Faireset/Parole de Chat: Une Interview

Une vidéo de Faireset/Parole de Chat

Mes amis de France et la langue française! Se il vous plaît pardonnez-moi. Je ne parle bien le le français, et je ne écris pas bien le français. Mais je aime le videos de Faireset/Parole de Chat. Et je pense qu’il devrait être reconnu pour ses efforts merveilleux. Donc, si je fais des erreurs, si je me humilier, ce est pour une bonne cause. Je le fais avec l’aide de Google; je peux tourjours mettre le google du blâme. (mauvaise blague)

Cet entretien avec Faireset/Parole de Chat a été menée par email. 

Ce qui est sa formation pour videos et cinema? O at-il appris s’amusant? At-il appris par essais et erreurs?

Je suis totalement auto-didacte ! J’ai appris sur le tas, en m’aidant de tutoriels trouvés sur Internet. Ce qui est très enthousiasmant c’est de se dire qu’aujourd’hui n’importe qui peut produire son propre programme. Si on a la bonne idée, le temps et l’énergie, tous les outils sont là pour réaliser nos idées.

Faireset est très drôle, talentueux, intelligent. Qui cinéastes et comédiens t-il préfèrent? Qui lui inspire?

Merci pour le compliment ! Pour Parole de chat, ma plus grande inspiration vient de “La vie privée des animaux” de Patrick Bouchitey, mais j’ai aussi une grande admiration pour un américain qui a lui-même sa chaîne Youtube : “Talking animals” (Klaatu42).

Il y a tellement d’artistes et d’acteurs qui ont nourri mon enthousiasme au fil des ans: Georges Méliès, Charlie Chaplin, Louis Jouvet, Louis de Funès, Alexandre Astier, Freddie Wong, Hugh Jackman ! Je pourrai continuer de citer des dizaines d’autres noms, toute époque et tout genre confondu. Je suis également un grand fan de séries américaines (How I met your mother, Dexter, MadMen, The Walking dead, Games of Throne, etc. la liste est trop longue !)

Faireset est très populaire. Certaines vidéos sont allés virale parce que ils sont brillants et rendent les gens heureux. Ce qui ne Faireset comme de faire les vidéos? L’acte de création? La réponse des fans? Les chats? La collaboration avec d’autres artistes? Le risque? Le plaisir? Autre chose?

Je reste incrédule devant les millions de vues. Je regarde les chiffres comme si ce n’était pas moi qui avait fait ces vidéos, comme si j’étais incapable de faire ça. Du coup je lis tous les commentaires, j’essaye de répondre du mieux que je peux aux questions, je reviens plusieurs fois par jour sur Facebook, Youtube, twitter ou Instagram, juste pour être sûr que tout ça est bien réel! Et là où ça devient magique c’est quand je vois l’impact que certaines de mes vidéos peuvent avoir sur les gens qui les regardent. Par exemple à la fin des “chats ninjas” quand je dis : “Il y en a peut-être un derrière vous, en ce moment même !”, beaucoup de personnes se retournent vraiment pour vérifier. Et le plus drôle c’est que souvent il y a leur chat, assis sur le canapé, qui lève la tête d’un air de dire “Ah, ah, tu fais moins le malin maintenant !”

Quelles sont ses films o videos préférés… la comédie o drame? Ce qui est quelques exemples de chaque?

Je suis un fan absolu de Louis de Funès ! J’ai dû voir certains de ces films… je ne compte pas, mais beaucoup de fois ! “Rabbi Jacob”, “La folie des grandeurs”, “La soupe au choux”, la série des “Fantomas”, “Hibernatus”, etc. Mais je suis aussi un très grand amateur de films SF ou fantastiques : “Star Wars”, “Matrix”, tous les films de Super-héros, etc.
Et comme j’aime bien faire le grand écart, je prends toujours énormément de plaisir à voir ou revoir de grands classiques en noir et blanc, des films avec Audrey Hepburn ou Marilyn Monroe, ou Louis Jouvet pour qui j’ai une admiration sans borne ! (regardez “Un revenant” ou “Docteur Knock”).

Il y a quelque temps on a revu en famille “Mon nom est personne”, avec Terence Hill et Henri Fonda. Ce film est génialissime ! Et côté video je suis abonné, à des personnes comme Cyprien, Norman, SLG, WTC, toute la WhyTeaFam que j’apprécie beaucoup, GonzagueTV également, la liste est longue ! Les gars de Corridor Digital aux Etats-Unis font un travail incroyable ! Et j’ai aussi beaucoup d’admiration pour Zach King.

Je pense que Faireset est un artiste du peuple…qui profiter des chats et le rire, oui, mais un artiste du peuple sur un niveau plus profond. Qu’il a écrit un scénario? Aimerait-il? Quels sont ses plans pour l’avenir?

Il y a un projet qui me tient à coeur depuis longtemps: produire une Websérie !  Le jour où on réussira à avoir le budget pour pouvoir commencer la production des épisodes (qui sont déjà écrits), je réaliserai là un rêve d’enfant ;)

J’aimerais savoir pourquoi vous avez choisi l’identité de Faireset ? Était-ce à cause de l’ influence Charlie Chaplin?

Oui en parti, mais c’est surtout en référence à Georges Méliès, à qui l’on doit notamment le “voyage sur la lune”. Georges Méliès est connu (surtout en France) pour avoir été l’inventeur des effets spéciaux au cinéma (il appelait ça des “trucages”). C’était un magicien de l’image ;)

Les vidéos de Faireset inclus ici sont quelques-uns de mes favoris. Voici un pour la route

Click here for the interview in English which first appeared on Blogcritics

Julianne Moore 2015 Golden Globe Winner for ‘Still Alice’ Talks up Role Challenges

Julianne Moore, Red Carpet for 'Still Alice,' at the 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne Moore, Red Carpet for ‘Still Alice,’ at the 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

The “Closing Night Film” of the 22nd Hamptons International Film Festival was the U.S. premiere of Wash Westmoreland’s and Richard Glatzer’s film Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore, who last night won the Golden Globe Award for her stunning lead performance.  Including Moore’s best actress Golden Globe, Still Alice has, so far, won 16 awards. (My Blogcritics review of  Still Alice can be found by clicking this link.)

After the screening, Julianne Moore, director/writer Wash Westmoreland and producer Christine Vachon spoke with David Nugent the Artistic Director of the 22nd Hamptons Internation Film Festival. This segment of the lengthy Q. and A. highlights the evolution and challenges Julianne Moore and Wash Westmoreland faced making this amazing film about a linguistics professor who has Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. The film centers on Alice Howland and her family as she realizes what is happening to her and she reaches out for love and support from her family. Together they try to find solutions, staying close to one another as Alice gradually confronts the daily loss of beautiful memories, brilliant acumen, exceptional verbal skills and her very identity.

David Nugent (Artistic Director, 22nd Hamptons International Film Festival): How different an experience was making this film?

Julianne Moore: At the end of the day, the job is the same. You have to create people. You have a story to tell. You have constraints, you have problems and you just solve them. And that’s how I approached it honestly. I just felt like, you have to make this movie and Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer are a team. And one of them can talk and one cannot. And that’s how we did it.

Alec Baldwain and Julianne Moore in 'Still Alice.' Photo from the film.

Alec Baldwain and Julianne Moore in ‘Still Alice.’ Photo from the film.

Christine (Vachon), you produced one of my all time favorite films, Safe which also stars Julianne Moore in which she is suffering from an unnamed disease. How was it working with on this compared to that? In a certain way it has a similar subject matter. That was 20 years ago. Is that right?

Christine Vachon: It’s such a privilege that we have worked together and we are still working together and made Still Alice. And one of the things that I am honored by is that Safe is brought up as kind of a reference point. We are all entangled together. Todd Haynes (he directed Safe), is a close friend of all of ours so his work informs what we do and our work informs what he does. And it’s awesome to be able to be here. The thing about Safe, here’s a plug about the filmit’s about to come out as a Criterion Collection in December with lots of fantastic extras including an interview with Julianne and an interview with me and new stuff and old stuff. And one of the things that is extraordinary about that film is that when it did come out, people didn’t really see what it was. And it is one of those movies that has really stood the test of time in its own way…which goes to show that you don’t always know when a movie comes out if it will resonate.

Julianne Moore smiles at the audience applause: Q & A for 'Still Alice,' the 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne Moore smiles at the audience applause: Q & A for ‘Still Alice,’ the 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne, I’m curious. Had you read the book of Still Alice first or did you read the script first? How did that come together?

Julianne Moore: No I hadn’t read the book. I read the script first. Richard and Wash and I were talking about another project. We had a really wonderful meeting and we talked back and forth for a while and I said, “Nah, I don’t think that is for me.” And they said, “Well, we have something else.” And they sent me the script right away and I read it and I was like, Wow!” I literally said, “I’ll do this”…immediately. I was in Montauk. I said, “This, I’m going to do.” And then I went and bought the book and when I went to Barnes and Noble it was on the favorites table. And I thought, well, OK. This is like a wildly popular book. I was struck by the narrative right away and the strength of the story and the emotional impact. And I was really blown away by it and terribly frightened because it seemed like a huge undertaking and one that we couldn’t accomplish in like 90 minutes, like a short movie. But I felt privileged to have the offer, frankly.

So what is terrifying in a case like that. Is it capturing the character is it telling the story in 90 minutes?

Julianne Moore: Well, clearly, this is something that’s true; it’s a true story. This is a disease affecting so, so many people, so many individuals, so many families. So there’s a degree of it where you want to get it right as an actress and then there is a narrative issue where you want to be able to tell the story in 90 minutes and bring people into an entertainment. So there are a million obstacles. But at the base of it what was most interesting to me is about what Wash discussed with me in the beginning. He said that it’s about how you face this terrible disease and what is your essential self? You know, it’s asking who are we? Who are we behind our jobs and our clothes and our friendships and our relationships? Who are we at the very core of it? How do you get that right? I didn’t know how to do that. Lisa Genova in her novel kind of depicts it beautifully and she goes in, in, in with this character, but as an actor, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it, frankly.

Julianne Moore answering a question about 'Still Alice.' Q & A at the 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne Moore answering a question about ‘Still Alice.’ Q & A at the 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

You did it. (the audience applauds in approval and confirmation)  Speaking of Lisa Genova who wrote the book, do you know if she has seen the film?

Wash Westmoreland: Lisa saw the film for the first time at the Toronto Film Festival and she was extremely happy which made us all extremely happy. And she was a complete supportive partner in the whole process. When you’re taking someone’s book and adapting it, there’s all kinds of things…it’s like going into a creative mine field because they have a certain idea of how things are meant to be. The film just has to be allowed to be something different…and at the same time it has to be faithful to the spirit of the book. When we sent off the first draft to Lisa, we were nervous. We didn’t know her. We didn’t know how she’d respond and she wrote back this rapturous email, “I’m so grateful to you for taking my vision further.” She has just been this incredible cheer leader. But we felt a responsibility to people who knew the book to embody the spirit of what’s written on the page. And I also feel like we had to make a film that allows Still Alice to become a cinematic experience. So I hope people who know the book get into the film because we wanted the correlation between the two to be very close.

Julianne was there any particular process for preparing for this role that you undertook?

Julianne Moore in 'Still Alice.' Photo courtesy of the film.

Julianne Moore in ‘Still Alice.’ Photo courtesy of the film.

Well, whenever you do something that’s based on the truth, you know when there’s research to be done…golly, I had so much help. I started with the Alzheimer’s Association. They sent me to Mount Sinai where I talked to researchers and they set me up with several women around the country who had been diagnosed with Early Onset and I went from there to the New York Alzheimer’s Association and support groups. I talked with people who had been recently diagnosed and talked to the people who worked with the families there and ended up in a long term care facility, so there’s always somewhere to go. And each person referred me to the next. And their generosity was extraordinary. I was in a long term care facility and I talked to a woman about her mom because I had been sitting near a window and the people were singing and doing workshop stuff and this woman told me that I should get away from the draft. She was a patient. She said, “Get out of the draft…it’s cold.” And the woman’s daughter was there; she was my age, and she said, “Oh, yeah. My mom worries about people catching cold.” And she talked about her experience with her mother. Everyone was very, very anxious to tell me their story, tell me what their personal experience was, as someone who was dealing with the disease, someone who had a parent, or friend, or whatever. The access I had was really unparalleled. The research I got was really extraordinary.

Julianne Moore, Q & A for 'Still Alice' 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne Moore, Q & A for ‘Still Alice’ 22nd HIFF. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Questions from the audience, for Julianne: Have you had any personal experience with Alzheimer’s?

I haven’t, actually, with the exception of the people I met. It’s interesting.  There is a woman I became very close to who lives in Minneapolis and was one of the very first people I talked to. She was diagnosed at 45 and I saw her on a Skype call. And she looks like me. She has red hair and she’s fair skinned and slender. I was like, “Sandy you could be a sister.” And she ended up consulting with me the entire film and had her 50 birthday on the set. She was on the set the day we did the Alzheimer’s Association speech. So in that sense I felt like I had a connection to someone with Alzheimers, but no, actually I didn’t.

(David Nugent interrupts) Tell them about the article in the New York Times that we were discussing.

