Category Archives: US Independent

1985 – What a Year

 

Before we dive into Yen Tan’s “delicate drama” (The Evening Standard ★★★★) let’s recap on what defined the year of 1985…

  • The Goonies, The Breakfast Club and Back To The Future soared onto our screens and into our hearts.
  • Madonna launches her first road show The Virgin Tour after scoring No.1 hits with “Like a Virgin” and “Crazy For You”.
  • The iconic Live Aid concert which raised over £50m for relief of Ethiopian famine; whilst showing off Freddie Mercury and Queen in their prime (we’ve all seen the recent Bohemian Rhapsody!)
  • Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan was named NBA’s “Rookie of the Year”.
  • Comic Relief was launched live from BBC One on Christmas Day.
  • The Titanic was discovered 370 miles from Newfoundland.
  • The year where wearing swatch watches and playing on Super Mario Bros. was all the rage.

It’s clear that 1985 is a year to remember for these many reasons. But also for the thousands of those lost to the AIDS virus. Yen Tan’s 1985 pays a touching tribute to those affected by the virus and their surrounding families and friends.

A bravura ensemble performance from a stellar cast that includes CORY MICHAEL SMITH (Gotham, First Man), JAMIE CHUNG (The Gifted), Golden Globe Winner MICHAEL CHIKLIS (Fantastic Four, Gotham) and Oscar Nominee VIRGINIA MADSEN (Sideways)

Texas, Christmas 1985 Adrian (Cory Michael Smith  Gotham) is home for the first time in three years. Between his mother s fawning affections, his father s begrudging, stilted conversation and his younger brother s cold shoulder, Adrian is all too aware of the impact his absence has had on them.

A mutual love of Madonna’s music helps the brothers to reconnect. Their relationship starts to rebuild through the joy of “ungodly” music and movies as Adrian secretly helps him rebuild his cassette tape collection recently destroyed by the local pastor.

With his life in New York City falling apart, Adrian is determined to make this home visit count – 1985 will be a Christmas to remember

 

From Goddess to Satanist – Making Mansfield 66/67

We talked to MANSFIELD 66/67 directors P.David Ebersole and Todd Hughes about their devilish documentary which spotlights the mysterious final years of Hollywood bombshell Jayne Mansfield.

Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey

Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey

Jayne’s uneasy intersection with that moment of American history meshed perfectly with our common interests in people who live as outsiders, especially those who experience a questioning of faith and how that expands an acceptance of mans’ multiplicitous nature, be it expressed in sexually adventurous behaviour or non-traditional paths in life. All very heady thoughts when you are talking about an alleged affair between a woman known best for having the body measurements of 40-21-35 and a man who liked to wear plastic devil horns and a red cape to impress girls!

Together, for close to twenty years now, we have researched and collected Jayne and Anton literature and artifacts trying to piece together this mysterious story as a narrative feature script. But we found ourselves not very interested in the “simple” idea of making an exposé where we were might try to dig past the rumours and legends to expose the absolute truth, but rather found ourselves fascinated by creating a celebration of the storytellings and spectacles which have ingrained themselves into the lore and accepted truths of Hollywood Babylon. For instance, although it has been disproven many times, many people today still insist that Jayne Mansfield was decapitated, preferring to hold on to the gory hearsay in lieu of accepting the reported facts. Why? What is more interesting about that which may not be true but lives on in the collective unconscious?

 

Mansfield 66/67 Documentary

Mansfield 66/67 Documentary

First, we set out to interview subjects with not just first hand experience of either Jayne or Anton, but hopefully people who might hold deeper thoughts about either or both of them and/or their alleged relationship with each other. We reached out to find contemporaries who may or may not have been their colleagues, artists who expressed being influenced by one or the other, theorists and feminists who might have a take on it all, film scholars who could put their careers into context with each other, experts in Hollywood gossip — essentially a melting pot of people who could only comment on what they heard rather than who could, say, confirm the veracity of the stories being told.

