Interview by Sean Boelman
In the genre community, Peter Strickland is one of the most beloved filmmakers because of his films' unique use of atmosphere and satire. His newest work, the high society satire Flux Gourmet, is perhaps his most idiosyncratic film yet — a truly bizarre blend of gastric distress, dark humor, and commentary on the art world — but it’s downright fascinating to dissect.
We at disappointment media had the chance to speak with Strickland about his film and some of the techniques he used in creating this surreal fantasy. Check out the interview below and be sure to see Flux Gourmet, in theaters and on VOD now!
On His Distinctive Use of Sound
disappointment media: Sound is an important part of all of your films, and I would say it's especially important in Flux Gourmet. What do you like most about sonic experimentation in your films?
Peter Strickland: Well, I suppose a little bit just came from watching Eraserhead at quite a young age. I was 16. And that was a huge epiphany for me, because I think prior to that, I was watching, you know, Tom Cruise films, which I still love, but it's just a very different approach to sound in something like Cocktail. And suddenly, sound was not illustrating something, it was actually expressing something. And there was just a complete reversal of how I thought about sound, how it conveyed a state of mind and it really just opened up something that I really wanted to explore, that I felt I could do something with somehow. So yeah, I think I'm still chasing that feeling from watching Eraserhead all those years ago.
disappointment: In this film, particularly, I really loved your use of experimental music. What were some of your influences for the soundtrack of the film in that regard?
Strickland: Well, it's gonna sound very self reflexive, but we had a band called The Sonic Catering Band. So a lot of it came from what we did. But also, I was listening to Luigi Nono. And we actually played his music for the trips to the shops, especially. I think when the guy who did the eventual music, Roger Stevens, he was using all these gongs and he fed into this 2600 modular synthesizer, the same synthesizer that I think that Ben Burtt used for R2D2. And I think a lot of it also came from bands like White House, Throbbing Gristle, Robert Ashley, even Butthole Surfers. A lot of people were taking found voices coming back from radio phone-ins or whatever, but usually detailing something very disturbing, you know, horrific abuse and so on. So really quite shocking stuff. But there's something very haunting about the quality of the voice, this found voice, and I wanted to try that with the scene in the film, the scatological scene, but I didn't want to have anything where someone is a victim. I wanted to do something else. But it was still very intense. So I wrote something for that and the mixer's friend. He got an actor he knew to record something in German, and we treated it as if it came from some kind of radio phone-in. And so yeah, I think bands like that.
On Flux Gourmet's Unorthodox Satire
disappointment: So in the film, you juxtapose this high society institution, with shock value with an almost ribald nature. What made you want to set out on this satirical approach?
Strickland: I guess it's a world I know quite well, both the funding world and being in a band, something I felt quite confident in. Obviously, what you're seeing is not the real world. But I was interested in the whole power play in these arguments and how ego, just like in everything in life, especially politics, how ego just destroys everything. It's very important to take the most ridiculous thing, you know, a tiny change in the flanger. That's all they wanted, it wouldn't make any difference either way. But they lock horns over something so small. So in a way, the flanger was a MacGuffin to explore. Yeah, I guess I was interested in ego, in deceit and how and how people self curate themselves, especially now in the world of social media, how you present yourself, the nature of doing a biopic about yourself, and I wanted to look at the lies, the deceit behind all that.
disappointment: And in a similar way, the film has this, you know, very absurd sense of humor on one hand. And then on the other hand, it's very solemn. Why do you think that this balance between the two modes was important to you?
Strickland: Well, I wanted to look at stomach issues. We've seen them played for laughs all the time. Fair enough, fine. But I wanted to look at it differently. I think for a lot of people, it's not a joke. It's something very, very, very, very serious. I'm not aware of that having been done before. So as you say, to take something which is normally done as something vulgar or something "frat boy" or funny and give it this laconic, solemn feel. And obviously, it's pitted against all the bickering you see, between the band. How that gels together? I don't know. I'm hoping it works for one audience. But you know, what I'm more concerned about is an audience being with Stones's character, whether they laugh or not at all. The bickering doesn't bother me. But, you know, if they laugh at the Stones character, I feel I've somehow failed. ut someone told me after seeing the film, they said, "Oh, you know, your fart jokes were not very funny." And it's like, "Okay, that was the idea."
disappointment: I think that one of my favorite parts of the film is the character work. So you have like, Stones in the film is spatially with the characters, you know, a few steps aside, but also kind of intimately voyeuristic. And I feel like that is also what we feel as the audience. How did you kind of go about building this?
Strickland: Very much. He is a narrator, he is a window into their world. But obviously, we're a window into his world. I think what fascinated me was when I make films, sometimes you have, they call them the EPK person, the electronic press kit person, someone who's there to document us filming. And their job is to be invisible. And those characters always fascinate me. Let's take the invisible person, let's put that person on center stage. And he clearly wants to be invisible. That's the whole thing. One, that is his job to be invisible, and two, because of his stomach issues, he's even more motivated that way. And somehow, it's like a centrifuge is just going to suck it into the center by the manipulations of Fatima's character. So that was the thing, he's invisible, but he's unwitting. He ended up in the band, basically, so it's just charting that journey of being someone who is just doing a job, but there's this idea that he is someone who, like a lot of these characters, they're all aspiring directors, or aspiring novelists, and all of us have to do jobs, which are commercial jobs. And I do commercial jobs. I write for other people. So I'm very much used to the idea of putting on a different head. You know, he's there like a tailor. So yeah, I'm just interested in those characters really.
Flux Gourmet is now in theaters and on VOD.
Interview by Sean Boelman
The Phantom of the Open debuted at last year’s BFI London Film Festival to great acclaim. Written by Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2) and directed by Craig Roberts (Eternal Beauty), the film tells the unbelievably true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a man who entered the British Open despite not being a professional and ended up scoring the highest round in the history of the tournament.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Farnaby and Roberts in advance of the film’s release. We talked about golf movies, the Flitcroft family, Paddington 2, and more. Check out the interview below and make sure to see The Phantom of the Open in theaters beginning June 3.
On Golf in The Phantom of the Open
disappointment media: So what are some of your favorite movies that feature the sport of golf?
Simon Farnaby: Oh, good question. I mean, Caddyshack is probably my favorite. Yeah, but Craig and I disagree a lot over Happy Gilmore. I usually love all the films that Craig loves, but I really hate Happy Gilmore. And I think I hate you because I don't think it's a golf movie. I think it's a hockey movie.
Craig Roberts: Yeah. I think you're right. If you look at it that way, it's brilliant.
Farnaby: But I'll tell you something, which is that I grew up around golf and I love golf, and always sort of wanted a good golf movie that did golf some justice in terms of this sort of competition of it. I mean, Tin Cup got pretty close. But I always went, "Why do these courses look so shit?" Like they don't look like that. Championship courses look a particular way. And they never ever look like that on screen. And when we shot this movie, I realized why. Which is because no members will let you shoot on their course, no matter how much money you throw at them. Because they just don't want their golf club to close for even like half a day.
Roberts: And it makes it difficult because you also can't get the equipment onto the greens. That was certainly a challenge.
Farnaby: So I really had a lesson there on why they look like that. I mean, actually one of the courses looks great. On the Lynx course, Danny Kent looks amazing. Although the wind was howling, and no one could stand up.
disappointment: Something in a film like The Phantom of the Open, you actually kind of have to make the sport scenes look unprofessional, because it's about someone who is not very good at golf. Was this a challenge?
Roberts: Well, it's just him that's not very good. So I suppose the biggest challenge with golf is that if you love golf, which a lot of people do, then it's fantastic. But then a lot of other people don't love golf as well and they find it boring. So for us, it was about keeping it interesting and entertaining. And you know, somebody who stood in the middle of a green field can get boring very quickly. So we just wanted to make sure, I suppose, that the camera moves and all that just matched his energy, you know, and his drive. And that was difficult keeping that going.
Farnaby: Actually, you know, showing bad golf is easier than showing good golf because of the shortness of the shot.
Roberts: That's true actually, yeah.
Farnaby: Sometimes what people struggle with watching golf on TV is that you can't see where the ball is going. Because they hit it so far. But Maurice didn't do that. So we didn't have to deal with that problem.
On the Flitcroft Family
disappointment: Something else that I loved about The Phantom of the Open is that just as much about family as it is about golf, how did this theme resonate with you?
