Memory The Origins of Alien Review

Much like you did with 78/52, you have a really interesting aesthetic when it comes to interviews. It’s almost like it’s own movie. In the last film, you made it look like the interviews were taking place in the Bates Motel. What was the thinking with this film?

Alexandre: Without giving away the opening sequence, which is pretty out there, the whole idea was the moment you entered that cave, you’re basically in the bowels of the Derelict. We’re in complete darkness until the very end when we emerge and we go back to those ruins, and the sun rises and the curse has been lifted. The Furies are gone, and the colors get warm again. So the whole idea was to be in this void, this deep dark void. It’s a deep, dark movie. It may sound like we just had to put some black curtains on the walls, but it was a lot more complicated than that. You always have to get the right studios and it becomes costly. It would be a whole lot easier to shoot people in their homes, but that’s not what we do.

You also said with 78/52 that that film shouldn’t just be for film buffs; it should be for people who have never seen Psycho. Do you feel the same way about this film?

Alexandre: I hope so. It’s always something I’m very conscience of. With the brand of films that we make, going back to The People vs. George Lucas, I think people who were curious about a subject can watch these documentaries and go “Oh, okay. Now I get it.” I really see the films that we make as a bridge between the general public and film studies, in the sense that what I hope we do keep bridging that gap, even for people who don’t consider themselves film scholars or film students, or think film studies can be dry and inaccessible. This idea of diving into film and cracking it open and understanding what’s going on is really fun and engaging and soul wrenching in so many ways. Over the years, what has really made me happy, is having people in the audience who have never watched, for example, Psycho. That always made me really happy, especially if their first impulse after watching 78/52 was “I’m going to go watch Psycho right now.” Hopefully the same thing happen with Memory.

That’s the ultimate compliment. The film is coming to Sundance without a distributor, correct?

Alexandre: Yes, although we’ve been getting request left and right to see it. The strategy is that we aren’t going to show the film to any distributor until Sundance. Many of them will be there.

Much like your last film, I can imagine that bringing a film like this to Sundance and putting it before this perfect audience of film lovers has got to be terrifying.

Alexandre: It’s funny. Everyone of my films I’ve had an extensive world tour with, which have been amazing. But the one night where I get butterflies is the first one, because how people react to the first screening is usually an indicator of pretty much how people are going to respond for the rest of the year, throughout the world. The people who have seen it so far—a few critics, the Sundance programmers, a few other people—the indicators are very good, and I hope that’s how other people respond. Of course I’m nervous, but I’m mostly excited because I feel strongly that it’s the one film about cinema that we’ve made that goes the deepest. I think it’s going to make people really think and talk about cinema in a different way. I’m looking forward to the Q&As; I think there will be some very exciting exchanges ahead.

Moving forward, are you good continuing to be that filmmaker who dissects the work of other filmmakers? I read that your next film is about The Exorcist.

Alexandre: Yes. Well somebody has to do it [laughs]. I’m perfectly happy to be that filmmaker, and hopefully Memory is proof that I don’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over again. I want to keep stretching the idea of what does film deconstruction actually mean and what can be done cinematically. As I said, these are not behind-the-scenes films; these are film that hopefully say something about cinema. So the next one, which we’re already in post-production on is about The Exorcist. I’m really excited about it. The best way I can pitch it is that it’s a chamber film about The Exorcist. It’s only William Friedkin, who I got to interview for four-and-a-half days, just on that film. It’s the most in-depth interview ever about the film, as you can imagine. We have a lot of conversations, and I have more to get out of him as well. It’s really a film about his artistic process, and what’s fascinating about this film and what will surprise people is, when you think about The Exorcist, you’re mind always goes to the big special effects scenes, and we didn’t have a word about special effects. He did not want to talk about that, so we ended up talking about art, from Monet to Caravaggio to Rembrandt to Magritte to opera and classic music, about Citizen Kane. It’s going to be a film about The Exorcist but also a portrait of Friedkin as an extraordinary artist, and quite frankly I don’t think people realize because people think of him as this guy who shoots guns on the sets, which is true. Who almost broke the back of Ellen Burstyn in that one shot, who slapped actors across the face—all of that is true about this intense, maverick filmmaker. But he’s also, at his core, a man of restraint and thought, and who is very cognizant and in love with art. The film is unlike anything you can imagine about The Exorcist.

I can’t wait. Alexandre, thank you so much. Best of luck with Memory.

Alexandre: I can’t wait to bring it to Chicago. I’m pretty sure I have to come there at some point to do some filming for The Exorcist project. There are certain painting at the Art Institute that we talked about that we want to film. Thank you for your time.

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