Post(s) tagged with "Young Americans"

Mike Ott on Survival and Escape

11/04/12 - Chinese 6, 7:00 p.m.
11/07/12 - Chinese 1, 1:45 p.m.

By Katie Datko

On a map, the real Pearblossom Highway looks kind of like a scar bisecting northern LA County, a jagged stretch of mostly two-lane highway heading from the suburbs just north of LA east to the high desert. It’s probably no coincidence, then, that PEARBLOSSOM HWY, Mike Ott’s follow-up feature to his multiple award-winning indie film festival sensation LiTTLEROCK (which played at AFI FEST 2010 and won the Audience Award) is about wounds — specifically, the need to heal the fractures caused by denial or neglect and the longing for belonging and acceptance.

Partly based on the real lives of the main characters, Cory (Cory Zacharia) and Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka), PEARBLOSSOM HWY is a humanistic yet barbed tale, darker and in many ways more poignant than its predecessor. The characters may be familiar to Ott fans, but both Cory and Atsuko have been given new back-stories. Cory is an unemployed whippet-huffing, orphaned rockstar-wannabe who longs to make it on reality TV. Atskuo, Cory’s friend and videographer who’s also an urchin of sorts, has been sent by her Japanese grandmother to live in Antelope Valley with her uncle’s family while trying to pass the U.S. citizenship test.

In PEARBLOSSOM HWY, Ott pushes the envelope on all levels. The intertwining narrative threads of the two main characters’ rites of passage mirror each other: Cory makes tapes for his TV show audition and manages to reconnect with his older brother, Jeff (John Brotherton); Atsuko raises money to go back to Japan to visit her ailing grandmother the only way she knows how — by selling herself — becoming increasingly more detached as the film progresses.

It might seem as though Cory’s story is front and center, but it’s really Atsuko’s journey that commands the viewer’s attention. Even though it’s unnerving on many levels, we get a clear sense of her slow unraveling — framed through mirrors, windows and montages of highways and truck stops. Atsuko’s first scene with a Japanese client shows her standing against a curtained window, her client’s voice off-screen. While she may seem childlike and innocent, she nevertheless stands her ground, asserts herself and, interestingly, speaks back to him not as a coy, deferential call girl, but using an informal, familiar tone. Even though Atsuko’s image becomes increasingly refracted, it is through her language that she seems to hold onto her sense of ‘self.’

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After Max discovers his ex-wife in bed with another man, he capriciously marries again, the disastrous cycle repeating itself perfectly. As he traipses through life trying to navigate love, friendship with his co-worker and business partner and the turbulent business world, Max clings to the suitcase, which might just possibly contain his personal fountain of youth.

Director Bob Byington is at the top of his comedic game in his latest film SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, crafting memorable characters with a first-rate acting ensemble, including Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Keith Poulson and Jess Weixler.

Bob Byington and actor Nick Offerman will be at the Saturday screening for a Q & A. Screening on Saturday 11/3 at 7:15 pm and Monday 11/5 at 1:45 pm.

Watch the trailer:

Get free tickets:

Youth in Transformation

11/02/12 - Chinese 1, 10:00 p.m.
11/05/12 - Chinese 5, 4:30 p.m. 

11/03/12 - Chinese 3, 1:30 p.m.
11/05/12 - Chinese 3, 4:45 p.m. 

By Annabel Campos

AFI FEST 2012 offers great films in the Young Americans section. Two films I recommend are ELECTRICK CHILDREN and ONLY THE YOUNG, which share similar themes about young people and their insecurities and transformations.

In director Rebecca Thomas’ ELECTRICK CHILDREN, the main character, 15-year-old Rachel (Julia Garner), who is pregnant, escapes her fundamentalist Mormon community in search of someone she thinks is a God-sent singer on a cassette tape. The documentary ONLY THE YOUNG by Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, features three teenagers who grow from immaturity to the beginning of adulthood.

Both films have a high-caliber of talent, both on- and off-screen. The cinematography of ELECTRICK CHILDREN is brilliant, from the earthy, prairie grassland colors to the soft, fluorescent, neon-lit faces in Las Vegas. The film contrasts the atmosphere of peaceful pastures versus the chaos of noisy streets; we soon find out that places that look safe might actually make for a miserable life.