Farnaby: Yes, it was. You know, Maurice and his wife, Jean had a very special relationship and the boys, you know, the twins and Michael, Maurice's stepson. So, in a way that was, as a screenwriter, the thing to get right. It's not really about golf, it's about a family, you know, and those characters and how they interact and what their sort of family philosophy is, and all that sort of stuff. And then when Craig came aboard, Craig was really into all that as well. And even more and going look, let's get this relationship right. And then getting Sally Hawkins, who can really hold up. In real life, Jean was Maurice's rock, and Sally managed to do that sort of brilliantly. So yeah, it's a good spot. It's very much about family.
Roberts: The way I look at it is that it's about somebody who's trying to defy the odds that he's given. You can't do that without his family at all. And certainly without Jean. I think as confident he is that he wants to do it, I think she believes in him more than he probably does as well. So that's a really powerful thing to have, you know, and it's helped many, many people throughout history. I think that's important to reflect.
disappointment: So one of my favorite bits in the film was the Fantastic Flitcrofts, the dancing twins. How did you go about incorporating this absurd and charming duo into the film?
Farnaby: Well, it was a great thing to have because they were genuinely world champion disco dancers, you know, Maurice had this philosophy that you see in the film of you know, just try and it doesn't matter if you fail. And they, in a way, are a part of that debate because they did try and then they succeeded. But they succeeded at something that had a very short life span, which was disco dancing, which died in the mid '80s. So it was great to have that because a film is kinda like a debate, sometimes I think, and it's good to have all the different elements of that. And they were part of that, and it was real, I was lucky enough to meet them. I mean, James is still alive and is in the film, actually. But I met Jean and James together when I first did the research for the movie, and they're really amazing characters and actually danced everywhere that they went and make a cup of tea and they go and dance.
Roberts: Christian and Jonah, we were very lucky to get them to be honest. We were about five weeks out from shooting, and I was panicking. But as soon as I saw the video, they sent a kind of an improv dance and then some acting self tape. And first off, they look like I don't know if you know the band The Last Shadow Puppets? It's Alex Turner and Miles Kane. And they kind of look like them. Like a funny version. Loved that. And then I Skyped with them when they got out. And I just love their energy so much. It kind of you know, that's how Boogie Nights feels.
disappointment: And I mean, as a whole, I think the cast in the film is phenomenal. I mean, you have Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins. What was it like working with the cast to bring the Flitcrofts to life?
Roberts: It was a dream. It's the hardest part of the process, getting that right. Because, you know, you can shoot on the best cameras in the world. But if you don't have good actors, your movie's doomed. If you have a great actor or an iPhone, it's going to be a better movie. So getting that right is hard. But really satisfying once it comes together. When it came together for me was actually when we did a bunch of rehearsal for that. I never really rehearse to get it right. It's kind of to get it wrong and get all that out, really. But when it came to the first thing we had as a family, it was the scene where everybody was talking over each other. The dog was barking. And I kind of said to the actors that I kind of want it to feel like Uncut Gems, that Safdie Brothers movie. Just complete chaos. And weirdly, because they all could just talk over each other. I think it was very freeing for them. You could feel the chemistry and they all came together in that moment.
disappointment: So do you have a favorite alias that Maurice Flitcroft used?
Farnaby: Oh, God, I mean, Arnold Palmtree obviously, and I do think Count Manfred von Hoffmanstel. Like why put Count on it? And what Count has ever played golf? I mean, I've never seen Count in front, like that was an odd one. But Gene Paycheki--
Roberts: That's pretty good as well. I like Hoppy. Gerald Hoppy.
On Paddington 2 and Heartwarming Stories
disappointment: Mr. Farnaby, Paddington 2 is a pop culture phenomenon. It was even a plot point in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent that came out this year. But did you ever expect that film to be such a smash?
Farnaby: No. Actually, I haven't seen the film yet, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. [to Roberts] Have you heard about this?
Roberts: No, I didn't.
Farnaby: I'll show you it in a bit. I've got it on my phone. And somebody sent me a clip of it. And both Paul King and I had a little chat and said it was almost the thing that made us most proud of the movie. Because like you say, it's become pop culture. And I had so many texts, and for so many people, that's their favorite bit of the movie. But we knew that the plan was to try and make two better than one. That was the goal we gave ourselves. And it was quite a hard thing to do, because it was really loved the first one. And so we really gave ourselves a tough job. But you know, it took us about two years to write it. And I think we put in a lot of effort. So it was nice to see it sort of come off. Maybe that's just how long you need to spend writing films.
disappointment: Well, like Paddington 2, I would say The Phantom of the Open is like this heartwarming, crowd pleasing, inspiring story. What stands out about these types of stories to you?
Roberts: Well, for me, it's escapism, isn't it? That's the important thing. I think cinema at its core, sure, should reflect society and all that stuff. But I go to the cinema to escape and to feel good. It's the kind of the Spielberg/Kubrick debate where you can go to a Kubrick movie and come out questioning the world and yourself, or you got to a Spielberg movie and come out and feel great and warm. And at this time in my life, I want to feel warm. And I think that's what's important.
Farnaby: Yeah, and I like characters that sort of reflect our fears, but don't have the same sort of reactions to them. For example, you know, I think we're all slightly frightened of failure, you know. And I say this to my daughter who's eight all the time, she tries things and is sort of scared to fail. And it's really important to go, it doesn't really matter if you fail, or like, somebody said, "Failing is success, part one," or something I don't know. I think I just said it, I forgot the quote. Craig and I even talked about The Big Lebowski, we both love The Big Lebowski, and that's got bowling in it, and this does golf. And as a character, he's sort of confident in his own lifestyle. And is fine with it, you know, and Maurice just went for it. He had this character that was like, "I'm gonna take my dream, and I'm gonna go for it, no matter what people think of me." And that's something that I think we like to see, you know, because we're so frightened of it ourselves. And we like to see people doing that and we can laugh and cry at that person, because it's a real hero's effort to do that, you know? Whereas most of us just go, "I'm not going to try anything in case I fail."
On Executing the Film
disappointment: Mr. Farnaby, you adapted the script from the book that you co-wrote, what was that process like for you?
Farnaby: Yeah, it was fine. Because I'd written the screenplay before I wrote the book, actually, and the screenplay was not very good. And then I did the book. You know, everyone should write a biography first, if they're gonna do a screenplay, because you just find out so much stuff. You know, you've got to do 50,000 words on one person. And then it's just a case of, I call it kind of like curating those elements into what I know about crafting screenplays. So it's actually a much easier process than doing straight fiction, which can go in any direction. And you just have to keep going down blind alleys. But this had lots of elements. I mean, the main difference to the bullshit screenplay I wrote, and the final one was, was finding an ending, because it's quite hard to write a sports movie where the person doesn't get any better at the sport. But what he does is find success in another way. And his sort of trip to the USA, was something that nobody knew about. It wasn't in the obituaries. And it wasn't in the newspapers. And that was all from digging in and going and doing research. And that gave us the end to the movie without giving too much away. Yeah, like you say it was once I'd sort of gone through the pain of researching and writing the book, the screenplay was fairly straightforward.
disappointment: I want to talk a little bit about the dream sequences in the film. I thought they were gorgeous. What went into creating those?
Roberts: Well, they were there already to be honest, they were in the script. The whole Starry Night aspect of it was there. So it was basically finding a good team that could execute it and bring that to life. And finding the right color palette for it all really. It was important, I think the escapism of it all. He wanted to, you know, to break out and do something that the people were telling him he couldn't do. So I think they're important to have in there. And when I read it, that's what really attracted me to the script. It kind of felt like The Big Lebowski, him walking up the steps. So that was really fun.
Farnaby: Yeah, I mean, Craig's being very modest. I wrote those because I wanted them and it was like a Billy Liar type thing. But that's why I'm not a director, because I wouldn't have had a clue. I was like, that's what I want. There's a dream sequence. But I didn't have a clue how to do it and actually created it brilliantly. I mean, even when he's on the tee and he hits his shot. And you see it from the ball's eye point of view. I was like, I have no idea how I was gonna do this, but I believe Craig pioneered a new type of shot, right?
Roberts: I didn't need to, I took it.
Farnaby: Oh you stole it?
Roberts: Yeah, from Simon's favorite film. I took it from Happy Gilmore. [They laugh]
The Phantom of the Open hits theaters on June 3.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy, two of the minds behind Bojack Horseman, Undone is a fascinating sci-fi adult animation show on Prime Video. Season one posed some interesting questions, and now season two expands upon them in thought-provoking ways you wouldn’t expect.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Rosa Salazar, lead actress and producer of season two of the show, also known for starring in fan-favorite Alita: Battle Angel. In the interview, we talk about acting for performance capture, the complex themes of the series, and more. Check it out below!