There’s an article in the New York Times today that scientists have found a way to create an Alzheimer’s brain in gel. So they can kind of do a facsimile of what an actual brain with Alzheimer’s looks like and they can now test drugs within this so it’s a real breakthrough for treating Alzheimers, so that was exciting. (applause)

Julianne Moore and director Wash Westmoreland at 22nd HIFF US Premiere of 'Still Alice.' Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne Moore and director Wash Westmoreland at 22nd HIFF US Premiere of ‘Still Alice.’ Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Audience Question: How did you find it when you didn’t speak toward the end of the film. What was the hardest part about not being there. I was impressed when you were quiet…changed from the way you were before

What is interesting for me as an actor, on the one hand it was, “Yeah I have no lines.”  But what I observed was that the days I was the most exhausted were the days that I was in the decline of Alice’s life. But what I noticed when I went to observe people in the long term care facilities is the amount of energy it takes for someone to pay attention and to be present and to connect when they are suffering from this really difficult disease. It is extraordinary. I would see this in films with Alzheimer’s patients: how hard it is for them to concentrate, how hard it is for them to be present. I would even see it with people opening their eyes really wide. So the idea that someone is not present or zones out or goes away or goes somewhere else, I found not to be true at all. In fact what I saw was people working very, very hard to concentrate and to hold on to what they understood and to try to be as connected and as alive as possible. So those were the days that were the most exhausting and I was kind of surprised by it. There was a woman I met in a long term care facility who is 65. She was non verbal. I sat down next to her and talked to her about what was going on. She leaned toward me and she copied my expressions and if I gestured somewhere, she’d look over there and she was taking all her emotional and intellectual clues from what I was doing and she was trying very, very hard to stay connected to me. And I was really touched by it because you realize it’s not about people going away. It’s about people trying to stay present.

Audience question: How do you come down to such an emotional role like that? Is it a process. I can’t imagine being in your shoes playing a person with Alzheimers and then going home and moving on.

My children help. I have a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old. They don’t care what you’re doing. When you come home you just have to kind of get back to it. But that did help in a way. This is a movie about mortality and about who we are and what lives we’re living and who we’re connected to. So I have that experience all day long about what does it mean to be alive, what does it mean to feel things slipping away? When you go home, it’s like, this is what it means to be alive. I have my 16-year-old, he needs this. My 12-year old needs this and my husband needs this and I have to empty the dishwasher and the dogs have to go out in the yard. So all of that stuff actually brings it home because you’re like, “Well, that’s what it’s about.” And in a way that’s a gift.

Julianne Moore, Golden Globe Winner for 'Still Alice,' at the Q & A for the 22nd HIFF US Premiere. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Julianne Moore, Golden Globe Winner for ‘Still Alice,’ at the Q & A for the 22nd HIFF US Premiere. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Audience Question: I found the scene with the butterfly folder so incredibly moving. I was just curious how you approached it and how you felt as you were going through that…you know when you discovered it again.

Wash Westmoreland:  I’ll just set it up by saying that that scene was so crucial in the structure of the movie, because the changes in Alice are very gradual. I think it’s not until you see that scene that you witness the true power of Julianne’s performance to understand how the changes are so dramatic over that period of time that we’ve been following that character. It’s Julie acting with herself…Alice in the past, Alice in the present. The scene really condenses and crystallizes so much about the changes happening in that character in so many ways and the loss that we see.

Julianne Moore: Yeah, it’s so interesting because what we find valuable in certain points in our lives is not necessarily what we’ll find valuable somewhere else. So Alice before she’s more declined believes that she is not going to want to live in this different state. And what you find later you see it with Alec and Ally, and Ally asks, “Do you still want to be here,” and she says “I’m not finished yet. She’s not done with her ice cream…it’s a beautiful metaphor…and she’s not finished yet either with her life. So why would that be any less valuable where she is now? What I loved about that was the juxtaposition. We have an assumption that there is only one way to be when in fact, there are many ways to be and they are all valuable.

Audience Question: Beautiful film. Do you see this film being shown in communities for fund raisers in helping Alzheimer’s research?

Julianne Moore: Yes, hopefully. We have a co-producer on the film who is very closely associated to the Alzheimer’s Association, and she is hoping to work with them to bring to communities in conjunction with the release of the film so that it’s seen regionally and that one of its core audiences is really supported. That’s the hope for it.

Wash Westmoreland:  What the book gave us was this emotional template that’s so strong about how to get through one of the most difficult things that life can throw your way. And I think if people can see this movie in time and take strength from it… maybe they’re dealing with someone in their own family who has Alzheimer’s or another disease and the film inspires them to say, “I want to be Lydia (Alice’s daughter played by Kristen Stewart), I want to be that person whose there for that person,” then we’ve done our job as filmmakers and we’ve done our job with the film.

This article first appeared on Blogcritics.

 

‘Still Alice,’ Starring Golden Globe Winner Julianne Moore, US Premiere 22nd HIFF

Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore in 'Still Alice.' Photo courtesy of the film.

Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore in ‘Still Alice.’ Photo courtesy of the film.

Still Alice received its U.S. Premiere as the “Closing Night Film” at the 22nd Hamptons International Film Festival on October 13, 2014. Since then the film, starring Julianne Moore in an incredible performance and directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, has gone on to win 16 awards, for Moore’s complex, challenging and heartfelt work. In the film’s first award for the New Year Moore won the Golden Globe 2015 for Best Performance of an Actress, Drama this past Sunday. The indie film will receive a wider release on January 16.

January is a noted award month and Moore after winning the Golden Globe will most likely during the January and February ceremonies take home a few more awards for which she has been nominated. The more prestigious nominations include the BAFTA 2015 Best Actress award, the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead, the London Critics Circle Film Awards 2015 for Actress of the Year, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress. There are other nominations with ceremonies in the subsequent months, including the Oscars, but the Academy Award nominations have not been announced yet. The Las Vegas odds are listed and the likelihood of Moore being nominated for an Oscar is high.

Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore in 'Still Alice.' Photo courtesy of the film.

Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore in ‘Still Alice.’ Photo courtesy of the film.

The accolades are well deserved because Julianne Moore is the centerpiece of Still Alice. Her performance is perfection as Alice Howland, a beautiful, accomplished and happily married linguistics professor who apparently “has it all,” until she notices that during speeches and at conferences, words seem to slip by her and remain just out of reach, hanging in the air somewhere. For a linguistics professor this is a chilling irony and when Alice notices that more of her ability to stringing words and phrases together fades to oblivion the alarms sound.

One turning point occurs on a typical workout. At the beginning of her run she is complacent and thoughtful and energetic, but in a split second, the familiar place and knowledge of what she is doing there vanishes. She stops, panicked; the setting is unfamiliar though she has been jogging on this path weekly for years. She recognizes nothing.

It is at this point that the reality of what is happening to Alice lands with full force in her soul. Moore registers this still point and our hearts break for her. How this superb actress conveys the terror and sense of being lost in a once known place and time is completely truthful and in the moment. We are with her, gripped by fright as we see Alice’s  realization that this “vanishing” of one moment of known reality into the unfamiliar and unknown is a momentous symbol of what is happening to her. It is as if a dark cloak is being drawn over her once brilliant mind to extinguish all of its pulsating light.

(L to R) Julianne Moore and Kate Bosworth in 'Still Alice.' Photo courtesy of the film.

(L to R) Julianne Moore and Kate Bosworth in ‘Still Alice.’ Photo courtesy of the film.

 

 

When Alice tells her husband Dr. John Howland (a believable and loving Alec Baldwin) that she has Alzheimer’s, we are as incredulous as he is, because she is in the prime of her life and has “miles to go before she sleeps.” Except she doesn’t. She is one of a growing number of Americans swept up in Early Onset Alzheimer’s, a disease entity which steals one’s memory and identity. It happens in a relatively short period of time, there is no known cure and it happens cruelly, forcefully and without mercy. How the family responds to the situation, the film reveals, can make all the difference in the world.

Basing their film on the novel of the same title by Lisa Genova, writers/directors Westmoreland and Glatzer made the decision to sharpen the focus on Alice so as to peel back how she confronts her condition head on with the help and support of her family. Westmoreland’s and Glatzer’s amazing viewpoint is uplifting, real and human. They have managed to keep this serious, depressing situation eminently watchable because Alice’s interactions with her family are loving and caring. Alice’s intelligence and honesty in accepting the situation even as she struggles against it with every ounce of her being is revelatory because she has not “gone away,” as the assumption often is about Alzheimer’s patients. Though Alice loses her formal speech patterns, she relates on other levels and is constantly reaching out to family to remain with them in the existential present. Yes, the past is increasingly blurred and the future cannot be conceived, but the present is the vitality that is still Alice.

Julianne Moore in 'Still Alice.' Photo courtesy of the film.

Julianne Moore in ‘Still Alice.’ Photo courtesy of the film.

The fine ensemble cast playing immediate family including husband (Alec Baldwin) and daughters Anna (Kate Bosworth), Lydia (Kristen Stewart), and son Tom (Hunter Parrish) provide a look into the responses family members take as Alice’s decline gradually increases and then appears to speed up. We understand that family’s reactions are choices they make. They could have responded differently, but it is how they deal with the situation that makes Alice’s condition all the more poignant. As a primary theme, Westmoreland and Glatzer have emphasized that the interlocking support of family helping each other is vital to sustain the relationship with a loved one with Alzheimer’s for as long as possible. Together Moore and the directors teach us that the individual with Alzheimer’s is always who they are, despite their experiencing a daily creeping mortality; their personhood and life force courageously attempts to assert itself despite all odds.

This film is an incredible accomplishment by Moore, the directors and the cast. Considering the growing awareness of this noxious disease (Seth Rogen recently appeared before Congress discussing his wife’s mother who has Alzheimer’s) and the increasing numbers of individuals forecast to come down with Alzheimer’s in the decades ahead, the film reveals a blueprint of expectation. It is a reminder to all of us that who we are and how we live out our lives or help family who may contract Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be tragic. It can be hopeful and uplifting.

This post first appeared on Blogcritics.

‘Goodbye to All That Director’ Angus MacLachlan: Interview

Award winning (Tribeca Film Festival, Best actor in a narrative feature), has the lead ball drop on him in this scene with

Award winning (Tribeca Film Festival, Best actor in a narrative feature), has the lead ball drop on him in this scene with

Goodbye to All That screened at the IFC Center in New York City on Wednesday, December 17th. I had the opportunity to sit down with the film’s writer/director Angus MacLachlan to discuss how he felt about his directorial debut.

About the film

Goodbye to All That is a multi-genre work that is beautifully unique and impossible to pin down. Like life it is composed of wonderful comedic moments, drama, poignancy and surprises that smash you over the head. It is an adult coming-of-age film about a late-30-something male, Otto Wall, played by Paul Schneider. Otto’s wife leaves him and he is upended, having to deal with loneliness and learn about dating, sex and relationships in the Social Media age, while raising his 11-year-old daughter.

About Angus MacLachlan

MacLachlan is an award-winning playwright. As a screenwriter he is best known for Junebug which earned him a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, and which garnered a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Amy Adams. Junebug also won a Special Jury Citation at Sundance Film Festival in 2005, and was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Washington Area Film Critics. It appears that the screenwriter/director is moving in the same vein with this, his latest film. Goodbye to All That received noted acclaim in its world premiere at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival where it was a festival winner in the Best Actor category for a narrative feature. MacLachlan was also nominated in the Best Narrative Feature category.

Angus MacLachlan, director of 'Goodbye to All That.' Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Director Angus MacLachlan (‘Junebug’ screenwriter and screenwriter/director ‘Goodbye to All That’). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

You’ve morphed from screenwriting and added directing to your skill set. How do you feel about this?

The most satisfying thing about directing this film is that I got to complete the process. I was a playwright for a number of years and an actor for a number of years. When you write for theater or film you don’t write for it to be written. You write for it to be experienced in time and space in some manner. And a lot of times, especially if you’re a screenwriter, things aren’t made. So it feels frustrating. It feels like you haven’t finished the process. Or if you’re just a screenwriter, sometimes you don’t see the full execution of your work. For example I loved Junebug and I loved what Phil Morrison did. But sometimes I’ve had the experience where they’ve taken what I’ve done, and not done what I thought or what my intentions were, and it didn’t turn out well or turn out how I thought it should be. With this one I got to finish the process and follow my imagination. I was able to say, look! This is the way I think it should be acted. This is the way I think it should be cut. That was great. I got to make the movie I wanted to make which was great and rare.

So as the director, you had the opportunity to pretty much stick to the screenplay
as it was written.

Well, with Junebug, Phil Morrison really, really respected the text in a way that is unusual. But some people think of screenplays as just being jumping off points. I really am a text person, so the text was set and we did the text. Yes, the actors will throw in a line or a suggestion. But it was really what I imagined. What I had written was what the final film is.

I particularly like the incorporation of social media and how you developed your main character Otto who is blindsided by his wife who wants a divorce. Can you talk about how you worked on his characterization and what inspired you to create Otto Wall?

Well, the film came about because of a number of friends who had gone through similar circumstances as Otto [had]. I am married myself and have a daughter, but I’m not divorced. Today, I’m not divorced. But I had a number of close friends who went through very similar things. They would tell me stories that were harrowing and sad and scary and funny and erotic and sexy and I would take notes about them. Finally, I thought: I’m going to have to write something.

One of the inspirations for the film was this movie from the 1970s, An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh, which was about a woman who was married and had a daughter and suddenly, her husband says I don’t want to be married. She goes out on dates and has to balance that with being a mother, and eventually she meets this great guy played by Allen Bates, but doesn’t leave with him. That was in 1979, and really about the women’s movement and feminism and how a woman can stand on her own.

I wanted to see if could you tell that story from a man’s perspective. Otto is not immature, he’s just unconscious. He’s not aware and he’s got to become conscious. He needs to have his consciousness raised. Can one tell that story? So that’s really where the film came about.

Your idea of the social media piece was a real theme about how he discovers what his wife was doing because he spies on Facebook, and how an old girlfriend finds him because of Facebook, and how through a site like OKCupid you can pick up people. Things are so different than they were maybe 15 years ago before he was married. That was a real intention in the film.

I thought it was very organic as well, when he goes to Facebook with her password and follows her posts and makes a discovery. I must have laughed for a full minute because I know someone that happened to.