One evening, Rachel and Clyde (Rory Culkin) share food in the kitchen of his parents’ suburban home; she asks if they can move in together, little aware that he has sneaked them into the house in the middle of the night because he’s prohibited from living there himself. Clyde later reveals that living with his parents feels like juvenile hall. His life seems screwed up, but he decides to take care of Rachel and her baby and we see Clyde change; he goes from being a lost garage-band boy to being a man.

Early on, ELECTRICK CHILDREN introduces a symbol of transformation: a red mustang horse that Rachel imagines running up and down grasslands, and more abstractly, she associates with the excitement of the outer world and the music she hears on a cassette tape.

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Films screening in the YOUNG AMERICANS section of AFI FEST 2012, November 1-8.

Films screening in the YOUNG AMERICANS section of AFI FEST 2012, November 1-8.



(Film still from STARLET, directed by Sean Baker)

We are very excited today to announce the YOUNG AMERICANS and NEW AUTEURS sections of AFI FEST 2012 presented by Audi. AFI FEST will take place November 1 through 8 in Hollywood, CA at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

“This year we’ve expanded our Young Americans section to accommodate the many great American independent films submitted,” said Lane Kneedler, Associate Director of Programming at AFI FEST.  “The section features exciting directors and filmmakers like the Zellner brothers and Joe Swanberg who are returning to AFI FEST with new films.  It’s been extraordinary to see the growth and evolution of this section over the past three years.”

 “Our New Auteurs competition section is an opportunity for us to highlight some of the strongest filmmaking by first and second time directors this year.  These are films that have been garnering acclaim and winning awards at festivals all over the world and are now being showcased together for the first time,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, Director of AFI FEST.  “Last year this section included Michael Roskam’s Oscar®- nominated BULLHEAD and Julia Loktev’s THE LONELIEST PLANET.  Every year, it’s exciting to see the talent that emerges from this showcase of new narrative feature filmmakers.”

The Young Americans section features work by emerging U.S. filmmakers.

APE:  DIR/SCR Joel Potrykus.
KID-THING:  DIR/SCR David Zellner.
ONLY THE YOUNG:  DIR Jason Tippet, Elizabeth Mims.
PEARBLOSSOM HIGHWAY:  DIR Mike Ott.  SCR Mike Ott, Atsuko Okatsuka.
STARLET:  DIR Sean Baker.  SCR Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch.  
TCHOUPITOULAS:  DIR Turner Ross, Bill Ross.

The New Auteurs section highlights first and second-time feature film directors from around the world.

AFTER LUCIA:  DIR/SCR Michel Franco.  Mexico.
ANTIVIRAL:  DIR/SCR Brandon Cronenberg.  Canada/USA.
CLIP:  DIR/SCR Maja Miloš.  Serbia.
EAT SLEEP DIE:  DIR/SCR Gabriela Pichler.  Sweden.
HERE AND THERE:  DIR/SCR Antonio Mendez Esparza.  Mexico/Spain/USA.
IN THE FOG:  DIR Sergei Loznitsa.  Germany/Russia/Belarus/The Netherlands/Latvia.
NOT IN TEL AVIV:  DIR/SCR Nony Geffen.  Israel.
SIMON KILLER:  DIR/SCR Antonio Campos.  USA.
Film stills are available for press use only and can be downloaded at:

The complete festival program will be announced on Thursday, October 11.  Media accreditation closes on Friday, October 5.  For details on how to apply for media accreditation, please visit

An Experimental Frankenstein

Spark of Being

Chinese 3, 11/9/2011, 10:30 PM
Chinese 6, 11/10/2011, 1:30 PM 

By Sean Batton

SPARK OF BEING is several things at once—a retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, an archival documentary and an abstract animation. Morrison arranges these registers as in a jazz composition; all three operate simultaneously, but each one is allowed its solo turns. The viewer, however, is free to move fluidly between these ways of seeing and can explore the material a number of ways. The following notes reflect one such expedition through Bill Morrison’s film.

As in his previous work (DECASIA), Morrison finds a graphic beauty in the disfigurement ravaged upon film by time and neglect. None of the source footage is in pristine condition, but some poor rolls look like they’ve been to hell and back. The rapidly shifting patterns of mold, Rorschach-like in their instability, are at times reminiscent of the colorful explosions of Stan Brakhage’s cameraless films, or perhaps like a flipbook of Jackson Pollack paintings. 

