Interviews: Mekas, Maddin, and More

This past Christmas Eve, Jonas Mekas—filmmaker, poet, critic, co-founder of the journal Film Culture and New York’s Anthology Film Archives—turned ninety-five, certainly occasion enough for IndieWire’s Eric Kohn to get a few words with him. They discuss government support for the arts (Mekas believes reviving arts education in public schools is a better investment), programming at Anthology, and what he’s seen recently that he’s liked: “Nothing new that we have shown at Anthology is on the level of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson or Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. These are the best films I’ve seen in a long time. Both are minor films in a way, but they’re perfect for what the filmmakers want to do.”

Another good reason to chat with Mekas these days is that he’s got a new book out, A Dance with Fred Astaire.Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent: “Everyone is in the book: artists, movie stars, politicians, writers and even a ghost or two. You’ll find Andy Warhol in one chapter and Jackie Kennedy in the next. Yes, Mekas did dance with Astaire (it was when his friend Yoko Ono was shooting a scene from her film Imagine); yes, he did have the next door room to Janis Joplin in the Chelsea Hotel and could hear her (‘practicing her amazing voice but I could hear all the other sounds too’); yes, in his hungry years, he and his brother did once eat up all the cookies at a party held at the house of Anais Nin at Washington Square.”

Back to Gerwig for a moment. Lady Bird “is just amazing,” Mekas tells Kohn, “how she treated this growing teenage girl in a very real way with a unique kind of character, very independent and self-asserting. No man could have made this film. It’s one-hundred percent a woman’s film. There are so many little details. No big gestures; it’s made up of little scenes. And it works.”

In the New York Times,Gerwig writes about her mother, who “has the spirit of a quintessential New York City gal.” Gerwig’s also Chris O’Falt’s guest on the most recent Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast (30’56”). And she’s also one of Variety’s “Ten Directors to Watch” this year; Peter Debruge meets her for the profile.

Also on the watchlist are Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Gangsta), Augustine Frizzell (Never Goin’ Back), Joseph Kahn (Bodied), Xavier Legrand (Custody), Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), Anthony Maras (Hotel Mumbai), Claire McCarthy (Ophelia), Samuel Maoz (Foxtrot), and Chloé Zhao (The Rider).

While we’re rifling through Variety, here’s a batch not to be overlooked—not interviews exactly, but fitting enough in the run-up to tonight’s Golden Globes.Variety’s asked a round of directors to comment on this season’s contenders:

And IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt talks with Villeneuve about Christopher Nolan, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and what’s on his mind as he prepares to take a shot at Frank Herbert’s Dune: “It resonates in a lot of ways. It is a very accurate portrait of society of today. The intricate relationship between religion and power, also how someone has to deal with their genetic background, the voices coming out from the past. I deeply love that story. It’s very powerful and that it is still talking to me after all these years, it’s worth the risk to do it.”

Recently for the Los Angeles Times, Richard Jenkins, “who stars in Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy-love story The Shape of Water, was joined by fellow actors Jim Belushi (Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel), Laurence Fishburne (Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying), Jason Mitchell (from Dee Rees’s Mudbound) and Sam Rockwell (Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) to talk with Times writers Amy Kaufman and Mark Olsen about a wide range of things for the Envelope Supporting Actors Roundtable. Things like racism, the rhythm of comedy and how heroes are made. And one valuable life lesson: Should you ever encounter Fishburne on the street, for the love of God, don’t call him Morpheus.”

Also more of a conversation than an interview is the exchange between film critics Manuela Lazic and Adam Nayman at Vague Visages; this followup to an earlier round focuses on acting.

“Commissioned by Noah Cowan for the closing night of the 2017 San Francisco Film Festival, The Green Fog is compiled of clips from hundreds of TV shows and films shot in San Francisco to create a parallel-universe version of Vertigo,” writes Joshua Encinias, introducing his interview with Guy Maddin, who’s made the film with Evan and Galen Johnson. Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice: “Now that The Green Fog has arrived at the IFC Center, I’m happy to report that Maddin and his collaborators have succeeded in turning it into something that can stand on its own.” And “it’s not so much an assemblage as it is a conjuring. You don’t just watch these clips—you see through and between them. The juxtapositions create vital, cosmic connections.”

