Saturday, October 30, 2010

Garspar Noe Shows How He Enters The Void

The week preceding Halloween provides an opportunity to celebrate the genres of the supernatural, fantastical and horror film. The Film Society of Lincoln Center presents its fourth edition of its annual Scary Movies series (through Oct. 31). Clint Eastwood's neo-supernatural Hereafter has just opened and other film centers around town have offered their share of creepy cinematic offerings.

At this time, Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void is still playing in town. Though not strictly a supernatural film, it draws on some of the genre's conventions to offer an surreal, visually odd film with a unique point of view.

Over his relatively short career, Argentinian-born French filmmaker Noe has garnered a disproportionate amount of press for his controversial films. First he made I Stand Alone, then Irréversible. Both provocatively deal with violent men in violent situations; in the first case, incest, and, with the second, brutal rape.

Then he made the mystically-infused Enter The Void featuring the ever-seductive Paz de la Huerta (now starring in Boardwalk Empire). Though it is rife with violent scenes, it is not a violent film like the others. Based on a reading of the Tibetan Book of The Dead, Enter The Void takes the audience through a man's first few minutes after his death. As his spirit, essence, or whatever you want to call it, travels through the city, over rooftop, we see a series of flashbacks until his "soul" reincarnates in the next vessel that will emerge as another life takes shape in a graphic sex scene.

Q: The idea in Buddhism is what is real/what is not real is illusory; that's why the Tibetan Book of the Dead has connected with people tripping on acid. Both the book and acid raise the question what's real and what's not real. Am I really seeing this, am I not really seeing this? Is that also what you were raising was the question of what is reality in a sense?

GN: Ask yourself what is present and real, why your own memories get so blurry when you have a blackout or even why you try to remember what you did two weeks ago.

Q: The Buddhist notion that life is an illusion or that in life the only unchanging thing is change links with the feeling here that life is cheap, and that these Japanese seem to regard these Westerners' lives as cheap.

GN: What happened in the movie would never happen. It could have happened in some other countries but not in Japan, but I needed some dramatic [element] to start the movie. At the end of the movie you don't know if his memories were not an illusion. He comes back to life to understand that the whole mental state that you were going through actually was just a dream. All that in the movie is just an illusion but you can think that even his whole life is an illusion before that.

The truth is that you don't know at the end of the movie. You can't tell anymore what's real. But in the case of his dream at the end of the movie you don't know if he's not going to simply just wake up in a hospital and be sent to prison; you can't tell if he died or not. It's making a dream out of all the elements that he went through. He read The Book of the Dead and promised to never leave her so he decided to reincarnate.

Q: Your other films have equated sex with violence. Though there are elements of that in this film, it also has, at least by the end, the flip side, where sex offers a resurrection, reincarnation or redemption. Is that what you were showing in terms of your own evolution and in the evolution of the film?

GN: There is no reincarnation because at the end he comes back through his mother's belly and we don't know if he's going back into the loop and coming back to life through his mother's belly or if he's just remembering or reconstructing a false memory of the most traumatic moment of his life -- the moment he discovered his life for the first time. I don't know if there is any redemption in heterosexual love here but you see a woman and a man making love.

Q: Are you familiar with Wilhelm Reich -- the radical psychologist who posited that sexuality and sex was the most important release of energy.

GN: He constructed a machine didn't he?

Q: The orgone box [orgone accumulator].

GN: I've read about him but never read his books.

Q: This movie deals more with sex as a positive energy release as well as negative energy release; you're looking at both sides of it here. Was that your message, about the negative and the positive of the energy release of sex?

GN: I don't believe in good and evil, I don't believe in positive and negative energy. There is an energy of life or course that fights for the survival of the species, so whatever keeps you alive is good for the survival of the species. There is a meaningful energy which is the sexual energy.

Q: The most important thing though I think in making this movie work was having Paz, because you had to have somebody with that sexuality and that power to sort of reconnect throughout. Was she the toughest person to get for the film?

GN: No, actually I met her almost one year before I met Nathaniel [Brown, who is the man getting killed] and I really liked her and I wanted to have her in the movie. But I had problems, believe it or not, to find someone to play the brother, because I wanted to have some physical resemblance between the brother and the sister. And also I knew that I wanted to avoid a professional actress because as a concept of the movie I knew that if I had a professional actor he would have a vision.

Q: This movie fits into a canon of films about the experience just before death. There's that movie that was one with Ryan Gosling in it. Marc Forster directed called Stay. Have you seen any of those movies -- were they an inspiration?

GN: Of course there were other movies that had complex special effects, like The Matrix but in many ways this movie is simpler than those others.

Q: I see a science-fictional influence in this film. Will you be moving more towards science-fictional films?

GN: Actually I'm going to go more [towards] erotic movies. I shot a documentary but I guess I'll go to a safer place.

Q: Buddhist thinking also involves that peace, satori or enlightenment, the idea of not killing, not damaging life. Do you see yourself moving more in that direction creatively and conceptually as well?

GN: I know that I wouldn't want to kill an animal. Even when there's a cockroach in the kitchen I don't kill the cockroach.

Q: Did you become more Buddhist-oriented in making this movie?

GN: I'm not Buddhist. I don't believe in religion; I don't even believe in the survival of the mind after death. I believe that there are forces and connections between humans in their lifetimes but I don't think they will ever exist on another dimension.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Actor Elias Koteas Steps into "Let Me In" And other Genre, Arthouse Films

What makes Canadian-born actor Elias Koteas so fascinating, is that he doesn’t like to play it safe. In his latest film the vampiric Let Me In, he plays the policeman who discovers the true nature of the mysterious 12-year-old killer Abby (Chloë Moretz) and pays for it. In the process, he shows a humanity that's needed to charge this dark and chilly film.

This 51-year-old handles gritty roles full of dark and light mixtures from the auto/erotic-obsessed Vaughan in David Cronenberg's Crash to the stalwart Captain James Staros in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line.

Though Koteas first got known by playing Casey Jones in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies he moved onto a number of genre films such as as the horror thriller Skinwalkers (2006), David Fincher's Zodiac, Shooter (both released in 2007), the Denzel Washington starrer Fallen (as the demon-possessed serial killer Edgar Reese) and as the priest-turned-detective Thomas Daggett in The Prophecy -- which also starred Christopher Walken, Viggo Mortensen, Eric Stoltz and Virginia Madsen (with whom he appeared in The Haunting in Connecticut).

But he's done lighter fare as well, appearing in John Hughes' Some Kind of Wonderful and in Disney's golfer bio-pic The Greatest Game Ever Played. He's also done a ton of television series guesting on CSI: NY, The Sopranos and House, in which he plays a man who shoots Dr. Gregory House.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, to his Greek mechanic father and milliner mother,. Koteas is tri-lingual. He left Canada in '81 for New York City's American Academy of Dramatic Arts and later, the Actors' Studio where he studied under Ellen Burstyn and Peter Masterson. While at the AADA, Koteas was in the school's production of The Devils adapted by John Whiting from thecontroversial Aldous Huxley novel, marking a provocative start to his career.

Q: You’ve done such amazing extreme characters that push the envelope or live in an envelope-pushing place, whether it's in a film like Crash or Prisoner. How do you so lose yourself in these characters that sometimes the viewer doesn’t even realize it’s you?

EK: I can’t believe you saw Prisoner. I don’t know what to say other than thank you.

Q: What makes you fascinating as an actor is that you don’t like to play it safe. What's your process of inhabiting these arch characters?

EK: There’s no rhyme or reason; for better or for worse, these jobs, they find me. I like to think that. Sometimes you develop a relationship with them, and sometimes the character pitches a tent outside your front door and doesn’t leave unless you invite him in. It sounds hokey, but I don’t know what to say about it, you know what I mean? You try to give as much of yourself as you can to each role.

Q: Look at the policeman you play in Let Me In. You have to make it appear that an extreme situation is slowly revealed to him, and that he's being blown away. Literally. What did you do to make that work for you?

EK: When I first read [a script] there are odd things that happen. You never really know what it is that’s going to set you off or set you on the track to where you need to go with this thing. For some reason Abraham Lincoln came into my life. I read voraciously about Lincoln; what that has anything to do with the movie I don’t know.

Other than that it allowed me to somehow think about the higher nature in man and somehow the compasionate qualities in people and to see both sides of something and to bear witness. It’s odd to try to make that connection, but my life at the time was going through a lot of changes. Then how do I make it personal? How do I make the part relevant without being obvious?

Somehow he felt like a ghost to me, like somebody who was in a room observing, bearing witness. Then at the same time you spend a lot of time alone. Your life somehow dictates that, and if you’re open and sensitive, one feeds the other. And the atmosphere and arena that director Matt Reeves created sort of allowed you to be open, vulnerable and to explore different ways about playing this guy.

I didn’t really know how; I didn’t have any preconceptions other than I felt it needed to have a sort of compassionate tone. Then with a hope and a prayer, you dive off, and hope for the best. It’s always a crap shoot; you never really know what’s going to happen on that day.

Q: Your role in Let Me In is an important one, if secondary, to the two kids.

EK: I feel so blessed that I’m able to do this. Then you work with these two children, and after all these years of my so-called experience, having been on stage and gone through it, To this day, I still feel like, if I got another job it would feel like I have no experience at all. It’s starting over, and I’m beside myself, hoping that I asked the right questions in order to get the ball rolling.

So the toughest part is getting up in the morning and actually showing up. That’s the scariest part of the film for me. But then you show up and you work with these two children who are so unaffected, so incredibly phenomenal. They’re so pure that it’s just humbling to be in their presence. You have a lot of kids at that age who aren’t able to reflect back what they see, but here are these kids just so soulful.

There’s almost something divine about it that as an actor I look at that and go to myself, "Oh my god! As an actor that what I pray for: to be as affecting and as moving as these kids are capable of being." So in their presence, I don’t know anything about acting.

Q: You're also in a segment of Eric Mendelsson's 3 Backyards which screened at The Hamptons Film Festival last week -- a really wonderful film with three separate stories that are interwoven in one way or another. No one story dominates and nor does any one overwhelm the others, so it’s more about the film as a whole.