The narrative, which is surprisingly faithful to the spirit of the novel if not in all the detail of its incidents, is evoked through creative editing. None of the actors in the film were playing their roles until Morrison “cast” them well after the fact. The story is an illusion of associative editing, merely a structure that gives meaning to heterogeneous materials. Of course, such is the case with almost all narrative cinema. The use of archival footage foregrounds this effect, and makes what we normally accept as a normal way of watching movies strange and unnatural.

The viewer could be forgiven if, during the better-preserved scenes, he or she let go of the narrative context and marveled at the images themselves. Included amongst scenes that illustrate Victor Frankenstein’s childhood is an early “actuality” shot from the caboose of an Alpine train. Both Morrison and pioneering found-footage filmmakers like Ken Jacobs have been attracted to these single-shot documentary novelties, and it’s easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm. The train is not only an ingenious “found” dolly for a smooth and sustained traveling shot, but the movement of the shot itself is such that the advancing foliage in the foreground and the laterally panning layers of trees and mountains in the background explode the image into three dimensions. It is to Morrison’s credit that, for a few minutes, he allows himself to be upstaged by an anonymous cameraman from a century ago.

Shelley’s Frankenstein has obvious parallels with the invention of cinema: through physics and chemistry, life is breathed into inanimate material. The necromantic potential of cinematography is surely not lost on Morrison—someone once dead, as are almost all the figures who appear in SPARK OF BEING, can live again, if only as a shadow or a ghost.

But there is an even more important and disturbing parallel that Morrison draws between Frankenstein’s creature and the cinema. Viktor Frankenstein, fancying himself a modern Prometheus, crosses an ethical boundary from which there is no going back, as if in a Faustian exchange for his soul. In SPARK OF BEING, there’s a passage that is preceded by the title “The Creature Confronts His Creator.” We then see a series of isolated figures wandering through desolate environments: an iced-over city square, ancient ruins, a misty forest. On a mountain road, the figure advances toward the camera and stares into its lens.

Previous chapters of the film had been from the creature’s point of view, but in this confrontation, the viewer identifies him or herself as both creature and camera. We look out from its mechanical eye at the nominal hero of the story who is now completely exterior to our experience, and with this image, Morrison drives home how in today’s world, we identify more with mediated images of reality than with our own firsthand experience. With the advent of cinema, we forsook our unalienated life experience and exchanged it for the supposed immortality of mechanical reproduction. But in so doing we doomed ourselves to the limits of what it could see, and what it could remember. In SPARK OF BEING, Morrison shows us what is left of that memory, and in so doing, returns to us some of the immediacy of our life experience.

Sean Batton lives in Los Angeles. 

Fully-Grown WUSS


Egyptian-Spielberg, 11/6/2001, 4:15 PM
Chinese 3, 11/7/2011,  4:15 PM

By Kim Luperi

“I know this can be a scary place…there are people that can help.”

The line from Clay Liford’s WUSS quite timely aligns with newscasts, social media sites and the like on the hot topic of bullying. 

So this is a drama, right? Wrong. WUSS diverges from what’s expected in the fact that a teacher utters this advice comically. Oh, and it is also directed to a fellow teacher. 

From the moment permanent sub Mitch Parker (Nate Rubin), a dead ringer for an older, still awkward Michael Cera, is bullied by Vice Principle Crowder (Tony Hale) while trying to impress a high school crush at his 10-year reunion (by showing her his classroom—in the same building they attended school, no less), the stage is set for an endless barrage of abuse, verbally and physically, by Mitch’s coworkers, friends, sister and students, including gangster wannabe Re-Up (Ryan Anderson).

The only person who seems to recognize that Mitch needs help is bright outcast student Maddie (Alicia Anthony), who takes Mitch under her wing in a reverse role of power. She instantly solves one of his problems, but, just as quickly, her presence in his life creates another issue by the fact that she is his student.