On Working With Performance Capture
disappointment media: So you've done quite a bit of work at this point with motion capture performances. What about motion capture performances do you like working with?
Rosa Salazar: So Jon Landau, who produced Alita who's just like an OG producer, would kill me, if I said motion capture. [She laughs.] I'd get a stern phone call. "It's performance capture!" That's what he would yell at me on the phone. It's been drilled into my head at this point. So performance capture is what I did on Alita and rotoscope animation, I would call it also performance capture. It is more motion capture than performance capture, because they don't have two high definition cameras five inches from my face. But what I love about acting, and then grouping that work with CGI artists, rotoscope animators, and traditional animators is that I get to exist freely. Those two methods are incredibly different: performance capture for Alita and rotoscope animation, the acting is very, very, very different. For Undone, it's so amazing, because we don't have makeup touches. We don't have someone coming in and straightening out your shirt. We're not worried about the wrinkles on your shirt, or the unkemptness of your hair. We don't have a lot of wardrobe changes because it is a cartoon, after all, a cartoon closet. We wear the same thing every day. There's no major light changes. There aren't incredibly intricate camera changes. So you are totally free to exist within the moment. And with rotoscope animation, it's incredibly challenging physically, emotionally, mentally. Just to compare, on something like Alita, it's such a behemoth. It's such a slow moving beast, you have a lot of technology, people running around doing certain things, you have major changes in camera and location, and you have a lot going on. So you have a lot of downtime. Something like Undone, you have zero downtime. You never sit in your cast chair, you have a 30 minute lunch, and you go right back to work. And when you are working, you are working. On something like Alita, maybe you do an eighth of a page, four pages, and that's working with someone like Robert Rodriguez, who knows exactly what he needs, doesn't waste time. And on something like Undone, you could shoot anywhere from 10 to 20 pages a day. So on any given day, you can go on an emotional roller coaster of breaking up with your boyfriend, seeing your dead father, having a falling out with your sister, having a falling out with your mother, getting into a car accident, seeing the expanse of the universe, all in one workday. When you go to your job, do you have to do such a crazy emotional upheaval day after day after day? I mean, it's incredibly challenging. And because we have no downtime, you are working at a rapid clip. So that's what I love about it. I love that it's uninterrupted. So you're really in the flow, and you really get to this meditative state with it, and it's just divine.
disappointment: So in interviews for season one, you talked about some of the challenges of shooting that performance capture type performance in the rooms of green screens. Was it any easier or different to approach Season Two after having the experience of season one under your belt?
Salazar: Yes, it was different. So Hisko Hulsing, who is the amazing director behind Undone, puts it the best way. He's like, "Season one, it was like no one really knew what we were doing yet. We were building a car while learning to drive it." And then it came out, it was very special. We're like, "Okay, we got this!' And then season two, he's like, "Man, now we have a Maserati. Let's put the top down and put it on cruise control!" And then the pandemic hit. So we had to, you know, build a new car. So It was different doing season two, even though we had all of this intelligence that we accrued from doing season one, we had to bob and weave with the changing landscape of time. We had to be fluid, but that is the nature of Undone is sort of learning how to drive the car while you're building it anyway. So even the education in doing that, and doing the unknown really dovetails nicely into the work itself. Now with COVID and season two, things changed dramatically. We were stripped down from like 20 people on set to around six to eight people on set. We had just the actors, the cameraman, our AD, Patrick Metcalf. All of our producers and our directors and our animators were on Zoom. We had our COVID Officer, Ron — shout out to Ron, he was awesome. And that was it. And it was me and Angelique [Cabral] mainly on the set, just us and so it created a more intimate vibe, and honestly, I think, more efficient vibe. Because you don't have people walking in and out of the room. It was like a pressure cooker. But having done season one, we could do season two, had we not done season one? I'm sure we could have pulled it off, but it would have been a lot more of an endeavor.
On How This Season Takes The Show Further
disappointment: You mentioned the intimacy, I really felt this in the new season, how it kind of expands upon these themes that are very tender themes like mental health, generational trauma. Why do you think it's important for these themes to be discussed in projects like this?
Salazar: Catharsis. That's why it's important: catharsis. Very plainly put, to tell other people that you are not alone, that this is a human condition. And we take it a step further and say, even if you could go back in time, yesterday, last month, three years ago, all the way back to, let's say, my father's father's father, an indigenous man in Peru, and you could go all the way back, the same problems would persist. It is a human condition, no matter how far back, no matter the context, no matter the time period. It's important to remind people that we're human, that we're fallible, that we have secrets, that we make decisions, that we make choices and our choices, whether the intention is good, or what have you, those are choices that are made for a reason. And I think it's important to talk about things like choices because people spend a lot of time and regret, and shame and guilt. And I think it's important to highlight that we're all just doing our damn best out here. And when we talk about things like mental illness, I think it's incredibly important. Look at the way we talk about Kanye West. Look at the horrible way we talk about a man who is openly unwell. We call him crazy, we call him insane, then we will turn around call him a genius and the greatest of all time, but then we make fun of him for having very public mental breakdowns. The conversation, I can't believe it, is just beginning around mental health, mental illness, and it's just really, really important that we discuss it in general. I can't believe it still has a taboo around it when most of us suffer. And I think it's important to show a character like this, who is mixed race, who is a woman dealing with some sort of behavioral illness. I mean, we're still on the fence, right? Is she unwell or does she have shamanic abilities? We're still asking that question and to me, in my opinion, It's somewhere in the middle, like it's a combination of the two. I love that Undone forces these questions. Maybe you can't have one without the other. We talk about Kanye again. Maybe you can't have this genius without some level of like, if you can perceive so much more, if you can see more and feel more, then wouldn't that lend itself to a creative brain? Or can we be well and still have this magic? And I think we're still scratching the surface of that question, not even the answer in Undone. And that's what I love about it. And that's why it's so important, because it really isn't about answering the question. It isn't really isn't about being like, "And this is mental illness, educationally." It's more about being curious.
disappointment: So for season two, you also served as a producer on Undone. What kind of inspired you to take this step into being a producer in addition to starring in the show for the second season?
Salazar: Well, I think speaking of representation, I think it's incredibly important when you have a Latin female lead of a show going into its second season, knowing all of the work that you already put in as the lead of a show, to get recognition for that was a huge boon for me. And also just mad respect for Amazon, mad respect for Tornante, and all of the producers in the team for recognizing the hard work that leads of a show do. I mean, you are the anchor to the ship, and as a lead, you are already doing so much. So it was a big, big sign of respect from Amazon, and I can't thank them enough for recognizing that work and for really putting their money where their mouth is, and being like, here's someone we absolutely respect, who does great work for us. I do go above and beyond and they're like, "And you should be recognized for that." So it was really Amazon who did that. I may be freelance as an actor, but I'm not someone who just rocks into work and is like, "Hey, what's up," like, I really throw my entire self and body into it. And so that was really Amazon, recognizing that and saying, "You deserve this." And it's incredibly important to, to represent that. this is totally off, you know, topic, but when I was watching Only Murders in the Building, to see executive producer Selena Gomez made me cry every time. I mean, it's incredibly important. And it affects me and I'm in this business working at a high level and when I see that, I get really inspired.
Season 2 of Undone streams on Amazon Prime beginning April 29.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Filmmaker Riley Stearns’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed dark comedy The Art of Self-Defense, the sci-fi comedy Dual debuted at this year’s Sundance film festival. It stars Karen Gillan as a woman who has a double made of herself when she is diagnosed with a terminal illness, only for her to make a miraculous recovery and have to fight her clone in a duel to the death to determine which of them gets to continue to live.
New Zealander actor Beulah Koale (Hawaii Five-O) co-stars in the film as the boyfriend of Gillan’s characters, getting some unexpectedly hilarious moments to play with. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to talk with Koale about his role in the film and what he would do if he found himself in Stearns’s uncanny sci-fi world.
On What Drew Him to Dual
disappointment: So Dual is your first major foray into the sci-fi genre. I mean, you could kind of count Shadow in the Cloud, but that's set more in the past, versus this is like in the near future. What drew you to the sci-fi genre?
Koale: What drew me is mainly fear. Because I'm not very comfortable in that genre, or comedy genre as well. So yeah, when I'm scared of something, I always run towards it. It's a rule that I have for myself. So that's what initially drew me to work towards it. And then seeing that Riley [Stearns] was doing it and seeing his films from before, I was super attracted to that. I wanted to work with him because he has a very particular way of seeing the world through his eyes and only he can do it. That style that Riley has, it's very Riley Stearns, it was a challenge in itself. A great challenge
disappointment: You mentioned how it's also a deadpan comedy. What do you think was the challenge and also the reward of dealing with this deadpan style of humor in the script?
