Interviews: Tscherkassky and Heller and More

Mónica Delgado, José Sarmiento Hinojosa, and Ivonne Sheen of desistfilm recently “had a chance to enjoy lunch and a nice conversation with Austrian film maverick Peter Tscherkassky and American avant-garde filmmaker Eve Heller, one of the most talented couples in the experimental film world working today.”

“I’m not afraid of coming close to entertainment,” Tscherkassky tells them. “I mean, I’m interested in films which have all these levels, from hopefully intellectual, a little bit brainy, up to offering some kind of very physically intense experience in the cinema. That’s part of what I love about cinema. Being in that darkened space, exposed to that kind of an experience which you can only get in the cinema and only get with film.” The image above is from Outer Space (1999).

Heller recalls seeing Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct (1933) and having "a really intense ‘Aha’ moment: I experienced how cinema could tell a story purely visually. . . . So before even having graduated from high school, I instantly enrolled in a course called ‘Beginning Filmmaking’ at the Department of Media Studies in Buffalo, which at the time was considered one of the great avant-garde film departments in the U.S. People like Paul Sharits, Tony Conrad, and Hollis Frampton were teaching there. And this is when I first saw films by people like Bruce Conner, Maya Deren, Dziga Vertov, ­all kinds of groundbreaking filmmakers all summer long. I was very young [seventeen]. I felt how these films that changed your way of seeing and understanding, had a huge degree of integrity and a unique quality that I couldn’t find in mainstream cinema. I, like Peter, was obsessed with movies since I was a tiny kid, but these were entirely new worlds.”

More Interviews

On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket,Damon Wise talks with Matthew Modine, who plays Private J. T. “Joker” Davis, and Kubrick’s assistant, Leon Vitali (see the entry on Tony Zierra’s documentary Filmworker). Modine: “I was never certain why we shot the film backwards, but I knew we had to be out of Beckton gasworks by a certain date because it was scheduled for demolition. It would have been a completely different film if we’d gone to the jungles and shot Vietnam that way. The street fighting, I think, is one of the things that makes the film timeless. It looks like Afghanistan or Iraq today.”

“We found the extras in the Territorial Army,” says Vitali. Lee Ermey, who plays the drill sergeant, “and I decided we would line them up, just as if they’d got off the bus at the training camp, and then Lee would go down, one by one, and just decimate them. It was astonishing. We videoed it, and then we transcribed all that dialogue. There were over 800 pages. We built the scenes out of that dialogue and then just let him loose.”

Matt Grady, who launched Factory 25 in 2009, is spearheading an effort to restore Alexandre Rockwell’s In the Soup on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its release. For Filmmaker, Grady talks with Rockwell about why this is now necessary for such a relatively young film. For one thing, the “stellar cinematography of Phil Parmet comes across in a rich, high-contrast look, deeply saturated blacks and brilliant whites. The only way we could achieve that was by shooting on a fine grain color stock and then printing on black and white stock, the now extinct Kodak 5369 . . . We had made only one print on B&W stock for projection in theaters.” And that one got more or less shredded last year.

Michael Almereyda’s Escapes is currently playing at the IFC Center in New York before rolling out across the country, and Marjorie Prime is on its way. Here in Current, Hillary Weston talks with Almereyda about Manny Farber, Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Shakespeare, Lois Smith, and John Ashbery.

For Slant, Chuck Bowen talks with Almereyda about, among other things, working with cinematographer Sean Price Williams, “a powerhouse of a younger generation of independent filmmaking. He's fast, deeply knowledgeable, and very charismatic. I'm sure he'll be directing soon on his own, and I couldn't have made the film without him. . . . This is maybe an exaggeration, but I don't know anyone who's seen more movies than Sean, except maybe Scorsese, who's got a few years on him. So that comes in handy, and it's not just a critical or schematic knowledge, because he cares about what he sees and internalizes it.”

Back in 2011, Almereyda spoke with the late Sam Shepard for Interview. This is not a brief conversation. Among the figures they discuss are Eugene O’Neill, Amiri Baraka, Roberto Bolaño, Patti Smith, Samuel Beckett, and John Malkovich.

“How did your video-essay work inform the making of Columbus?” Peter Goldberg asks Kogonada at Slant. “In many ways,” Kogonada replies, “I was workshopping and playing with form itself. It was happening in a public space where I was kind of engaging cinematic forms that interest me and reworking them in ways that I found interesting and compelling, and so, certainly, it was part of this larger conversation I was having in my head about cinema and always with a desire to maybe one day make a film. That's a big dream, you know, to say, ‘I’m gonna make a film.’”

For reviews of Columbus, see the Critics Round Up entry. Four years ago, as he was working on the audiovisual essay The World According to Koreeda Hirokazu for Sight & Sound,Kogonada kept hearing an imagined conversation—which he’s transcribed for the Talkhouse Film.

“I can be a hard taskmaster for some directors,” admits Samuel L. Jackson in a profile for the New York Times by Jon Caramanica.

For Little White Lies,Thomas Curry gets “some of our favorite filmmakers, directors and curators to select an LGBT film that they consider essential viewing.”

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