The last time we saw a fairly nude Jennifer Lawrence in scaly, blue body paint was two years ago, when she took on the role of shapely, shiftly, shape-shifter Mystique (five times fast). Since then, Lawrence has ascended to stadium status, so naturally, a new photo of her looking the exact same as she did two years ago is a gargantuan deal. Bryan Singer, director of the next installment in Marvel’s mutant saga, X-Men: Days of Future Past, tweeted a photo of the actress in her costume (is it a costume if there’s no clothes?), and, well, it’s Jennifer Lawrence in blue paint. Only now there’s a certain mystique that surrounds her. See what we did there?
In the last couple of weeks, you couldn’t open a major New York publication without coming across Noah Baumbach and his perfectly coiffed hair. The New York Times and The New Yorker each gave Baumbach and his cowriter-muse-gf Greta Gerwig the profile treatment (Gerwig had her own in New York magazine), all in celebration of Frances Ha, the director’s sixth feature and a career turning point. Following a 27-year-old New York dancer (Gerwig) who’s basically trying to get her shit together, Frances was shot in romantic black and white, and on a budget far smaller than Baumbach’s grown accustomed to. After the succes of 2005′s The Squid and the Whale, Baumbach was vaulted into a certain tier of directors who make indie films that aren’t really that indie. (His last two films, Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding, featured A-list stars). But Frances, shot guerilla-style on the streets of New York, functions as a bright, spirited and very endearing eff you to conventional moviemaking. It’s also one of the most complex character pieces to come out in recent memory. We spoke to the director about his fixations with authors, our late twenties, and the push-pull of living your life in New York.
Frances Ha is more stylized than your other films with a great deal of motion. You’ve mentioned the French New Wave, but I’m wondering if any of that has anything to do with Greta Gerwig, who seems to be a very mobile person?
Yeah, I think so. I was conscious of showing Frances in her environment. Partly because the environment and the locations are very much part of the film, and the movie is divided by its different locations. I think also, because Greta is such a great physical actor. She’s very funny, physically, and she kind of puts her whole body into the performance. So I felt it was important—to show her, to show her body. It’s a lot of movement, but it’s not always getting anywhere.
There’s always an writer in your films—Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale, Ben Stiller writes letters in Greenberg, and in Frances, Greta is like an author with her choreography. Is this just a biographical detail that keeps seeping in, or do you feel like stories need these characters?
And Nicole Kidman’s character is also an author in Margot. It’s partly that I grew up with writers and I know a lot of writers, and it might just be a kind of anthropology I’m familiar with, so I’m drawn to it. There’s something interesting to me about people who want to create. There’s a psychology of people who are trying to find their own voices as human beings. I suppose it also works the same way if they’re trying to find their voice, or have another voice as authors, so it’s tied into that too.
People’s late 20s seem to be an area you’ve explored a lot. Do you feel like it still holds fertile ground for you, or are you ready to move on?
Let me think of a way to say it: I think most people for their whole lives deal with the idea of themselves versus their realities—the story they’ve written in their head of their life, and their real life. I think that’s something that keeps coming up. It comes up for healthy people and unhealthy people. I don’t think any of us ever stop contending with that in some way. Obviously in Greenberg, there’s a larger chasm between the story he’s written for himself and the story he’s living.
So you don’t really think of it as being about age, it’s about a certain pivotal moment.
Yeah. But I think when you’re 27, that’s a major moment. It’s one of the first—it can be one of the first major transitions into adulthood. And I think it’s one that you often don’t know is happening. I am interested in that stuff, but I think with Frances, we’re sort of going right to the source. This is where it begins.
Is there something about being in New York that brings a kind of grim urgency to the process of growing up?
I think there is something to New York that does. There’s both the romance of New York, and the history of going to New York to make it. The lure of the city and also the city that can eat you up and spit you out. So there’s that tradition, certainly. I also think, this is something we were very interested in that’s very true right now: the economics of living in New York. We wanted that to be very real and true for Frances. I mean, that also raises the stakes and the urgency. She has to leave because she can’t afford it. It’s played for some comedy in the movie but also it’s a very real concern for her. Many of her decisions in the movie have economic components to them.