Koale: Yeah, it is both a challenge and reward because it's kinda like walking into a new dojo, turning up to the Master's house and learning a new technique. And the tricks that I learned from the other directors don't really work here — it doesn't work at all. And Riley, puts you in a very vulnerable place. Because you think you have it all figured out, then you turn up to this and you're like, "Nah, man, none of those tricks work. Just say the words and connect with the other actor." And it was such a great experience, just being in that vulnerable spot. Every time he called cut, I wouldn't know how to feel. Like I felt like it went well. But then I also didn't know because I wasn't used to it, so I just looked over to the monitor and was like, "Was that it?" And Riley would be like "Perfect. That's it," and I was like, "Okay man."
On the World of Dual
disappointment: If you found yourself in a situation where you were terminally ill, would you want to have a double of yourself?
Koale: I probably wouldn't. Because I feel like I'd suffer from a very severe case of FOMO, even if I'm dead. Like, imagine being on your deathbed looking up and your family standing over you crying while your clone is standing there behind you like, "Yeah, come on, buddy. Can't wait for you to go." It would be weird.
disappointment: But say that you did make a miraculous recovery like Karen Gillan's character does in the film, and you had to do a duel to the death. What weapon do you think you would choose?
Koale: I would love to just like fight him with my bare hands. Fight myself, and just be like, "Alright, buddy, let's just stand in the middle of the field and see who wins." You know, that would be my most preferred option. I think the audience would love it. Like, isn't it crazy in that world, that's just like another Saturday night football match? You know, just like everyone's in the audience, "Oh, here we go. Another fight to the death. Let's see how it goes." I feel like I would bring some excitement. You know, we're using no weapons and just see who wins in the end?
disappointment: Yeah, I think that would be fun in a kind-of macabre way.
Koale: Yeah, it's pretty dark. [He laughs.]
On Making Dual
disappointment: You co-star in the film with Karen Gillan, who's obviously great in the film, but she's basically giving two distinct performances. What was it like acting alongside someone who was doing that, with two sides?
Koale: Yeah, for me, it was very easy because I just had to act against what felt like two different people. For Karen. It was great to like, being on the outside watching her trying to figure it out. Because when she was acting opposite herself, she had to know how she was going to react to herself. So she had to have it pre-planned. So it was very interesting watching from the outside, watching Karen figure this out and logistically work it all out. But, man, I just love acting. So it just meant I got to have twice the fun in one film.
disappointment: So what would you say was your favorite scene that you had in the film?
Koale: The favorite scene for me personally from the film is definitely that Aaron Paul and Karen Gillan dance-off. When they do that little dance routine, that destroys me every time. Favorite one to shoot... There's a particular scene where me and Karen are sitting down at a diner and I'm apologizing to her, you know, for kind of taking sides of the other Sarah. And in the background, you see the trees going. And we didn't have a wind machine, but when all the chaos in the words, and what's happening, in the subtext, you see the trees just start going crazy in the background, and I was like, "Whoa, that's art. That's why I do this job right there when you get those magic moments.”
disappointment: I think that one of my favorite scenes that you had in the film was the scene after you are with Sarah's double at Sarah's mom's house and then you guys go outside and have that argument. How many takes did it take for you to nail the inflection joke?
Koale: It took me a couple, man. It took me a couple of takes because, you know, I didn't know how to do it. And Riley was kind of like, teaching us and I was like, "Just say it how you want it to be said, dude." And you know, I can't do exactly what Riley does, because I'm me as well. So it did take me a couple. But I know that line, it always gets me, "She says, 'Peter,' [higher] and you say 'Peter,' [lower]," It kills you because it's true as well. You know, when someone says your name in a particular way, it hits you differently. Like, "I liked that. I liked the way you say my name."
disappointment: This film as a whole is definitely a lot less serious than a lot of other films and shows that you have appeared in the past. Did you approach this differently than some of your more serious performances?
Koale: I approach all films exactly the same with a clean slate, and then I figure it out from when I start prepping. And yeah, this film in particular, I had to put a lot of trust in Riley because he knew what he wanted. So I trusted that the advice he was giving me was what was right for the film, which, you know, was right because the thing went to Sundance and it's a great film. And if anything, I took away a new bag of tricks for myself. And you know, I enjoy this comedy deadpan world, you know. I was scared of it initially, but now, I hope to do more of it. Because there's so much more that you can find in comedy, that type of comedy that you can hide things under and I feel more vulnerable and doing comedy sci-fi than doing a drama in a weird way.
Dual is now in theaters and streams on AMC+ beginning May 20.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Nadav Lapid’s films play an interesting balancing act: impassioned yet not excessively overt, artistic but not inaccessible, and political while still being thoroughly empathetic. He truly is one of the best, most personal filmmakers working today, and his latest film, Ahed’s Knee, is one of his angriest and most intimate yet. We at disappointment media had the opportunity to talk with Lapid about his film and style. Check out the interview below!
On Ahed's Knee
disappointment media: What stood out to you about Ahed Tamini’s story as the perfect bookends for this story?
Nadav Lapid: I thought that you see so many movies about poets and you never hear their poems and painters and you never see their paintings and I thought it an interesting way, you know, to get to know the essence of this guy, the film director, by casting scene for project, a film that probably will never be shot. There's something in the Ahed Tamini case you know, that is really kind of the meeting point between something that, on one hand is extremely concrete and political and relevant and something that comes from the here and now, and on the other hand, you know, there's something about Ahed Tamini that I told myself that if she would have lived in the I don't know, in the 15th century, it would have become like, I think, extremely desirable topic for painters like Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael and whoever, because because there was something so iconic about it, something majestic about it. If you freeze this video, seeing her facing the armed soldier, you dive in a second into the world of myths and legends and something that goes beyond a village in the West Bank and Israeli occupation. It's kind of a meeting point between liberty of speech, the Government of Israel, you know. And then the movie ends with the Earth seen from the sky, something that looks at the history of mankind, at human fate, human destiny, the state of the human. Something that is all the time in the extreme close up and extreme long shot.
disappointment: So obviously, the film says a lot about censorship. Why are you especially interested in the topic of censorship in Israel?
Lapid: First of all, I don't know if I'm especially passionate about the topic of censorship. I'm sure that I'm especially passionate, or that I'm eager to dig inside this material that I identify as the Israeli collective soul or as the DNA of this society. And all sorts of angles, you know, and censorship is one of them. I think that in my previous movies, there was all the time this verbal obsession, the place of words, and in a way, this desire to say things as they are, to name things by their true names. And this belief that by naming something, you can redeem it, or you can save it, or you can redeem yourself, or you can change the course of things, etc. And I think that there's something in this act of censorship, I mean, especially the way that it's in the movie. I mean, actually, they tell him, "You can use only the words that we give you. The words that you want to use, you can't use them. You can use only the words that you don't want to use. And of these words, you can say whatever you want, but we are going to give you the bank of words." And in a way, his project is trying to crush it, to reject it exactly by using his words and by using all the words. His obsession for details, for saying everything, I think it's really based on this anti-censorship thing, on saying everything excessively, or this feeling that only saying everything can tell the thing as it is.
disappointment: I thought that it was really interesting in the film that neither of the main characters was really a hero, and neither was really a villain. It's kind of a lot more complex than that. Can you kind of speak to that?
Lapid: Yeah, I think first of all, that in a way, sick societies give you only bad choices. I mean, it's a little bit like in this fable that he's telling about the military service, the torture victim, and the one who observed from a distance. In a way one can't tell if he was this one, this one because one can guess that, at the end, we are all composed of all these aspects. So, in a limited similar way in the movie, you know, you have only bad choices. You can make the noble choice, to be the one who resists, the one who fights, the one who rejects, the one who is opposed. But then, you know, you think about it humanly, you do it for one year, two years, 10 years, 20 years, your entire life, just at the moment, of course, you start to reject everything. I mean fighting all your life against monsters then turns in your head, everyone to a monster and then yourself, you become a monster. You have the feeling that everyone is an enemy, that everyone is hostile, and you lose very quickly the basic human empathy towards the other, the basic human connection. So being for too long right, feeling that all the others are wrong, can easily turn you into a terrible person. And it makes you exhausted and it makes you impatient and aggressive. And at the end, in a way, you're sick, or you get exactly the same diseases that you're trying to heal. So this is one choice and the other choice is to be positive, you know, to believe that you can change things, to believe in the people, to be enthusiastic, to believe that you can work inside the system, to be vividly devoted, like this girl, you know, full with energy, devoted so much to her vision of spreading art. The only thing that she has to sign is the small agreement with the devil. She can do whatever she wants, she just has to make people sign these forms. And she just should turn her eyes when she's doing something that deep inside she knows is wrong. So that's why in a way you can be the human kind and nice collaborator or the arrogant and aggressive and hostile resistant. Both in a way, are bad choices.
