Guy Maddin's Keyhole, which constitutes an important gear-shift for the bold Canadian director, premieres tonight in NYC (tix still available). I spoke with him last week in Austin, during an interview which he describes on-cam as a first-ever monologue.
Fresh from filming séances at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Maddin speaks lucidly on memory, myth, and the interplay between the two. Rather than doing a stock Q&A, I posed the same opportunity to speak about life that I pose to the more interesting interview subjects I meet, and it's always fascinating to see the different reactions: Some roll with it beautifully; some resist, then get lost in story-telling; some squirm, then reach for their publicist, unable to get past a too-guarded mindset, conditioned as they are by flacks and studios to expect a certain compliance (speaking of which, check out Compliance , an interesting film-as-real-life cautionary tale, from this year's SXSW) from, and even control of, journos who they presume are simply there to help the publicity and image-control machine, rather than to elucidate themes, and at times even re-introduce the artist to an audience by way of mutual exploration. Sadly, in film-crit, many of us are the former, and this helps no one.
Simply put, herewith, the stories of Guy Maddin, which I filmed in as ghostly a light as I could create on-the-fly, plus a few quotes. I've just arrived back from Austin today -- as always, ignore all typos:
Maddin speaks on many things, including a "New-Agey ex-girlfriend" who advised him to tell his Dad, who'd appeared in his dreams, to go away -- an act Maddin sees as tantamount to patricide...
On The Dialectic Between Memories, Obsession, Filmmaking
"At the end of the process, instead of consecrating an obsession, a memory of mine to film forever -- which, maybe the movie did -- It actually just made me sick and tired of the whole obsession and cured me of it... through repetition and aversion-therapy, movie-making kind of ruined a lot of great obsessions for me... I held onto things from the past for a pathologically long time, because I need to; I think it's important to live in the past and the present simultaneously -- it's what makes us what we are. We all do anyway, might as well admit it and embrace it. Since I'm basically an atheist I feel it's important to pay tribute to the people and things that you love. I'm not mystical at all, I just feel that everything there was to know was there if only I was smart enough to see it -- I saw with my eyes but I didn't see with my heart, and now through constant posthumous revisiting with him, I've come to know him [my father] a lot better and understand him a lot more. Since I'm now approaching the age at which he died, and really feeling like I'm knowing him well. So, a sort of atheistic dream-life, film-life ongoing relationship with things from the past has really helped me uh, love the present; finally, me, a person that's long had trouble living in the present."
"I thought that I was making movies as therapy, but talking about them in interviews is what has turned out to be the really invaluable exercise. After you run out to the truth, you start bullshitting and then soon you run out of bullshit, and then you really have to improvise your answers about why you made something, and uh, pretty soon, you start believing your own lies. And then a really cool thing happens: You realize they aren't lies -- that the reason you defaulted to the kind of lies you did about your movie work, and not other lies, is that there's something true in them, and that the lies start settling into place, and that some of the lies that don't really add up to much sort of blow away like chaff, and that the ones that really seem to insist upon repeating themselves finally kind of stand up solidly through time are the real reasons you made the film -- are the real reasons you wanted to, uh, are the real reasons you discover that you need to continue making movies."
On Intuition and Acceptance
"I'm desperate to prove to people that I'm not a wanker; it's just a real need to share with the world certain exquisitely melancholic feelings I have had about myself in the great flow of time... I'll always know one thing: It's always better to work intuitively -- it's worked more often than not to my satisfaction... I just work intuitively, and figure things out later."
Keyhole with Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini and Udo Kier, premieres tonight at the Walter Reade Theater, where Guy Maddin will participate in a post-screening Q&A. More info can be found HERE