Money is very deterministic in New York right now.
New York used to be a place where you could live as an artist. There’s even a line in the movie where Sophie says “All the artists in New York are rich.”
This is obviously Greta’s movie, but talk to me about casting some of the suppporting actors, like Adam Driver.
Adam’s such a force of nature, he’s so good, and he’s great on Lena’s show. He auditioned for me and—I think this is true for Girls as well—there’s a really exciting pool of young New York actors. Almost everybody in Frances auditioned for their roles and it was a real pleasure to see these people and be introduced to all these people. Mickey [Sumner], Mike Zegan, and even people who have small parts in the movie who are really funny, interesting actors, and it reminds me in a way of New York movies that I loved when I was a kid, like Desperately Seeking Susan or After Hours. They had all these great actors from the city, and then you’d start to see them in other people’s movies, and then they became stars. It was sort of exciting to work with these people.
In production, you called Francis “Untitled Digital Workshop,” and the next film you’re working on is still called “Untitled Public School Project,” also with Greta. Can you tell me about how far along you are?
We’re still in the middle of making it. Still shooting. I’m not sure when I’ll be done.
Do you feel good about it?
Oh yeah. I feel really good.
I live in a ditch dug with my bare hands and thieve wi-fi from the local library, so I wasn’t aware that Kanye West was playing on Saturday Night Live just a few days after going on a rant about how he wasn’t a celebrity and how he refused to play nice for the camera. I thought he was speaking hypothetically, you know? But ‘ye is playing SNL during this weekend’s season finale, which is why we have these horribly awkward promo videos to giggle over in which Fred Armisen and host Ben Affleck attempt to promote the episode even though it’s clearly West couldn’t give a shit. Yes, the script intentionally calls for things to be a little brittle—Armisen attempts to lay down a beat for West to rap over, only to be cut off—but Kanye’s dead-eyed stare and bland delivery make add a real element of #DGAF to the procedural ads. He livens it up a little bit in the final promo, but man, that second one. Lots of ennui brimming in that guy. The episode is on Saturday, doy.
Among a cast of characters that has included a sex addict, an agoraphobe, a meth-cooking granny, and a deranged wastoid father, the part of the bad-boy genius sounds rather quaint. But as Lip, the oldest son of the dysfunctional six-kid Gallagher clan on Showtime’s hit series Shameless, Jeremy Allen White exudes a subtle, brooding charm, delivering a scene-stealing portrayal of a gifted scammer who’ll do whatever it takes to support his siblings—from helping classmates cheat on the SATs for cash, to dealing pot from an ice cream truck. “In order to grow up a strong man, I think you really need to have a good childhood,” says the 22-year-old native New Yorker. “A lot of the reason why Lip might come off as angry at the world is because he feels like he never got the chance to be a kid.” Like Lip, White wasn’t a fan of high school, so he persuaded his principal to let him spend half his school days working at a casting agency, a move that helped set his career in motion. Now it’s on a roll: Alongside signing on for Shameless’ fourth season, later this year White will star as another conman of sorts, playing a thieving vagabond opposite Michael Pitt in You Can’t Win, a movie based on 1920s hobo hero Jack Black’s account of freight-hopping through Canada and the American West. White was also just cast in his first studio lead, in the forthcoming time travel odyssey, Glimmer. Here he is on getting into character, kissing Liev Schreiber, and why he’s sticking with the ass shot.
So first off, I was reading that you’re a Tammy Wynette fan. Explain.
I just started listening to her. I was doing a film in Texas, and I think an interesting way to get into a role is to find the right music. I hadn’t explored very much country, so I started listening to her and she was amazing. I begged the producers to get some of her songs in the movie, but she’s pretty expensive. When I was filming that, I also listened to a lot of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and a lot of soul. That’s what I’m into. I like the Delta Blues. I like Muddy Waters.
When did you first know you wanted to act?