The world of WUSS is one in which most all the adults are at the mercy of their students. Comically, the teachers are well aware of this; Mitch and his male coworkers constantly discuss the increasingly insidious nature of students at the school, both in funny and serious terms, through observations of the tantalizing sexuality of the teenage girls and the escalating defiant nature of modern day kids. Their ineptitude with dealing with the student’s disobedience is obvious when it comes out that everyone, including the faculty, knows that Re-Up and his cohorts are responsible for Mitch’s black eye, and no action is taken. Clearly, though the scene may look familiar, teens have acquired more power since Mitch and his buddies roamed the halls just 10 years before. Or is it that adults have become more imprudent? 

Writer-director Liford creates a dangerously twisted tale from very hot, and extremely touchy, subjects in his exploration of harassment and teacher-student relationships. Though one is naturally hesitant to laugh in the face of such stories today, particularly bullying, the characters and scenarios they are placed in makes it hard not to release a few chuckles. At the same time, however, one must acknowledge that the adults’ nonchalant and defeated attitude towards the students’ actions fuel the vicious fire, and even Mitch, in trying to seek revenge near the film’s conclusion, does not confront or take responsibility for his role in the cycle of violence, as an adult obviously should. 

Though the setting and characters of WUSS are frighteningly realistic, the fact that the teacher is the one being harassed by most everyone in his life—and with no real reason why—partially grants it levity despite having such a serious subject. One would be hard-pressed to like the film if the tables were turned and the roles played out in the expected way.

Kim Luperi can be reached at

Shades of Gray

The Color Wheel

Chinese 1, 11/5/2011 10:30 PM
Chinese 1, 11/7/2011 1:15 PM

By Ben Greenblatt 

The movie starts out simply enough.  JR (played by co-writer Carlen Altman) asks her brother Colin (director/co-writer Alex Ross Perry) to drive with her through the northeast to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment (who also happens to be her professor) and help her move out.  However, about a third of the way through the film, they have already left the ex-boyfriend’s apartment and are now exploring Boston, leaving us to wonder where this film is going if it has already fulfilled what it set out to accomplish at the outset of the film.  THE COLOR WHEEL ultimately becomes a free-for-all assault on our typical expectations of both the road genre, and the brother/sister film. 

None of the characters pander to our sensibilities, nor do they want us to like them.  Instead, the protagonists and antagonists just are the way they are, and they make no gripe about it.  The film straddles the line between the funny and the flat (and occasionally offensive), the perverse and the sane, the ego and the id—leaving us with a mixed bag of characters that no one really seems to like.  In the end, it is JR and Colin against the world, as they try to assimilate into a decidedly normal brother-sister unit.

The problem is that no one really likes JR—especially not her brother Colin, but nobody really likes Colin either.  Yet Colin has a strange moment of weakness where he feels somewhat bad that no one (including their family) likes his sister, so he decides to help her out.  JR and Colin are designed as opposites—JR the always hopeful career girl unsuccessfully trying to become a news anchor; and Colin, the eternal pessimist who wants to become a writer but doesn’t really believe he can.  However as opposite as they may be predestined to being,  JR and Colin are a crass and offensive pair, and both really do not hesitate to speak what they think.  It is this unapologetic tone that ultimately unravels the plot and brings both Colin and JR’s lives to some short, but definite cathartic moment.

Yet before they can reach that moment,  Colin and JR must take their trip.  Along their way, they visit different nameless venues.  They spend the night at a motel owned by a spooky Christian fundamentalist, they eat at a diner, they shop at a thrift store, and they attend a lame party which, quite comically, never seems to end.  At these normal, mundane places, Colin and JR seem to enter the room and bring down the house.  For them, things just always seem to go bad, partly (or mainly), due to their own self-destructive ways.  It can be as minor as JR spilling a piece of food on her shirt and referring to it as looking like an “abortion” or Colin asking her if she wants to stop by the rape clinic as part of their tour of happy parts of the town after JR leaves her ex-boyfriend’s/professor’s apartment.  And those aren’t even the funny parts too offensive to print.

It is at these different stops on their trip that a certain feeling of uncertainty, but familiarity, comes through.  Aided greatly by Sean Price William’s black-and-white super 16mm cinematography, the film takes on a quality that elevates it beyond the typical Sundance drama/comedy.  The characters give these anonymous places life, and the film becomes equally about the essence of these places as it does about the arc of our two leads.  Much like Robert Frank captured in The Americans (and admittedly an influence on Alex Ross Perry), THE COLOR WHEEL creates meaning out of the mundane and drab—it fills them with life and takes these easily recognizable places and converts them into personal experiences.