EK: It was a great two weeks of guerilla film-making with people who are really passionate about what they do. Ultimately, it’s a crapshoot whether it comes together in a meaningful, affecting way, but the journey of making [a film like that] that and being entrusted in that [performance] was what I remember. There was a lot of kindness on that set.

It’s a small film [which won an award at Sundance where it debuted] and got a little bit of [exposure] in New York [at the New Directors/New Films] in the spring. I’m very proud of it. I’ll be curious to see what your thoughts are [about it]. I haven’t seen the [completed] picture but I’ve heard that it’s kind of like an everyman [story], and if I can tap into that, that’s the toughest part, in relation to what you just said, where you could just be almost everyman in a situation.

Now It’s just doing the festival thing and I think this spring it might play some more dates in New York.

Q: Sometimes, you have this slightly deranged streak, and yet at the same time, a sympathetic quality. With Vaughan in Crash, he has to be somehow sympathetic to show how he draws them in to his little cult -- that was one reason that it got you so much attention for that role.

EK: That part to me was a metaphor for love and for making the connection. And it doesn’t make sense, but I saw it from a young boy’s perspective with wonderment. Everything that he did was with a sense of wonderment; I haven’t thought about it in 16 years, but that’s what I recall from it. If you leave yourself open to just making discoveries without any sort of preconception then anything can happen.

Q: You’ve done such a range of films. One of the through lines seems to be that you often understand characters who are either pushed to an edge or stand at an edge. Do you feel that’s true?

EK: You know what, I don’t know, man. It’s really in the eye of the beholder. I’m living my life the best way I know how -- try to be curious about things and open, and work through my own neurosis and fears and hopes. And somehow, for some reason that’s beyond me, they translate that way on screen. So where that comes from I don’t really know. I don’t know what it is. I wish I had a better answer.

Q: In capturing the duality of darkness and light, you're in some ways a successor to what Robert De Niro is able to do.

EK: You flatter me putting me in that company. He’s certainly somebody that I admired during my studies and during my career. In response to that I just feel like I haven’t even started yet, so I feel with your thoughtful words and kind words that maybe in my life I’m opening up that ways that would invite different experiences, different roles.

I don’t even know how to explain it; all I know is that I’ve barely begun. It feels that way. I feel like a late bloomer even though I’ve done 70 movies. I just feel like I’m just getting started. It feels that way. So if you can compare me to an actor like that then you flatter me. I should be so lucky.

Q: Reflecting on your career, which roles were linchpins for you?

EK: You want me to think about the roles that I’ve played and how they’ve had some kind of effect on me?

Q: Your relationship with Atom Egoyan -- being in Exotica as well as other of his films The Adjuster and Ararat, -- has been very important. You had to have extreme talent to be able to play that character in that very tough film. Was that a critical role for you, and maybe a chance to make something of a statement?

EK: A lot of these roles that I feel like I’ve had some sort of impact, or that have had an effect on me, have always been with directors who have the time to somehow get to know me. Any good director’s going to be curious about who it is that’s coming aboard. Because of lack of time a lot of directors hope that you just have the character in your pocket and you just show up and do it. and controversial production. Egoyan is very intuitive and he was very inclusive about getting to know you and hanging out.

That breeds an environment that allows you to be open and to sort of explore and to trust. David Cronenberg just left me alone. I kind of somehow knew the role for some reason, and it was just all about finding your light. The whole experience with Crash was I felt like I was in a state of grace. I felt that we were making discoveries as the camera was rolling, and that was very exhilarating.

The Thin Red Line was an experience where, again, the director would get to know you and push you in a way that it’s a tough act to follow. Most directors don’t know -- they don’t really know what questions to ask and how to inspire you. I feel like I’m at my best when there’s a relationship with a director, and you feel safe and that you can fall on your face and make mistakes. I could go on.

Q: Your ability to give yourself to each of those situations allows you to go from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to Shutter Island. You’ve worked with directors like David Fincher and Martin Scorsese who are known for a degree of meticulousness. What do you think they find in you that works with this meticulousness?

EK: With David Fincher first of all, it’s just a blessing that he would see me as the color that he would invite along to help him tell the story. That’s just the luck of the draw. You know people, you’ve done enough work, and you know the right people who would get in touch with you and put you in his line of sight.

And so there you are, and you’re scared and nervous and this and that. I consider him like a big pillow. Like if you’re going to be nervous on that day, scared out of your wits, you know you’re going to be there, and you’re going to work through the scene until it happens.

That to me was like a comfort know that you’re not going to move on; you’re going to do it 20, 30, 40 takes, whatever it takes, to make it happen. And he’s such a brilliant filmmaker and storyteller; you could just let it go and just try to do your part and you’ll be taken care of.

With Marty Scorsese, oddly enough I felt like I was home, and I don’t really know how else to describe it. The whole experience of making that film was like going to church almost. It was a very quiet set and then suddenly there you are with all this makeup and everything stops, everything’s in slow motion. There’s Mr. Scorsese and there’s the set and the cinematographer. It’s a little surreal.

You’re plucked out of your own life, and then suddenly you’re thrown into this situation and you’re asked, “Okay, what are you going to do?” I don’t really know how to articulate the adrenaline that is shooting through you at this moment, but somehow you have to remember your whole life has prepared you for this one specific moment, that you are here, you are where you have to be. And Marty Scorsese was just so open to trying a lot of different things, any fear that you have is your own, and he’s there to help you along.

Q: You’ve done two films with David Fincher, so obviously you have some understanding of him. Have you seen his latest?

EK: Social Network? No, I’m going to. It looks pretty interesting.

Q: He’s becoming heralded on a level he didn’t get with Zodiac or even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. What’s the secret of working with him?

EK: I wish I knew. He is an incredibly bright guy, very visual. He knows what he wants. It’s all about rhythm in the scene...He’s very thoughtful and open, but like any creative person, it doesn’t have to be the most comfortable, and sometimes it’s very frustrating.

It’s a lot of different things, so some days it can be very difficult, and some days he might not even know what he wants. But that’s all part of the process, so you’ve got to be willing to go through it.

At the end of the day what’s up on that screen is what’s important. I’m so happy for him because I remember when Zodiac came out, it [was the] beginning of the year [but despite] glowing reviews somehow at the end of the year it was like, “Zodiac what?” There wasn’t any sort of acknowledgment, and I thought to myself, What’s at work here? But then it goes beyond that. The guy is able to make his films, and he’s able to tell a story, and the fact that he’s as prolific as he is these past few years is awesome. He’s got a lot to say and he’s just getting started, and I look forward to seeing anything that he does. It’s poetry.

Q: You’ve been in films, sometimes in a critical role or as a supporting figure who understands isolation and alienation, and you deal with directors who show the dark side of humanity, like Michael Winterbottom with The Killer Inside Me, or with James Gray, showing that crazy side in Two Lovers. What is it that you get about these characters? Are you slightly crazy?

EK: I don’t really know…It’s all instinctual…it’s really my makeup I guess, and in some way I’m able to find a voice within my own struggles with why I’m here and what my purpose is and what my conflicts are within myself and family and relationships; whatever it is.

I have an idea of what my own personal demons are, and somehow the more aware I am of those maybe perhaps the work will get even more honest -- and perhaps get close to what those children were doing -- at the tender age of 75. Maybe then I’ll be able to figure it out.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?

EK: I don’t know. It was like overnight almost. I was watching Rich Man, Poor Man with my mom, and I was deeply affected by that series for some reason. Nick Nolte’s character blew my mind. There was something about his character that somehow, I don’t know, as a 10-year-old, as a 15-year-old, whatever I was at the time, what I saw in it -- the idea of affecting people. Like I sat and watched after his character was killed; I was crying, I was weeping, I was inconsolable. Somehow there was something about that that wanted me to do that and affect people that way, make them see their own mind.

At the time I didn’t know that; at the time I was more like, Let’s pretend. Let’s make you forget about your life. Let’s entertain you for a while. Let’s tell a good story. You want to be affecting, you want to be doing scenes where when somebody’s watching it they’re not just saying, “Oh wow, what a wonderful scene,” and then go off and have a sandwich. In some way you want to open the door to the view in their own hearts, their own life. To touch someone and make them see themselves perhaps.

Q: But you were able to get outside of yourself.

EK: A lot of times I don’t watch anything that I’m in because I’m going to nitpick it to death or I don’t see it behind the eyes or I could have made that choice or they could have done this. So I don’t even bother. And the fact that I’m able to watch – I saw Let Me In three times in one week, and each time I saw it everybody got better and I got worse. It’s tough, man. I mean Ritchie Coster as the teacher, he was lovely. He had a limited amount of time.

Q: Whom would you like to work with again?

EK: Atom Egoyan, obviously, and David Cronenberg, I would be back there. I’d like to say Terrence Malick because of the arena that he creates and the poetry of his films, but for better or for worse I’m always Captain Staros to him, and I don’t know if he’ll ever see me in any other aspect. And that’s not an indictment; it’s just the way it sometimes is.

Q: You can proudly say you’ve been in both a werewolf and a vampire movie. You’ve covered two of the great iconic…

EK: I grew up watching these guys, man. Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, later Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing -- they were my idols as a kid. The outward monster, but then inside there’s this conflict, this battle with one’s good and bad side. Somebody outside looking in, trying to belong, being a freak.

Maybe that has something to do with the kid that was sitting in front of a TV late at night. Maybe I should have been supervised, maybe I shouldn’t have been allowed to watch TV, like endlessly watching horror films. I’m sure that had some sort of weird affect on how I look at the world and how I look at myself in this world.

Q: You've been in ghost stories, played a priest, been in a vampire movie, been in a werewolf film. But I haven’t seen you as a space captain. You’d be the perfect captain of some ship in space dealing with the dark and light sides of encountering aliens.

EK: I don’t mean to be glib but do I have to wear like tight, spandex uniforms? As long as I don’t have to do that then I’ll be okay. I’m taking the question seriously. Hey, you know what, if it’s a good story out there in space. Can you image being out there light years away from earth? Can you imagine what it was like being in that capsule going around and round the moon? You’re just by yourself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Movie Review: A Trio of Films Offer Inspiration, but Only Two Deliver

By Brad Balfour

Two of last weekend's movies served up satisfying, feel-good fare without the pretense of the weighty message that Eat Pray Love promised but failed to deliver. Despite expectations for this big Hollywood production with megastar Julia Roberts as author Elizabeth Gilbert on her journey of self-enlightenment, the film neither gives much sense of the author's inner odyssey nor elucidates. Mostly we learn that Gilbert was so restless that a cure for her ennui -- sex with a younger man (even one as tousle-haired as James Franco) -- didn't do it for her. 

