Category Archives: The Skinny

Sara Colangelo on ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’

From her breakthrough performance in Secretary to HBO’s 70s sex worker drama The Deuce, Maggie Gyllenhaal has excelled with lead roles that flirt with transgression of varying kinds. The Kindergarten Teacher, which won the Dramatic Directing prize at last year’s Sundance, finds the actor on both familiar and new ground. In Sara Colangelo’s tense film, she plays Lisa, a teacher becoming uncomfortably close to a little boy in her care, attempting to nurture and, arguably, exploit his astonishing gifts for poetry with increasingly boundary-pushing methods. Any traits typical of a child prodigy drama (think Jodie Foster’s Little Man Tate) are upturned pretty quickly…

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Philippe Lesage on his heartfelt coming of age film ‘Genesis’

Forget Xavier Dolan; writer-director Philippe Lesage may be the most exciting filmmaker to emerge from Quebec in the last few years. But unlike the director of Mommy and Heartbeats, Lesage has had some struggle getting his films wider distribution, at least in English-language territories.

Reportedly drawn from autobiographical experience, The Demons, his acclaimed narrative debut after a string of documentaries, earned strong notices – including at Glasgow Film Festival 2017 – and favourable comparisons to the thriller stylings of Claude Chabrol and Michael Haneke. In it, a young boy in Montreal begins experiencing the adult world, as he enters adolescence against a backdrop of local child kidnappings.

For his latest feature, Genesis, Lesage strays into autobiographical territory once more for a tale of teenagers in love. In fact, Genesis loops us back in with the filmmaker’s alter ego Félix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), the lead of The Demons, at an older age. This is not a literal sequel, though, which is perhaps wise considering the erratic distribution of Lesage’s films mentioned earlier. Think François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series, where seeing every entry isn’t required, but if you do seek them all out you’ll get a little something extra out of the experience…

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Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade’, teens and the internet

Of all filmmakers to tackle the subject of the relationship of young people to the internet as it is now, Bo Burnham would be among the most qualified. After all, these platforms are responsible for where he is now. The 28-year-old American comedian, musician and actor began his performance career in 2006 with YouTube videos of self-penned comedy songs. The full trajectory of his path since is too convoluted to divulge here, but the important thing is that he has written and directed his first feature: a wonderful film called Eighth Grade that’s had a healthy box office run stateside and has gone on to receive numerous major awards wins and nominations, including a Golden Globe nod for star Elsie Fisher, a thrilling new talent, and a Directors Guild of America Award win in the First-Time Feature category for Burnham just days after our phone conversation…

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Steven Yeun and Lee Chang-dong on thriller ‘Burning’

Arriving eight years after previous film Poetry, Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning left last year’s Cannes without any competition prizes but with perhaps the most ardent critical support of any movie to premiere there in 2018. Much of the film’s pleasure comes from how it slowly reveals its mysteries, so it’s best to keep any plot details to a minimum. All we’ll say is that it concerns a young man, Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), reconnecting with and developing feelings for a girl from his youth, Hae-mi (newcomer Jun Jong-seo). He agrees to look after her cat while she’s abroad in Africa. When she comes back, she’s accompanied by a mysterious companion, Ben (Steven Yeun), a wealthy man with a proclivity for pyromania that may be a cover for something more sinister…

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Breakthrough anime director Mamoru Hosoda on ‘Mirai’

In conversation with Japanese writer-director Mamoru Hosoda, he cites childhood and how young people change as a recurring theme that unites all of his original stories. As such, it seems strangely appropriate that we end up introduced to his own children during our interview. Having just told us that his latest animation, Mirai, is inspired by his kids, we ask him if any of the film’s characters were directly informed by his own brood, which leads to us being shown a family portrait on his phone. “Do you want to see my kids’ pictures?” he asks. “They even look similar.” Sure enough, a lot of the people pictured in the photo resemble the character designs in the film. “The father is different,” he concedes. “Obviously, I’m not that good looking.”

Although staged on a comparatively smaller scale to other Hosoda films like Summer Wars and The Boy and the Beast, Mirai still has an element of fantasy informing its portrait of family relations. It’s closer in spirit to his excellent drama Wolf Children, which spanned several years in the lives of a pair of lycanthropic children and the human mother struggling to raise them. Mirai also features troublesome children, though its exploration of time comes through the unique hook of a magical garden enabling a young boy to encounter his relatives from different eras, with a future older version of his younger sister Mirai acting as his guide…

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Scotland Loves Anime 2018

Bar the occasional big screen outing for kids’ brands like the Teen Titans and My Little Pony, Hollywood has largely given up on releasing 2D feature animation in cinemas. And with the exception of recent European efforts like Ethel & Ernest, the best place for more traditional animation styles to thrive remains in the East, particularly in Japan. Anime on the big screen in Britain has become a big business thanks to successful limited runs via distributors Anime Limited and Manga UK, especially with 2016’s worldwide smash Your Name. The Scotland Loves Anime festival, returning for its ninth instalment at Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, is the best place for the unfamiliar and hardcore enthusiasts alike to get their biggest and most diverse dose of the medium…

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‘Mandy’ director Panos Cosmatos on Nic Cage and ‘MacGruber’

Panos Cosmatos doesn’t make films that are easy to define. This may seem a bold statement concerning a filmmaker who currently has only two features to his name as a writer-director, but those movies are so singular as aural and visual experiences, quite unlike anything else contemporary, and, though they share a through line with some other media of the past, difficult to group together with much that’s come before them. And ‘experience’ is an apt description. “What I’m trying to make with these two films is an immersive audio-visual experience, more than just a traditional narrative,” Cosmatos tells us over the phone. “Every decision is weighed in a qualitative realm of creating this dream state…”

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