It was something I was always intrigued by. It was something both my parents did. They met when they were in their 20s doing theater in New York. They don’t act anymore—they got pregnant with me and had to get jobs that could support a child. But it was something I knew they’d been very passionate about. I didn’t really get into it until I was 15 or 16. I had a really great drama teacher. He’d look on Backstage.com and send the kids he thought were really good out on these huge open cattle calls. I ended up booking my first play and my first film doing that.
You’ve said there’s quite a difference between Lip, your character on Shameless, and you. How do you get into character?
I did most of the prep during the pilot and the first season. I went to some AA meetings to hear some stories. When we went to Chicago to shoot, I really tried to get a feel for the south side of Chicago. I think the south side is just as important a character as any of the Gallaghers on the show. I thought it was important that Lip looked and felt comfortable in Chicago. Now that the other actors and I have been doing it for so long, we can memorize stuff really fast and show up ready to go. That gives us the opportunity to explore and play around, which I think is the best thing about acting.
Lip is always in trouble, and he’s always pissed. What is his problem ultimately?
In order to grow up a strong man, I think you really need to have a good childhood. A lot of the reason why Lip might come off as angry at the world is that he feels his childhood was robbed from him. He feels like he never got the chance to be a kid. He had to start taking care of his younger siblings at a very young age. He hadn’t seen his mom in a long time, and Frank [played by William H. Macy] is the man he is. So he has to learn how to take care of himself before he can take care of everyone else.
There’s also a lot of sex on Shameless—and a lot of naked dude ass.
The directors and writers have asked a lot of us—you know, “You’re going to have to show something. You can show your dick or you can show your ass.” The answer is usually ass. I will be sticking to the ass shot as long as I have control.
Some people might say that the show glorifies getting ahead through deception.
It’s something that happens. It’s something that people do. If people are offended by some of these things, Shameless is obviously not the show for them. It’s reality, and we try to do our best to make it as honest as possible.
You were also in the film Movie 43, in which you kissed Naomi Watts, who played your mom, and Liev Schreiber, who played your dad. Who’s the better kisser?
Liev had a beard going on at the time, so it was pretty rough. I had a little rash on my face afterwards, so I’m going to have to go with Naomi.
Tell me about your character in the Jack Black story, You Can’t Win.
Michael Pitt plays Jack and is telling the story. When he is about 12 or 13 years old, he runs away from home and starts taking trains all up and down the west coast. He stumbles upon a young man who’s about 20 years old named Smiler, the character I play. Smiler shows young Jack the ropes and takes him under his wing.
Were you familiar with the book before you shot the film?
Michael and I had a few mutual friends. He was attached to the project for a really long time and actually produced it. He happened to be in L.A. for a couple of days, so we had a meeting and talked about the movie. Then he gave me his copy of the book, told me to go home and read a bit of it, then come back to his hotel and talk to him more about it. I read the first 12 chapters that afternoon. When I got the role, about two weeks later, I read the book in its entirety.
What are your thoughts on Jack Black after having read it?
Jack Black had no education. He was educated until he was 11 or 12, at which point he ran away. In his 30s and 40s, he worked as a journalist in San Francisco, and then in his last days he worked in a library. The book is written so well. What really blew me away was how this man who spent so much of his life being a criminal was able to write such a beautiful story. What adds to the intrigue is, in his 50s, Jack Black went completely off the map again and no one ever saw him again. He’s a fascinating guy.
You have another film in the works, Shoplifters of the World, in which you play a crazy fan of The Smiths who holds a DJ at gunpoint. Yet another delinquent.
I know! But I don’t think he has a bad bone in his body. The entire thing takes place on the evening The Smiths break up. These young people about to graduate from high school go out mourning the death of the group. My character goes to the local DJ station with an unloaded pistol and forces the DJ to play The Smiths all night long. We got the rights to about 15 Smiths songs.
What’s your favorite Smiths song?
I am now partial to “Shoplifters of the World Unite.”
Were you ever a delinquent like the characters you play?