I know [laughs]. When I wrote that, I did a little poll with married couples. I asked them, “Do you know your mate’s password? When would you ever use it?” The first thing everyone would say was, “If I thought they were cheating, I would use it.” Some people were like, “Well, I don’t know.” But a lot of them would.

Paul Schneider and Melanie Lynskey in 'Goodbye to All That.' Photo take from the trailer of the film.

Paul Schneider and Melanie Lynskey in ‘Goodbye to All That.’ Photo from the film.

The element of trust comes into it. You have to trust one another not to go on Facebook. You don’t want to be stalking your own mate.

Exactly.

I thought his age and Facebook which is for an older crowd was great. My grandniece (she’s 13) uses Instagram. It would have been a different film. Could you talk about that?

You know, we were a little bit delayed in being released. I kept telling the team, “We’ve got to get released because you know something else may take its place.” [we both laugh] “They’re going to change Facebook, or something is going to change or something new will come along.” The tech moves so, so fast. But the thing I think is so common now is connecting to old friends and connecting to people you find on Facebook that you knew in high school. That happens I think to a lot of people in their 30s, 40s.

Absolutely. It was appropriate and added such a human quality to the film which was great. How did you cast Paul Schneider? What a find.

I know. Well, he is an actor I knew of. We actually both went to the same school, though I never met him before. A number of actors came up in discussion. We had a great casting guy, Mark Bennett. Otto Wall was a delicate role to cast. We needed someone who was attractive enough that all these women would want to go to bed with him, but he couldn’t be too attractive or he would be like a player. You had to believe he was a father, had to believe he was a runner and be able to do the physical piece. Also, I really wanted to cast an actor who you could believe liked women and wanted to go to bed with them and them with him.

Paul Schneider fit the part. He was from North Carolina which was great. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the character. He, Paul, is not like Otto. Paul is really smart, really sharp and Otto is not so smart. So he creates a complete character and he’s wonderful. And also we needed someone we could believe really was a father. Paul’s not a father, yet he really does a great job.

He was phenomenal. Well, Tribeca Film Festival awarded him Best Actor in a Narrative Feature, which is a validation of his acting and your directing. I thought your work with the editing was wonderful, including his reactions when he was on Facebook. Did you rehearse any of this beforehand?

We did very little rehearsal. No. I had a great editor, Jen Lilly, and we worked together every day side by side. I think my experience helped. I was an actor for a long time and had been on stage and in a few films and also directed in the theater. You get a feeling of rhythm and play. That was really important. You try to get the comedy and create moments that perhaps weren’t there in the performances. That comic rhythm was something that was very important.

Paul Schneider and Amy Sideris in 'Goodbye to All That,' directed by Angus MacLaghlan. Photo from the trailer.

Paul Schneider and Amy Sideris in ‘Goodbye to All That.’ Photo from the trailer.

Well, you certainly got it. What is your favorite moment?

I don’t know if I have any favorite moments in the film.

Or a moment that surprised you – anything like that.

I don’t know if it’s a favorite moment, but when Otto and Lara (Heather Lawless) first meet at the reunion, they’re standing in the doorway and they’re talking, talking, talking. Then she stops and says, “Oh, you have a daughter.” And he says, “Yes.” And she says, “Does she have your eyelashes?” And there’s a moment where they look at each other. They did not do this in reality. I had to create that moment. I just wanted to see her look, and remember, and think, you have a child, and I loved your eyelashes when we were 15 years old. I loved that. That’s movie making because it was the collaboration of what they did and didn’t do, and what the editing did and how it was shot. We created this moment. I just liked that humanness. You know it would be something that your old girlfriend would say. “When we were 15 we all talked about your great eyelashes. Now you have a daughter. Does she have them too?” I just thought that’s a very human thing.

When moments like that work and form a wholeness, that’s exciting. So where do you go from here?

You’re telling me. [we laugh]

The doors are opening. I saw it at Tribeca. Paul won and the film was nominated.

From your mouth to God’s ears! Unfortunately we have a very, very tiny release. The situation with films is it is very hard to get them in theaters. We’ll be in VOD. But because the genre is not out-and-out comedy nor out-and-out drama and because our actors are not Matthew McConaughey, it’s very hard to sell it. It’s been a real challenge to get it out there. It still is.

It would do well in my local indie movie theater..

Where’s your theater?

In the city, Queens.

See, it’s only playing at the IFC Center, starting on Wednesday.

So the word needs to get out.

It sure does. I have been contacting everyone. I’m not even on Facebook and I’m doing a Facebook page and contacting everybody I know to go see it. [we laugh] It’s only going to open in five theaters. In New York and Pittsburgh and Santa Fe and Monterey and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I’m like, if it’s not in your theater, tell folks to get it on VOD.

Paul Schneider and Ashley Granger in 'Goodbye to All That,' by Angus MacLachlan. Photo from the trailer.

Paul Schneider and Ashley Granger, ‘Goodbye to all That.’ Photo from the trailer.

I know so many people who would adore this film. It’s that age group (married, getting divorced). It’s not a chick flick, and guys will see the females and really appreciate them.

That’s my thought. [we laugh] Too bad you’re not running a studio.

How did you get the funding?

It was cobbled together through private financing. And it wasn’t Kickstarter. Just me going and begging.

What did you learn?

Enormous things, enormous things. I learned a lot about how to write. I understand why screenwriters are treated badly in films because the director really has to make the film his own. I learned a lot about how vulnerable actors are and how a director really can create a performance and make it even better or make it much worse than what the actor does. I learned a lot about the business and how really dire independent film making is. I learned that it’s tough.

That hurts because I have friends who are trying.

I know. There are so many films out there and so few ways to make money at it or make money back.

What about Netflix?

Well, it will be on iTunes and VOD and Amazon and then they negotiate later for Netflix. But you know Netflix is going to produce their own stuff, so who knows what they’re going to do.

But it will get legs and as it gets out there, people will find it.

Yeah, they have to discover it.

Could you talk a little bit about the women you cast in the film?

They were great. Thanks goes to a great casting director. I really needed strong women who could make an impression in like two minutes. Amy Sedaris is on the screen for two minutes and you don’t know who she is. And Celia Weston who plays the therapist. All of them were so fantastic. And the women who did the sex scenes? It is very difficult to do that. Everyone was so professional. The women liked Paul and Paul liked them. I had a lot of luck. I love our cast. I love watching the film because I like to see their performances.

Amy Camp was hysterical. (Amy Camp plays Debbie Spangler who yells out her name at the oddest times, asserting her identity.)

Yeah, Amy Camp was great.

What about the idea of the women’s identity? It’s interesting that you were inspired by the Jill Clayburgh film but on the other hand this is equal time for women plus men. I thought that was amazing.

Well, one of the things I really, really wanted in all of the sex scenes was that everyone was an adult and working out of their own volition. Nobody was taking advantage of anybody else. All of the women were not being taken advantage of. It was very important to show that these people are adults. These are people who are old enough to do what they want to do and take responsibility for it. Even with Debbie Spangler who I think has a little bi-polar quality to her, when she says, “It was horrible and we shouldn’t have done that.” He says, “No. I never would have forced you to do anything. But we didn’t do anything wrong.” And she says, “Yes we did…”

But then she comes back.

She comes back and says that she’s crazy and she says, “You know you’re very sweet, actually, a very good man.”

The idea of church was perfect, and of course, the daughter brings it up. Could you explain how that idea evolved?

Well I think particularly for children at that age they start to think about God or hear about Him. If they are not going to a church they wonder about it. She’s worried about her father. He hurts himself all the time, and why does God do that? And in those church scenes she immediately goes to the minister and talks to him about her father. And the thing with Debbie Spangler is I didn’t want to make church the butt of the joke. I don’t think her problem is she’s religious. I think the problem is she needs some medication. She could be a strong Christian woman and still have some fun.

But you identified one of the issues with certain churches because every person raised in the church has to decide if sex out of marriage is OK or not. Her reaction was so organic, so real.

Good. Thank you.

How do you put on the page these real people?

I think it’s from observation and really wanting to portray real people. The film in its essence is kind of a sitcom idea. You know, divorced Dad dates again. It’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father but I wanted, I guess because it was inspired by friends of mine, I wanted to portray it in a realistic manner.

I wish you all luck with the film, and I hope it gets the audience it deserves in its release in New York City at the IFC Center on Wednesday, December 17 and its release in Winston-Salem, NC, Monterey, CA., Santa Fe, NM and Pittsburgh, PA.

This interview first appeared on Blogcritics.

 

‘Goodbye to All That,’ Starring Award Winning Paul Schneider (Tribeca Film Festival)

Award winning (Tribeca Film Festival, Best actor in a narrative feature), has the lead ball drop on him in this scene with

Paul Schneider as Otto won an award at Tribeca Film Festival for Best actor in a narrative feature. In this scene Otto has the lead ball dropped on him by his wife and her psychologist. (Malanie Lynskey and Ceila Weston)

Playwright and screenwriter of Junebug, the award winning Angus MacLachlan, has done it again! He has penned a funny, poignant, commonsensical and incredibly human film which will resonate with a wide swath of individuals if it is discoverable to them. And Goodbye to All That, also directed by MacLachlan should be imminently discoverable. After all, the age group that this clever, saavy movie should appeal to ranges from thirty-somethings to sixty-somethings, and includes men and women. If you enjoy Indie films that cut through the hype, shmoozy glitter, and intentional, self-conscious realism, Goodbye to All That is for you, especially if you like to laugh.

Though the film has a regional feel, its subject touches upon issues that city-folks can relate to, namely separation, divorce and reentering the hot dating scene using Social Media after years of a settled, somnambulant marriage. MacLachlan is a canny director. He knows how best to achieve humor with his comedic timing and knowledge of how to vary silence, a look and a glance, with pacing and rhythm. The result has brought about an award winning performance by the likeable, human and very funny Paul Schneider who plays the everyman protagonist, Otto Wall. Paul Schneider who won a Best Actor in a Narrative Feature award at Tribeca Film Festival is incomparably Otto.

Paul Schneider in 'Goodbye to All That,' directed by Angus MacLachlan. Photo from the film.

Paul Schneider in ‘Goodbye to All That,’ directed by Angus MacLachlan. Photo from the film.

With clear precision, from the outset, MacLachlan intimates that Otto’s and Annie’s (a fine performance by Melanie Lynskey), relationship is terminally ill. The humor is that Otto is the only one who is back at the alter thinking everything is going really well. The arc of the film is Otto’s dawning realization that he has to grow up and confront who he is and what he wants in a relationship with a woman and especially in his relationship with his daughter after he separates from his wife. As he juggles his priorities, he begins to understand where he has come from. But will he be able to resume an existence without the woman who was so comfortable in his life’s landscape that he forgot she was there?

This is a tall order for Otto, as it might be for many men who have grown into a dullard’s reality of walking through time with someone they don’t know, understand or are interested in, even if it is their wife. However, Otto is fortunate to receive help. It comes in the form of a number of beautiful, autonomous, independent-minded and intelligent women. It’s an interesting arrangement; he is interested in them sexually and they are interested in him sexually. This is the age of Social Media and women are approachable at the click of a button on Facebook and the same applies for men as both genders surf online dating sites and profiles to see if there might be compatibility.

Paul Schneider and Ashley Hewitt in 'Goodbye to All That.' Photo from the film.

Paul Schneider and Audrey P. Scott in ‘Goodbye to All That.’ Photo from the film.

For Otto this is a kind of mecca. What was once a deadening existence just moving through the ethers now becomes a life that is thrilling and alive. After the first “date” he is invigorated and “rarein to go.” The painful jolt of being dumped (no spoiler alert…I will not ruin it for you as to the specifics),  has revived him from near brain death. And that electric current is spurring him on to recognize that culturally “things have changed” after being out of the social loop for 15 married years. And it’s a change for the better.

Otto works through gauging his priorities and begins to develop into a responsible, caring male. Some of this evolves because of the unique responses and reciprocation of feelings from the women he engages with- Mildred (Ashley Hinshaw), Stephanie (Heather Graham), and Debbie Spangler (Anna Camp). Their meet-ups and dates are hilarious, surprising and real. Otto also is guided by his daughter (11-year-old Edie), whom he attempts to please and who is not afraid to “get real” and censure him when/if he goes too far with his women friends. Massaged by all of this female wisdom and the added preciousness of reestablishing a connection with an old girlfriend (Heather Lawless), he knew and cared for in high school (the classmates find each other via Facebook and hold a reunion), Otto finally gets to make a conscious decision about what he wants and who he is. He has landed on solid ground. He recognizes that he enjoys his life for he is no longer sailing away on the wings of oblivion in an existence that will be over before it really begins.

Goodbye to All That, an apt title, is meaningful without appearing to be “profound.” Yet it is real, touching, powerful and extremely funny. How MacLachlan achieves all this in a concentrated work whose scenes are precisely edited so they are just enough, and the dialogue sufficient without any extraneous bits to reveal the characters’ wants and needs is an extraordinary achievement for a first time director. It would be a shame if the film didn’t get the recognition it deserves for the writing and directing and the women’s acting ensemble in support of Schneider’s performance. All sync seamlessly.

This review first appeared on Blogcritics.

 

‘The Interview’ Controversy: A Chat With Hadrian Belove of Cinefamily

'The Interview' speaks for itself.

‘The Interview’ speaks for itself.

The media blitzkrieg surrounding The Interview appeared to be the finest hype any PR agency could fabricate. However, truth be told, the events of the last week were grounded in a frightening scenario: a foreign nation attempting  to spread its hegemony of fear and repression with material threats. SONY was hacked and decided to pull the opening of the film on Christmas day fearing death, injury and litigious reprisal if bomb threats against theaters were realized as hackers said they would be. The rest is history. When smaller theaters showed their mettle and contacted SONY and after President Obama chided SONY, the company relented. Theaters screened The Interview as Google and others offered to support the film via streaming (thus far the film is SONY’s largest online earner).

