for example, it’s always done in a romantic way - whether it’s the tone of the way it’s shot or the music and the characters who have these extreme fetishes are portrayed as kind of sweet or emotional, which is not how it’s usually done in these very violent, say, video games. 

Yeah. So underneath all that, underneath all the blood and guts, would you consider yourself a romantic?

Oh absolutely, yes. I have always had a very strong romantic drive. I’ve always had this idea of classical Hollywood - certainly not having anything to do with the new “rom-com” mentality, where it’s sort of super sentimental and manipulative. 

So, what’s next? What are you working on now?

I spent a year on the road with L.A. Zombie and then there’s also this documentary that someone made about me called The Advocate for Fagdom - a Parisian filmmaker named Angélique Bosio made this documentary over the past couple of years so I’ve been traveling a bit with it as well and with her - and I’ve been working a lot, I’ve directed a couple of TV shows for Arte, TV episodes of a documentary series called Into The Night, and I also directed my first opera in Berlin [last] March, an adaptation of Arnold Shunberg’s Pierrot Lunier, so now after all that I am trying to make another movie. I have three scripts in various stages of development attached to different producers - so that’s my new primary goal, is to get one shot by next year.

Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Autre Issue 2 (2012). Stay tuned for Bruce La Bruce's retrospective of films on view at MoMA in New York from April 23 to May 2. 

Birth of the New Wave: An Interview with Emmanuel Laurent

Aaron_Johnson_illustration_Emmanuel_Laurent

Emmanuel Laurent’s insightful documentary, Two in the Wave (Deux de la vague) was recently screened at the annual French Film Festival in Richmond, Virginia. The film, written and narrated by Antoine de Baecque, explores the lives of leading French new wave filmmakers and friends, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, as well as addresses their falling-out after the politically charged events of May 1968 and Godard’ s increasing self-identification as a revolutionary.

Following the screening, I had the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Laurent, a decidedly dapper Frenchman and exceedingly gracious and eloquent interviewee, at a nearby wine bar and coffee shop to discuss his thoughts on his career, new wave cinema, Impressionism, and the state of filmmaking in France today.

Where in France are you from?

I’m from Paris. I was born and raised there.

How did you get into filmmaking?

I started as a film editor of sorts. I was a film buff like those guys [Truffaut and Godard].I went to see movies at the Cinémathèque all day long, five a day sometimes from two o’clock in the afternoon until two in the morning.

That’s a long time! Didn’t you get a stiff neck!?

[Laughter] Yes, but at the Cinémathèque they showed such different films from one another so you could watch a silent movie, a Greek film, Elvis Presley or a musical. You had a surprise every two hours.

You see, I was very bad at school. I didn’t like school at all, like most of my generation just before May ‘68. So I started as a film editor. We were able to edit a lot of different films there because it was a small company. We were four altogether so you had accessto things and worked very quickly. After six months I became an editor. And I remained an editor for 10 years even though I started to direct and edit my own films, and then produce and direct…

Editing is a very good background. You learn the basics of everything. You learned the difference between what the guy dreamt about his film and what he actually got. You’ ve got to make the film, which is not the thing he dreamt. And that is very interesting. It brings you some modesty. You should try to pursue an idea that you cannot actually film. Or sometimes people can’ t film things if it’ s something you dream about but it’ s not there. It’ s not on the footage. It’ s nowhere; it’ s in his head. You learn how to “ kill your darlings” as Faulkner has said. A scene that you love for so many reasons, but it’ s not working, so what do you do? You throw it away. And that’ s it.

And then I started with a feature, a series for television, three hours long. Something I wrote. It’ s a musical. I imagined an African ethnologist who came to France to study food habits of people in ethnological terms – how tribes share grilled meet, or beans or stew…and giving an analysis of what it means.

Like Levi Strauss?

Yes, right so it’ s the reverse of Levi Strauss who went to South America. My African went to Lyon, to France. It was a sort of musical comedy. A genre I fancy.  Actually, to go back to the new wave, one of the first films thatactually spoke about the war in Algeria for instance is a musical comedy. It’ s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg by Jacque Demy, probably my favorite filmmaker of the new wave, even more than Truffaut or Godard. He wasalso very inspired by American cinema and musicals.

He did after The The Young Girls of Rochefort, a musical, with Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly near whereI spent my summer holidays. It’ s the first set of a movie I’ ve ever been to. It was near my grandmother’ s house in Charente near Rochefort so we walked there. And I could see Catherine Deneuve changing. My first erotic memory ever. And Francois Dorléac, her sister, who was an amazing, gorgeous, beautiful woman.


"I could see Catherine Deneuve changing.

My first erotic memory ever."


So how old were you?

