Below director Tony Kaye (“American History X”) shares a scene from his latest, “Detachment.” The timely drama centers on Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody), a substitute teacher who makes it a point to avoid emotional connection with his students and colleagues. Rounding out the stellar ensemble is Marcia Gay Harden as the school principal, Lucy Liu as a frustrated guidance counselor, along with supporting turns from Christina Hendricks, Blythe Danner, James Caan and Tim Blake Nelson. (“Detachment” opens March 16 in theaters.)
“Detachment” is a movie about the school of real life. Fragmented, jumpy, disjointed, dysfunctional, unrehearsed chaos, yet magnificently calibrated somehow to make perfect sense if you really care to look.
Directing motion pictures is like molding clay — a bit here and a bit there, until it takes shape. The act of writing is an act of improvisation. Life, language, emotion- all in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one’s immediate environment and inner-feelings.
When I showed Adrien Brody an early cut of “Detachment,” I brought along a camera [A Panavision Genesis high end digital movie camera 12.4 megapixel CCD chip, arranged in a 5670×2160 horizontally RGB filtered array and 1 100 mm macro lens], a microphone [Sony ECM 88 20 Hz-20 kHz omnidirectional lavalier] and a light [pps sun gun color matching light], and asked if he’d mind improvising an interview as Henry Barthes for an hour. That is the origin of how this sequence came to be, which was further fleshed out by interjecting everyday moments of the lives of the other teachers at home, as themselves, living life. Tim Blake Nelson says so much by saying nothing, just being able to be there… REALLY be there, having that gift of talking with no words. Tim is a clever, clever man who has a way with words, but he’s such a powerful presence on screen that he doesn’t need to rely on dialogue to convey a million emotions at once. His Mr. Wiatt sweats in the dark foreboding of his 1% world, not seeing the immensity of his giving. I worked with Tim’s character for days and days, and then I met up with Tim some time later and did not recognize him. Such is his mastery of the craft.
Lucy Liu as Dr. Parker carries the world upon her shoulders. Staring into an invisible mirror of tears for the self at the gates of tears with no tears visible, just a waking coma, the eye of a female hawk bird praying prayer. This image of an artist with no canvass or clay, just a mesmerizing ability to look at the past as if it’s the future with no present. Lucy has the ability to capture it and say all that in an instant moment.
William Petersen as Sarge, a returning soldier from some war that we have not yet disclosed, lost in the fading light of a disparaging electric lamp. There is so much that I have not disclosed about the depth in these characters. You see it emotionally on the screen, but there is a backstory for each of them that we’ve barely skimmed the surface of. I have almost a complete movie shot of Marcia Gay Harden and Bryan Cranston, waiting on my hard drive for the 2nd installment of “Detachment.”
Will there be one? I don’t know. I want to make one. I have a few left in me, and Adrien has a billion in him, that’s for sure. Look at what he’s doing here. He’s just making it up as he goes along, but you’d think this is written. This is what you call making it up on the fly of a needle with no eye or ego. What am I talking about? I don’t really know, but I do know that I don’t talk the same language as most people. I’ve been practicing this craft of talking in tongues for nearly 60 years now. Henry Barthes and Adrien Brody and Adrien’s Dad Elliot Brody and (writer) Carl Lund can say it much better than I can. I just run around with my butterfly cameramicrophoneandconstantinnerprayer, but talking about the films isn’t necessarily my forte.
I haven’t even mentioned Christina Hendricks yet, because her Miss. Madison could be like one of Picasso’s women. Nervous breakdown, shooting herself… something like that. They all went mad, you know? Two of them killed themselves, and two others ended up in asylums. I used to find that interesting when I was younger. Pretty funny and cool, even. Not sure what that makes me. I don’t feel that way now. But, I mean, it’s difficult to criticize Picasso. At least I can’t, anyway.