EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a daily December series that will feature new or previously published interviews, profiles and first-persons of some of the year’s best filmmakers, writers, actors and actresses. This edition is are two separate interviews with “Blue Valentine” directors Derek Cianfrance, first from the Sundance Film Festival in January, when the film premiered, and then from the London Film Festival, where he reacted to the film’s NC-17 rating from the MPAA. The rating has since been overturned
Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance returns to Sundance with his U.S. Dramatic Competition film, “Blue Valentine,” described as an “intimate, shattering portrait of a disintegrating marriage.” Cianfrance won the Cinematography Award (Dramatic) for “Streets of Legend” in 2003 and directed 1998’s “Brother Tied.” Cianfrance gave iW some quick comments about his film, which will have its world premiere later this month at the festival.
“When I was a child, I had two nightmares – nuclear war and my parents’ divorce,” Cianfrance told indieWIRE about his latest film. “‘Blue Valentine’ confronts the second fear.” In creating the film, Cianfrance developed a multi-pronged approach to both sides of the film’s story, and he even took a unique approach to character development during hiatus.
“I implemented a rigorous process during the preparation and making of the film – everything from writing a manifesto which laid out separate rules to filming each of the two threads of the film to living with the actors in their characters’ home during a hiatus in our production. The goal of this process was to make a film that allowed for surprises and captured fleeting moments with the performers.” Cianfrance went on to say that taking the project from idea to production was “11 years of believeing, hustling and false starts.” He added, “I thank goodness I’m so stubborn.”
Cianfrance began his interest in filmmaking when he was six years-old after steeling his brother’s tape recorder on his birthday. “[I] began using it to interview, instigate, and create stories with the people in my family,” he said. “When I was 13, I borrowed the librarian’s camcorder and began doing the same thing. By the time I went to film school I had a dozen little movies under my belt. It was my training ground.”
He has a slew of other projects in the works, including a four year production of “Meathead,” about a heavey metal drummer with tinnitus, in addition to two other scripts, “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Nurture” that are “ready to go…”
But reflecting on “Blue Valentine,” Cianfrance concludes, “I hope [Sundance audiences] see a naked film that reflects them with honesty and courage.”
Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” made its UK debut this weekend at the BFI London Film Festival, where it was met with the resounding approval it’s already found at the dozen or so festivals it has screened at since debuting in Sundance this past January. Featuring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in career-best performances, “Valentine” depicts the pair as a married couple whose relationship is severely deteriorating. It marks the culmination of over a decade of work for Cianfrance, who clearly seems touched by the consistently glowing receptions.
“With my first film ‘Brother Tied’ I used to get off the plane at festivals and there’d be like six people in the audience,” he said in London this weekend. “But here with ‘Blue Valentine’ it’s been such a different experience. There’s more exposure to the film and people are a little more excited about it… To spend 12 years on something and have it be received this way is a validation to all that stubbornness all these years.”
Unfortunately, there was one recent reaction to the film that neither Cianfrance or the film’s U.S. distributor – The Weinstein Company – are likely to feel particularly validated by. Two weeks ago, the internet was abuzz with the surprising news that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had given the film an “NC-17” rating. Consensus quickly and clearly suggested the MPAA had made an unfair move, and The Weinstein Company has since announced that it would appeal the rating.
“We were shocked by it, in all honesty,” Cianfrance told indieWIRE about the MPAA’s decision. “I think we made a very respectful film. It’s not exploitative. It’s honest, it’s intimate… it leaves a lot to people’s imaginations. And we’re going to fight it. We all respect the MPAA and the work that they do but we think that this decision is wrong.”
Cianfrance said that he fully believes that the cut that the MPAA slapped with an “NC-17” – the same cut that screened in London this weekend – is the version of the film “everybody should see.”
Whether that ends up being the case or not, Cianfrance seems to have already found a silver lining.
“The positive to take from all of this is the support that people have offered,” he said sincerely. “I have been surprised and honored that so many people have come to the defence of the film. There’s nobody in the press or the public that have seen the film that seem to agree with the decision.”
More from the interview here:
Previous Honor Roll 2010 Entries:
December 7: “The Social Network” and “Never Let Me Go” Actor Andrew Garfield
December 6: “I Am Love”‘s Tilda Swinton and Luca Guadagnino
December 5: “Waste Land” Director Lucy Walker
December 4: “Restrepo” Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
December 3: “Another Year” Actress Lesley Manville
December 2: “Please Give” Director Nicole Holofcener
December 1: “Winter’s Bone” Director Debra Granik