The look of the film adds greatly to the overall atmosphere and tone of the film, which refuses to behave according to our preconceived notions as to how this type of film should function, and how we should react to it.  It is this unapologetic tone that Colin and JR inhabit and constantly behave in in this corrupted world, that we actually do begin to like and care about these characters.  And by the end of this film we may find ourselves rooting for them, even when all of our other typical moral expectations are not only thrown out our window, but set ablaze on our front lawn.  This may just be the quietest, boldest movie of the year.

Ben Greenblatt is a filmmaker in Los Angeles.

Alex Ross Perry On THE COLOR WHEEL

Alex Ross Perry

Chinese 1, 11/5/2011 10:30 PM
Chinese 1, 11/7/2011 1:15 PM

By Ben Greenblatt

Q. I haven’t seen your first film IMPOLEX, but I’ve read about it.  It’s a World War II story that has many Thomas Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow influences, and this new film seems more indebted to Philip Roth, but I was wondering what the transition was like between the two?

Alex Ross Perry: I don’t think they are super different, for me.  Both of them came from me looking at these novels that I love and then saying “this is very cinematic, but there’s no movies of this author.”  And there couldn’t be necessarily exact film adaptations of their work, but just twice now I was reading an author and they really blew my mind.  I decided I wanted to explore making a film in their style, kind of indebted to the ideas that they have bestowed upon me.

So they both came from that.  It was a very similar spark at the beginning of both projects.

Q. I read in an interview about you being frustrated with post-college life, and trying to fulfill your dream, whereas other friends of yours have taken the easy road and given up.  Can you elaborate on where the idea for THE COLOR WHEELcame from?  And the dynamic between the brother and sister?

ARP: I made this one movie, and I was pretty pleased with myself, and I was very excited to have made it.  I had been out of college for two years, almost to the day when we started shooting IMPOLEX.  And that just seemed very logical to me, and it was very exciting.

I looked at the fact that I had left my job at a video store, very much excited to direct this feature film, which had been the goal for me.  But people I had known would come to screenings and just wouldn’t be supportive.  I became very frustrated and confused as to why at one point we had had the same goals, and now all of the sudden, two to three years later, there I was, having done exactly what we hoped to, and these other people had not.

Part of the film school thinking is that you have to wait for someone to get up and give you permission to do this, and eventually I realized that that was just nonsense.

Q. Do you find that people are more supportive with THE COLOR WHEEL now?

ARP: Not those people.  But I’ve met new people that are very interesting and very kind to me, and eager to support me; other filmmakers who have actually done these things.  They are my core group now.

And at every festival I go to, I meet more people like this.  I’m very happy now to be in a place where I can meet the people that I thought I knew all along.

Q. I think that’s important, to have a group of like-minded people, who can support you and challenge you in a positive way.

ARP: Yeah, it’s just a big part of it.  With my first movie I didn’t really know who to go to for feedback, to show cuts to, but on this new one, every time I had a different cut, I could show it to different friends who had directed films of their own.  Having a huge support system of other filmmakers, all of whom I really like and respect, to give me feedback on my own film, and to help me edit it, was great.  And it really made me feel good.

Q. IMPOLEX was just written by you, but THE COLOR WHEELwas co-written by co-star Carlen Altman (JR in the film).  What was the writing process like between you and her?

ARP: Basically I had ideas, and I was interested in exploring them, and I came to her and decided we wanted to do a movie about a brother and sister.  We spend a couple months talking about both of our characters and what should happen to these people.  So we had conversations and took notes and came up with a loose outline as to what the story would be.  And then I went away, first alone, to my apartment for a couple months, wrote the first draft.  Then I brought the first draft back to Carlen and both characters talked exactly like me, so she worked on her own dialogue, and made her character something that she was comfortable performing.  And that was our second and third drafts, and from there we just rehearsed and revised the script as we went along.

Q. So it was a good collaboration?

ARP: Yeah it was good.  Having her bring her own writing to her character was very helpful, because her character would not have been very three dimensional had they both been written by me.  And the amount of time we spent rehearsing really gave us a lot of time to figure out how to play the characters.  We started writing the movie in June 2009, we had our first draft of the script done, and were rehearsing and revising starting in November, then we started shooting June 2010.  We had eight or nine months to write the script, revise it, and rehearse, so it became very lived in.