On Making Films in Today's Climate
disappointment: So you mentioned part of the film is about spreading art to and culture to remote areas that otherwise wouldn't get to see this type of challenging art. How do you think that people can help bring this type of challenging art to those people who wouldn't be exposed to it?
Lapid: My movies, I don't know if they are complicated, but I always want to believe that they are not snobbish. I mean, they are not snobbish because I think that, you know, snobbish filmmakers, they put intention in leaving all sorts of barriers, in order that only a very narrow club could get in. A little bit like a fancy party in Cannes, you know. I truly believe that my movies are aimed at each and every human being, because they talk in a way about each and every human being and about things that are inside all of us. Of course, I use formal tools and strategies that maybe are not very recurrent in most movies. But you know, I mean, sometimes you feel that today, the worst thing they can say about your movie is that it's extremely original. But I would say I don't understand filmmakers who don't like adventures, who don't like cinematic adventures, And even more, I can't understand filmmakers who invest time and energy in developing the script and working with the actors, but don't look for their own form. The special form of their movie. For me, it's as if you write the most intimate and personal love letter or suicide letter, and you find the form on Google. So I tend to believe that these singular formalistic elements of my movies, turn them at the end more communicative because I think they turn them less objective, less cold, and more true and personal. But of course, you know that in a universe, where people are inundated by a kind of formatted art, every difference is a barrier, is an obstacle. And talking now a little bit about the sociology of art, I think there is this middle class that once felt obliged to know the key authors and the key pieces of art in a lot of domains, but let's say in cinema, whether they like them more or like them less but but it was a part of, of almost of being a member in a certain circle of society. Today, a lot of this middle class became totally indifferent to cinema, especially to everything that is in any way demanding. I don't know, maybe they like restaurants. But it's not like you know, I have magical solutions. I mean, Godard once called himself a successful director of unsuccessful movies. The only thing I can do is to try to keep on talking in the most honest way I know about existence and to hope that there will be as many people as possible, that it will really count that what I do is really count for them. I also think that we tend to count numbers, numbers of spectators, numbers of tickets. Okay, which is a certain criteria, but people ignore parallel criteria, which is to which extent people were shaken at what they saw, which was important. If 1000 people fill the theater to watch your movie, and 100 hated it, but 900 out of them thought the movie was really nice and will totally forget it when they get to the parking lot. So according to certain criterias it's great, because you filled the theater, but what exactly does it mean? I do feel that, you know, beyond numbers, there is our group of people that this cinema talks to in a very intimate way.
disappointment: So, the politics in your films are definitely very nuanced. I mean, you have this complex relationship with Israel in your films where it is critical of them, but it's also a love letter to Israel in some ways. How do you think this has evolved through your filmography?
Lapid: I think it became more and more frontal and naked, in a way. I mean, they don't have the desire or the energy to faint. And to use all sorts of formulas, and something very raw, very frontal, and very direct. They need less and less detours. I have less and less patience for this round, elaborated script that will give you the excuse to get to a certain point and I'm more and more fascinated by the cinematic gestures that contain the truth inside it. And this is also on the political aspect. Afterwards of course, in a way more frontal, more brutal, more direct, strangely enough it becomes complex because it also exposes its opposite. I mean, you know, when you shout and curse with so much enthusiasm, of course, you also reveal a huge intimacy.
Ahed’s Knee is now playing in theaters.
Interview by Sean Boelman
There is no doubt that Halo is one of the most beloved video game franchises ever. As a result, the new series, which debuts on Paramount+ on March 24, was one of the hottest streaming prospects of the year. Made with fans in mind but also accessible to those who don't have any experience playing the games, it's a sci-fi epic for the ages, and something that viewers are going to want to stream week after week.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to interview the cast of the series timed to its premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. First, we speak with actor Pablo Schreiber, who plays the series's iconic protagonist Master Chief, about the tremendous responsibility it was to take on the mantle. We also got to speak with newcomer Yerin Ha, who plays original character Quan Ah, and Jen Taylor, who reprises her voice acting role as Cortana (albeit in live action), about how they hope their characters can inspire young women who watch the show.
Check out the interview below and be sure to watch Halo, streaming on Paramount+ beginning March 24.
Interview by Sean Boelman
When one thinks of the most legendary character actors working today, the name Udo Kier should immediately come to mind. Boasting an impressively large and diverse filmography, Kier is just as known for his off-the-wall and crazy bit parts as he is for his supporting roles in films by auteurs such as Lars von Trier and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
His newest role, in Carlson Young’s twisted Alice in Wonderland-like fantasy The Blazing World, sees him more in the former category as this film’s White Rabbit. We at disappointment media had the opportunity to sit down with the iconic actor and have a conversation about the role in the film, in addition to his career as a whole. Check out the interview below!
disappointment media: You currently have 270 credits and counting on your resume. How do you keep up such an impressive output?
Udo Kier: Well, modern technology knows more about me than I do. I don't count my films. And when I talk to journalists, they always say, "It's almost 300 films," and I say, "Yes, 100 films are bad, 50 films you can watch with some good wine, and 50 films are good." And, you know, I think I did only with Lars von Trier, I did 10 films or 12, Fassbinder, and all. So there are good films, but, you know, as an actor, unless it's a director like David Lynch, you know, I'm a very lucky man, that I work with many people like Wim Wenders, like Werner Herzog, like Lars von Trier, they cannot make a bad film. They can only make a film people don't like, but it doesn't mean that it's a bad film. But there are directors who will tell you wonderful stories. And then you start working with them. And you feel something is not in my direction, and then you still have to make the film. And there are films I did I have never seen because I didn't have a good time making it. So why should I go and depress myself in the theater? So you never know.
disappointment: So you mentioned that you've worked with many accomplished filmmakers, but you also leave time for up and coming filmmakers like Carlson Young of The Blazing World. What do you like about working with new talent like this?
Kier: Because they have talent. You see, I myself, I have never been to acting school. And I became a professor. And the thing that I say to my students, when we had a speech, I always said, "Talent is something you cannot learn. You can learn a technique, but you cannot learn talent," which is true, then it comes to question about his style, how much you want. When Carson sent me the script, and the producer, I said, "Okay, I read it twice." You see, when I get a script, I read first my role only. And if it's interesting, then I read the whole script with my role in it. And if I'm not necessary to be there, it doesn't change the story, why should I be in the movie? So I read it twice. I liked it. And I said, "Let's meet." And we talked and spent the afternoon together, she came with the producer. And I liked her, I liked her energy. And I understood very quickly that she was not really out to make a short film, which she did, but she got her attention. People saw it, and then she found the money to make the feature film, which she had planned all the time. She hadn't planned to make a short film and then was a success, and made a feature film. So I liked her. The same thing happened to me with Todd Stephens for Swan Song. I read, he came here. We talked one afternoon, and we had details, and I made the film. So talent, I like because I know from the past, in more than 50 years, the internet knows more than I do about my life. I must say I prefer independent films. I mean, I made Blade, I made Armageddon. Imagine if I would have gone to the director and would have said, "I have an idea." They would have said "What? You have a script? What idea?" But when you are making independent films, you become as an actor, you become part of the creation also. And Blazing World it was like, I know it was fantasy and she chose me to be her fantasy. That was really a compliment, she could have asked a lot of actors. But she wanted me to be cast standing by the water, just go with my finger, "Come, come." And I liked when I went there, what was very important, I hadn't made any films because of the virus. And they guaranteed me it was 100% safe, which it was. Not 100%, let's say 90. But I went there to Texas. They tested me, I had to wait till the next morning, there was a property, a farm where everybody was staying. The food came three times a day, nobody was allowed to leave. And everybody was living there. And we made the film. And she was amazing. A young, delicate, young girl able to write, direct, star in it, and be there and listen to the actors and she's very, very creative. And that's why I'm very happy that I did the movie because she's very talented.
disappointment: You mentioned how some of your scenes in The Blazing World don't have much dialogue. What is either the challenge or the reward in acting scenes like this?
