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References for Untitled MP Film

by ConorWilliams

Created 07/10/17

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This is a list of films that Brian and I have referenced, either overtly or obliquely, while writing and shooting our movie. These films have moved us, each in unique ways. Their images and messages have colored the world in which we create. Also listed are some films we have not seen that we want to look into for further inspiration.

  • Multiple Maniacs is what inspired this entire project. Brian and I watched this film and decided we needed to make something like it--something shocking. We were galvanized by Waters' anarchic queerness--his fuck-you sensibility. The ending of this film floored us, and we wanted to make something with a moment just like that. We thought of John Waters (and Divine) as the antithesis of and antidote to the current administration, and wanted to make a film that would make Mike Pence vomit.

  • So we tapped into the man himself, the wax figure of a Vice President. We created a senator named Richard Mason. He became the figure on which we would base our film. Richard Mason is a carbon-copy of Pence. But there's another figure that we drew direct inspiration from, and that is Ed Avery, James Mason's character in Bigger than Life. We stole his last name! The film is cheesy as hell, but it masterfully portrays the breakdown of a cookie-cutter nuclear family in the 1950s. This was to be the central conflict in our film--a man tearing his family and himself apart.

  • Multiple Maniacs and Bigger than Life inspired the sensibility of our film, and the latter especially informs much of its social politics, but The Night of the Hunter more than anything else (except for the following film) is where we found the twisted soul of our story. Richard's sudden mood swing is purposefully evocative of Ed Avery, but it is the Reverend Harry Powell that embodies the morally bankrupt monster that lays within him. Like Mike Pence, Powell is a bloodthirsty, backwards-thinking evangelical man who commits evil in the name of God. However, Richard is compelled to do good--what he sees as good--for his country and for his God. But it is not good--it is a warped vision of justice. Richard's knuckles are eventually emblazoned with the very words seen tattooed on those of Harry Powell in this film--GOOD AND EVIL. It is a struggle that Richard deals with throughout the film.

    The cinematography and lighting is also something integral to our vision of this film. Some of the most haunting images I've ever seen glisten in Laughton's black and white.

  • Eraserhead is the ultimate film about family anxiety. Richard Mason is compelled to bury the aborted fetuses that have been left out in the "dump" at the abortion clinic. These monstrous, revenge-driven fetuses, in my mind, look a lot like the baby from Eraserhead. But it is not only the film's most obvious and iconic image that Brian and I have looked to in writing the film. The sound design and set design--the architecture of a bleak and featureless nightmare--factor into what we wanted our Oval Office to look like. The Oval Office in our film is a purgatorial space where both angels and demons reside. And so I decided it should look like a white void--empty of anything that might bring to mind a sense of governmental prestige.

  • This film is a testament to the power of political satire. Outrageous, infuriating, disgusting, and important.

  • The Pale Man served as an important visual reference as to what I would like The President to look like. Guillermo del Toro himself has elaborated on the symbolism of The Pale Man, saying that he is a stand-in for people like our president. A nefarious white man. But I did not want The President to be anything like Trump. I allowed myself only one subtle reference. The President is more of a disgusting amalgam of evangelical white men.

  • Cronenberg is a must-watch when it comes to body horror.

  • I haven't seen these yet, but they seem like just the kind of spooky we're working toward.

  • Todd Haynes is an example of a queer voice who uses satire in very subtle ways. Safe is a chilling portrait of queer anxiety and paranoia. I think this film serves as a good reference for Richard's deteriorating state, juxtaposed with the political and social lived experience that he would never know a thing about.

  • I haven't seen this but it sounds like what I described above.

  • Sirk's visuals are imbued with melodrama. Gorgeously sorrowful.

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