Q. You co-wrote, co-starred, edited, produced and directed this film.  What was this process like?  Was there a benefit to this way of filmmaking, or was it too nerve-wracking, and you wouldn’t do it again?

ARP: Oh yeah, I wouldn’t do it again.  Nerve-wracking doesn’t even describe it.  It was incredibly difficult, and incredibly complicated.  It wasn’t done for fun—it was done out of necessity.  I would have loved to have had somebody else handling any number of tasks while we were working.  It was kind of by default that I ended up having to do all that on my own.  It was very complicated and in the future I would like to be able to work with a producer so I’m not doing every phone call myself, and taking care of every problem that arises on set while I’m trying to direct and act as well.  It’s stressful, but it keeps the size of the crew down. 

Q. With the small crew and wearing so many different hats, did you find that you were able to maintain your ideas and vision?

ARP: Yeah it definitely becomes easier for you if you didn’t have to go through a lot of people and everything.  Every idea I thought we should do I didn’t have to explain to four different people.  It was just straight from my head and then all of the sudden we were doing it.  All you need to do is talk it over with the cinematographer and then we’re shooting it.  But it is stressful, and very complicated, and I would love to some day find someone who can help me make movies where I’m not wearing all those hats on my own.

Q. How was it working with your cinematographer Sean Price Williams?

ARP: It was great.  He shot my first movie and I really value our collaboration, and I love working with him.  He’s very distinctive in a way that I respond to.  We don’t have a monitor or anything like that when we are shooting.  He doesn’t want it, because he doesn’t want it to be plugged into his camera, cause that would slow him down.  And I don’t really need it, because I trust him.  Plus I’m in most of the scenes.  If he says the framing is good, then I trust the framing is good.  If he says that we didn’t get it, then I trust that we didn’t get it.

Q. What was the shooting ratio like?

ARP: We ended up with about eleven hours, and cut that down to an hour and twenty minutes. 

Q. So much of this film looks, and I hate to use these words, “spontaneous” and “improvisational,” but I know that it was well-rehearsed and well-planned.  So it’s got this really amazing quality.  And I’ve seen Sean’s other work like FROWNLAND, and it’s just off the wall.

ARP: He’s great.  He can make the dull seem a little bit more interesting with some of his ideas and choices.  When we show up and the space is smaller than we thought we were going to have, his solutions do help.  And it’s like what you’re saying, there is a certain vibrancy and life in the movie and in the camerawork that we have that helps set the tone, and it helps it seem at times a little bit spontaneous.  A lot of times people are very incredulous when we say that there is really no improvising in the movie.  I think a lot of that is from the acting and the way the movie looks and the way it feels, because it moves around a lot. It gives it a vibrancy that sets a tone that people respond to.

Q. I agree.  Working with Sean, how much did you two discuss influences?  I know you’ve mentioned Jerry Lewis, Vincent Gallo and Robert Frank, but did you two go into specifics?

ARP: Sean and I are very united in our love of going to see films, and we both see hundreds of films a year.  But we don’t really talk a lot about influences.  We usually just fixate on two or three films and just go for that, cause anything more than that and we’re just throwing too much stuff out there.  Jerry Lewis is his favorite director, and a hero of mine.  We just talk, not about the look of those movies at all, but about the energy of them and the tone and the spirit, and the way that it feels watching somebody in that movie who is a director and what that means, and what kind of film that becomes.  So it just became kind of a guidepost, not like ‘let’s make shots look like this,’ but to get our heads in the right space.

In terms of look, the only thing we talked about were the films of Bill Fosyth a little bit.  We talked aboutLOCAL HERO and HOUSEKEEPING, which Sean described as “needlessly beautiful comedies.”  That was sort of our signpost – a comedy that doesn’t need to have nice camerawork, but it does and it becomes a little something else.  And we watched Woody Allen’s MANHATTAN just for five minutes because we wanted to see the driving footage in that – we wanted to see how they shot driving in cars.  Obviously also a black and white movie.