Kier: Well, you're making me a compliment, of course, I have enough possibilities to express myself without text. Text is just there to undermine something. You know, you can say, "Oh, I'm hungry." As you can also say, "Ahh, ahh, food! Food!" You know you can have your fantasy to go either direction. I don't need text as much. It's like Lars von Trier tells everybody, "Don't act." I mean, I made films with Lars where we had our self service table with Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, James Caan, Nicole Kidman, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgård, and Lars comes up to us and says, "And don't forget, don't act." You see, it is like you don't need text. Sometimes actors they love text, I won't mention any names, and start with the back to the camera by the chimney and then they'll turn a little round and talk to the floor. And finally they come up and I always call them another Oscar speech.
disappointment: So what is different in your approach of how you act in certain arthouse dramas like what you've done with Lars von Trier versus fantasy movies like The Blazing World?
Kier: I prefer, of course, the fantasy because I can use my fantasy. If some director like Lars, a great director and friend, I'm the godfather of his first child and we made our first movie several years ago, but I know he doesn't like us to act. To do a drama. We just be there and have a good script and a good situation and we talk. But personally, when I did John Carpenter's film, you know and opened my stomach at the end and put my insides into the projector, like a sausage factory. I like that. Because it's so ridiculous. But you know, I don't play as ridiculous. And I don't think it's ridiculous. I think it's, you know, a person with a special mind.
disappointment: So you mentioned a bit earlier how you like to take these roles that are pivotal, but small? How do you make these turns so memorable?
Kier: Because the way I talk. You know, I always say, there is a way when you play a killer, you have a gun, and then you look at your partner, shoot. But I wouldn't do that. I prefer, if the director allows it, that the gun is in front of me. And I clean my fingernails and I say, "When I'm done, I'm going to kill you. Are you happy with your hair?" BANG! And people say, "That was evil!" To kill somebody is evil one way or the other. So now it's like, I read the roles. I mean, I in Johnny Mnemoic played the boss of Keanu Reeves, Ralfi. And, you know, then the Chinese people come and kill me. When you play, in short roles or small roles, not long on screen, it's very hard to keep the memory. For example, now with Swan Song, my life has changed. To get a page in the New York Times, writing, "On top after 50 years, Udo Kier finally becomes a leading man." And I was thinking, "Were they right? I made so many movies," but I had never been a lead in America. I had the lead in Germany with Dracula and Frankenstein, but never in an American production. And I was thinking why? And I know why. Because the people start with you and follow you till the end. Yeah, when I showed Swan Song, I hope people can tell me "Oh, you made us cry, you made us laugh," because they follow the personality. Or you have fantasy roles, like in The Blazing World, which are totally crazy. And he sings a song, "There are three keys. You have to open each one. But I'll tell you, they're not as nice to you as I am." You know, it's fun. And that's why when I do even commercial movies like Blade, that my teeth are going to be pulled out and I'm going to be exploding in the sun. And I said, "Great! What a great way of leaving a movie." So it's as always, I look for something interesting. I wouldn't do a movie where it's a boring part. I wouldn't do that. Never. Because especially now I'm getting older. Next week is my birthday. 77. Lucky number. I'm born on the 14th of October, two times seven is 14. So and, you know at the moment, I'm in Hunters, with Al Pacino, in eight episodes, I'm in six, and I'm still working on it. I'm flying next week to Prague to shoot three weeks and then I'm done. And so there you have it.
disappointment: Well thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed speaking with you and I can't wait to see 270 more movies from you!
Kier: I know that's not going to happen, but I'm looking, because time is money, and time is to sin. I'm looking for something now for the next couple of years, which really nobody has seen. I want to, will I be able? I cannot answer that question, but I want to do something amazing. Really amazing.
The Blazing World is now in theaters and on VOD.
Interview by Sean Boelman
Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi is having quite the year, with two films having toured nearly the entirety of the festival circuit. The first, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, debuted at Berlinale and is an anthology drama centering around the idea of coincidences in relationships. The other, Drive My Car, is adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami and won the best screenplay prize at Cannes. They are two very different but both wonderful films, and we had the pleasure of talking with the director about them. Check out our interview below!
On Drive My Car
disappointment media: What stood out to you about Murakami's writing and this story in particular
Ryusuke Hamaguchi: I can say there are mainly three things. The first one being that there are conversations that are happening inside a car. And I think this is related to the appeal of the characters themselves. These characters often are very internalized in their feelings. But through their conversations, through the time spent in the car, they start to get closer to each other. And I felt that this kind of relationship and the depiction of the relationship makes it easier to turn and adapt into a film. The second reason is a conflict with the character being an actor. And you know acting and performance is a theme that I've always dealt with in a lot of my films, so I felt very attracted to it. The third is the text, the dialogue that Takatsuki has in the original in which he says that in order to know oneself better, you need to face the other person directly. And that text from the original was something that personally moved me and I felt very convinced by that story and to me it was one of the cores of the story and I wanted to directly include it in my film.
disappointment: Even though the film is based on a short story the runtime is nearly three hours How did you find so much depth and detail in the source material?
Hamaguchi: So I think the answer to that question is related again to the characters which are Kafuku and Misaki. I really like both of these characters that are in the original. They're both characters who don't often make their emotions apparent. However, when they do say something about their emotions, it's very honest. And that's something that really struck me about the original. However, in the original story, I felt that where these two characters end up at the end of the story felt incomplete. I wanted to see where they actually do end up. And so when I was thinking about trying to get them to a certain destination, a certain place that felt more complete, it just ended up taking this long.
disappointment: So one of the highlights of Drive My Car is the cast. How did you work with the actors to deliver such emotional performances?
Hamaguchi: I think one major thing here is to choose the right cast to begin with. The performers who played the main characters, Mr. Nishijima and Miss Miura, both of them are wonderful actors. And it was also very delightful to be able to work with wonderful actors who also fit the side characters. I felt that something about the humanity that these casts brought to the character connected a lot with what I was trying to depict. And I think they all personally just gave depth to the characters to begin with. So you know, once I know that I'm working with a wonderful cast, my job I believe is to create an environment where they can all feel safe to perform, I see that as my number one job so that the performers can bring their best. And if I can actually provide that kind of environment, I know that my cast, the performers will do a wonderful job. And in order to create that I tried to have as much time to rehearse. And I believe one of the most important fears or worries that an actor can have is not knowing enough about the characters. And that creates a lot of worry. And so in order to try to get rid of that worry, the two things that I do are readings, but also giving backstory. So in terms of the reading, what we do is we have the actors read the dialogue, the script many times over and over and over without emotion until we get to the point where the dialogue comes out automatically. And once the actors are able to do that, when they're actually performing in front of the camera, they can really look at each other and it makes it easier for them to show emotion and think about other things. And regarding my point about backstory, it's so that I can give past relationships to the characters that are present. What I do is write a very simple script about the backstory. And even though in rehearsals we're just doing the script reading, what we sometimes do is to act out those backstory scripts. And what that allows is to give the roles sort of a memory through that relationship that was caused through those rehearsals of doing the backstories and that way, when they actually are on set and doing the main script, even though they had been reading that dialogue without emotions previously, once they're in front of the camera, they can sort of derive a natural emotion because they have this past memory from acting out the backstory. And I think that allows for a real emotional performance to come through.
On Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
disappointment: What was the challenge of creating a film out of three thematically connected stories?
Hamaguchi: So I would say making these three short stories was actually a rather smooth process. If I were to talk about some challenges, I mean obviously there are challenges to making any film, but the thing about Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is that each production of each story was at a very small scale. And to be working at a small scale meant that it allows for the safety to spend a lot of time to make the film. Which for me also meant that there is more time to rehearse, and so with Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, this isn't necessarily a challenge but what it allowed me to do was to test out what it can mean to have more time to rehearse.
disappointment: So Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy has a humor to it. Why do you think this was important for this film?
Hamaguchi: I'm really grateful that you mentioned humor in my films, mainly because I'm always thinking about humor to be part of my films. But I think the fact that the theme of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is coincidence really allows and makes room for humor to enter the work. Working with this idea of coincidence is a really strange existence within this framework of storytelling, mainly because coincidence itself exists outside of the logic of cause and effect, in some ways, is this very alien thing that is suddenly appearing into the story. And it has the power and the ability to change where the direction of the story is going. It can suddenly swerve the direction of the story. And I think that can actually lead to humor in itself. But when working with coincidences, I think it's not possible to just do that, because I feel like it's more because then the audience to the audience coincidences can be a reason for something to seem quite unbelievable. However, the Japanese title of this film is directly translated to be "Coincidence and Imagination". And so I had the title include coincidence, and I think that allows for the audience to be more open and accepting of the fact that coincidences will happen in the story. And again, I think this really also leads to a humorous element.
disappointment: So the second episode discusses the idea of story structure which is something that the film as a whole experiments with. Why do you like subverting expectations for storytelling?