Viewed through Sex-and-the-City-colored glasses, the film by Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy comes off more as a tony travel brochure for Italy, Indian ashrams and Bali than as a source of transcendent insights. The only real journey provided takes us up Robert's ski slope nose, down mounds of spaghetti and into Javier Bardem's soulful eyes, which has its momentary pleasures, but also risks disappointing fans of Gilbert's book. 

That this antidote to testosterone failed to perform elevated the other pair of films by comparison -- both satisfied for very different reasons.

While Nanny McPhee Returns cannot stir great philosophical expectations, it oddly has something of a subversive nature, one far less contrived and conniving than Eat Pray Love. And when it comes to entertaining, Emma Thompson and her energetic film do that for both kids and adults. As directed by Susanna White -- herself a parent -- Nanny McPhee Returns doesn't look down on kids or parents but reminds us that kids can rise to the occasion, especially when it seems that the adults are overwhelmed and nonplussed.

Summoned through the ether, Nanny McPhee appears to straighten out the little brats and put everything right in the world while taking the piss out of those too full of themselves to see beyond their -- or her hugely bulbous -- nose. She means business, but she's not above having fun. As she explains, "Once they want her but no longer need her," she moves on to bring her message elsewhere.

Even more fulfilling with all its sentimentality snuggly in place is Mao's Last Dancer, a film couched full of larger issues but in the end, a plain and simple tale of redemption and personal growth.

The film has to accomplish a huge amount in scant time: it must create a sense of Mao's China without seeming ideological; it must show the life of Chinese ballet student Li Cunxin (played as an adult by dancer Chi Cao) in an entertaining fashion without becoming overly technical; and when the narrative shifts from China to the US, it has to show with some depth the conundrums Cunxin faces while trying to making it in a drastically different society.

Thanks to the sure hand of Oscar-winning director Bruce Beresford, Mao's Last Dancer succeeds as a cross-cultural drama and finally as an epic of triumph when Cunxin breaks away from both his Chinese and American patrons in Houston. 

Taking into account all that this film has to cover, the moments when it falls back on easy emotion and tearful melodrama are more than acceptable given the complex elements in the true-story narrative. In any case, I'd rather see the interesting faults of an ambitious film rather than the dull perfections of a cookie-cutter toss-off.

The scenes in China were the most compelling, both because they offered a look into a once-closed world and because they presented a sense of what people were like without falling back on cartoonish caricatures seen in other films about the China of this era.

Then there's the essential message of the film -- not that Cunxin found love in America or chose our system over Communist China's (though that was the case), but that he negotiated his psychic survival between being a star and subsuming his ego as part of a troupe. Having had it thrummed into his head that he should have no bourgeois aspirations of fame and money, he struggled with his needs as an individual artist vs. his needs as a member of his beloved Chinese family vs his needs as a grateful guest (and later solo performer) of the Houston Ballet. Finding his way to his ego without losing his sense of balance is his, and the film's, great leap forward.

For viewers pirouetting down to their local theater, all three films hold out messages of inspiration and aspiration, some more cogently than others.

Friday, July 30, 2010

British Auteur Ken Russell Makes Rare Appearance

One of the greatest directors of all time, the 83-year-old Ken Russell, is enjoying a retrospective at the Lincoln Center Film Society, Russellmania, starting this weekend going on through July 5th. This is one filmmaker who pushed the envelope both creatively and professionally -- and in many ways changed both the face of cinema, inspiring many of my generation both aesthetically and personally,

Not only will nearly all of his best films be screened there -- from some of my favorites such as The Devils (1971) and Savage Messiah (1972) -- but some of his most widely acclaimed films such as his Oscar-winning Women in Love (1969) and his extravagant version of The Who's Tommy (1975) will get a proper showing again.

More importantly, the eccentric British filmmaker will also make an extended appearance here, spending six nights providing conversations with the audience about several of his most memorable and provocative films.

Tonight, he discusses his experiences in making The Devils, his torturously graphic telling of an Inquisition-like persecution inspired by Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudon (with Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave). Though he had been in New York not long ago when his production of the play, Mindgame, was seen here, he has not been around the city for such a substantial time to really talk about his work publicly in years.

On Saturday, July 31, Russell will answer questions about his sexually ground-breaking version of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love. The film starred Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed, and Alan Bates and is unforgettable for its nude wrestling scene, which showed male genitalia.

On Sunday August 1st, The Boy Friend will screen with Russell in attendance. This is one of his many musically-inspired films, this time harkening back to the Jazz Age starring famous model Twiggy and Glenda Jackson.

On Monday Aug. 2nd, the burly director will join the audience in discussing Mahler, one of his several biographical films inspired by the life of a classical composer. Another one of those fascinating cinematic re-imaginings, Lisztomania, will have Russell on hand this coming Wednesday August, 4th.

Finally, on Thursday August 5th, the Film Society will show his incredible visual fantasy version of the Who's landmark rock opera -- to be dissected by director and audience alike.

Friday 30
2:00 Women in Love
4:30 The Music Lovers
7:00 The Devils + conversation

Saturday 31
1:00 The Boy Friend
3:45 The Devils
6:00 The Music Lovers
8:15 Women in Love + conversation

Sunday 1
1:15 The Devils
3:30 Mahler
6:00 Savage Messiah
8:15 The Boy Friend + conversation

Monday 2
2:30 Savage Messiah
4:30 Valentino
7:00 Mahler + conversation

Tuesday 3
3:30 Lisztomania

Wednesday 4
4:30 The Boy Friend
7:00 Lisztomania + conversation

Thursday 5
2:00 The Boy Friend
4:30 The Devils
7:00 Tommy + conversation

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Alice Braga Battles Predators and Repo Men

Interview By Brad Balfour

Maybe it's because of her Brazilian genes that Alice Braga looks good even when sweaty after a jungle trek. Braga has become the go-to girl for sci-fi action thrillers with another one coming out this year not long after Repo Men -- the recently released Predators. This time, as the bust-ass female lead, IDF sniper Isabelle takes charge -- with co-star Adrien Brody -- of a pack of errant mercs, para-military, rebels and hardcore criminals who are forced to band together in order to survive after they are mysteriously chute-dropped into an unknown tropical forest on a distant world.

Chosen because they can kill without conscience, these warriors, some trained, some not, battle a pack of 10-foot-tall Predators who are hunting them as prey. In this vast jungle, these human predators must learn who, or what, they're up against, and test the limits of their abilities, knowledge and wits in a battle of kill or be killed.

Having appeared in several films, most notably as Angélica in 2002's highly acclaimed Cidade de Deus. she landed her first U.S. blockbuster with 2007's I Am Legend. Who else has starred in two apocalyptic films about the world's end within a year -- I Am Legend and Blindness (2008) -- and survived.

Braga has learned to endure all kinds of abuse whether it's rolling around in slimy traps, or having a hand rammed into her gaping wounds. Maybe because she neither has the tough-as-nail glare of Angelina Jolie or the towering power of Uma Thurman, she suggests both intelligence and vulnerability.

Coming from a cinematic family -- her aunt is the great Brazilian actress Sônia Braga -- 27-year-old Alice Braga Moraes got started at eight-years-old being in a yogurt commercial. Besides her native Portuguese, this native of São Paulo, Brazil also speaks English and Spanish, and shows a sort of pluck that propels her career.

Q: You've done a lot of futuristic movies lately; do you have an affinity for them? Do you look for science-fiction scripts or do they happen to find you?

AB: It was a happy coincidence. It was something that my mom always loved, so I grew up watching those types of films, but it wasn’t something that I focused on. These scripts came to me; I read them, had fun with them and liked them. I really had fun because this type of film really opens a door for your imagination. It was a happy coincidence.

Q: Meeting you here, it's hard to believe they cast you as a tough "guy."

AB: Everyone tells me, “You look so much taller in the movies.”

Q: Your character is Israeli military?

AB: She is a sniper. She’s a special force lady.

Q: So are you chasing the predators? [chuckles]

AB: I’m being chased.

Q: When did you finish it?

AB: We wrapped the second week of January [2010].

Q: How was that experience?

AB: It was great, really nice, a lot of running around -- running for my life as fast as I can. A great cast and crew. The photographer, Gyula Pados, was amazing. It looks really nice and the predators are dark, and really, really, scary.

I think the fans are really going to be happy with it, at least I hope so. The director, Nimród Antal, is a fan of the films, so it was like a fan directing us. He was like a kid on set, and having that energy was really special.

Q: Was Predators a tough shoot?

AB: It was a fun shoot. It was hard because of the weather conditions -- really cold and working outdoors. But it was a blast, and I think it’s going to be interesting.

Q: What’s it like acting next to some guy in a suit?

AB: Awesome. Truly, I had so much fun because in I Am Legend they were wearing suits with dots, so it’s like Teletubbies.

I remember I took a picture when I met the guys because one of the guys who played the Predator, Derek Mears -- he also played Jason -- he’s so big, and I was next to him barefoot. He’s great. Having someone that tall, that big, with me -- and I’m like 5’3” -- that kind of vibe was great because it gives you [a sense of] that desperation.

Q: What was it like working with such different people on Predators? It has such an interesting collection of actors, like Topher Grace and Adrien Brody.

AB: It was great because I think they wanted to do something different. Having Adrien as the hero was not the obvious choice, but he did great. I thought it was a great choice just to play around with acting in an action film.

Q: It was R rated; was it ever going to be a PG-13?

AB: I don’t think they could have because there are some [really] dark scenes in it, like any other of this type of film. So I think it’s going to be hard. We never know what’s going to happen or what the studio’s going to do in the editing. But it looks really dark, and I had fun doing it.

Q: Will you get your own action figure for Predators?

AB: I hope so. We did the scanning. I don’t know if it was for action scenes or post-production things, but I really hope I have an action figure. I would love that.