When I was younger, I wasn’t a big fan of school and wouldn’t go very often. I ended up talking to the dean of my high school, who let me work at a casting office in New York for half the day. I’d do some of my academics in the morning and then I’d go to 38th street and 8th avenue and work at Susan Shopmaker Casting. She’s an amazing casting director who cast me in a film called After School when I was about 17. I think I learned more there about acting than I could have anywhere else.
Photography by Thomas Giddings. Styling by Djuna Bel.
I’m talking to Greta Gerwig hours before the premiere of Frances Ha. The film’s star, radiant in an orange dress, seems nervous. Or perhaps that’s just her trademark awkwardness––part of her immense charm (and craft) as an actress. At twenty-nine, Gerwig has made a name for herself playing young women who are often optimistically adrift, both lively and heartfelt at once, and either too self-conscious when they’re supposed to be less, or not enough when they’re supposed to be more.
So on the surface, her role in Frances Ha, which she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach (who not-so-secretly became her boyfriend during the project), is more of the same. But despite the well-worn premise (post-college artsy girl doesn’t know what to do with her life, can’t find an apartment in New York, grows jealous of her best-friend, visits home, couch-surfs, goes to Paris), Frances Ha sings. If Godard remade Vivre Sa Vie in Fort Greene, this is what it might look like. Here, Gerwig and Baumbach have both embodied and transcended much of what they’ve been striving for in their prior films. Here, the actress explains why she never reads anything about herself (including the recent New Yorker profile), what it’s like for everyone to think you’re on drugs, and why (as she puts it) she’s not not ambitious.
Does the premiere for this film feel different than the premieres for your other films?
Let me explain. I was surprised by the amount of buzz this has been generating.
Does it feel that way to you?
It feels that way to me.
Oh, good. Because I really try not read things or look at things. I find it makes me self-conscious in a way that’s destructive. It’s like a combination of an ego trip and horrible deflation at the same time. Like, ‘I’m awesome…and terrible.’ To feel both. ‘I’m ugly and hideous…and beautiful!’ It’s like the worst combination. It’s just too much at once.
But you must be happy the film is getting a lot of attention.
I’m glad it’s getting buzz because I care about it so much. But it seems like, in this world, it almost seems like movies are a dying art. There are so many released, but it’s so easy to get lost. I’m glad it feels like people are actually caring about it because after it was on the festival circuit for a while, it felt like, ‘How are we going to shut this down and open it back up in 6 months?’ So I hope people see it. I mean, I love it.
I think it’s great. It will last, too.
Yeah. I mean, it does feel different in a way. I’m much more invested in this movie than I’ve been in any other movie that I’ve participated in. Partially that’s because I co-wrote it. Partially it’s because––it just feels like the closest thing to what I want to make.
Does the role feel close to you? To who you are?
In some ways it does. In other ways it feels like an invention. It feels like the best part of what I’m capable of as a creator and as an actress. It feels like the full extension of my talents at that moment. You can get hogtied or hamstrung by limitations in movies. But I felt like I was stretched by this role, and that felt really good. Sometimes when you allow yourself to be bigger, the more resonant and true it is.
In the writing, who approached whom first?
Noah approached me. After Greenberg opened, he asked me if I was interested in collaborating on writing something because he wanted to do something very small.
He wanted to get away from the glitz?
Yeah. He was like, ‘How small can I do this without losing my ability to make as good of a film as I can?’ That was the idea. He knew I had written plays and the screenplays for movies I had largely improvised in. But I think there was a real sense that we would work well together.
I don’t want to make you self-conscious, but have you read your New Yorker profile?
No. I did look at the picture, though.
Did you like the picture?
The picture was nice. But no. I didn’t read it. I understand it was nice and that I seem like I’m on LSD.
I was waiting for them to trot out words like ‘spacey.’
Yeah. I always get that. Everybody my whole life has thought I’m on drugs. When I first heard that, I was like, ‘I’m going to really act like I’m not on drugs now.’
The film is so great with awkwardness in general. It’s like the line where Frances says she likes things that look like mistakes.