Hamaguchi: Doing this where I have three different stories but then turning it into one film was a challenge in itself but also joyous at the same time. And I thought it was okay to have three very different stories, but I did want people to also come out of the theater feeling that they watched one film. So in that sense, I was very aware about the structure of the film in its entirety. In terms of the first story, I kind of saw it as an entry point. So the first story has a very understandable, very simple triangular relationship structure that's there. I would say maybe the end of the first story is the most ambiguous out of the three. That said, with the second and third stories, I was sort of pushing on the idea of testing out this idea of coincidence further in both the second and the third film, Regarding the second film, coincidence ends up bringing on a very bad result for the characters on the in the third film, however, the coincidence leads to a happy incident, happy feelings. And so if I had flipped that order of what you come out of with the two stories, I felt that the audience would be coming out of the theater feeling quite disgruntled. And I really wanted the audience to come out of the film feeling something happy.
Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy are screening at the 2021 New York Film Festival. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy opens in theaters on October 15 and Drive My Car opens in theaters on November 24.
Interview by Sean Boelman
A partnership between Amazon Studios and Blumhouse, Welcome to the Blumhouse is a horror anthology containing four feature-length seasons each class, all made by underrepresented filmmakers. One of the films in this year’s batch is Bingo Hell, a Latina-led horror film about a group of senior citizens banding together against a mysterious outsider who takes over their beloved bingo hall. We at disappointment media had the chance to speak with the co-writer and director of the film, Gigi Saul Guerrero, about her influences and working with some of the greatest people in the business. Check out our interview below and be sure to watch Bingo Hell and the rest of the Welcome to the Blumhouse films!
On Concocting Bingo Hell
disappointment media: In Bingo Hell, there are messages about a community being torn apart by gentrification, but they're also coming together to fight back. What do you think is important about this message?
Gigi Saul Guerrero: You know, I think, definitely we wanted to break that stereotype of the weak and the old. So it was important for us to have the senior citizens be the leads and the heroes of this story. We've seen that many times that older people get gentrified, and it's not in their control. And that's really heartbreaking. But not only do we talk about gentrification, we also talk about greed. So no matter how much money it is, no matter how much money can change you, the true strength of a community and friendships, you can't break that apart. So we felt it was a wonderful combination of strong communities, strong friendships fighting against gentrification and greed.
disappointment: One of the one of my favorite parts about the film is its visual style. I thought that it was really interesting. What did you do to develop this visual style of the film?
Guerrero: Oh, man, thank you so much. You know, I was really inspired by older movies like The Frighteners, Goonies, Batteries Not Included. You know, they definitely had such a charm. And this vintage wash that is so nostalgic, that really fit these older characters. Now, if you almost put Grumpy Old Men in a Rob Zombie universe, it's a great combination. So definitely still keeping that gritty grindhouse vibe that I'm really into, but now mixing in and blending it with some old school genre pieces. It just felt really fun.
disappointment: So something that was really cool that you did in the film was that you kind of blend fantasy and nightmare. What intrigued you about this combination?
Guerrero: Yeah, you know, I think definitely what inspired me to go that direction was, we all have fantasies of what we want. We all dream of not just a better life, but our problems to be solved. We all just want what's the next best thing. And I think sometimes we're blinded by reality as well as with fantasies. So definitely, with the themes of greed, I wanted that balance of what people think is happening, but what you truly are doing to yourselves. It can be very self-destructive if you fall in the peril of greed. It's self-destructive. And people stay in denial of that a lot. It happens. We're only human so why not really literally show that so gruesomely with the death seems of you know, these people have bigger dreams, but they're really only hurting themselves.
disappointment: And you mentioned the really gruesome effects — they're very good. What was it like creating those effects?
Guerrero: So much fun. I think the thing I was saying on set every day was, "More blood, more slime!" Every day, everybody's shoes were going back home very dirty. So for me, you know, I love it. Ever since my short films and everything I've worked on, there's so much blood. So definitely, you know, if I wasn't allowed gore — that's not the same as blood — so why not add slime in it as well. So nobody seemed to stop me. So I just went for it. It's so much fun. I haven't seen so much slime since Nickelodeon days. So we needed more slime.
disappointment: So the film also combines horror and comedy. What do you like so much about the horror-comedy genre?
Guerrero: You know, they go so well, hand in hand. It's such a nice parallel, I think with horror, we are bending and twisting reality so much that adding humor fits. Because you can really exaggerate not just death scenes and characters, but you can really take important subjects, such as gentrification, such as greed, or even like Jordan Peele does it with social commentary. You can take any of these topical subjects and actually get people to sit and watch for the 90 minutes. If we don't put more humor in our world, in our horror world, we're only going to suffer like we do with the news, right? So I think it's a really nice combination for escapism in filmmaking. And who doesn't love laughing when people just get splattered with blood? Like, if that's me, I'm that person cheering on.
disappointment: So what do you think made a bingo hall the perfect setting for a horror movie?
Guerrero: I mean, I'd be very scared, very scared of a group of senior citizens attacking me. They're the strongest, most stubborn people, you will not change their mind for anything. But also, it makes a perfect setting because we haven't seen that before. We all know the world of bingo to be almost like a boring game, or a game for seniors. No one's really done it. So it's really fun and exciting to do a fresh take on a horror movie.
On Having the Perfect Collaborators
disappointment: So you were able to find a great heroine in the Academy Award-nominated actress Adriana Barraza. What about her stood out for you for this role?
Guerrero: Oh, man, she's so strong. She's so captivating. And, you know, she really has that authenticity that Mexican, older women bring. They have this charm, this stubbornness to them that you just can't help but shake them, like, listen to me. And she reminded me so much of my grandmother. And I wanted that feeling of somebody so charming, so cute and cranky. That will give everybody the same love and an excitement to see their own grandparents on the screen. And I think that strength and that just genuine personality that Adriana brings was perfect. And also for her, she really was so enthusiastic every day on set. And she said to me, "Gigi, I've done a lot of TV. I've done a lot of movies. I've done a lot of horror movies. But never have I played the lead in a genre film. A strong Mexican older woman in a horror movie. Never did I think that would happen." So to me, that means a lot that Bingo Hell was her first one and hopefully more. You know, we need more, more strong Latinas like that. She's so incredible.
disappointment: And one of the most important things about any horror film is obviously the villain. Sometimes the villains are remembered more than the heroes. How did you create such a great horror movie villain in Mr. Big?
Guerrero: Let me just start out: Richard Brake is crazy good. He is that iconic horror actor that you know fans just love. He has such a unique face. And he is such a well rounded and crafted actor that you can throw anything at him. Now just like what you said, we wanted a villain that people will cheer for in a weird way, a villain that people are like, I can't help but love this bad guy. That's always so much fun. But I think with Richard Brake, he brought such great human characteristics of somebody that is easily manipulative. Somebody that can gaslight you, somebody that is like, down the street, the next door car salesman that just convinces you to spend your money. He has that charm. And so if a villain can be charming, scary, and just overall, really mysterious, you have a great combination in your hands. And Mr. Big is definitely memorable, and has some great quotes, too.
disappointment: So you've collaborated with Blumhouse multiple times now, between this and Culture Shock. What do you like most about working with them?
Guerrero: Well, I just like that they're open to these crazy ideas. So I'm thankful. But they're very welcoming to underrepresented voices, such as myself as a Latinx female filmmaker, they really do open the doors and have a home for us, which is fantastic because right now it's a really exciting time in the industry, where diversity is being so welcomed and recognized. So working with Blumhouse, I love that they're open to these ideas. I'll never forget that they said yes to the idea of Bingo Hell.
Bingo Hell streams on Amazon Prime beginning October 1.
Interview by Sean Boelman
After winning the NEXT Award at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, the animated adventure flick Cryptozoo was quickly snatched up for a summer release. From the team behind My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea and featuring a voice cast including Lake Bell, Michael Cera, and more, this is definitely one of the most visionary animated movies of the year.
We at disappointment media had the honor to talk with writer-director Dash Shaw and animation director Jane Samborski about the film, its influences, and the nature of independent animation, among other things. Check out the interview below and watch Cryptozoo!
On the Film's Influences
disappointment media: What were some of the stylistic influences on your animation in Cryptozoo?
Dash Shaw: Well, you know, a bit a big part was Jane, who painted most of the cryptids in the movie, the way that those are modeled, is kind of after the French movie Fantastic Planet by René Laloux, in that they're like painted pieces, and it's technically stop motion, but it doesn't look like stop motion, because they're each done by hand.