Q: Do you think it one-up the old movies?

AB: I don’t know if it will one-up [the original]. I hope it adds up more than anything else. I don’t know if it ones-up the other ones. I think to become successful as the others I think it needs to add up. You cannot try to make something different because then you lose the fans. The best thing is to make a film for the fans. That’s why we’re making it.

Q: Is there a possibility to get your own franchise out of this Predators movie?

AB: I don’t know. I would love to, but I have no idea. I’m totally open for anything. People ask me, “What type of films do you want to make?” I want to make films. I have a blast when I’m on set. Seriously, I’m a kid, ask anyone that worked with me or saw me on set.

Actually, what [director] Fernando Meirelles used to do with me on Blindness is he would keep me for last so that he could keep me on set. He knew that I wouldn’t leave. So if it comes up, definitely I would love to do more action and more stuff. I’m open for any type of acting.

Q: Have you talked to Fernando recently? Do you have any idea what he’s going to do next? Are you going to work with him again?

AB: I heard that he was going to do something with a Janis Joplin story or something, but I’m not sure. I heard that at a party at midnight in São Paulo, so that’s not a trustful source.

He was doing a really wonderful TV series in Brazil about Shakespeare. He’s been writing, and I think he’s probably in pre-production or something. As I was shooting Predators I was away for the past few months so I’m not sure.

Q: If you could work on any action film franchise or remake, do you have that ideal role in your head where you could be another kick-ass character?

AB: I never thought about it. I’ve always been a small, short girl so I never thought about myself running around and kicking ass and punching and shooting. In Predators, I’m a sniper and truly, my gun was the heaviest gun on set. It’s 14 pounds and everyone is with a knife, a pistol, and I’m with a [huge] rifle.

I totally love the challenge to portray someone like that character. It would be great if something comes up as another action figure. It’s a nice challenge physically and emotionally.

Q: Your career seems to be moving not only in a sci-fi direction but in an action film mold. The world needs a really big Latina action star. They’re looking to cast Wonder Woman right now.

AB: That’s great! But Wonder Woman is not going to be Latin for sure. With my accent?

Q: Linda Carter is half Mexican.

AB: Oh yeah but she didn’t have an accent like I do. That would be great though; Wonder Woman Latina. But I did City of God and Lower City and independent projects, and then I did some dramas. It was nice to face a film like Repo Men that has some drama, is a character that has some hard background stories but at the same time is running and training and firing. It’s cool.

Q: When did you do Repo Men?

AB: Right after, actually. I was shooting Blindness in Toronto and went to LA to audition with Jude [Law, co-star of Repo Men with Forest Whitaker] on a Saturday. Then I went straight back to Toronto to finish Blindness. Then I ended up shooting Repo Men in Toronto again.

My mom always asking me, “When are you going to do a romantic-comedy without monsters?” and I’m like, “Okay, that’s coming one day. Let’s work for it.” But this is a happy coincidence.

Q: Did you think of yourself as a female Terminator?

AB: The way Beth’s going, she probably can be a Terminator because the only thing’s real are the lips.

Q: One of those scenes near the end where he’s taking the parts out of you is really sick but also sexy in its own way. It recalls the movie Crash. In filming that scene, how did you play it so that it was both passionate but kind of sick and crazy at the same time?

AB: When Miguel told me that he wanted to do that scene as a love scene I couldn’t picture it. Once we started doing it I was just trying to figure out how to play it, not to be overly painful or only love and forget the pain. I tried to stay in the middle and to just bring truth.

It’s interesting that both characters are so in love and they’re fighting for their lives, yet they’re so connected at that moment in the film. I think pain and love go together. If you’re in love, you’re going to feel pain and the passion increases the pain.

It’s hard to explain with a logical answer, but mainly I do think that’s what Miguel wanted, and I tried to put my heart into it and just bring it alive. It was fun to do it because it was so free to create anything. We are in sexual positions actually; it’s like we're making love. It was a great idea.

Q: Do you think your character, Beth, in Repo Men was plagued by a love for the surgery? Do you think she was addicted to the surgery or she was just going along trying to fix things?

AB: Miguel [Rosenberg-Sapochnik, the director,] and I spoke a lot about her past, about what she’s been through, what happened in her life, what was her background, why was she in that situation when we first see her in the film, just because I love doing that and Miguel also was really involved in the story.

We wanted to understand what kind of emotional state she would show up in. It’s just life; we created a little background, like some disease, some problem, some lack of health, addictions maybe. As soon as she started getting new ones then it became an addiction I think, because it’s kind of hard to say she had all those problems. It was mainly an addiction, but it’s hard to say that it was only that.

There was a line that ended up not in the film but is really fun. I looked at him and was like, “Did you get upgraded? Come on!” And that kind of line shows that she was always trying to keep up. It’s like us; you guys don’t have tape anymore.

We’re always upgrading, always doing something new. Everyone has the iPhone; in a week everyone’s going to have the iPad. We’re always upgrading all the time, so I feel that’s what Beth did. And it’s nice. If someone’s boring talking to you, just turn it down.

Q: How do you find the right level of empathy for a character that has so much of her body turned over to science and is a drug addict and does all those deals? How far do you go to make that character empathetic, and where do you stop?

AB: Empathetic in what sense?

Q: You want people to feel sorry for her so that you worry about her, but where do you stop? Because you also want her to be tough.

AB: I don’t know if I want people to feel sorry for her. I never felt sorry for her. I always try to not judge the characters that I portray. I try to just understand, and get meaning and belief in the characters. But I always tried to make her as human as possible.

All of us endure pain, sadness, loss. Life is not only happiness. But on the other hand, you can find love or happiness, or you can find anything else, so that’s the change she goes through her life. She’s giving up on herself when he finds her and that’s why I punch him in the face and am like, “Why? Why did you do that? You’re not going to save me right now. You’re going to go away.”

Who knows, maybe 10 guys did with her, or her family did with her, we don’t know. I just tried to create a character that was human more than anything. I think feeling pity is a really strong thing to feel for someone.

Q: Apparently, in the book version, your character had cancer which ravaged most of her body? Her husband at the time had been a doctor, so she got a discount, which is why she got so many body part upgrades -- he was just trying to keep her alive. By that time she was 74% artificial, and he couldn’t be with her anymore.

AB: [Miguel] didn’t say anything. No but I wish he did. The script was so different in a sense, so we tried to build the story and background. There were a lot of different versions of Beth and Remy’s love story in the beginning, and then it changed through the course of the film until we started shooting.

Q: Miguel said your character started out in a different relationship with Remy. What’s your reaction as an actress? You play a part a certain way, and then it’s edited and somehow it works in a completely other way that you hadn’t intended. What did you think when you see that?

AB: My mom’s an editor, so I totally understand editors, which is great -- It helps. I’m kidding. I grew up in this world. My father’s a journalist, but he directed a lot of TV shows in Brazil. I never think too much about what they’re going to do. I always try to grab the script and learn it by heart and focus on that, and whatever they want to do later they can do it. I don’t mind.

I’m passionate for the story and being part of something. That’s the most important thing. Funnily enough, in Repo Men, I prefer what I saw on the screen than what we shot. It works really nice. I don’t know how, because we had such a background in our minds –- me and Jude, Beth and Remy –- all the time that drove us through the journey towards the end of the film, and once we cut the part before they meet, where we meet them in the film, it could have gone wrong.

What is great is that it was done perfectly, and it was even better. I’m glad he took it off because the story is even sharper. I think more important than you as an actor is the storytelling. Of course as an actor you want to show your work, you want to be on screen, but being part of a nice story, it’s really special. So I do think as an actress you need to know how to understand and how to put yourself into it. Everything matters; don’t take anything for granted. Be present in the moment. That’s the best thing to do.

Q: At the end you’re still alive. Is there hope for a sequel that would include you?

AB: Maybe. I'll give you Universal’s number so you can ask them. Then I’ll give you mine, and you call me. I have no idea what they think of it. I don’t think so. I think the story’s done.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Actress Christian Serratos Stays Human in The Twilight Saga

Exclusive Interview by Brad Balfour

As the ardor heats up for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, its leads and various beasties such as the vampires and werewolves, it's easy to forget all the humans except that most desired one -- Kristen Stewart's Bella. But there are the others, from the ever-surging actress Anna Kendrick as head geek Jessica to Billy Burke as poppa Swan

And then there's actress Christian Serratos's bespectacled Angela Webber, who kind of reflects the film's own core girl-geek squad.

After the 20-year-old Serratos made it into The Twilight Saga, she started to tour the con circuit making sure that the humans other than Bella weren't forgotten. So she made it to New York last October, to Anaheim this April and has had time to bare all for PETA. And her few moments of screen time in the installments reveals real flashes of talent -- part of what she discusses in this exclusive interview conducted during one of those con excursions.

Though she has limited screen time again in the third installment, she does have this incredible ringside seat to see this Virgin-Vamp saga emerge and see how everyone has evolved in doing it. As close up to the center of the media circus as anyone, Serratos has not only witnessed the Twilight phenomenon from the inside out, she has felt the glare of that white hot spotlight that Kris Stewart and Rob Pattinson have been subjected to throughout.

Q: Now that you know the characters, do you just go with it or do you rehearse?
CS: We definitely go over our stuff, our lines and work together, even off-set when we want to. The only real rehearsals are to get the stunts down. So the Cullens and the vampires have to deal with that.

Q: Did the mood on set change over time since everyone was already like a family, or was there more pressure because of the success?

CS: If anything, it went the other way. Once everyone realized how intense it was, everyone calmed down and relaxed. "Let's not think about it. Let's just do what we're here to do, make the fans happy and go home."

Q: Are the scripts tight or are there some things you get to make up while you're shooting?

CS: A lot of the improv was literally us trying to make each other mess up. It ended up working. It's really cool. It's funny to see what scenes they end up taking.

Q: It seems like all the actors have built a real sense of family.

CS: It has.

Q: Your character lasts throughout the series so you're there for the long haul.

CS: Yeah. It's been great. Everyone is definitely close knit. Everyone is family, we all take care of each other. We all pick on each other and so it's great. I love everyone.

Q: Do you feel you learned anything from the more experienced actors on Twilight?