On an artistic level, we felt that telling this as a “true story based on rumour and hearsay” required that we created our supporting material in the same vein. This is what inspired us to use what we call emotional dance numbers and experimental film and performance sketches to ruminate and try to understand the extraordinary circumstances which lead up to Jayne’s tragic death.

Directors P.David Ebersole and Todd Hughes at a Q&A screening of Mansfield 66/67.

Directors P.David Ebersole and Todd Hughes at a Q&A screening of Mansfield 66/67.

MANSFIELD 66/67 is available on DVD and On-Demand from the 25th June.  Read more here.

BEACH RATS – The Origin

 

Writer / Director Eliza Hittman talks about the original ideas behind her award winning film BEACH RATS.

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BEACH RATS

When Eliza Hittman’s debut feature, IT FELT LIKE LOVE, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, it was hailed as a refreshingly unsentimental, original and visually poetic portrait of a teenage girl’s sexual coming-of-age. Hittman was lauded as a filmmaker to watch, and the accolades continued as IT FELT LIKE LOVE played additional festivals and went into theatrical release in 2014. Richard Brody of The New Yorker named it one of the 20 best films of 2014 and wrote “Even as the movie delves deep into the characters’ complex emotional lives, it subtly and gradually—yet ineluctably—conjures a world that I was sorry to leave. I didn’t want the movie to end.”

Hittman knew she would be expected to tell another female-centered story with her second feature, but she wanted to challenge industry assumptions and herself as a filmmaker. She wanted to continue to plumb the outer and inner lives of young people, but chose a different focus. “I grew up in a family where all conversations around sexuality were taboo. I watched someone be brutalized because of their sexuality, but I’ve been barred from writing about my family specifically. My firsthand experiences with homophobia haunt my youth and inspired me to tell a story about a character wrestling with sexuality. I wanted to take on something that was very masculine, and explore the intense pressures on young men to live traditionally masculine lives in an environment with no clear alternative, role model or way out.” BEACH RATS began production on July 25, 2016, and shot for 25 days in different parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

In considering a setting for the story, she was drawn back to the South Brooklyn working-class neighborhoods of IT FELT LIKE LOVE. A native of Flatbush, Brooklyn, Hittman came to know the borough’s coastal communities through high school friends who lived in places like Manhattan Beach. “I’ve always been a little bit fascinated with those neighborhoods and I’d spend a lot of the summer just flopping around those beaches,” she says. “It’s a part of Brooklyn that feels caught between past and present. Those areas have a history of violence of all kinds–crimes against people of color and gay men, and organized crime–and, unlike other parts of the City, change has come very slowly.

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Harris Dickinson plays Frankie in BEACH RATS

 

Her image of the main character in BEACH RATS came from a Facebook image she’d found while researching wardrobe and set design for IT FELT LIKE LOVE. “It was a guy standing at a mirror holding his phone, with a big flash from the camera,” she says. “He had his shirt off and this hat on, and the visor was sort of masking his eyes. It looked like he was about to pull down his gym shorts and take a picture of his dick. There was this tension between hyper-masculine and homoerotic that the picture so clearly illustrated.”

At the same time, Hittman also became interested in Internet-related violence in the LGBTQ community, violence that has had a significant presence in these outer reaches of the City as a microcosm of events that happen throughout the world. The horrifying nature and similarities within stories where dating sites are used to lure people into sexual encounters that end with robbery, beatings, and even death. Hittman says “it’s a very dark subject, one that I know will have a divergent response as it’s a difficult topic that continually recurs.”

From there, Hittman started building out the world of Frankie, a 19-year-old facing an aimless summer at an uncertain moment in his life. His father is in the last stages of cancer, dying in hospice care in the family living room. Frankie spends his days killing time, getting high and hanging out with three delinquent fellow beach rats. At home, he squirrels himself away in the basement, where he can flirt with older men online without anyone knowing. But when a self-assured, sexy local girl named Simone makes a play for him on a Friday night at Luna Park, he awkwardly goes along with it.

 

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Eliza Hittman writer / director of BEACH RATS