Recent interviews from Film Comment:

  • Erin Delaney’s with Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, whose My Happy Family is currently on Netflix
  • Jordan Cronk talks with Thomas Arslan (Bright Nights) about “his incremental move away from genre cinema, the role of remote landscapes in his recent work, and the serendipitous moments that lend his latest film its unique aura”
  • Robert Horton meets cinematographer Sam Levy to talk about working with Greta Gerwig on Lady Bird, with Kelly Reichardt on Wendy and Lucy (2008), and with Noah Baumbach on Frances Ha (2012)
  • Chris Shields finds Ernie Gehr, now seventy-six, “gracious enough to answer a few questions at his home in Brooklyn regarding the restoration of his film History [1970] as well questions about other early works, making films in New York (and his circle of filmmaking friends), painting, and the moving image’s unique character”

“Artist, blacklist survivor, liberal activist, and trailblazing feminist: Lee Grant has always been an idol to me.” Farran Smith Nehme: “So the chance to interview her for the Los Angeles Times . . . this past April, was easily a highlight of my life, let alone 2017.” That LAT interview is here. “But she had so much to say that was worthwhile, especially to a film fan, that I wanted to include other parts that were left out for reasons of space.” Here.

“It’s all true and it’s all fiction,” Robin Campillo tells Guy Lodge in the Guardian. The subject at hand is, of course, BPM (Beats Per Minute). “I wouldn’t say it’s reality, because memories are already a fiction in a way. So I didn’t try to recreate the people from the time, but the electricity and paradoxes we had between each other.”

Also for the Guardian,Cath Clarke calls up the breakout star of Lady Macbeth: “Florence Pugh is listing her pinch-me highlights of 2017. Where to start? There was the taxi ride in Los Angeles, when she picked up an email saying that Richard Eyre wanted her for Cordelia in his BBC Two film, opposite Anthony Hopkins’ King Lear. (‘My Uber driver was giving me funny looks because I was squealing.’) Or the time Dwayne Johnson showed her how to throw a punch on the set of Fighting with My Family, Stephen Merchant’s upcoming comedy-drama about the Norfolk-raised WWE fighter Paige. Oh, and that breakfast with director Park Chan-wook, who subsequently cast her in the lead of a six-part BBC miniseries of John Le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl that is being made by the team behind The Night Manager. ‘I’ve had a few whoppers of experiences recently,’ Pugh says, breaking into a throaty laugh down the phone.”

For the Observer,Jonathan Romney meets Downsizing director Alexander Payne, while Martyn Palmer interviews Woody Harrelson.

In the New York Times,Roslyn Sulcas profiles Daniel Kaluuya, “the Get Out star whose huge, tear-spilling eyes have imprinted themselves on our collective consciousness,” and Cara Buckley talks with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks about working with Steven Spielberg on The Post—and about a slew of #MeToo issues.

“‘My first thought was that it had come to the wrong address,’ recalls Joe Dante on receiving the script for Gremlins, the small town monster movie that would ultimately become his calling card,” writes Simon Bland at the top of his conversation for Little White Lies. “Having brought a trio of terrors to life starting with schlock horror Piranha in 1978, werewolf tale The Howling in 1981 and a colorful segment in 1983’s ill-fated resurfacing of The Twilight Zone, Dante was carving out a curious niche for himself as a Roger Corman kid with devilish flair. That’s when Steven Spielberg came knocking.”

Philip Concannon talks with Mike White about directing Brad’s Status, writing Beatriz at Dinner for Miguel Arteta, and about why Enlightened, his series with Laura Dern, worked better on television that it ever would have as a feature film.

For Film International,Ali Moosavi met Annemarie Jacir at the Dubai International Film Festival just before her Wajib won Best Film and her co-stars, Mohamed Bakri and Saleh Bakri, father and son in real life, were jointly awarded the Best Actor prize.

In entries devoted to Paul Clipson and Mark Rappaport, novelist Dennis Cooper gathers interviews, clips, and more.


The Film Society of Lincoln Center has posted New York Film Festival director Kent Jones’s conversation with Philippe Garrel (29’33”).

NPR’s Linda Holmes talks with John Cho about his work on Kogonada’s Columbus and more (22’24”).

On a special episode of The Projection Booth (90’53”), Mike White talks with Steve Mitchell about his new documentary King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen—and with Larry Cohen himself.

Filmwax Radio host Adam Schartoff talks with poster artist and illustrator Tony Stella about his work—and about Edo Bertoglio’s Downtown 81 (1981) (100’21”).

The image at the top of this entry is a composite of frames from Jonas Mekas’s Self Portrait . . . (1975), My Mother, Lithuania, 1971 (2013),and Andy Warhol at the Opening of His Show, Whitney Museum, May 1, 1971 (2013). 

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

You have no items in your shopping cart