CS: Peter [Facinelli] who plays the dad, Dr. Carlisle -- he's pretty fatherly on set. But we all learn from each other.

Q: Do you crack each other up on the set?

CS: Yes. They're not specifically planned, we just mess with each other in general. I'm usually picked on the most. I'm not kidding. I'm an easy target. They like to mess with me.

Q: What did you do to immerse yourself in the whole vampire universe?

CS: What was really cool about this particular project is that we didn't have to. I mean, we did and we could, but we had the book.

Q: So you read the book beforehand?

CS: Oh, yeah.

Q: Some people advise that you shouldn't read the book before the role and others go the other way.

CS: I couldn't help it. I remember being on the third one, and the fourth wasn't going to come out for another week or so. I could not possibly read just one page a day. I would go through a hundred pages a day. So I would force myself to just do one page a day, because I had to have my daily dose, but I didn't want to finish because I didn't want to have to wait.

Q: Have you met the Twilight series' author Stephanie Meyer?

CS: Yeah, she comes to the set a lot. She's really hands on. She's really cool. I got a chance to meet her kids and talk to her about the movie and how she came up with it. She's really nice.

Q: Did you ever discussed your character with her?

CS: Yeah. She gave me solid little tips and stuff and told us little tidbits about our characters. I think that a lot of what she told us is now in the public and so everyone really knows the inside stuff.

Q: Who is your favorite Twilight character?

CS: It would probably be Edward. Edward and Alice. He's like the perfect guy ever and [she] is pretty, sassy and cool. She's got a lot of great one-liners.

Q: Have you seen other vampire movies?

CS: Yeah, I've seen other vampire things, but not necessarily for research.

Q: Did you see Daybreakers, where the blood supply is disappearing and all the vampires are going to die because they're losing their food supply?

CS: That sounds cool. I definitely want to go watch some of the other vampire flicks. I guess I have to go see that.

Q: What do you think of all these vampire TV shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries?

CS: I think it's cool. A vampire phenomenon. I have not watched any of them. I really want to get into True Blood because that's the one that everyone talks about.

Q: Do you have any dream projects you'd like to do?

CS: Sure. I'm very open to anything. I'd love to play someone who's insane or something, just so I can go flake out. I like a superhero. I know that's ironic. That's where we are, but seriously, it'd be really cool to play a superhero.

Q: Are you an anime fan?

CS: Not really. I'm not a really big comic book person. I know the typical ones -- Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and Storm and that stuff. But don't quiz me, because I'm not good at things like that.

Q: Are you a fan of any specific characters?

CS: I guess if anything, it would be [I Love] Lucy. I do have a lot of Lucy stuff.

Q: What about being in a Lucy biopic?

CS: That would be so cool. I know every single episode. The newer stuff would be Friends. I've seen every episode one too many times. I watch them for like the fifth time, each episode, and I still think they're funny.

Q: You seem to have your share of one-liners. Do you have a comic side to you?

CS: Yeah. That's how I started.

Q: When you think about your next project, do you want to look for a comedy, coming off of Twilight?

CS: I really like comedy. I'm into doing comedy. It'd be fun. [And] I would definitely like to do something a little more dramatic.

Q: Do you also sing?

CS: I do. I took a break from that when I got Twilight because it took up a big chunk of time. I'm going to get back at that, though.

Q: What are your influences?

CS: I listen to the Mars Volta and Fiona Apple every day. I feel if you do write music, you write what you listen to and you couldn't possibly write in another genre. So those are the two that I usually use.

Q: Have you thought of bridging the two interests and doing musicals?

CS: That would be really cool. It would have to be a really bomb musical.

Q: A vampire musical?

CS: A vampire musical. That would be really cool. I'd be down for something like that. It would have to be something really creepy, like Repo The Genetic Opera. I feel if it's going to be a musical, it has to be really edgy.

Q: Can you imagine a Twilight musical?

CS: Imagine Robert [Pattinson] singing as Edward Cullen? That would be cool.

Q: The emotions in the film would [work] for breaking out into song.

CS: I feel that, too. It's actually funnier when you really think about it.

Q: Who else do you admire?

CS: I love Sandra Bullock. I think she's really cute. Chelsea Handler, although she's more of a comedian, but I still really love her. Ian McGregor--love him. Parker Posey. So many.

Q: Do you have actors you admire that you want to work? I can see you doing something on the order of Parker Posey, who does all kinds of interesting roles.

CS: Right, and that's why I love her. There's nothing ordinary about the things that she picks. I think that you have to have guts to do some of things that she's done.

Q: What would be the one person, the one choice that you think would be most unlikely?

CS: Probably Parker Posey. She's probably number one on my list, but I think that's the most unusual because of the things she chooses.

Q: Are there directors that you want to work with?

CS: Gus Van Sant would be really awesome. I like Gus Van Sant. I like Steven Soderberg. The guy that did Pan's Labyrinth -- Guillermo del Toro. And Steven Spielberg, naturally, just because he's Steven Spielberg.

But there's a whole list of people. I wanted to work with Catherine Hardwicke before I got to work with Catherine Hardwicke. So I got to check that off my list and that was really cool.

Q: Would you work with her again?

CS: Oh God, yeah. I love Catherine.

Q: Who do you get excited about meeting in the business?

CS: The J's from America's Next Top Model. I saw them at this US Weekly party and they were fabulous. I couldn't even go up to them. I just wanted to watch them, how they work, so that I can imitate it. They're so cool. Love that show,

Q: Do you get recognized a lot for Twilight or even for Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide?

CS: It's usually when I'm in a Twilight-oriented environment. I do a lot of the Twi-Cons and I get recognized a lot. But I don't wear my glasses on a daily basis. Those are the ones that I wore in the film. So it's pretty easy. I just take off my glasses.

Q: You haven't had to suffer too much from the press, right?

CS: Not too bad. There have been a couple of incidents. You think that you can ease into it. Not with this project. It's going to be hardcore.

Q: Do you keep the fans in mind while making the film?

CS: Absolutely. When we first started working on it, we all did our research. We went online and saw what the fans had to say because this is definitely a fan movie. We love the fans.

Q: Has there been something that a fan did that made you nervous?

CS: There was one guy in Vancouver. I don't even think he was fan. I didn't get close enough to ask. He sat outside our place. We had a Starbucks across the street, so we'd go over there every day. He would follow me.

My friend came into town and I told her about it. We were having fun with it and trying to get away from him. We went behind the Starbucks into the alley, to go home because it connected. So we were strolling along, cracking up because we lost him. All of a sudden, he comes up the alley.

Q: Do you think about not taking parts that give you a high profile?

CS: You're definitely right, yeah.

Q: You were on Hannah Montana?

CS: I was on one episode and in one scene. Alexa -- that was the character's name. I was having a party and I wanted to invite everyone, and that was it.

Q: Was it a big adjustment living in Vancouver?

CS: No, I love traveling. I love going to other places. It may be hard when I get there, like it was in Germany. I don't care. I like seeing a new place.

Sometimes we're only there for a millisecond and all you get to see is things on a taxi ride to the airport. I still think it's cool. You walk away with souvenirs, like different currencies and stuff. That's fun.

Q: What's the furthest you've traveled so far?

CS: Germany. It's so cool. They have amazing architecture. That place is beautiful.

Q: Do you get jet lag traveling all over the world?

CS: I don't anymore. I think I've gotten use to forcing myself to fall asleep at a certain time because I have to wake up early.

There are definitely days where I feel too tired and I feel my body can't take it and I feel like I'm going to pass out. Other days I'm just stoked.

You have to wake up around 4:00 in the morning because we have 4:00 A.M. pick-ups. So sometimes we're like, "No, we're not getting up." That's why it's really cool to have everyone living next door to you in this big house. They just bang on your door. I don't know how many times we've woken up each other banging on the door, half asleep, saying, "Get up."

Q: How much time do you have in between to do other projects and what opportunities has this opened up for you?

CS: It's opened up a lot of doors. There are a lot of opportunities that get shot our way, which is great. But they've been doing these so quickly that no one really has time to do anything else. When they do, it's very planned out and very coordinated. So there's really no time for random things.

Q: You started out pretty much as a kid. How does it feel maturing through this whole process? Do you take it less serious because you see it for what it is?

CS: I don't think I take it less seriously...

Q: Will you do more risky roles, ones with more sexuality or nudity in them?

CS: I don't know about that. But I don't mind risqué or edgy. Nudity? I feel it's super-important when it comes to some projects, and I feel it's completely ridiculous and stupid when it comes to other. So it would definitely depend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Very Different Elvis & Madona Hit the Film Festival Screen

Interview by Brad Balfour

When the 8th Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil screened its 15 films in June, it wasn't the end of this traveling festival but only the beginning. As part of a growing trend this fest has become a huge promoter of Brazilian cinema worldwide. The fest moves to Vancouver in July (from the 15th to 18th
), then Miami in August 13th to 21st
, and on to London (Sept. 1st - 5th)
, Montevideo (Sept. 23th - 29th)
 Buenos Aires (Oct. 14th - 20th) Rome (Nov. 24th - 28th
) Madrid (Nov. 30th - Dec. 4th
) and finally, Barcelona (Dec 10th - 16th).

Among the films seen during the festival (and earlier at the Tribeca Film Fest) was Elvis and Madona -- an off-beat, low-budget, sort-of romantic comedy timely in a special way. In light of the recent GayPride celebrations and the-soon-to-be-released The Kids Are All Right, it also envisions an alternative family, Brazilian style. Enhanced by a serious social message as well, with a bit more drama and soap opera (it's a lot less Almodovar and a lot more tele-novella) Elvis and Madona is more than a broad domestic-borne rom-com.

Though promoted as a unique, fun comedy, Elvis & Madona offered some controversy for members of the gay and lesbian crowd and garnered some critical razzes as well.

Written and directed by straight director Marcelo Lafitte, the film lightheartedly posits an enduring romance between a transvestite-maybe-transsexual hairdresser and his young bi-sexual lover who get knocked up so they live together struggling to produce his drag show. If successful it end all their financial troubles and make for a functional family.

Set in the vibrant Copacabana district of Rio de Janiero, Elvis and Madona's unlikely love help them chase dreams, deal with the obstacles that arise along the way and fulfill Madona's plans for a spectacular drag show that redeems everyone.

