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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Alex Ross Perry

Alex Ross Perry
By Alex Ross Perry and Joshua Handler 

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics.  So, I asked some of the most distinctive voices in independent and world cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.

The response below is from Alex Ross Perry, writer/director of acclaimed films The Color Wheel and Listen Up Philip.

Do you feel that it is important for people to view independent and world cinema and why?
The question supposes that what they are seeing is inherently of valuable quality, which is quite likely not going to be the case. If the question is, do I feel it is important for aspiring filmmakers to walk over to the local 5-screen art house and see all five films every week, the answer is no but only because three of them are abject garbage most of the time. The fact is that most of what is considered ‘independent’ or ‘world cinema’ that reaches screens (theatrical or VOD) and has the press coverage to designate itself as relevant is middlebrow and would have a negative affect on any aspirant.
It is important for everybody to go deep but this isn’t necessarily analogous with present tense filmmaking. Nobody, myself included, should be going to see whatever French or Italian (or American) films are being put out in art houses today if there is still anything whatsoever from the history of cinema left to discover.
Do you believe that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and film-goers to view films of the past and why?
See above.
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker?
It reinforces the sad reality that America is light years behind and the cinema we attempt to export is pitiful by comparison. I’m not talking about high-profile indie films that get released by corporations and vie for awards, I’m talking about the good stuff that even those of us in big cities who make it a point to find cinema every day don’t necessarily have access to. These films are inspirational and finding myself ever circumstantially aligned with them at foreign festivals inspires me to work harder and do better so that my own films do not seem so hopelessly American when screened side by side.
Did viewing indies/films from around the world/classics influence you when creating LISTEN UP PHILIP, THE COLOR WHEEL, or any of your other films?
When THE COLOR WHEEL was being made, I had never really been to an international film festival or really seen international films except for whatever gets released in America, but having at that time been to a handful of film festivals in America, I had met may great filmmakers and gotten to know them and their work and this inspired me to be bolder, both to measure up to the films I liked and to outpace the ones I didn’t.
What's one American indie and one film not in English that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a perfect independent film, visual poetry and superlative deployment of what limited resources were available. Same goes for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. 
International, I lean on my old stand-by, THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE. I can’t explain why. It just is.
The next response is yet to be determined.

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