Cinefamily a “non profit organization of movie lovers devoted to finding and presenting interesting and unusual programs” was waiting in the wings for a situation like the one The Interview and SONY presented. Founded in 2007 by brothers Dan and Sammy Harkham and Hadrian Belove of Cinefile Video, it is one of the few cinematiques (boutique cinemas), that clamored to screen The Interview. It’s midnight showing of The Interview was sold out and it was perhaps the premiere showing in the nation. Afterward, other theaters came on board.

I had an opportunity to speak to the current Executive Director of the Cinefamily, Hadrian Belove about the tumultuous events concerning The Interview events which have since quieted down.

Could you just tell me what it has been like the last couple of days with the screenings of The Interview?

It has been great. Attendance has been really solid and all the shows have been doing really well. The media circus has died down, so it’s just a very well done run at this point and we’ve had a lot of new people who have never come to the theater before which is nice.

When Seth Rogan and James Franco showed up, did you know they were coming?

James Franco didn’t come. It was Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, c0-directors of The Interview. And yes, we did know they were coming. They came twice. They came for the opening, the very first show and once the next day. They were touring on a bus to all the theaters showing The Interview to say “Hi,” to folks.

Did they introduce the film?

They introduced the film but didn’t stay for Q and As. They had a tight time line because they wanted to go to as many theaters as possible on Christmas. And on Christmas Eve our show was at 12:30 am. I think just coming out and saying “hello” was the main point. The movie didn’t end until like 3:00 am, so that was a lot.

I went to the theater in my area, a little theater that shows Indies. They were showing The Interview. The police were out front. They checked our bags and when I spoke to the employees, they said that they had received threats and that it was necessary to beef up the security.

We also did the bag checks. The police were kind enough to come every day that was Christmas Day and sort of hang out and come back. We did hire security for the opening. We did bring in professionals to make sure everybody felt safe and showing that we were doing due diligence.

Could you explain the mission of Cinefamily?

Cinefamily is a nonprofit cinematique. Part of its non profit mission is to revitalize the film going experience. We feel that exhibition has its own very special role in the health of the arts and movie going and that people should want to go to the movies. We feel that when you build a community, an audience for films, that is the best way to support the arts. So we show wild, weird, wonderful films from around the world. Overlooked, underrated, strange and beautiful things, but we put an equal emphasis in how we do it and how we cultivate our community. So  the how we do it is everything from our membership system which lets people come for free so they can check out more shows to our added value events (for example Willem Dafoe stopped by on November 16 and spent an evening, discussing various and sundry about himself and his films). All of these things are carefully considered to try to create regulars, so that when we do show a film that we believe in, they listen to us. We also put an emphasis on the quality of the films we show…that every film is like a recommendation. While some nonprofits might emphasize diaspora or films they feel need to be seen, we always put it out there that we are making a promise to our audience and that we are going to deliver on our promise. For the long term, we think it’s best for the films. And there are a variety of other things like this. But our big success, you know the key ideas have been community, quality and range. And that has helped us show all kinds of movies and it’s been really great.

Love to see you expand to New York. But I can stream your films, right?

No (he laughs), but we’re working on it. Though we do think that what Cinefamily does could be appropriate online, it is really important that there is a brick and mortar location because it’s about getting people together as much as anything else.

I grew up in an age where I sat in a movie theater as a kid and I saw Lawrence of Arabia on a big screen. There’s nothing to compare with that. If I had to see All is Lost, I’d prefer to see that on a big screen rather than a mobile device, although the other is very useful, I have to say.

Well, both have their place and just are dependent upon one’s different needs.

So you’re telling me that the ticket sales are doing really well. How did you decide to show The Interview?

We decided to screen it because other theaters weren’t doing this. We felt that our mission is to support the arts. Freedom of speech is crucial as is artistic expression. Both would apply in this case. So we thought that this is a film that needed our support. As soon as we heard that other theaters weren’t going to show it, we put out the word that we wanted to. So that was pretty straightforward. And how we got it is part of the national story. We lobbied, we signed a petition along with the other art houses, we had friends of the theater write emails. These were supporters who we felt had some sway or leverage. We asked them to send direct emails to SONY on our behalf. These were guys like Phil Lord who directed the 21 Jump Street movie, or Evan Goldberg himself who co-directed The Interview, Hannah Minghella…these people sent emails on our behalf to SONY reps saying that this was an important theater for it to play at.

You know, it’s almost like this whole event was made for you guys.

(laughing) In some ways. One thing that is true is that part of our approach to the arts to keep people excited, is
that we have a big tent approach. We have a really broad range of what we call the arts. We’re very welcoming. It really wasn’t that unusual for us to show something like The Interview on the same calendar like obscure Danish documentaries or Tarkovsky films. That is very much the spirit upon which this place was founded…to not ghettoize different kinds of films, but to make it one big happy family.

Would you show a film like the Color of Pomegranites? I screened it at the New York Film Festival in its revival series and then reviewed it for Blogcritics.

I would. In fact we’ve been asking for it. I think over the holidays we’ve been having a difficult time hearing back from them, but we’re actually trying to book that film. Love it.

(December 5-8, Cinefamily held a retrospective called “Truth and Soul, Inc.: the films of Robert Downey, Sr.” Hosted variably by Robert Downey Sr. in conversation with his son, Robert Downey, Jr., Paul Thomas Anderson, Lewis C.K., with Alan Arkin also appearing, the selections included Chafed Elbows & Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight, Greaser’s Palace, Putney Swope to name a few.)

You held the Robert Downy retrospective showing his innovative, maverick work. Have you held other such retrospectives or film festivals?

We’ve done retrospectives and things like that. We’ve done small festivals. We just did an animation festival that we called “Animation Breakdown” that we put together in November. There’s the “Everything Is” festival which is kind of a found footage arts and comedy festival. The nature of the building we’re in, the size, to some extent limits us. But yeah, I would love to host and support and program film festivals as well. I love those and I think we’d be pretty darn good at it.

You show documentaries…

We love documentaries. Honestly, we’re probably the most wide-ranging cinema in the world. There is no genre or era we don’t touch. We’re all over the map. The only through line is what we think is awesome and great.

Conclusion

What is certainly a boon is that Cinefamily is bringing together film fans to experience the best that film has to offer. It is rather like taking advanced courses in cinema offering unusual and amazing cinematic experiences that join people together and offer a community to viewers of all ages and stripes. And let’s face it, The Interview was an unusual viewing experience.

This article first appeared on Blogcritics.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Was Edgar Degas? The Musical ‘Degas in New Orleans’ Reveals Another Side of the Painter

Degas in a Green Jacket, Edgar Degas. Photo taken courtesy of the Wiki Art site.

Degas in a Green Jacket, Edgar Degas. Photo taken courtesy of the Wiki Art site.

Much of the background (setting 1872, New Orleans) ,of the Musical, Degas in New Orleans written by Rosary O’Neill, music composed by David Temple, is gathered from biographies written about Edgar Degas.

The World Premiere of Degas in New Orleans produced and directed by Deborah Temple with the Red Hook Performing Arts Club is being presented at The Bard Fisher Center. The dates are Thursday, December 18th and Friday, December 19th at 7:00 pm. It is being presented at Red Hook Central School District on Saturday, December 20th at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 21st at 3:00 pm.

About Edgar Degas, the Background for Degas in New Orleans

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) has been regarded as a  founder of Impressionism because he was a key organizer of exhibitions of those painters who designated themselves as spontaneous and painted en plein air (in the open air). However, he disliked the categorization and preferred to be noted as a realist. He commented, “What I do is the result of reflection and of the study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know nothing.” (Armstrong, 1991, p. 22) His scenes of Parisian life, his experiments with form and color and his friendship with several key Impressionist artists, for example,  Mary Cassatt and Édouard Manet,  connect him intimately to the Impressionist movement (Roskill 1983, p.33), even if he denied it himself.

Pink Dancers, Before the Ballet, Edgar Degas (1884). Wiki site.

Pink Dancers, Before the Ballet, Edgar Degas (1884). Wiki Art site.

The eldest son of a wealthy banking family, Edgar’s artistic talent was recognized early by his father. Degas wanted to improve his artistic skill, so in his youth, as was done in Paris, he spent time copying the Italian masterpieces in the Louvre. Later, Edgar traveled to Italy in search of copying the greats: Michelangelo, Titian, and other Renaissance painters, visiting various churches to see the works on display. Not stuck in the past, Degas enjoyed studying modern artistic techniques, including photography and engraving. In searching about for his life’s work, he studied law to help with the family business as most sons did. But he decided against it and ended his law career in 1855 to pursue his early love of painting, sketching and drawing.

Degas had family in the US, his mom’s family, the Mussons. It was his Uncle Michel Musson and his daughters who lived in New Orleans on Esplanade Avenue in what is today known as “The Degas House.” After the Civil War broke out, and the conflict increased in intensity, the Musson sisters, Edgar’s cousins, were sent to France which is where Edgar first became acquainted with them. The youngest cousin, Estelle (Tell), lost her first husband during the War, while pregnant with their daughter.  Despite Edgar’s affections for Tell, it was Edgar’s youngest brother, René who married her and took her back to live in New Orleans. René amassed tremendous debts, ruined the business and eventually had to be bailed out by Degas, after Degas returned from his stay in New Orleans. It is his trip to New Orleans to visit his brother and the family when he discovers the family crisis and his brother’s negligence to the business and his own family.

Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas, Edgar Degas (1872). Courtesy of the NOMA site.

Portrait of Estelle Musson Degas, Edgar Degas (1872). Courtesy of the NOMA site.

Composer David Temple’s Observations Related to the Musical World Primere ‘Degas in New Orleans’

Degas joined the National Guard to fight for France during the Franco-Prussian War. During rifle training, his eyesight was found to be defective. And it was on his subsequent visit to New Orleans that he realized his right eye was permanently damaged: “What lovely things I could have done …if the bright daylight were less unbearable for me.  To go to Louisiana to open one’s eyes, I cannot do that.  And yet I kept them sufficiently half open to see my fill.”  In years to follow, he lost his ability to read and to identify colors, and he worked more and more in sculpture, a more tactile medium.  By 1891, he would write, “Ah! Sight! Sight! Sight!… the difficulty of seeing makes me feel numb.”

Edgar’s own failing eyesight most probably increased his empathy and affection for Tell who he discovered had gone blind after she returned to New Orleans with René. Edgar expressed his feelings in a letter to a friend: “My poor Estelle, Rene’s wife, is blind as you know.  She bears it in an incomparable manner; she needs scarcely any help about the house.  She remembers the rooms and the position of the furniture and hardly ever bumps into anything.  And there is no hope!”

Our attempt in this production is to elicit the artistic — and amorous — affections of the Musson – Degas clan, and to have a window into this beautiful yet tragic connection of the two who are losing their sight — yet perhaps truly “see” more clearly than anyone else — has been an exciting journey.  We so hope our work reaches the passion and artistic vision of each audience member.
Rosary O'Neill with Degas' The Dancer in Green exhibited at NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Playwright Rosary O’Neill with Degas’ The Dancer in Green exhibited at NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

PERFORMANCES AT BARD FISHER CENTER BLACK-BOX THEATER

Tickets are selling fast. But you can call Bard Fisher Center’s Ticket Office to purchase tickets.

WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 845-758-7900/6822 and sold at the door. Click on the dates (December 18, December 19) in the calendar for tickets.

Deborah and David Temple, director and composer of 'Degas in New Orleans.' Photo courtesy of the Temples.

Deborah and David Temple, director and composer of ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Photo courtesy of the Temples.

PERFORMANCES AT RED HOOK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

Sources

Armstrong, Carol (1991). Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas. Chicago and London:      University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-02695-7
Roskill, Mark W. (1983). “Edgar Degas.” Collier’s Encyclopedia.
David Temple co-wrote the article.

Camille Claudel by Jeanne Fayard: Book Review

Jeanne Fayard is a French writer who is an expert on sculptors August Rodin and Camille Claudel. She has made an invaluable contribution to what we know and understand about Claudel’s early years in her book Camille Claudel.

When I was in Paris, I had the occasion to speak with Jeanne Fayard at length about Auguste Rodin’s one time mistress, who was a magnificent sculptress in her own right. Indeed, Camille Claudel who met Rodin when she was around 19 inspired some of Rodin’s finest work. Claudel has been the subject of two films (Camille Claudel, Camille Claudel 1915), because of her extraordinary life as a maverick artist and because of the dramatic response of her family to her individuality, autonomy and sheer genius all of which caused her mother great distress. Camille Claudel lived in a time when women were pawns; Catholicism crucified women who stood against the grain in how a woman was supposed to comport herself; morality for a woman was supposed to be above reproach.

'The Wave' by Camille Claudel. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille Claudel’s La Vague (1897), The Wave at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille’s father shielded and supported her throughout the first part of her career, despite her mother’s profound disapproval of her daughter. After her father died, Camille’s mother and brother, diplomat Paul Claudel, had Camille committed to an asylum in 1915 because of Camille’s alleged mental illness and outrageous behavior. Despite the implorement of doctors and others of renown who clinically deemed her eccentric but not insane, her mother and brother made sure Camille remained committed. It is certainly a tragedy for us and the art world that she spent the last thirty years of her life in confinement unable to work on any sculpture or art, an act which the family had forbidden.