Yeah. I do like things that look like mistakes. That’s true of me. I really love precise things that look like mistakes, but when you think about them, they couldn’t possibly have been because of how the entire thing was constructed. When I acted in high school, I would try to cultivate those weird moments, the moments when you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s what I was always looking for. But I wasn’t actually on drugs.
Well, that’s our cultural shorthand for anyone whose just isn’t on the same wavelength.
I’m definitely not. You know those personality tests where they tell you if you’re an INTP or whatever? I remember I took one and my personality was like “sees things as part of a cosmic whole.” “Might have religious inclinations.” Things that were sort of like, ‘This person is a little crazy and might think that they’re a prophet,’ which I don’t see as wrong necessarily. (Laughs)
You’re on drugs without being on drugs.
I feel like I’m capable of experiencing very intense emotional landscapes. And that has helped my writing and acting because I feel like part of what I want to do when I make things is transmit that intensity of experience to the viewer in some way. I have moments every day where I have this sense of like, ‘I’m alive right now.’ Which totally is druggy. I realize that, but it’s completely… I’m straight, you know.
Was the personality test right? Do you think you’re a prophet of our generation?
No, no! I didn’t mean it like that! (Laughs)
Greta declares herself. Oh shit.
But you’ve been so good at turning the stuckness or frustration that’s pretty endemic to a lot of people’s twenties into art that’s really exuberant and beautiful. Are you worried that you’re success might actually prevent that kind of alchemy from happening?
I do worry about that. But I don’t feel like I’ve hit that point yet. I think something can happen where if you become too successful––or too visibly successful––it interferes with your ability to…Well I spend a lot of time just wandering around New York City waiting for things to reveal themselves to me. And you need to be able to be really anonymous to do that. It’s important to me to feel connected to what people’s lives are and what people’s everyday-ness is.
Would you say that you’re ambitious?
Certainly. I’m not not ambitious. So there’s a part of you that’s always striving to make your presence solid, to be a thing people know about. ‘Ah, yes. Greta Gerwig. I know exactly who that is.’ Because it relieves you from the anxiety of having to explain yourself, which I think is…that’s something difficult.
Frances is always fumbling over those kind of dinner-party explanations in the film.
Yeah exactly. She doesn’t see herself as the world sees her. It’s not like ‘this is what you are and everybody knows it and we all see what you are.’ That kind of solidness can cut you off from the experience that 99.99% of the world has, which is that there is a disconnect. So I feel like it’s important to me to maintain it somehow.
I read something about this recently. I really like Flannery O’Connor. And she said that every story she writes is about grace. But grace is not something you experience. You can experience the after-effects of grace, but grace itself is this thing that’s unaccountable for. I think that’s kind of always what I’m trying to. I’m trying to gather these moments of grace. And you have to be quiet to do that, and part of trying to be successful is not being quiet. So there are these too opposing forces. But I think—I hope—I’ll be able to stay on the quiet end of it.
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Lake Bell officially became a triple threat. The versatile actress pulled double duty in Park City, there to promote her role in the thriller Black Rock, but also to premiere In a World… a witty comedy set in the wacky world of voice-over talent which she wrote, directed, and starred in. Bell, who until then was best known for roles in How to Make it in America and Children’s Hospital, got the ultimate pat on the back when she was awarded the festival’s prize for best screenwriting. But before she gears up for In a World…‘s late summer release (August 9, to be exact), Bell was busy promoting Black Rock alongside castmates Kate Bosworth and fellow triple threat Katie Aselton, who also co-wrote and directed. The thriller follows three lifelong friends looking to mend their fractured relationship with a weekend getaway to a remote island off the coast of Maine. We won’t spoil what happens, but what starts off as a moody relationship drama quickly descends into a fight for survival. We spoke with Bell recently about her transition behind the camera, her upcoming wedding to tattoo artist Scott Campbell, and her ideal writing environment.
As a female actor who’s written and directed her first feature, did you feel some pride watching Katie do her thing on the set of Black Rock?
Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I shot Black Rock before I shot In A World…, so it was absolutely inspiring, and we definitely have a little team of comrades who take on this multitasking storytelling aspect of moviemaking. Most of the people in Black Rock are that way, whether it’s Mark [Duplass], Katie, and Kate Bosworth, who produces. Even our DP directed something. They’re all storytellers. I think that a community of filmmakers with a multitude of occupations is a cool place to roll in. I feel honored to be included. I think the Duplasses both patted me on the back and were like, ‘Welcome to the club, buddy.’ Doing a movie like Black Rock where you kick ass and then go into directing is totally fitting.
As a female director, did it feel like you were entering a Boy’s Club?
I personally didn’t. I’ve had an incredible experience coming up in the independent film world. I feel like if I look to my right, I look to my left, I might see a female filmmaker or a male filmmaker, but I never felt ostracized, and I still don’t. I think in the studio system it’s a different can of worms, but my comrades and teammates in this community, I feel absolutely welcome. It feels very even. I know that statistically it’s not, but my personal experience has been very positive. I’ve never felt like people have been like, ‘Listen, girl, why don’t you get your long-stemmed legs out of this office and make me a cup of coffee.’
Did you tailor you part in In a World… specifically to your talents?
I would only want to write something I’d feel like I was going to excel in. As a director, I’d only want to put the right actor in the role. So, if I wasn’t right for something, I’d be like, ‘I’m not going to put myself in it because it’s not for the good of the piece.’ For my friends, I want to cast all of my friends in everything. I have a ton of my friends in In a World… because they were really right. And I just know them and I wrote it for them. Then there are other roles where, you know, I could have put a friend in it, but it wouldn’t have made them look as good. It’s your responsibility as a filmmaker to pay attention to the through line of the movie and the tone of the movie and to make it enjoyable and not distracting.
When you’re writing a script, how do you avoid procrastination?
Writers’ retreats, because I do enjoy procrastinating online. I try to work without deadlines. When I wrote the column for The Hollywood Reporter and I had deadlines, I obviously hate that. I have the luxury of when you’re writing a screenplay, it’s really on your own terms. It’s up to you to get the fucking thing done. So, I like to create three to four day fake writer’s retreats that are within my own home.
What I’ll do is I’ll clean up my entire house until 8:30 a.m., when you get yourself set up for that first day. This is probably very type A, but anyway. I allocate a certain amount of time, I clean up the entire house, I make sure the fridge has all the good treats in it. Just like all good healthy shit and good drinks. Just stacked like it’s a hotel. I get up that morning and I put sneakers on and an outfit that’s comfortable, but no fucking pajamas because that’s some bullshit right there. You got to dress to impress. And then I go to it. Procrastination is usually me searching something online, but it’s a great way to curb your procrastination because you can say, ‘Okay. All during the week I’m going to get whatever shit I have on my mind out and then these three days there’s no fucking around.’ You’re going to put that phone away. The biggest, the smartest piece of advice is to just show up.
You’re about to get married. When’s the date?
It’s in June.
Are you more excited about your wedding day, or In a World…’s release date?
(Laughs) It’s so hard. No. Um. Look. That’s a really horrible question. Um. No, I know. Um. These are both equally exciting moments.
We’re less than two weeks away from the reveal of Arrested Development season 4, aka the most recent excuse you need to hole up in your apartment for a day or two, powering through episodes as you shirk the modern world in favor of seeing just how crusted your lips can get. The most dedicated of you are preparing for the occasion by marathoning the first three seasons; the rest of us are lazier, and will favor sites like this one to get us back into the swing of things. Recurring Developments is a site that takes every recurring joke in Arrested Development and visualizes it along a nifty map so that you can see just how many times a joke was referenced, in which episode the reference came, and the continued evolution of the joke as the show went on. It’s astonishing how much was going on and how much was set up in advance; it’s enough to make even the laziest of watchers fire up the Netflix queue in order to catch everything. Season 4 premieres on May 26.