At audience Q&As, the film prompted its share of contention and praise for unique sexual stance. And director was bothered that so many descriptions of the movie (even in Tribeca's program) described Madona as a drag performer. The director pointed out to audience and critics alike that in Brazil, they would call Madona a transvestite not drag queen though it's not sure he saw the distinction between transvestite and trannie.

Through the haze of terrible interpreter and a couple of prickly journalists, Lafitte tried to set the record during a small roundtable held in May.

[Marcelo & Igor (r)]
Q: So what prompted you to make this as your first feature film?

ML: This film had been [brewing] in me for a long time. I came out of doing documentaries; I even used to be the president of the Association of Documentary Filmmakers but I also did four shorts before Elvis & Madona. Though my name is so strongly associated with being a documentary filmmaker, for seven years I have been doing fiction films; I did the four fiction shorts because I thought it was important before I did this feature film because all the learning I acquired.

Q: But why this theme?

ML: I wrote the script for Elvis & Madona a long time ago, in 2001, when I did my first short film. That’s when it came to me. I had been to a show with a transvestite and there was this story about a transvestite that had left his hometown as a man and years later comes back and he’s a [drag queen]. His father had remarried and he falls in love with the daughter of his father's new wife and he’s madly in love. That’s how I [got the idea] for Elvis & Madona back then.

At first, my idea was to get a real transvestite/transsexual to do this, but then it was like where is the right one? I was searching and it was in the air but 10 days before the date when I had to have someone cast as Madona I was introduced to Igor [Cotrim] by a common friend and there you go.

Q: The chemistry between Elvis and Madona is the whole fabric of the film. Was the audition process was complicated?

ML: It was of no use to find the ideal Elvis or ideal Madona if there was no chemistry between them. At the end of the day, it had to be Elvis and Madona. They go together.

Q: So this has been a long process?

ML: It’s taken 10 years to make this movie. This is a movie of a lot of struggle and making dreams come true. And in a way, the film also talks about this: people trying to find and realize their dream.

Q: So who is this movie made for? Is it for heterosexuals to enjoy lifestyles of people they may not understand.

It's to reach for this social inclusion. And yes, there is this tendency in society to look at this issue and bring about the need for the social inclusion.

Q: Though many people feel they’re born a homosexual or a lesbian, It does not mean that they’re incapable of having sex with the opposite sex, and your comedy is about how that can happen. But in the eyes of some viewers, it could be seen as though you're saying, "Oh they just have to find the right opposite sex person to balance them out.

ML: My gay and lesbian friends in Brazil love the movie because they feel that it shows it as normal. The way it’s treated, the way it’s shown, it’s like everything is normal. Not only in Brazil, in Melbourne too, where the film has been seen, the gay and lesbian communities, and friends, they all liked it because they like how the normality, how the issue is approached. But in Sao Paulo, one lesbian came to say, “You are homophobic! Because at the end of the day what you’re saying is that a man can only be happy with a woman.”

Q: You were confronted by someone who is offended by the film, she’s making a serious critique. Without sloughing it off, how do you as an artist and filmmaker -- trying to do something serious in this movie -- reflect upon that kind of criticism?

ML: Maybe this person didn’t really get the idea of the film. Or maybe even she didn’t even get the idea of herself. If 99% of the people got it or enjoyed it and 1% was offended and hurt by it, there’s something being said right there.

The one thing that is the mission of this film, and my mission as an artist who created it, is that it’s bringing about the debate, the issue to be approached. My mission as an artist is not to create the truth, a truth that he doesn’t even have himself, but just being able to bring the issues up to the discussion table and have people face it.

Obviously Madona's tale is like a fable, that maybe in real life you’re not going to find a story like this, but maybe there will be a story like it. So it’s like a reference.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Salivating at The Summer Fancy Food Show

Of the many events I have attended at the Javits Center, the one that really stirs the juices is the Fancy Food Show. A phantasmagoria of every style of condiment, sauce, chocolate bars and various packaged smoked salmons among the many foods sampled there, the Summer Fancy Food Show provides an incredible education for any journalist or professional foodie in the edible delights of a region or a country. The show takes over the NYC's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center June 27 – 29, 2010.

On the primary show floor, pavilions from countries such as France or Spain, or international distributors dominate and one can taste every variety of olive oil or pasta possible while sampling some new soda concoction or organic food phenomenon.

As the largest marketplace for specialty food in North America, this event showcases food trends as they become packaged, frozen or dried, this show reflects also the growing inclination towards the organic and sustainable -- all a good thing in this word of the artificial and chemicalized. This show is for those who want the best and the brightest and can get a chance to taste it.

To quote their own literature: "Since 1955, the Fancy Food Shows have been North America’s largest specialty food and beverage marketplace. Between the Winter Show in San Francisco and the Summer Show in New York City, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade events bring in more than 40,000 attendees from more than 80 countries to see 260,000 innovative specialty food products, such as confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.

The NASFT is a not-for-profit trade association established in 1952 to foster commerce and interest in the specialty food industry. Today there are more than 2,900 member companies in the U.S. and abroad.
Only NASFT Members can exhibit at the Shows, where retailers, restaurateurs, distributors and others discover innovative, new food and beverage products. The Shows are attended by every major food buying channel, influential members of the trade and consumer press and other related businesses."

In addition to the two show floors, NASFT has scheduled the gala sofi™ Awards ceremony to take place tonight at the 56th Summer Show with internationally recognized executive chef Dan Barber to keynote

The sofi Awards recognize excellence in specialty foods and beverages in 33 categories and are considered the top honor in the $60 billion specialty food industry. “sofi” stands for Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation.

The awards are the highlight of the Show, and Barber, a prominent figure in the artisan and local food movement, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2009. He co-owns the restaurants Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., and is a board member of the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

In honor of Barber's appearance at the sofi Awards, NASFT will donate his speaking fee to City Harvest, New York’s only food rescue program and the Fancy Food Show’s charity of choice for the past 20 years, and to the Stone Barns Center.

Barber is a member of City Harvest’s Food Council. Since 2007 alone, exhibitors at the Summer Fancy Food Show have donated more than half a million pounds of high-quality food to City Harvest, enough to fill 13 tractor trailers. The show donation has long been the largest single donation of perishable food to City Harvest each year.

The sofi Awards will be presented June 28, 2010, at 5 p.m. at the Javits Center.

For more information and to purchase tickets, goto

The Fancy Food Show is a trade event open to members of the specialty food trade only.

For more information on the NASFT and its Fancy Food Shows, go to

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Vincent Natali Fashion a Sci-Fi Horror Hybrid in Splice

Exclusive Interview by Brad Balfour

Every year at the Sundance Film Festival, the Sloan Foundation gives out special awards to filmmakers and screenwriters who craft a project with a science underpinning. Splice could have been one of those films with its forceful depiction of actual science at work.

Genetic modification scares the bejeezus out of people. They don’t want to allow such manipulation of humans, and least of all, cloning. But in Splice, the implications of such fiddling go beyond mere medical expediency. Such holding creates a being beyond human control.

Famed young scientists Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) have a talent for splicing DNA from different animals into bizarre hybrids for medical purposes. But in this sf-horror film, they go a step too far; they splice in human DNA. Their corporate backers are aghast. So Clive and Elsa experiment in secret, and Dren (Delphine Chaneac) is the result.

She is an amazing creation whose rapid life cycle takes her from baby to adult in a matter of months. Clive and Elsa struggle to keep "her" a secret, but their connection to their "offspring" devolves from the scientific to the personal. Ultimately, Dren exceeds the couple’s wildest fantasies – and their most terrifying nightmares.

Best known for writing and directing his debut Cube in 1997, American-Canadian Vincenzo Natali masterminded Splice. Cube became a worldwide success, grossing $15 million in France, emptying wallets in Japan and breaking box office records for a Canadian film. It took Best Canadian First Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Natali went on to direct Cypher (2002) and Nothing (2003).

Born in Detroit, Michigan, to a nursery school teacher/painter mother and a photographer father, Natali is a cultural hybrid (with Italian and English coding in his DNA). Raised in Toronto, Canada, he attended the Ryerson University ilm program before getting hired as a storyboardist at the Nelvana Animation Studios.

Following the release of Splice, Natali's next efforts are expected to be an adaptation of High Rise and a 3D remake of the Wes Craven natural horror film, Swamp Thing,for producer Joel Silver. A May 2010 item in The Hollywood Reporter, however, announced that Natali was to replace Joseph Khan as director of the highly anticipated adaptation of cyberpunk author William Gibson's 1984 masterwork, Neuromancer.

As a certified sci-fi geek, I was psyched for a verbal poke around Natali's past and future film lab.

Q: Rather than worrying about narrative implications, you err on the side of the fantastical, creating a creature that serves a science-fiction fan. Am I wrong or right?

VN: I always felt the most human character of this film was going to be Dren. And really, if there’s something special about the film, it’s the fact that it’s about how the monster emerges in the humans.

Unlike a lot of Frankenstein-type stories it’s not about the creature escaping into the world and wreaking havoc. It’s the opposite. It’s about how the scientists cage their creation and it becomes a catalyst for opening dark doors to dark places within themselves.

Q: Did it create dark places for the cast as well? Were there anguished debates?

VN: No, it was a surprisingly happy set actually. I was probably the only one who was anguished because it was such a tight shoot. But I had a lovely cast; they were very supportive of me and the making of this film. They have to do some pretty scary, transgressive things,
and never bat an eye. They were very much into it all the way through.

Q: I can imagine the debates between you and Sarah Polley, who is a political activist as well as an actor and director. Obviously you had to cast a Canadian for funding purposes. But besides that, Polley is the perfect person for a film with any kind of political implications.

VN: Right. Sarah was always on the top of my list, regardless of her nationality, because she’s so intelligent on the screen and I needed actors who we could believe are brilliant geneticists while still being attractive. Also you have make an emotional connection to the characters, even when they’re doing really transgressive, horrible things.

Sarah was just great to work with. I really respect the fact that, in spite of being an excellent writer/director, herself, she came to the film purely as an actor and treated me with tremendous respect. She’s a lovely person. They’re all great people.