Jeanne Fayard who initially intended to write a book about Rodin forty years ago and who had been researching and studying Rodin, ended up writing a book about Camille Claudel first because of an unusual series of events that happened. Jasques Cassar was an art lover who shared an interest with Fayard about Claudel and Rodin. After Cassar discovered Camille Claudel’s work (four sculptures), which Paul Claudel donated to the Musée Rodin in 1951, he became impassioned about Camille Claudel. He gained access to family files and continued his work in earnest, but was unable to finish his biography on Claudel before he died. Jeanne Fayard who had worked on a play about Camille Claudel was a friend of Jacques Cassar. She was privy to Cassar’s work and made sure the files were published posthumously, stating the work was authored by Jacques Cassar. Fayard wrote the Preface for what is known as Dossier Camille Claudel by Jacques Cassar.

Camille Claudel's The Age of Maturity (1899), a controversial and extraordinary work at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille Claudel’s The Age of Maturity (1899), a controversial and extraordinary work at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Fascinated by her subject and inspired by Jacques Cassar’s work and her love of Rodin, Jeanne Fayard continued her investigation of Camille Claudel. Through a process of viewing Camille Claudel’s amazing sculptures and comparing them with Rodin’s, Fayard realized that Claudel had launched out on her own led by a brilliance that could not be learned, that could not be instructed. Fayard understood that Claudel had a light, a divine provenance within her soul that fostered such incredible work. It was this light that struck Camille’s father to support his daughter. It was the same animating light that motivated teacher/sculptor Alfred Boucher to mentor Claudel for three years and then encourage Rodin to work with her. It was this same vitality that entranced Rodin into a tempestuous affair with her. And it was this stirring force of Camille’s vibrance that influenced Rodin’s work to new heights.

The realizations prompted Jeanne Fayard to search back into Camille Claudel’s early childhood. There she understood Claudel’s motivations, her early talents in drawing and art. In her investigation she discovered her personality, her determination, her influences, her inspirations. Fayard’s explorations revealed how Claudel’s early life shaped her psyche to develop what would become an incredible artist in her own right apart from Rodin. Indeed, these early beginnings molded Claudel like the clay she shaped into the figures that would eventually be cast into bronze or other materials and that are now housed at the Musée Rodin in Paris.

Camille Claudel's An Old Woman at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille Claudel’s Clotho (1893) at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Fayard’s work is essential to understanding how Camille Claudel’s elements as a child, melted under the heat and pressure of her life with family — her mother, brother, father and sister. The early years, revealing her own innate artistic talent and acumen were the crucible which formed the woman who was a maverick for her time and one of the most striking and originally skillful women sculptors of all time. Certainly, she was a feminist if that word may be loosely applied to Camille Claudel’s bravery and mental fortitude to leave Rodin, destroy the work some of which she created during the period she was with him and move into the dark, uncharted waters of her own soul’s genius.

Jeanne Fayard’s work is in French, and if one has an average knowledge of the language it is easily understood. Certainly, for what it contributes to our knowledge of Camille Claudel, it should be translated in English to inspire those who adore Claudel’s work in this country and those future female artists who would gain inspiration from reading about Claudel’s early beginnings. For women Claudel’s entire life is a crucial read; it provides a revelation of the extent to which women are capable of coming into their own, and the extent that that remains a dangerous threat to other women who have the power to destroy them.

This Book Review first appeared on Blogcritics.

Roundtable Talk With Kevin Kline and Israel Horovitz About The Film, ‘My Old Lady’

Kristen Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline in 'My Old Lady.' Photo from the film.

Kristen Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline in ‘My Old Lady.’ Photo from the film.

Sitting at a roundtable with other journalists at the Cohen Media Group office (NYC) with Kevin Kline and Israel Horovitz to discuss their work on Horovitz’s directorial debut film, My Old Lady was a pleasure. I am familiar with Kline’s acting career from his work with John Houseman and Julliard’s The Acting Company in the early 1970s (Kline is a founding member), to the present. I am less familiar with Israel Horovitz’s plays, though I have seen some of the award winning films he has written and/or collaborated on. Both men who are close friends are superb masters of their craft in film and the theater arts. Kline has won a staggering number of awards, accolades and nominations for his stage performances (Tonys, Drama Desks, Obies, Outer Critics Circle, et. al.), and his film work (an Oscar, SAG award, Emmy and numerous other nominations). Israel Horovitz has been a globally celebrated, award winning playwright for decades, having written 70 plays which have been translated in over 30 languages; he is also an award winning screenwriter (The Strawberry Statement, Author, Author! Sunshine-collaboration, among others). Kline and Horovitz were delightful companions to us, generously offering a bit of time to discuss aspects of the film including its conception, the cast of My Old Lady, the working relationships and other interesting tidbits.

First, a few paragraphs about the film: this is not a spoiler alert, but a general thematic discussion. From start to finish My Old Lady is a ride of pleasure, pain, joy, irony, sadness, self-recriminations, forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation. The emotional ups and downs follow a storyline that cannot be anticipated or easily unraveled. Against the backdrop of beautiful Paris, Horovitz has created a masterpiece of storytelling that is real and visceral with a soupcon of madcap fun and poignant humor. The comedic is underlined with serious revelations about problematic aspects of human nature with which we may easily identify. Yet, the film is filled with hope that restores our faith in possibilities if there is the readiness to overcome the tragicomedy of a life lived in regret and stasis.

Israel Horovitz, prolific and celebrated playwright and award winning screenwriter directed his first feature, 'My Old Lady.' Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Israel Horovitz, prolific and celebrated playwright and award winning screenwriter directed his first feature, ‘My Old Lady.’ Photo by Carole Di Tosti

The tragic “clown”of this wonderful film who rides the emotional Ferris wheel in the City of Lights and comes out on top is New Yorker Mathias Gold. Mathias inherits a viager (French real estate which comes with intricate strings attached), from his estranged father. In Paris Mathias learns that his inheritance (a stately old house), which he badly needs to sell as he is financially bankrupt, cannot be sold until occupant Madame Girard (Dame Maggie Smith) dies. While Mathias attempts to resolve the situation and take what is “rightfully his by American laws,” his destitution forces him to stay with Madame Girard and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas), because has no money and nowhere to go. Residing with them to work things out, he eventually confronts the pain and sorrow of his own failures while he wrangles with Madame Girard and Chloe about the viager (a symbol of more than a real estate agreement).  During this process he learns the hidden secrets of how his own life has been tied up with theirs.

The stunning revelations nearly drown him in misery and deep regrets. However, he is in the right place at the right time and the wheel changes direction moving upward in hope. The emotional torrent that would have killed him in any other place on earth with any other two women on earth,  is transformed. From the swirling emotions spring a fountain of life and love which refreshes and brings healing to Mathias’ parched soul. His transformation provides a satisfying and uplifting resolution for Madame Girard and Chloe and all are able to make a new way for themselves. The intricacy, humor, pathos and magic of how Horovitz and the cast brilliantly bring it all together to effect the stark beauty of life thematically defies description.

Kevin Kline stars in 'My Old Lady,' directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Kevin Kline stars in ‘My Old Lady,’ directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

 At the beginning of the Interviews:  (Someone commented and mispronounced Israel Horovitz’s name.)

Israel Horovitz: (with a smile) Can I just say that my name is pronounced HoroVitz not Horowitz.

Kevin Kline: Very well. He lived on my block.

Israel Horovitz: Did he really?

Kevin Kline: He did.

Horovitz:  I met Horowitz (the famous pianist Vladamir Horowitz) once in my life on a plane. They took me to his seat then they realized their mistake and took me out of his seat.  (Israel laughs)  The only time I met him and he’s staring at me like I did that on purpose. (laughs)

I note that Kevin Kline, deferring to Israel in a quietly spoken undercurrent half to himself and half to Israel comments humorously for Israel to hear. It is a way they have with each other.  It is obvious these two are very close, sometimes finishing one another’s thoughts. It’s fun to watch their ease and the great trust between them.

Maggie Smith in Israel Horovitz's 'My Old Lady' Kevin Kline is down right. Photo from the film.

Maggie Smith in Israel Horovitz’s ‘My Old Lady’ Kevin Kline is down right. Photo from the film.

Horovitz: The movie is based on a play of mine called My Old Lady. And Kevin may not know this but I was at a point in my life when I wanted to do something that would really scare me because I’ve done a lot of plays. So I thought directing a film would really scare me and it was a matter of choosing one. I was in Moscow seeing the play at the Moscow Art Theatre and as I don’t speak a word of Russian, I was daydreaming. It was in that moment that I thought…boy, Paris is really missing from this three character ,one room play. Is this the love letter to Paris that I set down to write when I wrote it?

I thought it should be a movie and I wrote the first draft of a screenplay based on the play. I won a prize (from a screenplay competition in 2008 that was sponsored by the Writers Guild of America and the Île de France Film Commission). Part of the prize was going to Paris for six weeks and living in a 16th century abbey outside of Paris. The prize was set up to award a screenplay that had French and American cultural exchange. Another part of the prize was that the Isle de France Film Commission took me location scouting every day for this first draft of the script. It was then that I started to really see the film. When I revised the script a little bit, my first thought was to include my “cousin” Kevin (they are very close friends). Kevin was famously known as Kevin “de-cline” But he said “yes,” right away…uncharacteristically, I’m told. Then I roped him in to readings of the play in my house. Then I brought on board Miss Maggie and the others.

(Israel Horovitz shares a story to illustrate an important point about what his concept and intentions were in making the film.)

The Pope once came to Paris. And people were very upset because they thought there should be a division between church and state by the government. They were holding a protest. He was a little, little old man, it was just before he died and when he arrived, the first thing he said was, “It’s a pleasure to arrive somewhere in this life as an unambitious guest.” People were so disarmed by this.

Making this film, I was an unambitious guest. I didn’t do this movie because I wanted to build a big movie career. I did this movie because I wanted to make a beautiful movie, period. And Kevin joined this and signed on to this. And I knew I wanted to get great actors. I was too old to do a movie that might come and go without anybody seeing it. And I wanted it to be really significant. So Kevin was my only choice and Maggie was my only choice and by God they said “Yes.”

I met with Maggie, the first time I went to London and had lunch with her after she said, “Yes.” It was then she told me, “I’ve had 25 scripts that have been sent to me. You want to know why I chose yours?”  I said that I wasn’t sure I wanted to know (laughs). Then I said, “OK, tell me why.” And she said, “Because I don’t have to die at the end of your movie.” I hope this is not spoiling it for your readers. And I can say simply that directing Kevin and Maggie and Kristin Scott Thomas and Dominique Pinon, is like telling the sun to give light. It kind of knows already (laughs) that it’s supposed to give light.

Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in 'My Old Lady,' directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo from the film.

Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in ‘My Old Lady,’ directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo from the film.

QUESTION: All of you had worked in theater. How did that inform your relationship? Theater is very alive and I saw that translation in the film. I loved the film.

Isreal Horovitz: I love hearing you say that. (we all laugh)

QUESTION: Did working in theater make it easier? Had you worked with Kevin before?

Horovitz: I don’t think so. Certainly, Kevin and I knew each other for a hundred years.

Kline commented about a long time ago in their past when they either knew each other at Julliard.

Horovitz: But that was kind of like the dark ages.

Kline: With theater actors, they are all trained for the stage, or “housebroken.” It’s a cliche that there is a shorthand for stage actors. There isn’t.

Question: But isn’t “moment to moment life” required onstage? (the implication is that you have the editor and the director controlling the shots)

Kline: It’s the same in film and keeping it together between takes and being ready for the next take…we have little time…for 2 or three.

Horovitz: The thing I noticed is that we all knew each other’s work from theater for so many years that establishing intimacy took about 12 seconds. We all had stories to share and friends… and we had this trust that everybody knew what they were doing. There was no movie star who happened to have had a role that matched up so perfectly that they couldn’t do anything else

Kevin Kline made a wry, ironic comment about Maggie Smith’s complaining about the catering (it was a joke…the last thing that Dame Maggie would do). With great good humor, Kline indicated that all the actors were a professional team supportive of the project and there was no necessity for “egos.”

QUESTION: As a first time film director, how involved were you with the editing process?

Horovitz: I was there every day all day. It was endless. I was very involved. I can tell you that Kevin Kline in particular as an actor gives you what you want as a director with the first take and then shows you five other things that come into his mind, so when you’re editing you’ve got all this material. We could have done a straight up comedy. We could have done a very dark drama but he really understood the kind of thing I love which is comic and tragic in the same work which is like life is.

QUESTION: What lenses did you use for interior scenes?

Kevin Kline: The great thing about having a first time director, though in broad strokes there are two types of first time directors. Those who just got out of film school who want to “direct” the actors and those directors who know how to let the actors do their work and do not interfere. These know when to interject when it’s appropriate, if you’ve gone astray and they need to “put you back on track” or they may inspire a variety of things. For example we were on the quay, on the set in the scene when the opera singer is singing. Israel says, “Why don’t you sing back to her.” And it was like, “Yeah, fine.” And the crew got the lyrics to the aria and I sang a mini duet with the singer. Whereas a filmmaker who is just out of film school in my experience is like, “Well, we have to stick to just what we’ve got here.” They are keen on telling the actors what their motivation is, you know, nonsense like that. They don’t have experience with directing the actors. It’s all about how to trust the cinematographer.

Kevin Kline in 'My Old Lady.' Photo from the film.

Kevin Kline in ‘My Old Lady.’ Photo from the film.

Horovitz: We had a great, great DP (Director of Photography), a guy named Michel Amathieu. I told him 18 months before we shot the movie, “You’re the guy.” And it was all about fitting the schedules of the three main actors and this guy. I knew his work and I knew him intimately and he knew that he was heading for this. I am glad I can’t tell you the number of the lens because I could tell him what I wanted, the look that I wanted, and he could translate it.

Kline: (speaking to Israel) And you saw it in the frame. Israel was right there on the set and he saw what the camera would see. Not like many directors who are in another room watching on a monitor. He was there with the actors and knew everything that was being framed.

