INTERVIEW: Rose Troche Goes from Fishing to British Farce with "Bedrooms & Hallways"
by Aaron Krach
Rose Troche blasted onto the scene in 1994 as the co-writer and director of "Go Fish." The world reacted with genuine surprise to the mere existence of a hip, young lesbian director. More surprising was the discovery of a "lesbian market" who contributed to "Go Fish" raking in a couple of million clams at the box office. Call it sexism, homophobia or just independent film, but Troche's career didn't take off with the same speed as her male counterparts. (Kevin Smith's gritty and witty "Clerks" also played at Sundance 1994 and he has since made three films.)
Surprisingly, Troche is not at all bitter. In fact, she is disarmingly funny and enthusiastic about her sophomore effort, "Bedrooms & Hallways," a candy-colored comic romp set in London and opening this Friday from First Run Features. Troche is particularly satisfied that the film couldn't be more different than "Go Fish" (it's in color and about men). In addition to shepherding "Bedrooms & Hallways" through its release, Troche is hard at work putting together her next film, "The Safety of Objects," based on a book of short stories by A.M. Holmes to be produced by In Film and Killer Films. Troche recently met with indieWIRE to talk about this surprising choice for her second feature, audience reactions to the film, what she's been doing all this time, and her arm-wrestling aspirations.
indieWIRE: You really threw everyone a curve by making a movie without any lesbians in it. Are you enjoying your iconoclast status?
Rose Troche: Yeah. I guess it only goes from bad to worse from here, because no one is really going to expect the next one either.
iW: How do you gauge the reaction to "Bedrooms & Hallways?"
Troche: There's been no homogenous reaction. A lot of people have been, 'Uh, what did you do that for?' or 'Where are you coming from?' Some of it I find very kind of boring, because what was I supposed to do, do "Go Fish" over and over again? What I find interesting is people who ask me about stylistic variances. That's a lot more interesting than, 'Oh, I thought you were the lesbian filmmaker?' Granted, I don't look at myself now as a gay men's filmmaker either, but life is full of experiences.
iW: Some audiences are particularly surprised by the ending and whether or not it's an argument not only for heterosexuality, but also against being queer?
Troche: That came from a very sincere place, for both Robert Farrar, (screenwriter) and I. It wasn't positioned so that Leo is left with the girl so that we make a zillion dollars on the movie cause it crosses over. Not at all. For Robert and I, as a couple of homos in our 30s, we question every aspect of our lives and for us, unfortunately, that almost always includes sexuality. It's not a rejection of being gay, but an opening up of the parameters of the definition of homosexuality. And sexuality cannot just be based on ultimately who you fuck. When I say I'm a lesbian, that's said with saying that I've had as much sex with men as with women in my life. People could say I'm a traitor, but the reason that I say I'm not is when I imagine in my mind who I'd be spending time with, and I imagine myself with a woman.
iW: You and Kevin Smith shared Sundance 1994 and now you've both made movies about what it means to be gay. What did you think of "Chasing Amy?"
Troche: I loved "Chasing Amy" actually. I really like it a lot. I haven't talked to Kevin Smith in years (because you know he's so wealthy and I'm not. So we had to start not talking because the classes can't. . .) But no, he does such a good job with his success. I saw him do the MTV awards with Ben Affleck, and I was like, "You go!" And he's not everyman. He's kind of a geeky, overweight dude. He is what he is.
iW: How much of a cold shoulder have you gotten from your lesbian sisters about "B&H"?
Troche: Oh, well I did get a little bit of a cold shoulder in France. I had a women interview me during the film, of all things, and she goes [in thick French accent], "What have you done? 'Go Fish' was so good. It was terrific. And this? This is shit." No lie. I was like, "Who is this woman? Who set up this interview?" This woman was drunk on champagne and bumming all my cigarettes. I was like, "Sister. You need to get a grip." I left her in that room. There were these big old bottles of champagne, the gallon size ones. I said, "Did you just drink one of those? Cause you seem like it." It was the worst I ever had.
iW: Have you had an easier time with men?
Troche: There was something really lovely about "Bedrooms & Hallways." It was like doing the opposite of "Go Fish." Oh my god, to wrangle all those men together to do their scenes and meet with each was such a different vibe. It was so interesting to work with the male crew. The most difficult for me was post-production because that was dead, old school men. These guys had cobwebs over the message board.
iW: In the 5 years between films, how were you living between projects?
Troche: How am I living still? On baked beans. You're calling a pay phone right now, actually.
iW: Well, I know you were at a library earlier as opposed to a bookstore.
Troche: Oh don't start the rumors now. I'm supporting my Brooklyn Public Library who never has a book on the shelf for the $17 in fines I just paid, which is the whole paycheck I get for a script. No, but really, they were some lean times, I'm telling you. I taught video production and post-production at the New School [in Manhattan]. I love teaching. I find it a very fulfilling thing. I'm just not ready to throw in the towel and do it full time yet. I also went on the lecture circuit. I wrote something for HBO, which I loved. I know, it sound like I just love all my work, but it was really, really funny. It was a thing called "Once I Had a Secret Love." It was for a thing called "Women on Women: Tales of Seduction." They had done a "Women on Men" and a "Men on Men," but they just never really got the stomach to do the "Women on Women." Mine was set in 1955, about housewives who'd been having an affair, set to Doris Day music a la Douglas Sirk.
iW: I heard you were the "wrestling champion" at San Francisco's Gay & Lesbian Film Festival last month?
Troche: I don't know what got into me that night? The crack pipe maybe--at least until Grandma got thrown into the door. I ended up with the biggest black and blue mark. It was some 21-year-old who wanted to wrestle, all right. She pushed me. And those 21-year-olds are lot more limber. What was really funny was that there was nothing that I was doing that night -- maybe some champagne. When I got to the party that night, there was a box of wine with a spout and some crazy punch. So I wasn't drinking anything. So I started lifting people and someone said, "Will you arm wrestle?"And then it just got started from there. Funniest part is that the next festival I went to, people asked me to wrestle.