Fourteen, so it had quite an effect! [Laughter]

But, initially I did a lot of documentaries. Documentary films are great for many reasons. You have a small team and you have a lot of freedom, because people don’ t care, basically. I mean, television can’ t produce miniseries all the time. They don’ t have enough money. So they have to fill up their screen with documentaries. So they leave you in peace. They don’t bother you. And you meet amazing people all around the world, you travel, and you can do whatever you want… or at least it was true up to the mid-nineties. What else can you ask for in life? Except of course sometimes it’ s frustrating, because I love to be able to set up actors and do that sort of thing. It’ s very exciting. I’m trying to go back there.

I made a few films in Africa (Mauritania, Chad). I filmed for a year in a little village in Charente, in mygrandmother's village, Saint-Sauvant. I filmed three families. And I’ ve done a lot of science films actually. Trying to make films on biology and mix that with musicals. I produced a film called Death by Design [about programmed cell death], a surprising success worldwide, considering the very dry topic!

You mentioned earlier May 1968. How old were you then, were you involved in the protests or were you too young…?

No, I was seventeen or so, so not too young, but I was not really politically involved myself. That came later through a girl I met. To seduce her I had to behave and talk about Trotsky. [Laughter] But not in ‘ 68 precisely. Even though, I was already working all the time as a film editor. So I left school, and I kept teaching myself andreading, but not what teachers said I had to read. It’ s amazing because I read the books you’ re supposed to readin school like Flaubert, but it wasn’t the teacher who told me to do it.

You did it on your own.

Yes, so I found it great actually.

I love what you said about Truffaut being more revolutionary because he was passionate about art, more decadent, where as Godard was more conventional because everybody at the time was a Maoist…

Yeah, you had to be a Maoist. Everyone around me turned to Mao. Mao-spontex. This is difficult to translate…Spontex is a small dried up sponge so that when you put it into water it blows up right away. So mao-spontex means you become a Maoist over night. So Godard is definitely a maoist-spontex.

So do you think part of why he became revolutionary had to do with the fact that he grew up wealthy? That he was trying to break with the past?

Very much so. At least it's so characteristic of what happened in France at the time. He did have to take some kind of revenge with the Monod part of the family [on his mother’ s side] that kicked him out and looked downon him when he was young. So yeah, he did have good reasons. You can understand his point of view, how much he hated this side of his family.

When he was seventeen he stole a book from the Monods, which was signed by Paul Valéry – from a "shrine" the Monods had set up for the famous poet within their house where the young Godard was staying when he was in Paris. And he sold it… just across the street and of course he was caught. So, of course the family couldn't forgive that. From then on he was the black sheep of the family. He broke with them very early, long before May '68. So it definitely has something to do with that. Also, he didn’t want people to know about hisbackground, that he had a very nice youth, that had a wealthy, happy childhood, whereas, Truffaut was a very unhappy child and had a lot of hardship.

So do you think he eventually came to identify Truffaut with the establishment?

I don’ t think so, even though he had harsh words about Truffaut being a cinéaste bourgeois, but he always admired Truffaut because he was a self-taught guy, coming from nowhere, nobody, nothing. And he was the one who brought them into the business. Truffaut gave Godard his first script (Breathless). He brought at Arts, which was a very well regarded magazine at the time. And it's Truffaut who actually was the guy everyone was talking about in the 50s. They feared Truffaut, not Godard. Truffaut could write anything and all of Paris would shake.

Which is amazing after seeing the films he made which are very seemingly soft (not provocative) even thoughfor me it's obvious that Truffaut was never reconciled with society. He went to jail not for stealing from his parents, but after running away from the army… in which he enlisted voluntarily. He tries to be part of the establishment, but he can't. You can see in Truffaut’ s films this violence, only apparently soft, very polite, very tender; let’ s put it that way: he’ s very tender about women and children. He used to say like he was making film following the French saying, “ Les femmes et les enfants d’ abord." (woman and children first) when a boat is sinking. He was an amazing filmmaker for children. Children are fragile in society, so he wanted to protect them.

05/00/1968. International Cannes film festival

You’ve drawn a parallel between new wave cinema and Impressionism. What do you see as the connections?

The Academy in both cases was very strong, more in France than anywhere else. It was the industry itself that wanted to make movies like they were making them in Hollywood. You found in France at the time independent auteurs like Renoir, but they were the exceptions, otherwise there were so many rules. You had to film in the studios, dialogs and scripts pledged to literature…

So censorship wasn’t state sanctioned.

No, no…the Academy, artistically speaking, required that you make films a certain way. It was the same with painting in the 19th century. You had a jury with very strong ideas, and you couldn’ t go into the business if you didn’ t get into the Salon, the hall to exhibit in Paris and if you couldn’ t show your paintings there, you were nothing. Same thing with the film industry, it was very hard to be part of it and the Cannes Film Festival was a good mirror of that situation. The year before 400 Blows was shown in Cannes in 1959, in 1958 Truffaut — still a film critic— was banned, not allowed to come!