Horovitz: This may interest you. I don’t like generally film adaptations of plays. They seem not to be plays and they seem not to be movies. They’re some weird thing in between. And I knew that I had to make a movie that was a movie. I knew that when I was writing the movie and certainly when I was directing the movie that Paris was a missing character in the play. That’s why I saw the movie as I saw it and this shaped how I was directing the movie.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline in 'My Old Lady.' Photo from the film.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline in ‘My Old Lady.’ Photo from the film.

Could you talk about working with Kristin Scott Thomas?

Kline: I remember one of the first days working with Kristin. I love it when the director doesn’t say cut because we’ll see what happens after the written scene. Maybe there’s some improvisation we may use (Kevin Kline laughs). I remember Kristin was done with her lines and I’m still talking. Kristen says, “Aren’t we finished?” (laughter) But then she adapted to that and said, “Oh, I see.” She hadn’t worked that way before, apparently. Maggie also…slightly different generation…

Horovitz: Yeah, it’s just a different training.

Kline: Yes, it’s the British school of acting. I found that when I worked with British stage actors they are very professional. There isn’t a lot of nonsense about the inner subtext. It’s like “let’s get on with it…and come on let’s go.” But I like that. I had British teachers growing up and there is a strong work ethic, there’s something about it.

Horovitz: But Kevin was an American in the film so he could be quite different from Maggie and Kristen who have played mother and daughter three times now.

QUESTION: Did anything surprise either of you about the final cut?

Kline: (to Horovitz) You saw it so many times.

Horovitz: Well I saw every infinitesimal moment of the film every day of my damn life for months and months and months. There were no surprises in the final cut unless it was a mistake, a technical mistake. But Kevin saw it pieced together pretty close to the end.

Kline: And I think I told you when I saw it near the final cut, it was like a ballet without the music…it was with the temporary music, but the music is very important. But when I first saw it, I think I told you how I’ll see this four or five more times but it was not what I expected. And I don’t think it’s what anyone can expect. There are so many loops and surprises and textual colorations of comedy and drama and romance that are all intertwined in a very unexpected way. I was just surprised and delighted and I think I told you, I have to see it again to see if I have the same feeling. I guess I will.

QUESTION: What question are you asking in the film?

Horovitz: I started out to write a love letter to Paris and not surprisingly midway through I had to say to myself well, isn’t it interesting where this is taking me, and I went with it. And I think the question in this film is why do people do that to their children? And in our lives we hear people who are 50, 60 years old talking about their parents. And one piece of your brain is saying, “Oh get over it. And another piece of your brain is saying, you can’t get over it. You know you can’t get over it. There’s such serious damage done. So I think it’s thrilling in this film with these two people…I always knew that with these two people, his character knew her pain like nobody else would know her pain, and her character knew his pain like nobody else would ever know his pain. And I think it’s a relief and thrilling when these two people get together. It’s more than just a love story, a romance. It’s really profound when they get together and whew, they can lighten up a little bit.

After the Roundtable With Kevin Kline

Kevin Kline is Mathias Gold in Israel Horovitz's 'My Old Lady. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Kevin Kline is Mathias Gold in Israel Horovitz’s ‘My Old Lady. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

After the Roundtable, I had the opportunity to tell Kevin Kline that the first time I had seen him perform was in The Knack and How to Get It at The Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This was  in the early 1970s when The Acting Company summered there and performed a variety of plays hosted by Artistic Director John Houseman. Kline is a founding member. Kevin Kline discussed an interesting fact about that particular production. It was with The Knack that cast members commented about his talent for comedy and his “being funny.” Prior to that role, he was only interested in performing serious dramatic parts. He never imagined himself in comedies. Their comments and his success in The Knack were a revelation.

That role (Kline was amazing, memorable, so vibrant, his actions fluidly natural), opened up another world of opportunity and opened his eyes and talents to new considerations. Of course, as he grew in repertory, this led him to develop his talents in comedic roles. Each experience in a comedic role led to gaining additional experience in another and that experience in another. He was stretching his talent and avoiding what Houseman often counseled against, falling into the typical Hollywood style  of allowing oneself to be typecast, getting “stuck” in the “same old parts.”

Kline’s early successes and the development of his talent to constantly stretch his abilities eventually led to his stellar, award winning  comedic performances in film and on stage: an Oscar for Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, and Tonys for the pirate in The Pirates of Penzance and Falstaff in Henry IV, and On the Twentieth Century to name a few. Of course these are in addition to his having received Drama Desks, Outer Circle Critics awards a Lifetime Achievement Award and an induction to the Theatre Hall of Fame. And we haven’t even discussed his prolific body of Shakespearean performances and performances in other classics and a slew of film nominations. The man is exhausting to keep up with and indefinable…prodigious might be a descriptor. Maybe not…too limited.

Kline mentioned that he tells student actors to try everything and not pigeonhole (my word) themselves that they should only do one type of role or genre. He is passionate about actors opening up their talents and continually taking risks. Though he didn’t clarify, I would imagine Kline would think this especially so for actors in repertory or those who are part of a theater company. Truly, repertory seems to be the finest way an actor can grow, learn and stir up his or her abilities. Thankfully, there is Julliard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting at a roundtable with other journalists at the Cohen Media Group office (NYC) with Kevin Kline and Israel Horovitz to discuss their work on Horovitz’s directorial debut film, My Old Lady was a pleasure. I am familiar with Kline’s acting career from his work with John Houseman and Julliard’s The Acting Company in the early 1970s (Kline is a founding member) to the present. I am less familiar with Israel Horovitz’s plays, though I have seen some of the award winning films he has written and/or collaborated on. Both men who are close friends are superb masters of their craft in film and the theater arts. Kline has won a staggering number of awards, accolades and nominations for his stage performances (Tonys, Drama Desks, Obies, Outer Critics Circle et. al.), and his film work (an Oscar, SAG award, Emmy and numerous other nominations). Israel Horovitz has been a globally celebrated, award winning playwright for decades having written 70 plays which have been translated in over 30 languages; he is also an award winning screenwriter (The Strawberry Statement, Author, Author! Sunshine-collaboration, among others). Kline and Horovitz were delightful companions to us, generously offering a bit of time to discuss aspects of the film including its conception, the cast of My Old Lady, the working relationships and other interesting tidbits.

First, a few paragraphs about the film: this is not a spoiler alert, but a general thematic discussion. From start to finish My Old Lady is a ride of pleasure, pain, joy, irony, sadness, self-recrimination, self-forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation. The emotional ups and downs follow a storyline that cannot be anticipated or easily unraveled. Against the backdrop of beautiful Paris, Horovitz has created a masterpiece of screenwriting that is real and visceral with a soupcon of madcap fun and poignant humor. The comedic is underlined with serious revelations about our own worst aspects of human nature. Yet, the film is filled with hope that restores our faith in possibilities if there is the readiness to overcome the tragicomedy of a life lived in regret and stasis.

The tragic “clown”of this wonderful film who rides the emotional Ferris wheel in the City of Lights and comes out on top is emotionally and financially bereft New Yorker Mathias Gold. Mathias inherits a viager (French real estate which comes with intricate strings attached), from his estranged father. In Paris Mathias learns that his inheritance (a stately old house), which he badly needs to sell as he is financially bankrupt cannot be sold until occupant Madame Girard (Dame Maggie Smith) dies. While Mathias attempts to resolve the situation and take what is “rightfully his by American laws,” his destitution forces him to stay with Madame Girard and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas).  He has no money and nowhere to go. Residing with them to work things out, he eventually confronts the pain and sorrow of his own failures while he wrangles with Madame Girard and Chloe about the viager (a symbol of more than a real estate agreement).  During this process he learns the mysteries of his own life and theirs.

The stunning revelations leave him breathless and drowning. However, he is in the right place at the right time and the wheel changes direction upward toward hope. The emotional torrent that would have killed him in any other place on earth with any other two women on earth,  is transformed. Voila, it becomes a fountain of life. It is this fountain that refreshes and brings coolness and healing to Mathias’ parched soul. His transformation provides a satisfying and uplifting resolution for Madame Girard and Chloe and all are able to make a new way for themselves. The intricacy, humor, pathos and magic of how Horovitz and the cast brilliantly effect the stark beauty of life thematically revealed in the film defies description.

 At the beginning of the Interviews:  (Someone commented and mispronounced Israel Horovitz’s name.)

Israel Horovitz: (with a smile) Can I just say that my name is pronounced HoroVitz not Horowitz.

Kevin Kline: Very well. He lived on my block.

Israel Horovitz: Did he really?

Kevin Kline: He did.

Horovitz:  I met Horowitz (speaking of the famous pianist Vladamir Horowitz) once in my life on a plane. They took me to his seat then they realized their mistake and took me out of his seat.  (Israel laughs)  The only time I met him and he’s staring at me like I did that on purpose. (laughs)

I note that Kevin Kline, deferring to Israel in a quietly spoken undercurrent half to himself and half to Israel comments humorously for Israel to hear. It is a way they have with each other.  It is obvious these two are very close, sometimes finishing one another’s thoughts. It’s fun to watch their ease and the great trust between them.

Horovitz: The movie is based on a play of mine called My Old Lady. And Kevin may not know this but I was at a point in my life when I wanted to do something that would really scare me because I’ve done a lot of plays. So I thought directing a film would really scare me and it was a matter of choosing one. I was in Moscow seeing the play at the Moscow Art Theatre and as I don’t speak a word of Russian, I was daydreaming. It was in that moment that I thought…boy, Paris is really missing from this three character ,one room play. Is this the love letter to Paris that I set down to write when I wrote it?

I thought it should be a movie and I wrote the first draft of a screenplay based on the play. I won a prize (from a screenplay competition in 2008 that was sponsored by the Writers Guild of America and the Île de France Film Commission). Part of the prize was going to Paris for six weeks and living in a 16th century abbey outside of Paris. The prize was set up to award a screenplay that had French and American cultural exchange.  and it won a prize. Another part of the prize was that the Isle de France Film Commission took me location scouting every day for this first draft of the script. It was then that I started to really see the film. When I revised the script a little bit, my first thought was to include my “cousin” Kevin (they are very close friends). Kevin was famously known as Kevin “de-cline” But he said “yes,” right away…uncharacteristically, I’m told. Then I roped him in to readings of the play in my house. Then I brought on board Miss Maggie and the others.

(Israel Horovitz shares a story to illustrate an important point about what his concept and intentions were in making the film.)

The Pope once came to Paris. And people were very upset because they thought there should be a division between church and state by the government. They were holding a protest. He was a little, little old man, it was just before he died and when he arrived, the first thing he said was, “It’s a pleasure to arrive somewhere in this life as an unambitious guest.” People were so disarmed by this.

Making this film, I was an unambitious guest. I didn’t do this movie because I wanted to build a big movie career. I did this movie because I wanted to make a beautiful movie, period. And Kevin joined this and signed on to this. And I knew I wanted to get great actors. I was too old to do a movie that might come and go without anybody seeing it. And I wanted it to be really significant. So Kevin was my only choice and Maggie was my only choice and by God they said “Yes.”

I met with Maggie, the first time I went to London and had lunch with her after she said, “Yes.” It was then she told me, “I’ve had 25 scripts that have been sent to me. You want to know why I chose yours?”  I said that I wasn’t sure I wanted to know (laughs). Then I said, “OK, tell me why.” And she said, “Because I don’t have to die at the end of your movie.” I hope this is not spoiling it for your readers. And I can say simply that directing Kevin and Maggie and Kristin Scott Thomas and Dominique Pinon, is like telling the sun to give light. It kind of knows already (laughs) that it’s supposed to give light.

QUESTION: All of you had worked in theater. How did that inform your relationship? Theater is very alive and I saw that translation in the film. I loved the film.

Isreal Horovitz: I love hearing you say that. (we all laugh)

QUESTION: Did working in theater make it easier? Had you worked with Kevin before?

Horovitz: I don’t think so. Certainly, Kevin and I knew each other for a hundred years.

Kline commented about a long time ago in their past when they either knew each other at Julliard when Kevin was taking classes.

Horovitz: But that was kind of like the dark ages.

Kline: With theater actors, they are all trained for the stage, or “housebroken.” It’s a cliche that there is a shorthand for stage actors. There isn’t.

Question: But isn’t “moment to moment life” required onstage? (the implication is that you have the editor and the director controlling the shots)

Kline: It’s the same in film and keeping it together between takes and being ready for the next take…we have little time…for 2 or three.

Horovitz: The thing I noticed is that we all knew each other’s work from theater for so many years that establishing intimacy took about 12 seconds. We all had stories to share and friends… and we had this trust that everybody knew what they were doing. There was no movie star who happened to have had a role that matched up so perfectly that they couldn’t do anything else

Kevin Kline made a wry, ironic comment about Maggie Smith’s complaining about the catering (it was a joke…the last thing that Dame Maggie would do). With great good humor, Kline indicated that all the actors were a professional team supportive of the project and there was no necessity for “egos.”

QUESTION: As a first time film director, how involved were you with the editing process?

Horovitz: I was there every day all day. It was endless. I was very involved. I can tell you that Kevin Kline in particular as an actor gives you what you want as a director with the first take and then shows you five other things that come into his mind, so when you’re editing you’ve got all this material. We could have done a straight up comedy. We could have done a very dark drama but he really understood the kind of thing I love which is comic and tragic in the same work which is like life is.

QUESTION: What lenses did you use for interior scenes?