The Croisette’s aswarm with frenzied badge-wielding journalists; the starstruck hoi polloi are already setting up their step ladders in front of the Palais to ensure the choiciest views when the bigshots finally step out onto the red carpet. Fittingly, the 66th Festival de Cannes opens with Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, which we have zero interest in seeing because it’s already playing in regular theaters. So what now? Guzzle rosé and mingle on the inflatable couches in front of the Grand Hotel till dawn, or wake up at dawn to haul ass to those morning screenings? We’re pretty pumped about this year’s lineup, and below are our top picks among the premieres. Some of these films might get some major boos (people really do “boo” here) and some just might be the best movie of the year. Who cares—we want to see them all.
The Bling Ring, Dir. Sofia Coppola -Un Certain Regard
Plenty of hype encircling this one. It’s about stealing expensive stuff from the houses of materialistic rich celebrities, which of course gives us all a little schadenfreude, and it busts out Emma Watson’s first major “adult” role, which really just means it’s now totally cool to start putting salacious photos of her on the cover of every magazine. Real-life “bling ring” victim Paris Hilton, always a good sport about this sort of thing, even makes a cameo.
Nebraska, Dir. Alexander Payne - Competition
Payne’s latest love-letter to Flyover Country comes at us in black and white, and pairs Bruce Dern with former SNL star Will Forte for a father-son roadtrip. (We’re looking forward to seeing what Forte does here.) And even more exciting: The guy who played Buzz in Home Alone is in it. Where’s he been for the past 20 years?
Behind the Candelabra, Dir. Steven Soderbergh - Competition
Michael Douglas as the spangly super-flamboyant Liberace, Matt Damon as his scorned young lover Scott Thorson. Of course the press is all going crazy about the fact that the two of them smooch, which is an incredibly boring topic. (When will we stop caring when male actors kiss each other?) We’re way more interested in the costumes, which look absolutely enthralling.
As I Lay Dying, Dir. James Franco - Un Certain Regard
Yeah, yeah, Franco takes on too much. But we can’t help but be curious about what he’s going to do with Faulkner’s dense, super-literary multi-narrator novel in its very first cinematic incarnation.
Only Lovers Left Alive, Dir. Jim Jarmusch - Competition
Tilda Swinton as a sexy vampire? That’s all we needed to hear.
Seduced and Abandoned, Dir. James Toback - Special Screenings
HBO just picked up Toback’s doc about himself and Alec Baldwin running around last year’s Cannes in search of funding for their film, which in a super-meta move will be premiering at this year’s Cannes. Apparently it takes the pulse of the current state of the film industry, and includes interviews with luminaries such as Bertolucci, Polanski, Scorsese, Jessica Chastain, and Ryan Gosling.
Inside Llewyn Davis, Dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen - Competition
Oscar Isaac’s on the rise! Here he plays the fictional title character in the Coen bros’ latest, about the folk scene in sixties Greenwich Village. (Could be a showcase for some nice tunes: Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, and Isaac himself contributed to the soundtrack.) Bonuses: John Goodman plays a dude with drug issues; Adam Driver’s in it; and maybe this will redeem Carey Mulligan, whose cute, murine little face has been criticized as being “all wrong” for Gatsby’s Daisy but which seems just right for Llewyn’s mousy love interest.
Venus in Fur, Dir. Roman Polanski - Competition
Polanski adapts yet another claustrophobic theater piece to the screen—this time, David Ives’s acclaimed, spiky, two-person play of the same name—and lets Mathieu Amalric (who has a role in Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, also in this year’s competition) get nasty, psychologically and otherwise, with Emmanuelle Seigner.
Le Passé (The Past), Dir. Asghar Farhadi - Competition
After his riveting, understated 2009 drama About Elly, which sadly never received a proper U.S. theatrical release, we were happy to see Farhadi get some major recognition (aka an Oscar) with Iranian divorce film A Separation. Here he continues his look into the nature of splitting up, with Bérénice Bejo in her first major role since The Artist opposite the excellent Tahar Rahim (also in Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central, screening as part of Un Certain Regard.)