So they had to fight against a very strong academy in both cases, and in both cases they decided, the Impressionists and new wave filmmakers, to film across the street instead of going to Africa or anywhere else, and to work with their friends behind the camera and their girlfriends in front of it. Dealing with today and not yesterday's.

And artistically speaking you can draw an amazing parallel, because at the time of the Impressionists the invented paint in tubes, which allowed them to go anywhere. The technology was so good; it gave them so much choice. The same thing happened with the new wave, the technology changed. You had hand held cameras and soon portable and affordable sound recording. So, the technology allowed this way of filming in a much lighter way, with new film stock and things like that. So you have not only the Academy and the group of people that wanted to fight against the Academy joined through the same love of painting or filmmaking, but also the technology that allowed this rebellion. So yes, you can make an amazing story about these two groups.

And also, it was in America that Impressionists and new wave filmmakers found a way to survive. The first impressionist exhibit was in 1886 in New York and this is how the artists were able to sell their paintings. They were not selling their paintings in France at all and for long. And the same thing for Truffaut and Co, they were quite successful abroad…

…And you said your film has been more popular here than in France. Why do you think that is?

The French are that way. I mean, they disregard their own genius, they have this complex of inferiority, despite their legendary arrogance. Arrogant with a complex. I mean, it took us decades to actually recognize that Marcel Proust was a great writer. It was only after it was translated into English and the English said, “ Wow, what a writer” that we said, “ Do we? Really?” Because Proust was dealing with the bourgeoisie, so the French lookeddown on it: “ How could you make something interesting about the high bourgeoisie? It’ s not possible!” Of course, it’ s so stupid that now people realize. It took them decades. So that’ s how we are.

I wanted to ask you, and this is of personal interest, I know there is a growing trend in French cinema of incorporating more real sex acts and explicit violence in film – I think of Irreversible and Catherine Breillat’s films – do you see any tie between that and the foundation that was established with cinéma vérité, this idea that “realness” is a French contribution to cinema?

The way I see it, the French cinema up to the 60s and maybe 70s was looked at from the American perspective as very sensual. We knew how to film a scene in a bed, or sensual relationship, which American cinema didn’ tseem quite able to do. So French cinema was viewed as very erotic, very sensual, at least. But, for action movies, of course the Americans have always been much better. So, I think now the French are trying to make these kindof action movies, with violence, but still today, they’ re not good at that. I do think they’ re trying. They’ re doing their best.

What about Guillaume Canet’s Tell No One?

That is based on an American novel actually. It’ s not bad, but it’ s still doesn’ t compare. It’ s not the kind of film we should make, that we’ re good at, in my opinion. I prefer the way the new wave did American cinema – made it their own. When Truffaut made a police detective called Shoot the Piano Player, he made it his own way. There is violence, but Truffaut’ s film has this charm… it’ s very sensual. The way Léna slides down the snowafter she is shot. It’ s more Proustian.

I’ve seen recently a film that impressed me a lot, Fighter. We don’ t know how to make this kind of movie. It’s excellent. It has all the qualities of a documentary. The actor, Christian Bale, and the actress, Alice Ward, both won Oscars. She is unbelievable. The tribe of seven sisters he has, the most frightening harpies! It’ s both very funny, terribly funny, sarcastically funny, and then dramatic of course. It’ s such a good combination of violenceand humor… It’ s sad to say but the new wave was the last time when French cinema was an example to theworld. I have see a few recent French films that are very good, amazingly different films that are not trying to mock American cinema and are doing something on their own, but it’ s only a few.

It’s interesting because I think Americans still think of French film as being artistic, cutting edge, pushing boundaries, at least in academia.

We have a strong industry; it’ s true. Most of the films are made financially through subsidies. It’ s very, very welldone. Every time you buy a ticket in France for any movie, even Harry Potter, any big American movie, thirteenpercent of that money goes back to CNC (Centre national de la cinématographie). It's a great system against American mercantile imperialism, which has killed most of the film industries in Europe.

Ultimately, do you think that helps or hurts French cinema? Obviously it helps, but it’ s also another academy. Let’ s put it that way. Few people decide, because they are part of a commission, what gets made, as far as "film d'auteurs" are concerned. That’ s exactly how an academy works.

Thank you so much for sitting down with us.

Thank you.


Emmanuel Laurent is currently working on a film project, based on his 2003 book, Mademoiselle V. Diary of a Heedless Girl (Mademoiselle V., Journal s’une Insouciante)about Victorine Meurent, the model for Impressionist painter, Manet’s, famouswork, “Olympia,” a mysterious figure who later became an artist. Laurent has produced and directed over twenty feature length films and documentaries and is one of the owners of the film production company, Films á Trois. Text and interview by Anna Wittel. Illustration by Aaron Johnson