Kevin Kline: The great thing about having a first time director, though in broad strokes there are two types of first time directors. Those who just got out of film school who want to “direct” the actors and those directors who know how to let the actors do their work and do not interfere. These know when to interject when it’s appropriate, if you’ve gone astray and they need to “put you back on track” or they may inspire a variety of things. For example we were on the quay, on the set in the scene when the opera singer is singing. Israel says, “Why don’t you sing back to her.” And it was like, “Yeah, fine.” And the crew got the lyrics to the aria and I sang a mini duet with the singer. Whereas a filmmaker who is just out of film school in my experience is like, “Well, we have to stick to just what we’ve got here.” They are keen on telling the actors what their motivation is, you know, nonsense like that. They don’t have experience with directing the actors. It’s all about how to trust the cinematographer.

Horovitz: We had a great, great DP (Director of Photography), a guy named Michel Amathieu. I told him 18 months before we shot the movie, “You’re the guy.” And it was all about fitting the schedules of the three main actors and this guy. I knew his work and I knew him intimately and he knew that he was heading for this. I am glad I can’t tell you the number of the lens because I could tell him what I wanted, the look that I wanted, and he could translate it.

Kline: (speaking to Israel) And you saw it in the frame. Israel was right there on the set and he saw what the camera would see. Not like many directors who are in another room watching on a monitor. He was there with the actors and knew everything that was being framed.

Horovitz: This may interest you. I don’t like generally film adaptations of plays. They seem not to be plays and they seem not to be movies. They’re some weird thing in between. And I knew that I had to make a movie that was a movie. I knew that when I was writing the movie and certainly when I was directing the movie that Paris was a missing character in the play. That’s why I saw the movie as I saw it and this shaped how I was directing the movie.

Could you talk about working with Kristin Scott Thomas?

Kline: I remember one of the first days working with Kristin. I love it when the director doesn’t say cut because we’ll see what happens after the written scene. Maybe there’s some improvisation we may use (Kevin Kline laughs). I remember Kristin was done with her lines and I’m still talking. Kristen says, “Aren’t we finished?” (laughter) But then she adapted to that and said, “Oh, I see.” She hadn’t worked that way before apparently. Maggie also…slightly different generation…

Horovitz: Yeah, it’s just a different training.

Kline: Yes, it’s the British school of acting. I found that when I worked with British stage actors they are very professional. There isn’t a lot of nonsense about the inner subtext. It’s like “let’s get on with it…and come on let’s go.” But I like that. I had British teachers growing up and there is a strong work ethic, there’s something about it.

Horovitz: But Kevin was an American in the film so he could be quite different from Maggie and Kristen who have played mother and daughter three times now.

QUESTION: Did anything surprise either of you about the final cut?

Kline: (to Horovitz) You saw it so many times.

Horovitz: Well I saw every infinitesimal moment of the film every day of my damn life for months and months and months. There were no surprises in the final cut unless it was a mistake, a technical mistake. But Kevin saw it pieced together pretty close to the end.

Kline: And I think I told you when I saw it near the final cut, it was like a ballet without the music…it was with the temporary music, but the music is very important. But when I first saw it, I think I told you how I’ll see this four or five more times but it was not what I expected. And I don’t think it’s what anyone can expect. There are so many loops and surprises and textual colorations of comedy and drama and romance that are all intertwined in a very unexpected way. I was just surprised and delighted and I think I told you, I have to see it again to see if I have the same feeling. I guess I will.

QUESTION: What question are you asking in the film?

Horovitz: I started out to write a love letter to Paris and not surprisingly midway through I had to say to myself well, isn’t it interesting where this is taking me, and I went with it. And I think the question in this film is why do people do that to their children? And in our lives we hear people who are 50, 60 years old talking about their parents. And one piece of your brain is saying, “Oh get over it. And another piece of your brain is saying, you can’t get over it. You know you can’t get over it. There’s such serious damage done. So I think it’s thrilling in this film with these two people…I always knew that with these two people, his character knew her pain like nobody else would know her pain, and her character knew his pain like nobody else would ever know his pain. And I think it’s a relief and thrilling when these two people get together. It’s more than just a love story, a romance. It’s really profound when they get together and whew, they can lighten up a little bit.

After the Roundtable With Kevin Kline

After the Roundtable, I had the opportunity to tell Kevin Kline that the first time I had seen him perform was in The Knack and How to Get It at The Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This was  in the early 1970s when The Acting Company summered there and performed a variety of plays hosted by Artistic Director John Houseman. Kline is a founding member. Kevin Kline discussed an interesting fact about that particular production. It was with The Knack that cast members commented about his talent for comedy and his “being funny.” Prior to that role, he was only interested in and performing serious dramatic parts. He never imagined himself in comedies. Their comments and his success in The Knack were a revelation.

That role (Kline was amazing, memorable, so vibrant, his actions fluidly natural), opened up another world of opportunity and opened his eyes and talents to new considerations. Of course, as he grew in repertory, this led him to develop his talents in comedic roles. Each experience in a comedic role led to gaining additional experience in another and that experience in another. He was stretching his talent and avoiding what Houseman often counseled against, falling into the typical Hollywood style  of allowing oneself to be typecast, getting “stuck” in the “same old parts.”

Kline’s early successes and the development of his talent to constantly stretch his abilities eventually led to his stellar, award winning  comedic performances in film and on stage: an Oscar for Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, and Tonys for the pirate in The Pirates of Penzance and Falstaff in Henry IV, and On the Twentieth Century to name a few. Of course these are in addition to his having received Drama Desks, Outer Circle Critics awards a Lifetime Achievement Award and an induction to the Theatre Hall of Fame. And we haven’t even discussed his prolific body of Shakespearean performances and performances in other classics and slew of film nominations. The man is exhausting to keep up with and indefinable…prodigious might be a descriptor. Maybe not…too limited.

Kline mentioned that he tells student actors to try everything and not pigeonhole (my word) themselves that they should only do one type of role or genre. He is passionate about actors opening up their talents and continually taking risks. Though he didn’t clarify, I would imagine Kline would think this especially so for actors in repertory or those who are part of a theater company. Truly, repertory seems to be the finest way an actor can grow, learn and stir up his or her abilities. Thankfully, there is Julliard. Would there be more repertory companies to offer such opportunities!

 

 

excerpt:

What’s not to find joyous about roundtable interviews with award winning actor Kevin Kline and celebrated playwright Israel Horovitz who discussed their collaboration on Horovitz’s directorial debut of his brilliant film ‘My Old Lady?’ Not only did we learn interesting bits about the making of the film, we had the opportunity to watch these close knit friends (Horovitz refers to Kline as his cousin) in rare form. When “cousin” leaves off commenting, the “cousin” seamlessly picks up the anticipated rejoinder. They were loads of fun, but they were also deep folks, deep. If you blinked, you missed it.

 

 

 

 

Sitting at a roundtable with other journalists at the Cohen Media Group office (NYC) with Kevin Kline and Israel Horovitz to discuss their work on Horovitz’s directorial debut film, My Old Lady was a pleasure. I am familiar with Kline’s acting career from his work with John Houseman and Julliard’s The Acting Company in the early 1970s (Kline is a founding member) to the present. I am less familiar with Israel Horovitz’s plays, though I have seen some of the award winning films he has written and/or collaborated on. Both men who are close friends are superb masters of their craft in film and the theater arts. Kline has won a staggering number of awards, accolades and nominations for his stage performances (Tonys, Drama Desks, Obies, Outer Critics Circle et. al.), and his film work (an Oscar, SAG award, Emmy and numerous other nominations). Israel Horovitz has been a globally celebrated, award winning playwright for decades, having written 70 plays which have been translated in over 30 languages; he is also an award winning screenwriter (The Strawberry Statement, Author, Author! Sunshine-collaboration, among others). Kline and Horovitz were delightful companions to us, generously offering a bit of time to discuss aspects of the film including its conception, the cast of My Old Lady, the working relationships and other interesting tidbits.

First, a few paragraphs about the film: this is not a spoiler alert, but a general thematic discussion. From start to finish My Old Lady is a ride of pleasure, pain, joy, irony, sadness, self-recrimination, self-forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation. The emotional ups and downs follow a storyline that cannot be anticipated or easily unraveled. Against the backdrop of beautiful Paris, Horovitz has created a masterpiece of screenwriting that is real and visceral with a soupcon of madcap fun and poignant humor. The comedic is underlined with serious revelations about problematic aspects of human nature with which we may easily empathize. Yet, the film is filled with hope that restores our faith in possibilities if there is the readiness to overcome the tragicomedy of a life lived in regret and stasis.

The tragic “clown”of this wonderful film who rides the emotional Ferris wheel in the City of Lights and comes out on top is emotionally and financially bereft New Yorker Mathias Gold. Mathias inherits a viager (French real estate which comes with intricate strings attached), from his estranged father. In Paris Mathias learns that his inheritance (a stately old house), which he badly needs to sell as he is financially bankrupt, cannot be sold until occupant Madame Girard (Dame Maggie Smith) dies. While Mathias attempts to resolve the situation and take what is “rightfully his by American laws,” his destitution forces him to stay with Madame Girard and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas).  He has no money and nowhere to go. Residing with them to work things out, he eventually confronts the pain and sorrow of his own failures while he wrangles with Madame Girard and Chloe about the viager (a symbol of more than a real estate agreement).  During this process he learns the mysteries of his own life and theirs.

The stunning revelations leave him breathless and drowning. However, he is in the right place at the right time and the wheel changes direction upward toward hope. The emotional torrent that would have killed him in any other place on earth with any other two women on earth,  is transformed. Voila, it becomes a fountain of life. It is this fountain that refreshes and brings coolness and healing to Mathias’ parched soul. His transformation provides a satisfying and uplifting resolution for Madame Girard and Chloe and all are able to make a new way for themselves. The intricacy, humor, pathos and magic of how Horovitz and the cast brilliantly bring it all together to effect the stark beauty of life thematically defies description.

Kevin Kline stars in 'My Old Lady,' directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Kevin Kline stars in ‘My Old Lady,’ directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

 At the beginning of the Interviews:  (Someone commented and mispronounced Israel Horovitz’s name.)

Israel Horovitz: (with a smile) Can I just say that my name is pronounced HoroVitz not Horowitz.

Kevin Kline: Very well. He lived on my block.

Israel Horovitz: Did he really?

Kevin Kline: He did.

Horovitz:  I met Horowitz (speaking of the famous pianist Vladamir Horowitz) once in my life on a plane. They took me to his seat then they realized their mistake and took me out of his seat.  (Israel laughs)  The only time I met him and he’s staring at me like I did that on purpose. (laughs)

I note that Kevin Kline, deferring to Israel in a quietly spoken undercurrent half to himself and half to Israel comments humorously for Israel to hear. It is a way they have with each other.  It is obvious these two are very close, sometimes finishing one another’s thoughts. It’s fun to watch their ease and the great trust between them.

Maggie Smith in Israel Horovitz's 'My Old Lady' Kevin Kline is down right. Photo from the film.

Maggie Smith in Israel Horovitz’s ‘My Old Lady’ Kevin Kline is down right. Photo from the film.

Horovitz: The movie is based on a play of mine called My Old Lady. And Kevin may not know this but I was at a point in my life when I wanted to do something that would really scare me because I’ve done a lot of plays. So I thought directing a film would really scare me and it was a matter of choosing one. I was in Moscow seeing the play at the Moscow Art Theatre and as I don’t speak a word of Russian, I was daydreaming. It was in that moment that I thought…boy, Paris is really missing from this three character ,one room play. Is this the love letter to Paris that I set down to write when I wrote it?

I thought it should be a movie and I wrote the first draft of a screenplay based on the play. I won a prize (from a screenplay competition in 2008 that was sponsored by the Writers Guild of America and the Île de France Film Commission). Part of the prize was going to Paris for six weeks and living in a 16th century abbey outside of Paris. The prize was set up to award a screenplay that had French and American cultural exchange.  and it won a prize. Another part of the prize was that the Isle de France Film Commission took me location scouting every day for this first draft of the script. It was then that I started to really see the film. When I revised the script a little bit, my first thought was to include my “cousin” Kevin (they are very close friends). Kevin was famously known as Kevin “de-cline” But he said “yes,” right away…uncharacteristically, I’m told. Then I roped him in to readings of the play in my house. Then I brought on board Miss Maggie and the others.

(Israel Horovitz shares a story to illustrate an important point about what his concept and intentions were in making the film.)

The Pope once came to Paris. And people were very upset because they thought there should be a division between church and state by the government. They were holding a protest. He was a little, little old man, it was just before he died and when he arrived, the first thing he said was, “It’s a pleasure to arrive somewhere in this life as an unambitious guest.” People were so disarmed by this.

Making this film, I was an unambitious guest. I didn’t do this movie because I wanted to build a big movie career. I did this movie because I wanted to make a beautiful movie, period. And Kevin joined this and signed on to this. And I knew I wanted to get great actors. I was too old to do a movie that might come and go without anybody seeing it. And I wanted it to be really significant. So Kevin was my only choice and Maggie was my only choice and by God they said “Yes.”

I met with Maggie, the first time I went to London and had lunch with her after she said, “Yes.” It was then she told me, “I’ve had 25 scripts that have been sent to me. You want to know why I chose yours?”  I said that I wasn’t sure I wanted to know (laughs). Then I said, “OK, tell me why.” And she said, “Because I don’t have to die at the end of your movie.” I hope this is not spoiling it for your readers. And I can say simply that directing Kevin and Maggie and Kristin Scott Thomas and Dominique Pinon, is like telling the sun to give light. It kind of knows already (laughs) that it’s supposed to give light.

Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in 'My Old Lady,' directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo from the film.

Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in ‘My Old Lady,’ directed by Israel Horovitz. Photo from the film.

QUESTION: All of you had worked in theater. How did that inform your relationship? Theater is very alive and I saw that translation in the film. I loved the film.

Isreal Horovitz: I love hearing you say that. (we all laugh)

QUESTION: Did working in theater make it easier? Had you worked with Kevin before?

Horovitz: I don’t think so. Certainly, Kevin and I knew each other for a hundred years.