Q: What was the discussion like?

VN: If you were in on some of the rehearsals, you would have thought we were making a Generation X romantic comedy because we were really talking about the characters and their relationship to one another and not so much about the morality of the science or anything like that. That kind of came along for the ride.

It was very important for me with Clive and Elsa that we believe this couple, that we like them, that we understand the dynamics of their relationship, because they’re fairly complicated. That was mostly where the discussion took place.

Other than that, Sarah and Adrien just got it. When Sarah read the script, to be perfectly honest, all modestly aside, she said there was no role she’s ever read for that she wanted more. She didn’t read for the role, we offered it to her, but there’s no role that she had read that she wanted more than Elsa. She just got it and I think the same was true of Adrien.

Q: Polley isn’t known for her science-fiction film roles but Adrien certainly is, having done King Kong. That must have been an interesting pair; that was another transgressive situation. Did he
appreciate the irony? Did that have an influence on your choice?

VN: No I don’t think so. I cast Adrien for exactly the same reason as Sarah in so much as I thought he comes across as highly intelligent, a little bit geeky, and really lovable, and kind of hip too. I’m willing to bet that Clive in the film is about as close to the real Adrien as
any part he’s ever played, minus sleeping with a mutant. But he’s a very affable, lovable person, much like Clive.

So that was really my motivation for casting him. It was good that he did King Kong because he understood the technology and understood what it means to work with creatures, real and imagined. And that was essential because Dren, much like Kong in the film, is a character,
she’s not hidden in the shadows, she’s part of the fabric of the story.

Q: I read that you found the actress who played Dren on the street, but
then she came in for an audition.

VN: It’s confusing.

Q: I would have gone to Cirque du Soleil to cast that person.

VN: We wanted to go to Cirque du Soleil, but they won’t share their performers. They wouldn’t let us. They wouldn’t share names or anything because they want to keep their talents. I met a girl from Cirque du Soleil once, and she took me to one of their secret performances, so that was interesting. That was years ago.

Q: Sounds pretty provocative.

VN: It was pretty provocative. But with Delphine, she was always coming into the audition.

Q: And this is Paris?

VN: This is in Paris. We were specifically casting Dren in Paris because this is a France-Canada co-production, so it made sense to cast Dren there because she’s a non-speaking role -- and of course it’s not that hard to find beautiful women in Paris who don’t have to speak
English. With Delphine, she was the very first person who came into the audition, so we happened to see her on the street, not knowing that she was going to be auditioning for us.

My producer Steve Hoban said to me, “Well that looks like a Dren,” and that turned out to be her. She’s very beautiful and a lovely person too. And very talented; she’s written two novels, she’s a musician as well as being an actor. She’s a very interesting person. I had a very
intelligent cast. I had a very bright group of people working with me.

Q: What did you do to research the science of it?

VN: I co-wrote Splice in quite close consultation with a geneticist. Then, when we went to make the film, we had several geneticists consulting with us. The amazing thing about those discussions was that whenever I would propose an idea I thought was ludicrous or beyond the
realms of possibility they’d always say, "Oh, no, you can do that."
The truth is stranger than fiction, especially when you’re talking about biotechnology. It’s fucking weird. It just gets bizarre. So in the process of writing the script, I began to realize we should make the lab environments real. We should scale everything down to a human, real level.

Q: And you made it contemporary.

VN: Contemporary, exactly. There’s no reason to set this in the future. There is some technology in the film that doesn’t currently exist, but it seems entirely plausible.

Q: Do you ever worry about the film -- not just the cast -- being too smart?

VN: No. Is it that smart?

Q: Couldn't you have just made a story about scientists debating over this issue without adding in the creature? Why do you need the science fiction at all?

VN: It’s interesting because there are aspects of the film that are quite pulpy, which I like. I’m a bit greedy as a filmmaker, or desperate, because I don’t get to make movies very often and so when I do I throw in the kitchen sink, like I want everything.

Tonally, the film definitely goes in a number of different directions. There’s quite a bit of comedy and outrageous behavior in it. And yet at the same time, some of the moral questions and I think the complexity of the relationships…(operate) at a fairly high level. I think maybe there could be some discontinuity between those two things, but no, I didn’t worry about it being too smart. I
just don’t think about those things.

Honestly, in all of my films, for better or worse, I’ve really tried to do something a bit different, and I’ve paid the price. All of these films have been really hard to make, and a number of them have languished in obscurity. I’ve made my bed so I’ll lie in it.

Q: At least you got to be buddies with director Guillermo del Toro, who served as your executive producer.

VN: Guillermo is truly a great impresario of the fantastic arts. I think he supported me -- he supported many other filmmakers and artists -- and I had met him at a film festival and he said, “I’d really like to produce a film for you,” which was extraordinary to me because I’m a huge admirer of his, and I immediately thought of Splice, which was a script that had been gathering dust.

Q: That was your script?

VN: I co-wrote it, yes. It had been gathering dust on a shelf simply for the reasons stated, which are it’s kind of a hard thing for a studio to digest, and yet it could never be a low-budgeted film
because the creature effects were always going to have a certain price tag and on camera all the time. So it was just kind of a bad combination in terms of trying to raise money.

When Guillermo came on board, a lot of doors opened. His name legitimized me and the film, and kind of contextualized it in a way that made people think this could be commercial. It’s been a very long and painful pregnancy and a difficult birth as well. Believe me, the metaphors are easy to come up with on this film because it questions life-imitates-art in the making of this movie, but it really felt like a pregnancy.

I had this movie inside me for a long time, and intuitively I felt if I don’t make this film someone else is going to do something very much like it. It was pregnant in the world, out there, just the real science seemed to be mimicking what we had written in the script, so I felt like this has got to be done. And it was.

In a way, the film has been imbued with this life force. And while at every step it’s been challenging it’s almost like it willed itself into existence; it sort of always found a way.

Q: Does a movie like this always get developed with the potential of a sequel?

VN: No. I know that the ending is open and it seems leading.

Q: It’s almost like a classic science-fiction trope.

VN: No, it really does and I kind of resisted it a bit for that reason. But it’s the right ending; I thought this is the right ending for our characters and it just seemed very appropriate. But truly, I swear to God, I did not write it with any intention of sequelizing the film. Although, having said that, now maybe there will be a sequel.

Q: You’re also interested in making a film of the late British writer J.G. Ballard's futuristic novel High Rise, and you’re working on William Gibson's Neuromancer. Which is coming first?

VN: High Rise is cheaper. It might be a little more dangerous commercially speaking, but I don’t know. I’ve been working on High Rise for a long time, so it’s at very advanced stage. I have a great producer, Jeremy Thomas.

Q: Given the films he's made, he's the guy who gets it.

VN: Exactly. He gets it and can make challenging films like High Rise. So I think High Rise is a distinct possibility. It’s shocking to me, talking about technology out of control, but it’s shocking to me how information travels now by the internet. I haven’t officially signed onto Neuromancer literally, but it’s all over the place.

Q: Does that make production companies more or less interested to see it done?

VN: I hope more interested. That’s why I think maybe the internet technology is great. Certainly it helped Splice. Splice was languishing for a year after I finished it looking for distribution in
North America, and it’s really thanks to the internet via Sundance that the film created a buzz.

Q: How did Sundance help you?

VN: It saved the film. And truly our guardian angel was Joel Silver; he came in and swooped us away and has been nothing but supportive and protective of us.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

George A. Romero Strives for Survival of the Dead

Interview by Brad Balfour

Trundling down a portion of Second Avenue came a line of bizarrely dressed and horribly made-up folks -- okay so maybe not so weird or horrible for NYC -- until they hit the Village East Cinemas where legendary director George A. Romero waited to greet his fans and devotees before screening the latest in his Dead saga -- Survival of the Dead.

For a few moments on a recent Sunday, the zombies invaded Manhattan. Well at least they ambled along from 23rd Street to the East Village theater. And I don't mean just addled club-goers getting home after the usual 4 am closing.

That gave a few of us worshipful journos a chance to wedge in some questions in between the groaned and grunted queries by audience members -- zombie-fied or otherwise.

Ever since he made the black & white Night of the Living Dead in 1968, New York-born Romero's name is mentioned in the same breath when the word "zombie" is thrown about. When the now 70-year-old went to Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University, he started shooting short films and commercials but soon went on to produce and direct what became one of the most revered American horror films of all time (and was inducted into the National Film Registry in '99). Made for just over $100,000, Night returned its investment and was also hailed as a benchmark in indie flimmaking.

Romero's next films such as 1973's The Crazies and 1977's Martin weren't as acclaimed as Night of the Living Dead, but offered social commentary while still being horror-related. Like almost all of his films, they were shot in, or around Pittsburgh.

In '78, Romero returned to zombies with one that topped his first. In Dawn of the Dead (1978), four people who escape the zombie outbreak lock themselves up inside a mall before they become victims of themselves. Shot on a $1.5 million budget, the film earned over $40 million and in '03, was named one of Entertainment Weekly's top cult films. It also marked Romero's first work with brilliant make-up and effects artist Tom Savini.

After that, the two teamed up on others including 1981's Knightriders starring an up-and-coming Ed Harris. Then came Creepshow (1982), which marked the first, but not the last, time Romero adapted a story by famed novelist Stephen King.

To be the one voice who exemplifies this genre is accomplishment enough, but this summer, Romero has a new zombie film available, and it takes off from where his last film Diary of the Dead left off. Summer means horror films and for reanimated dead fans that means at least one by Romero.

Q: What do attribute to the longevity of the series?

GR: If I could figure that out, I would know why I'm still here. I don't know. Zombies have become idiomatic. Videogames [even] more than films have done that. For some
unknown reason my stuff has a shelf life. I think that I've always tried to have a little theme underneath and maybe the stuff looks quaint.

It's like looking at an old movie like A Gentleman's Agreement -- it's like wow, "They were actually talking about something," and it becomes a bit quaint. I don't know. I should ask you; I'm not the guy to ask. I'm just happy that it's happened.

Q: What was the inspiration that made you wake up and say, "Zombies?"

GR: You mean way at the beginning?

Q: Day one.