Q. It’s funny you mention studying MANHATTAN for the driving shots because in THE COLOR WHEEL, there is no shot of you and Carlen talking in the car, only driving.

ARP: Well that’s partially out of necessity.

Q. It works though.  It’s a road movie without physically being with you on the road talking.

ARP: I’ve seen stuff like that in movies a lot, and it’s not super interesting to me.  The shots inside the car I’ve seen in a thousand movies, and there’s nothing I can really add to that, especially without proper equipment, so we decided to not even try to half-ass it.  And once we decided that, the decision came at the same time we realized they’re driving this whole time and not saying anything. 

Q. Going back to the question before, about Jerry Lewis and Vincent Gallo, and a personality taking over the film, Carlen’s character JR seems to inhabit that quality, but not necessarily your character.

ARP: The thing about the character that Jerry Lewis plays in his movies is that he is always the bringer of chaos—he’s always the character that cuts through order and brings absolute insanity to the situation.  I think for our movie both characters fulfill that function.  But I  think we split it up a little bit.  In the Jerry Lewis movies he always says the wrong thing to the wrong person, which I think my character does at every chance.  I had all the pratfalls of the typical comedy, but we tried to make both characters part of the figure that cuts through the room and ruins everybody’s situation, which Jerry Lewis does in every scene in every movie.

Q. I always liked yours and Carlen’s characters in the film—I didn’t necessarily feel sympathetic towards them, but I liked them.  And even keeping in mind their role in bringing chaos into the world, they were always the best people in the room.  Especially in the scenes with the Professor and the Party.

ARP: Well what we wanted to do was make every character they interact with as difficult as possible.  And in that process, smooth out the JR and Colin characters so that they get to the point, which you just described, that you are kind of endeared to them.  In the beginning they might seem loud and annoying, but once you see a handful of people really beat them down and just destroy them at every chance they get, you start to feel very very bad for them.

Q. Turning the question to style, I know you shot this film on 16mm black-and-white, and with your cinematographer discussed Robert Frank, but you said in an interview with Miriam Bale, “If we shoot a chrome diner in color it would terrible. But if you put it in black-and-white, all of the sudden it’s an image people recognize, it’s a tone people understand.”  The film has a sort of timeless quality—besides the Honda that you and JR drive throughout the movie, there is no other hint of modern technology—no cellphones or computers.  Was this a decision?

ARP: You see the settings—the motels, the diners—and it feels familiar, but you see the characters in it and what they’re doing, and it feels different—a little bit modern.  Not entirely, because we did shy away from any of the modern technological contraptions, just because there is no drama there, it’s taking it too far.  If you see a diner in black-and-white, great, but if you see a guy on a laptop in black-and-white, it just becomes kind of a joke—you’re just putting a modern movie into black-and-white.  Seeing a cellphone or a laptop into this movie would’ve just been anachronistic to the tone that we tried to get at as soon as possible.

Q. Olivier Pere, Director of the Locarno Film Festival, wrote an essay titled “Guerrila Cinema” and your name is mentioned alongside other AFI FEST alumni Lisandro Alonso, Albert Serra and Harmony Korine.  I don’t know if you set out to make a political film or a political work, but what’s it like to be on this list?

ARP: It’s amazing.  I’m a big Olivier fan and I’m honored that he included me in that.  It’s one of those things where seeing my name next to those other names you just listed really blows my mind.  To even just have my name on an essay…

It goes back to what I was saying earlier, these are guys that, when I was talking with my friends in film school, were all heroes of ours, and to be seriously mentioned in the same breath with anyone like that is very very strange for me and incredibly exciting.  It makes me feel like I did something right.  

I was just at the Viennale film festival, and they have this poster that they do every year, which is comprised of one still from every film that is playing in that year’s fest in a mosaic.  And I bought this.  It’s a still from my movie next to a still from Cronenberg’s movie and one from Gus Van Sant’s movie.  People who, when I was in high school and film school were incredibly important to me, and I have this poster where we are all just there.  It’s very exciting, and also very humbling.  

It’s part of why I’m very excited to come to AFI FEST because they are showing lots of movies from Cannes and Venice.  They’re showing the new Polanski film, and then my film.  It’s very exciting to be apart of festivals like that.

Ben Greenblatt is a filmmaker in Los Angeles.


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