Jay Anania sculpts a quiet and powerful tale about a man who finds himself living in the in-between. William Vincent—played by the talented James Franco, whose performance saturates the screen—coolly embraces his second chance at life by spending his days eating alone in restaurants and editing nature videos in a small storefront apartment in lower Manhattan. He relishes in living on the fringe, unnoticed and in the obscurity of the everyday, stepping out on occasion to pickpocket a bourgeois businessman or defend a poor waitress. The concrete landscape provides perfect camouflage as he walks the path to becoming a reluctant criminal. But when William meets Anne (Julianne Nicholson), he is forced to emerge from the shadows.
Anania’s rhythmic pacing and delicate yet haunting score generate a disquieting tone that is echoed in the cast’s strong performances. Beautifully shot, the New York cityscape provides an enthralling backdrop as Anania unravels a dark and genuine love story explored with nuance and subtlety. [Synopsis courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival]
World Narrative Feature Competition
Director: Jay Anania
Primary Cast: James Franco, Julianne Nicholson, Martin Donovan, Josh Lucas, Vince Jolivette, Zoe Lister-Jones
Screenwriter: Jay Anania
Producer: Vince Jollivette, Piers Richardson, Sophia Lin
Director of Photography: Danny Vecchione
Composer: John Medeski
108 min., U.S.
[Editor’s Note: This is one interview in a series profiling directors whose films are screening at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.]
Director Jay Anania on his varied experience in filmmaking…
I’ve been making films – experimental, documentary and fiction – for three decades. The experimental films and most of the documentaries were made in the old one-man-crew school, which of course doesn’t work in dramatic work, but the spirit remains an ideal. It seems to me the art of fiction filmmaking is in some measure, based upon choosing the right people with whom to work. I’ve been more lucky in that regard than I deserve.
And on what inspired him to direct “William Vincent”…
There are people that one sees moving about the city as if they are not participating in public life the way that others do, and I wonder about them. This film imagines such a person, and then considers what it might be like for those who happen to come close to him.
Anania on his approach to directing this film and his many others…
The approach is very simple, and is the same for every film I make – I try to make the film as I imagine the central character would make it. So, this film is shot, paced and staged as I believe the eccentric character William Vincent would have shot and paced and staged it. For instance, it is quiet, eccentric and a little bit hidden, qualities that one could ascribe to William himself. Also, I spent a good deal of my childhood in Japan, and that remains an aesthetic model.
Anania on what he hopes a Tribeca audience will appreciate in his picture…
It is very much a New York City film. I believe that, as is the case in any city or town, there are as many New Yorks as there are New Yorkers. The city in William Vincent, while dark, is also quiet and innocent in an unlikely way, and I hope audiences will appreciate that.
Anania on his filmmaking icons…
Off the top of my head, the work of Bresson, Malick, Bela Tarr, Lisandro Alonso, Carlos Reygadas – because they all show, in their different ways, such patience and sincerity.
And on what he has in store for the near future…
I’ve got a number of small dramatic features I’m thinking about, both documentary and fiction, which I superstitiously don’t speak about. Also, I am just finishing a film I shot in Malaysia and Singapore, “Drinking Sand,” which is a very eccentric psychological portrait of a troubled American diplomat. I am also in post on “THR/NYC,” a collaboration with an Iranian director, in which we each tell alternating chapters of the same story, alternately set in our own cities and language. It’s a non-political subject, simply a cross-cultural experiment.