GR: I've never thought of them as zombies; I never called them zombies. When I made Night of the Living Dead, I called them flesh-eaters. To me, zombies were those boys in the Caribbean doing Bela Lugosi's wet work for him [in White Zombie (1932)]. I never thought of them as zombies.

It was only when people started to write about them and said these are zombies that I thought maybe they are. All I did was make them the neighbors; take the voodoo and mysterioso out of it and make them the neighbors and I don't know what happened after that. The neighbors are scary enough when they're not dead. Maybe that's what made it click.

Q: Are you producing or developing videogames? If you do that would be amazing for anyone who's played Left for Dead or Resident Evil.

GR: In the past usually people come to us and say they just want to buy my name or the brand or whatever and "stay home. You don't know about videogames." It's true; I don't. I'm not a gamer.

I just did a talk show as part of the tour for this film where we looked at Left for Dead 2 and zombies are like tarantulas; on the ceiling, up the walls, crazy, running. I understand that mentality that it has to be like Tetris; faster, faster, faster, faster.

My zombies don't do that. My zombies are still slugging along just like the rest of us are. So I'm not sure that I get the mentality. I was talking to a game company executive and asked is it possible to do a slower, more intellectual game? And he actually said "I'm not sure." But we're talking to people about it - we're still talking to people about it - and I would love to be involved with a game, I'd love to write the story of a game, but I won't do it if it has to be...

Q: Are you ever going to switch over from slow to fast zombies?

GR: Never.

Q: What is it about slow zombies that you like over fast zombies?

GR: Because that's the way they would be; they're dead. Like in the first film the sheriff says, "They're dead; they're all messed up." If they ran their ankles would snap so by me they move slow.

Q: Would you outrun the zombies?

GR: Yeah. The whole point is you can easily get away, just nobody addresses the problem and humans screw themselves up. With my movies that's what it's about; it's about humanity making the wrong movies.

Q: Would have any advice besides run to survive a zombie?

GR: You've got to talk to Max Brooks [who has written a series of zombie books such as World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War]. Max believes this is really going to happen one day; I don't. With me it's pure allegory.

Q: How would you fare in a zombie apocalypse?

GR: What I need to tell you first of all, is that it's probably not going to happen. If you want to know what weapon to buy, call Max. He's the guy to tell you. I think Max halfway believes that it might happen. He's a buddy of mine and we hang out and we argue about this all the time.

I don't know. Come on! Find a tank; a tank is the best thing. Get inside a tank, you'll have a big gun, and you're safe in a big thing of metal. It's like give me a break over here. It's not going to happen. I promise you it won't happen. Or else, worse shit will happen before it does.

Q: What allegory are you trying to tell with this film?

GR: It's about the same theme that I've been beating on forever. It's war, it's like enmities that don't die, people, even faced with huge game-changing event still shooting at each other instead of addressing the problem.

Q: Do you think that society's listening to what you're saying in your films?

GR: No. Society doesn't listen to anything. Society has not listened to shit from the beginning of time.

Q: To be that one voice, is that why you make these films?

GR: It's fun to be silly and make fun of people because people are just not learning. We haven't learned squat; we're still fucking fighting abortion and homosexuality and everything. We're still fucking fighting, it's like ridiculous. Give me a break; I thought we were past that.

Q: You seem married to the horror genre. What is it about it that works for you?

GR: I love it, man. I grew up on EC Comics -- like Vault of Horror or Crypt of Terror -- and have a chance not only to work in the genre but be able to express my opinion. I've got a better gig than Michael Moore I think. I don't have to be real, I don't have to lie.

Q: What is your favorite horror movie?

GR: When you're a kid, it's like the stuff that impresses you the most or that scares you the most. I was 12 years old and I saw The Thing and it just scared the shit out of me. So that remains my favorite horror movie.

Q: Would you ever consider wrapping up the whole zombie thing, like reversing the curse?

GR: No. It's too much fun. I won't do it and the zombies won't take over because my stories are about the humans. I like being where we are with it; just leave it alone and let it be.

Q: You change the rules a bit in this new one.

GR: No.

Q: How important is the comical aspect of your zombie movies?

GR: Oh man, like I said, I grew up on EC Comics; they were all bad jokes and puns. It was a giggle while you barf. So to me it's almost essential. These last two films that I did I had creative control and I was able to just do what I wanted to do with them, so humor was an important part of both. This one is really, there are some real loony tune moments in this one. It has to be part of it.

Q: What's your favorite zombie kill?

GR: I don't know; It's not a kill. Tom Savini did this thing with the guy with a real actor with his head down in a table and the guy's body was a real actor's body from here down, just some tendrils connecting him to her like a pulsing brain. It's not a kill but it's I thought a wonderful makeup and a really cool thing. I don't know, kill, I don' know. There's one in this movie with a fire extinguisher that I really love.

Q: For someone who hasn't seen your movies would you prefer them to start with Night of the Living Dead or Diary of the Dead?

GR: I'd prefer them to start with Knightriders and Martin because those are films that were really from the heart. I like to think that these films are thoughtful but they're not me.

To some extent they're commercial films but I'm trying to do something with them, but they're not me. Knightriders is the most me. Martin is my favorite film of mine, so anybody that wants to see something that I did I would prefer they watch those first and then watch these.

Q: Which zombie one should they start off with though?

GR: Day of the Dead.

Q: Have you ever thought about redoing the original Day of the Dead the way you wanted to do it in the original script?

GR: No. It's over. I've been able to use some of it; I used a little bit of it in Land of the Dead and a little bit of it in this film, actually. But no; that's over. That's a script I did for the original Day of the Dead and the company that was financing the movie didn't want to finance it because it was too much money.

Actually it was a decision that we made -- my partner at the time and I -- because we wanted to release it without rating it. The [distributor] said "Okay, do it without rating it" but, we said, "Forget it, they won't [really] do that." So I decided to cut it down and do it without rating it. And the old script, I know people have it, it's on the internet, [and] people are digging it up, but I've used ideas from it so I don't think I'll ever go back to it.

Q: Why do you think zombies are having a renaissance right now?

GR: Beats the shit out of me. I don't know, what is it? Videogames. It's not movies, it's videogames. I think so. There's never been a huge movie hit; it's all videogames. That's what I think.

Q: Do you think about going back to making more psychological movies like Martin, in between the zombie movies?

GR: Yes, all the time. But I'm at an age right now where, Peter and I, we spent six years in Hollywood in development hell making lots of money and not making movies. It's like I'm at a point where I don't want to go and pitch something for two years and have it not happen. I can't afford that time.

And yeah we have ideas and plans, we have things we'd like to do, but as I say, I'm at the point where I need to take the thing that I like the most that's easiest to do and get it done. I don't know how long I'm going to be standing. Listen, I'm never going to quit; I'll be like John Houston man, I'll be with the breather and the wheelchair still trying to make a film. I can't answer you what's going to be next. There are things I'd love to do; who knows.

Q: What stories do you want to tell that aren't zombie related?

GR: I might be passed that; I told them already. I have a couple of things, my partner and I, we have a couple of scripts that we're working on. I don't know; it's a long story and I'm too tired to tell it right now.

I'd like to do a couple more of these and what I'd like to do is have a little set of these that all the characters would come out of Diary and have a little set and hang it up and go off and do something else.

Q: Would you use the internet as a medium to tell them in short story form?

GR: Maybe. I don't know. I'm very puzzled right now; I don't know what to do. You finish a movie and then all of a sudden you're still doing it and I'm still traveling with it. I'm just waiting to get off. I'm waiting for some time off and then maybe I can decide what to do.

Q: What about returning to comic books?

GR: I'd love to. I'm talking to some guys now. I'd love to do it.

Q: Would they be zombie related or something else?

GR: I'd love to do something else but usually that's what they want from me is zombies.

Q: What's next?

GR: I'm hoping a couple of drinks at a bar someplace. I don't know, man. If you're talking about movies, I don't know. We don't know; my partner, Peter [Grunwald] and I, we have a couple of projects that are non-zombie but we don't know. If it happens that this film does well and we're asked to do another; my idea is to do two more.

I wanted to do three; right from the puff I wanted to do three films with characters from Diary of the Dead, take them on their own adventures and be able to cross-collateralize characters, story points, stuff like that.

I would love it and it would be like a vacation. If this film does well enough and somebody says hey let's do more I would jump at it. Sort of like I'd have a job for the first time in my life; I know what I'm doing for the next three years.

I'd love to do it but we don't know what's going to happen with this. So far this film has performed pretty well with audiences and people seem to be digging it, so maybe it will happen. Otherwise, we have a couple of things that we're ready to do and really like.

I would love it if I could do a couple more of these because it's where I've lived. I love playing around with new zombies. By the way, thank you. I can't believe you guys go to this amount of trouble and energy and glue that goop on your face. Anyway, it's much appreciated by me and thank you; thanks for doing it.

Q: What do you think of the remakes that have been made of your various films? Are you happy with them?

GR: Not particularly. No.

Q: What do you think that they misunderstood or didn't get?

GR: I don't know. The remake of Dawn was more like a videogame than a movie. The first 20 minutes were really hot and then it lost its reason for being. The Crazies was the same thing. Crazies was a film of a certain time; we were pissed off about Nam. The new film might as well be 28 Days Later. Both directors did good jobs with Dawn and with Crazies, they're just not films I would have made.

Q: What are your favorite horror movies?

GR: When you're a kid it's like the stuff that impresses you the most or the stuff that scares you the most. I was 12 years old and I saw The Thing and it just scared the shit out of me. So that remains my favorite horror movie.

Q: Any directors working now that you're excited about?

GR: Well Guillermo del Toro's my man right now. He's a great guy. Such a sincere guy; he makes a commercial thing and then goes off and does what we wants to do. He's great.

And John Carpenter's doing a new movies, I have big hopes for Carpenter. I hope he's back in the ring. That's it pretty much.

Q: A lot of people consider you the grandfather of independent film in many ways. What do you think about that?

GR: Come on.

Q: Come on, you did one of the first real indie films.

GR: There are a lot of guys that have just figured out a way to do it without selling out or whatever. John Waters, man. He gets my vote.

Q: When you go, what do you want on your headstone? When you rise, what do you expect to see?

GR: I don't know man. If I manage to get back when that happens I'll just look for a camera.