Kline commented about a long time ago in their past when they either knew each other at Julliard when Kevin was taking classes.

Horovitz: But that was kind of like the dark ages.

Kline: With theater actors, they are all trained for the stage, or “housebroken.” It’s a cliche that there is a shorthand for stage actors. There isn’t.

Question: But isn’t “moment to moment life” required onstage? (the implication is that you have the editor and the director controlling the shots)

Kline: It’s the same in film and keeping it together between takes and being ready for the next take…we have little time…for 2 or three.

Horovitz: The thing I noticed is that we all knew each other’s work from theater for so many years that establishing intimacy took about 12 seconds. We all had stories to share and friends… and we had this trust that everybody knew what they were doing. There was no movie star who happened to have had a role that matched up so perfectly that they couldn’t do anything else

Kevin Kline made a wry, ironic comment about Maggie Smith’s complaining about the catering (it was a joke…the last thing that Dame Maggie would do). With great good humor, Kline indicated that all the actors were a professional team supportive of the project and there was no necessity for “egos.”

QUESTION: As a first time film director, how involved were you with the editing process?

Horovitz: I was there every day all day. It was endless. I was very involved. I can tell you that Kevin Kline in particular as an actor gives you what you want as a director with the first take and then shows you five other things that come into his mind, so when you’re editing you’ve got all this material. We could have done a straight up comedy. We could have done a very dark drama but he really understood the kind of thing I love which is comic and tragic in the same work which is like life is.

QUESTION: What lenses did you use for interior scenes?

Kevin Kline: The great thing about having a first time director, though in broad strokes there are two types of first time directors. Those who just got out of film school who want to “direct” the actors and those directors who know how to let the actors do their work and do not interfere. These know when to interject when it’s appropriate, if you’ve gone astray and they need to “put you back on track” or they may inspire a variety of things. For example we were on the quay, on the set in the scene when the opera singer is singing. Israel says, “Why don’t you sing back to her.” And it was like, “Yeah, fine.” And the crew got the lyrics to the aria and I sang a mini duet with the singer. Whereas a filmmaker who is just out of film school in my experience is like, “Well, we have to stick to just what we’ve got here.” They are keen on telling the actors what their motivation is, you know, nonsense like that. They don’t have experience with directing the actors. It’s all about how to trust the cinematographer.

Kevin Kline in 'My Old Lady.' Photo from the film.

Kevin Kline in ‘My Old Lady.’ Photo from the film.

Horovitz: We had a great, great DP (Director of Photography), a guy named Michel Amathieu. I told him 18 months before we shot the movie, “You’re the guy.” And it was all about fitting the schedules of the three main actors and this guy. I knew his work and I knew him intimately and he knew that he was heading for this. I am glad I can’t tell you the number of the lens because I could tell him what I wanted, the look that I wanted, and he could translate it.

Kline: (speaking to Israel) And you saw it in the frame. Israel was right there on the set and he saw what the camera would see. Not like many directors who are in another room watching on a monitor. He was there with the actors and knew everything that was being framed.

Horovitz: This may interest you. I don’t like generally film adaptations of plays. They seem not to be plays and they seem not to be movies. They’re some weird thing in between. And I knew that I had to make a movie that was a movie. I knew that when I was writing the movie and certainly when I was directing the movie that Paris was a missing character in the play. That’s why I saw the movie as I saw it and this shaped how I was directing the movie.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline in 'My Old Lady.' Photo from the film.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline in ‘My Old Lady.’ Photo from the film.

Could you talk about working with Kristin Scott Thomas?

Kline: I remember one of the first days working with Kristin. I love it when the director doesn’t say cut because we’ll see what happens after the written scene. Maybe there’s some improvisation we may use (Kevin Kline laughs). I remember Kristin was done with her lines and I’m still talking. Kristen says, “Aren’t we finished?” (laughter) But then she adapted to that and said, “Oh, I see.” She hadn’t worked that way before apparently. Maggie also…slightly different generation…

Horovitz: Yeah, it’s just a different training.

Kline: Yes, it’s the British school of acting. I found that when I worked with British stage actors they are very professional. There isn’t a lot of nonsense about the inner subtext. It’s like “let’s get on with it…and come on let’s go.” But I like that. I had British teachers growing up and there is a strong work ethic, there’s something about it.

Horovitz: But Kevin was an American in the film so he could be quite different from Maggie and Kristen who have played mother and daughter three times now.

QUESTION: Did anything surprise either of you about the final cut?

Kline: (to Horovitz) You saw it so many times.

Horovitz: Well I saw every infinitesimal moment of the film every day of my damn life for months and months and months. There were no surprises in the final cut unless it was a mistake, a technical mistake. But Kevin saw it pieced together pretty close to the end.

Kline: And I think I told you when I saw it near the final cut, it was like a ballet without the music…it was with the temporary music, but the music is very important. But when I first saw it, I think I told you how I’ll see this four or five more times but it was not what I expected. And I don’t think it’s what anyone can expect. There are so many loops and surprises and textual colorations of comedy and drama and romance that are all intertwined in a very unexpected way. I was just surprised and delighted and I think I told you, I have to see it again to see if I have the same feeling. I guess I will.

QUESTION: What question are you asking in the film?

Horovitz: I started out to write a love letter to Paris and not surprisingly midway through I had to say to myself well, isn’t it interesting where this is taking me, and I went with it. And I think the question in this film is why do people do that to their children? And in our lives we hear people who are 50, 60 years old talking about their parents. And one piece of your brain is saying, “Oh get over it. And another piece of your brain is saying, you can’t get over it. You know you can’t get over it. There’s such serious damage done. So I think it’s thrilling in this film with these two people…I always knew that with these two people, his character knew her pain like nobody else would know her pain, and her character knew his pain like nobody else would ever know his pain. And I think it’s a relief and thrilling when these two people get together. It’s more than just a love story, a romance. It’s really profound when they get together and whew, they can lighten up a little bit.

After the Roundtable With Kevin Kline

Kevin Kline is Mathias Gold in Israel Horovitz's 'My Old Lady. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Kevin Kline is Mathias Gold in Israel Horovitz’s ‘My Old Lady. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

After the Roundtable, I had the opportunity to tell Kevin Kline that the first time I had seen him perform was in The Knack and How to Get It at The Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This was  in the early 1970s when The Acting Company summered there and performed a variety of plays hosted by Artistic Director John Houseman. Kline is a founding member. Kevin Kline discussed an interesting fact about that particular production. It was with The Knack that cast members commented about his talent for comedy and his “being funny.” Prior to that role, he was only interested in and performing serious dramatic parts. He never imagined himself in comedies. Their comments and his success in The Knack were a revelation.

That role (Kline was amazing, memorable, so vibrant, his actions fluidly natural), opened up another world of opportunity and opened his eyes and talents to new considerations. Of course, as he grew in repertory, this led him to develop his talents in comedic roles. Each experience in a comedic role led to gaining additional experience in another and that experience in another. He was stretching his talent and avoiding what Houseman often counseled against, falling into the typical Hollywood style  of allowing oneself to be typecast, getting “stuck” in the “same old parts.”

Kline’s early successes and the development of his talent to constantly stretch his abilities eventually led to his stellar, award winning  comedic performances in film and on stage: an Oscar for Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, and Tonys for the pirate in The Pirates of Penzance and Falstaff in Henry IV, and On the Twentieth Century to name a few. Of course these are in addition to his having received Drama Desks, Outer Circle Critics awards a Lifetime Achievement Award and an induction to the Theatre Hall of Fame. And we haven’t even discussed his prolific body of Shakespearean performances and performances in other classics and slew of film nominations. The man is exhausting to keep up with and indefinable…prodigious might be a descriptor. Maybe not…too limited.

Kline mentioned that he tells student actors to try everything and not pigeonhole (my word) themselves that they should only do one type of role or genre. He is passionate about actors opening up their talents and continually taking risks. Though he didn’t clarify, I would imagine Kline would think this especially so for actors in repertory or those who are part of a theater company. Truly, repertory seems to be the finest way an actor can grow, learn and stir up his or her abilities. Thankfully, there is Julliard. Would there be more repertory companies to offer such opportunities!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Degas in New Orleans, a Musical World Premiere, Opening Thursday at Bard’s Fisher Center

DSC04249

Edward Degas’ dancers. Courtesy of the website, Old Art. 

The year 2017 will mark the centennial of Edward Degas‘ death when the renown French Impressionist died in Paris, quite alone and nearly blind. Events celebrating Degas’s life and work are already gearing up. Playwright Rosary O’Neill, and the husband wife team, composer and solo guitarist David Temple and producer/director Deborah Temple are in the forefront celebrating the beloved artist in the World Premiere of the musical Degas in New Orleans which is opening Thursday, December 18th at Bard’s Fisher Center.

Degas is most famous for his paintings, prints, and drawings, and is closely identified with the subject of dance, since more than half of his works depict dancers. He has been associated with Impression, though he preferred to characterize himself as a realist. What many Americans do not realize about Edgar Degas was that he spent a period of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his brother Rene and his family, staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue. This dramatic period of his life is the setting of the new musical Degas in New Orleans, written by Rosary O’Neill, with music composed by David Temple. The production, which is beautifully conceived and directed by Deborah Temple, has the honor of being presented by a select group of students in the Red Hook Central School District.

Rosary O'Neill with Degas the green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Rosary O’Neill with Degas the green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Degas in New Orleans is about Edgar Degas’ visit to his family who were in a state of crisis after the Civil War and struggling to survive. Degas is swept up in the events of family, the political currents and the cultural changes that are upending the city of New Orleans. He  attempts to give his moral and financial support, but finds the circumstances there more and more troubling as he becomes entranced with Estelle and other family members. He gains solace through painting family; notably there is a niece who loves to practice her dance. As the conflicts grow more desperate in his life with them, he discovers secrets about his sister-in-law, Estelle and his brother Rene. The circumstances spin beyond his control ultimately break his heart. The production of Degas in New Orleans is in its final rehearsal stages. As you can see from the production photos, it looks to be one more amazing achievement in the careers of the husband and wife team David and Deborah Temple and Rosary O’Neill.

About the composer, playwright, director/producer

David Temple at a solo event. Photo courtesy of David Temple.

David Temple at a solo event. Photo courtesy of David Temple.

David Temple is a noted composer, classical guitarist and faculty member of The Bard College Conservatory of Music. Temple collaborated with Rosary O’Neill and Deborah Temple on the production Broadway or Bust, which was also presented at the Bard Fisher Center a year ago and for which he originated all of its music. Temple is a solo and instrumental composer who has performed globally and whose works are being used for film and television. His CDs may be found online along with his performance schedule and videos of his performance events.

Rosary O’Neill is a noted playwright, whose works have been produced at The Southern Rep, a theatre she founded in New Orleans. Her plays have been published by Samuel French. Some of them have been compiled in three anthologies whose subject is one of the loves of her life, her native New Orleans. She  has written novels and screenplays and has also authored texts on the theater, acting and the dramatic arts. Her most recent published work is non fiction. It is a subject close to her heart and on which she is an expert, New Orleans Mardi Gras which has its roots steeped in the occult and mystical Carnival celebrations of Europe.

Deborah and David Temple, director/producer and composer of 'Degas in New Orleans.' Photo courtesy of the Temples.

Deborah and David Temple, director/producer, and composer of ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Photo courtesy of the Temples.

Deborah Temple has years of experience producing and directing musical theatre and is well known in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley circles. For over a decade her dedication and tireless efforts directing and producing talented students in the Red Hook Performing Arts Club with the assistance of friends and community members have garnered the support of all those in the Red Hook Central School District and beyond. Her reputation for high standards in producing quality productions precedes her.  As a long time Red Hook Central School District employee and Performing Art’s Club adviser, she is thrilled to be an integral part of the community. And whether she is aware of this or not, in producing exceptional high school productions she has become an important vehicle for sustaining regional theater in upstate New York, especially in a time when it is increasingly difficult to mount and/or innovate theater productions without incurring massive debts (the budget of a minimalist production could feed 2 families with children for a year).

 Degas in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

Tom Bloxham and Mickey Lynch in ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Production photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

The Cast of Red Hook Performing Arts Club is a group of select, highly talented students whose energy and creativity have inspired them to collaborate with composer David Temple and director Deborah Temple. Together this group of artists have evolved the songs for Degas in New Orleans in “real time,” honing the words and the musical lines to perfection. It is a process all composers use when innovating the musical scores for both opera and regular musical productions. Their dedication to this amazing project is truly remarkable and speaks to their professionalism, work ethic and love of performance.

The cast of the Red Hook Performing Arts Club in rehearsal for Degas in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

The cast of the Red Hook Perform(L to R) Lucy Makebish, Elizabeth Lococo and Natalie LeBossier in  ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Production photo courtesy of Deborah Temple, producer/director.

The production photos indicate the quality of the scenic design, the staging and the sheer beauty of the dramatic rendering thus far created by the director’s artistry and skill. The period costumes and set pieces were generously supplied by Montgomery Place, the Center for Performing Arts Center at Rhinebeck, Bard College, and other local sources.  The Pit Orchestra is made up of Red Hook Central students and teachers.  Production staff, technical support, and set construction staff are a combination of professionals, students, parents, and Red Hook alumni.

 

PERFORMANCES AT BARD FISHER CENTER BLACK-BOX THEATER

Tickets are selling fast. But you can call Bard Fisher Center’s Ticket Office to purchase tickets.

Cast of the Red Hook Performing Arts Club in rehearsal for Degas in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Deborah Temple.

Trevor Kowalsky as Degas in ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ Production photo courtesy of Deborah Temple.

WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 845-758-7900/6822 and sold at the door. Click on the dates (December 18, December 19) in the calendar for tickets.

PERFORMANCES AT RED HOOK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.

Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

 

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