On this episode of the podcast, I talk with filmmaker David Gordon Green (George Washington, Undertow) about his fourth film, Snow Angels, which stars an ensemble cast led by Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell. Snow Angels is the first of three surprises that Green has in store for us this year. Green talks about resisting the pigeonhole, about adding humor to dark stories, and about finding moments in editing that you didn't plan.
1:40 Situating Snow Angels
7:07 Interview: David Gordon Green
Coming Up: the films of Michael Haneke
For such an unassuming guy, Green is quite quotable. "It took a little while to get out of the Southern crybaby genre," he says about his recent hard starboard into uncharted waters. On his unusual casting for such a dark film, he explains, "I don't like jerks and serious people that much," and about the care required when editing humorous moments in a tragic film he says:
It's really about finding the frame that didn't feel inappropriately comedic.... It was literally, in the editing room, finding the frame that gave you the human imperfection of the moment without giving you the hilarity of the moment.
Presumably, Green's fifth film, the Apatow/Rogen stoner comedy Pineapple Express, will operate under a different mechanism.
It was a great experience to do those movies back to back and it's gonna be a funny year to have my name attached to two things that are attractive to absolutely opposite audiences. And it'll be interesting, the weird middle ground of people who will have the audacity to investigate both. [laughs]
I actually ripped a copy of that Godard/Spielberg back-and-forth, if anyone needs a copy...
Pleasant conversation, made me a lot more curious to see Snow Angels than I was before. But then that talk of a Suspiria remake put me into a state of mild shock- I'm not sure I'll be able to remember much else about this interview...
And just to confirm: Brian's not joking about Green wanting to remake Susperia... unless Green was pulling my leg. He seemed serious.
As for Snow Angels, I haven't strongly recommended it to anybody, and it doesn't make me think of anything on the level of what J. Robert discusses in his review of Green's first film (link above), but when a movie confounds my expectations and seems to strive for a certain slice of humanity, I can respect it even if the result is uneven.
I saw _Snow Angels_ because of this podcast actually. I'm a fan of DGG but I was wary of the new picture (with just cause as it turned out); however, I was charmed, as always, by his winning personality and decided to give it a shot. I thought, if anything it will look great. And it does look great. But Kate Beckinsale unbalances things and can't quite stand up next to Sam Rockwell. For a moment I wondered if it was a case of Rockwell overplaying his role and upstaging his fellows but his brand of acting is pretty subtle, even when it's big, so it really seemed to fall on Beckinsale. (And sometimes DGG overplaying a scene, like when we hear her gasp-crying behind that window, which kills the moment, instead of intensifying it, I worry.)
The thing that continues to impress me the most about DGG's films is his fluency with young people. The young couple here is adorable, sure, but I don't think they're precious by any means: they're just awkward. And I dig that. The worst thing, it seems, is DGG's drive to incorporate more narrative into his style. This seems a misstep. He's best when he's abandoned plot, just filming vignettes to create an affect of drift, which is clearly lifted from Malick (but is, in its own right, no small feat), to give us a string of happenings. I think _All The Real Girls_ is my favorite because there is drama, sure, but even its largest moments are small scale, and things just happen. As that last scene says, it's all about choices -- that way, or that way -- and even though _Snow Angels_ was a little overwrought and top heavy its quiet moments of navigation (especially between the young lovers) are its best.
I don't think _Pineapple Express_ will be tender. It will probably have the Apatow brand of sweetness but it's hard to imagine a stoner comedy like this one being tender. It may be funny in the details, though. I'll definitely see it. But the real thing to see, I think, will be that _Suspiria_ remake if it does, indeed, make me want to look...and sing a song.
Heh, yes, during the interview I wasn't entirely sure if I heard him say "sing a song" ... so I moved on.
I actually agree with most of your comments about Snow Angels, and when I wrote up a quick summary of Sundance '07 I put it into the "trite and clichéd" category, but for some reason that classification kept bugging me, like there were aspects that I couldn't resist. The teen romance (with a pre-Juno Olivia Thirlby) was a compelling oasis in a sea of melodrama. The perpetual snowfall. The indistinct tone. The hand motif (and I'm pretty sure there's another hand besides the two he mentioned, on a bulletin board at school). And -- I agree -- Rockwell's inherent appeal as an idiosyncratic actor. You're right; he plays loudsters with subtlety.
As it turns out, I also think the movie is better than the book (which I read after the fact, only to help me figure out what I thought of the movie), but I appreciate DGG's diplomacy when talking about it. The teen romance in the book is dour and small, and Arthur is in a pouty funk most of the time, a distant parallel -- not a counterpoint -- to Glenn's downward spiral.
The changes in the film made me think more highly of DGG as a writer, even though the film is a very mixed bag. He follows the action of the book closely, but his fine-tuning is pretty remarkable. So, I'm still hopeful he's got a great movie in him.
I hope the podcast didn't lead you astray, but I'm pleased and flattered that we were able to alter your movie plans. :-) Maybe the next time that happens it'll be for the better.
Here's Stewart O'Nan on the film adaptation of his book.
Looks like his next film will be a project with the Foot Fist Way guys. Green has produced his friends' projects in the past, films like Great World of Sound and Shotgun Stories.