Only God Forgives, Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn - Competition
We’re hoping for some pretty serious visual stimulation in this one, which finds the Danish director reteaming with his Drive star Ryan Gosling to go deep into Bangkok’s seedy criminal underbelly, with its drug deals and whorehouses and Muay Thai clubs (Gosling apparently did some serious boxing to train for the film). Kristin Scott Thomas plays his mom, who’s also the bloodthirsty godmother of a major criminal organization.
We like to think we deserve love, that as a celebrated facet of the human experience everyone is allowed at least a taste. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby offered characters too hollowed by wealth to access anything beyond desire and ambition. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation gives us something to mourn. A classically unrequited love impeded by class and time complete with a sighing Carey Mulligan saying “I wish I could do everything on Earth with you.”
It’s this vision of Daisy and Gatsby that saves the story from being flattened by Luhrmann’s penchant for spectacle. Between Rolls Royces barreling down bridges, fireworks exploding over mansions, and beaded hemlines swishing in time to the din, a treatise on love exists quietly. For a love story to inspire it must simply confirm our deepest suspicions about what we imagine love to be. And Luhrmann indulges both cynics and romantics.
Fleeting moments in the film hint at a love worth canonizing—Gatsby’s delight at seeing Daisy in his home, flashbacks to Daisy’s devastation at a letter delivered too late (isn’t there always?) We even see a young Daisy and Gatsby experiencing the first thrills of their romance. Daisy, without a fashionable haircut yet, and Gatsby in an officer’s uniform, smitten. Gatsby tells Nick that when he kissed Daisy that night, he felt married to her. But admits he had paused, knowing it was dangerous for a man like him to “let go” in love.
Love is the chance to abandon ourselves to a redeeming ideal. Gatsby’s irony is that in doing so he dooms the possibility of being loved in return. Daisy can’t join him, as Nick warns Gatsby, “you shouldn’t ask too much of her.” Unlike the novel’s Daisy, Carey Mulligan’s isn’t careless as much as stunned into indecisiveness by Gatsby’s manic idealism.
Typical of the characters Leonardo DiCaprio plays, Gatsby alternates between boyish charm and the white-knuckled stiffness of hidden violence. Initially Gatsby takes great care to preserve propriety. The lengths he goes to to have tea at Nick’s house with Daisy are endearing comic relief. Once he realizes Daisy is not only glad to see him, but still very much in love, Gatsby’s relief doesn’t give way to satisfaction. Rather, he pursues a total reclamation of the years they spent apart. His neat manners dissolve completely in the sweaty hotel room confrontation between him, Daisy and Tom. He screams red-faced at Tom to shut up about the differences between his background and Daisy’s, differences he spent years trying to bridge. He begs Daisy to tell everyone she loves him, that she only ever loved him.
Love has always required a litmus test for authenticity; it’s too profound to not be suspect. The film posits that for all their flaws—being rich chief among them—perhaps Daisy and Gatsby did have something very real between them. Perhaps they not only experienced love but deserved it; for Daisy, a recompense for suffering an unfaithful husband, and for Gatsby justification for his years of single-minded devotion. The unrealized potential of their love allows faith in it. It’s a promise of greatness that can remain untested by a relationship. To believe in someone else’s love we must witness its origin, to be moved by it we must witness its demise. Fitzgerald offered the latter, Luhrmann offers both.
Angelina Jolie has revealed in an op-ed in today’s New York Times that she has recently finished undergoing a series of operations that resulted in a double mastectomy. Pointing out that her own mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56, and that she herself carried the “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which makes her susceptible to both breast, and ovarian cancer, Jolie, writes of weighing the odds that she would develop breast cancer, killer of 458,000 women every year throughout the world. The most shocking aspect of all of this is that Jolie, who can’t walk down the street without getting her photo taken, has managed to keep all of this secret for months.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.
On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.
It’s clearly an important issue, and one that Jolie didn’t take lightly, and for good reason. If anything good will come of it, besides potentially saving her own life, it’s the renewed attention to the disease that her admission will bring. As she writes:
For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.
Read the rest here.