Jane Samborski: Another thing that I know was a big pillar, when Dash was writing the project, he had a fellowship at the New York Public Library. And one of his fellows was working with counterculture newspapers from the '60s, which even ones from all over the world had this very consistent thin line look. Pre-internet, it was just in the air and so that and the desire for much more specific drawings in reaction to the broadness of the previous film.
Shaw: The Winsor McCay short, The Centaurs from 1921. That has a great sexiness, adult quality.
Samborski: And then also, I mean, the whole film has a collage look, so we're bringing together a lot of disparate ideas and really trying to honor the work that each of the individual artists did, but still create a cohesive whole and then you know, playing and making it exciting and just following where the art leads us.
disappointment: So there was definitely a very strong mythological foundation in the film. You based a lot of it in real mythology, what was your research process like for this film?
Samborski: You know, I always end up talking about every single creature is from a real mythology. We did not invent anything for the film. My research project was largely internet-based, as so many are these days. I was specifically looking for the older images from the cultures of origins. Everything does get run through the Jane paint filter you know, I am the artist that I am, so things that I make look like I made them. But those older images are just so wonderful and strange. And you know, it was a great place to start.
Shaw: And like when I started writing and I came across the Baku, that's when it really became a movie idea. Because movies can be so dreamlike and so the Baku as a centerpiece of a movie sounded like a good idea. And you know, like Hokusai had drawn a Baku in the 1800s and there's an experimental manga anthology called Comic Baku, so I had heard of it that way.
On Making Cryptozoo
disappointment: So do you have a particular cryptid that was your favorite to animate and why?
Samborski: I have two. I am in love with the Tengu and the Camudi. The Tengu being kind of the bird creature that tears apart the helicopter, and the Camudi being the giant Angular snake at the end. And what really excited me as an animator in both of those cases, is that I was able to take not just the visuals from the source material, but the actual motion. The Tengu has that sort of stylized Japanese woodblock posing, and the Camudi has the angular movement of the South American stone carving. Which I'm in the weeds as an animator, that's where my heart is.
Shaw: You know, I like that because Jane has her paintings. And then, I do most of the human characters when they kind of crossover and it's these humanoids like, like Gustav the faun so like, Jane painted his legs. And the blurring of the boundaries, I think is, I hope, an interesting part of this movie and just these kind of moments, I think are what I think of.
disappointment: So something that stood out to me about Cryptozoo is that it tackles some pretty weighty and important themes. Do you think there is a single most important message for audiences to take away from your film?
Shaw: You know, that's the kind of thing where when you say it in a sentence, it immediately feels like it's somehow deflating, like, you know, making a sentence kind of summary of a movie. You want the movie to be like, an hour and a half, like experiencial ride that's kind of full of contradictory feelings, and it has a wide range in it. So um, so, you know, leave the unicorn alone. When you come across a unicorn, leave it alone.
Samborski: Yeah, I mean, I think we just want to have the conversation. You know, if there were easy answers to these problems, we would have found them already.
Shaw: Leave the unicorn alone.
Samborski: Leave the unicorn alone.
disappointment: So Cryptozoo is a female-led globe-trotting adventure. I kind of saw Lauren as almost like a female Indiana Jones in a way. Where did this inspiration to tell this story in this way come from?
Shaw: Yeah, it was making that network of characters that all had a different relationship to kind of the idea of the Cryptozoo or the Cryptozoo being a potentially good idea: Joan, Lauren, and a cryptid herself, Phoebe. So I had that network. And you know, Lauren, traveling the world, getting all of these cryptids and it being connected to her childhood, which I think many people have that feeling with mythological beings. But I felt like I couldn't start with her like she's like Lara Croft, or like you said Indiana Jones. And it felt like, not the way to enter the story. Especially she's much more morally ambiguous than then those characters. So I wanted to start with two people who don't know anything about cryptids, you were just stumbling across it. And that kind of became the beginning and the bookend of the film.
disappointment: The voice cast of Cryptozoo is obviously magnificent. What was it like working with and recruiting all of these stars?
Shaw: It was totally great. And, you know, Lake Bell, like I said, the movie, that character looks that way because of Lake, you know. And the first movie she wrote and directed was about voice acting, voice recording and female voices in particular. So that felt interesting.
Samborski: She had skin in the game. It wasn't some weird side project she was picking up.
Shaw: You know, for these movies, like, I might record an actor for two days. And then Jane and I are drawing and painting for four years. So I knew that Lake Bell would approach this with some extra personal motivation. And I mean, Angeliki Papoulia as Phoebe is totally incredible. Of course, I love all of the Yorgos Lanthimos movies and, and she really…
Samborski: She brings the heart.
Shaw: Yeah, the heart. They're really like this soul that's like kind of shooting out inside of a very artificial world. Grace Zabriskie. You know, if you know Grace Zabriskie from other movies, I think it's really fun to kind of see her soul shooting out of this drawing.
On Making Independent Animation
disappointment: So something that makes your films really special, both your films Cryptozoo and My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is that they're independent productions, which is getting kind of rare in feature-length animation. What do you think is special about independent animation projects like your own?
Shaw: Well, a key inspiration for me was, was when Disney released Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, they put it out as a two disc set. And one of the discs was just the storyboards by Miyazaki. And I love the Nausicaa movie. But also you're seeing those storyboards are like the dream of the movie. It's like the hope for the movie, and Miyazaki draws in quite an idiosyncratic way, compared to many anime artists, he has almost like, part European or a lot of different sensibilities inside of him. So then it goes through a production line that equals something that's quite consistent. With an independent film, you know, it's very obvious on Cryptozoo that we had a very unusual production line, and that we allowed for idiosyncratic voices, that it wasn't like it went through a machine to equal a consistency. And I really think that formally, at least, or it's even hard to say, formally, because I hope that, like the figure drawings, the beginning of the movie, it is a formal unusual thing, that characters are off model. And it's more like observational art school figure drawing of seeing someone in different sides. So that is a formal thing, but I do hope that it's an emotional thing where it has that thing that figure drawing has where people have contradictory personalities inside of themselves that you're sensing through these drawings. Doing it independently really allowed for that. It made that possible. I mean, you could talk about it for a long time.
Samborski: I mean when you are figuring things out from scratch, you're desperate to figure out how to do it. And so you, you're wishing someone would tell you how to do it. But in that act of experimentation, you're maybe finding a solution you never would have found if you haven't gone through and established. And there's flexibility that's gained by small teams, there's inventiveness. There's a big risk of failure. So you get some pros and cons. When you're really lucky, it ends up greater than the sum of its parts. And we really hope that that's what's happened here. It feels like it has.
disappointment: So I personally found it very exciting to see your style evolve from My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea to Cryptozoo. What did you change about your approach for your sophomore feature?
Shaw: Thanks for saying that. Yeah, I mean, it was very, like conscious, a lot of very conscious decisions. We had most of High School Sinking drawn before it had been cast. So you know, I didn't think we would get good actors. And that was kind of like very built into the initial script and how I was kind of envisioning that movie. But when it came time to Cryptozoo, I thought maybe I could probably get good actors for this. So I promised myself I wouldn't design the characters until after they had been voice recorded. So also, like the main character of High School Sinking has this kind of dot eye thing that's like a Charlie Brown, kind of Scott McCloud idea of the main character being a bit more blank, and that you could project it onto them. But in retrospect, I thought it was kind of the least interesting character in that movie, that I liked the side characters more, which is a problem that a lot of first movies have, actually. So when it came time to Cryptozoo, I was like, all of the characters have to be interesting looking, they have to look great on screen and be full of unusual ideas. You know, fewer drawings, but better drawings, more specific painting, more complicated, a story we can travel all over the world, it's like, a lot of things I hoped to kind of course correct from the first one. But then there are things, like I really liked the last half hour of High School Sinking when it's really a disaster movie and an experimental movie at the same time. And I thought that part was rockin' and good. And so I really tried to lean into that with this one. And I tried to lean into the parts that I liked about the first one.
Samborski: You know, I think one of the big questions for us as a creative team in High School Sinking is can we even do this?
Shaw: Yeah, it was kind of part of the motivation.
Samborski: Yeah. How can we movie? And so with the second one, we knew we could movie and so we're like, how high can we shoot?
Shaw: How high can we movie?
Samborski: Yeah. Can we have huge action scenes? Can we hire people and have them help us animate it? And so it was just, you know, I think that's where a lot of the growth for me was is just how do you even make these things happen? And there's like a technical component. That's hard. There's a human component. It's hard.
Cryptozoo is now in theaters and on VOD.