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Friday, October 10, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: John Patrick Shanley

John Patrick Shanley
Photo by Andy Kropa - © 2011 Getty Images - Image courtesy
By John Patrick Shanley 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 exciting and original voices in modern 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 responses below are from Oscar-winning screenwriter and director, John Patrick Shanley, best known for writing and/or directing Doubt, Moonstruck, and Joe Versus the Volcano.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why (if you don't feel it is important, please tell me why)? 
Yes, it’s extremely important. You discover different ways to approach the art, different ways to communicate an emotion, different film grammar, vocabulary. The emotions in a French film or in a Japanese film are the same, but they’re not necessarily filmed the same.
Do you believe that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why (if you don't feel that it is important, please tell why)?  
Of course it's important to immerse yourself and benefit from the history of thought and artistic invention. You don't want to be parochial. Art is a conversation that transcends the individual life. Culture is cumulative. No film maker is starting from zero, inventing the medium. The danger is that you will fall victim to what's is Pop, that is, what is popular right now; that you will only know NOW. The best filmmakers find the spine that connects us to a larger effort, the communal work of moving the race forward. Only through being familiar with what has been done, can an artist identify new ground. 
How did viewing indies, films from around the world, and classics help/influence you when writing/directing DOUBT and JOE VS. THE VOLCANO and writing MOONSTRUCK and the other films you've written? 
The early parts of Joe were obviously influenced by Metropolis, and latter parts of the story by Technicolor south sea adventures like His Majesty O'Keefe. But the biggest inspiration for the making of Joe Versus the Volcano was the sheer courage of earlier filmmakers to experiment, to have the courage to try something new. Moonstruck was more directly inspired by theatre, by language. Doubt was a play. I stole what I could from Mike Nichols' on Virginia Woolf on that one. 
What's one American indie (doc or narrative), one non-English-language film (doc or narrative), and one classic (define that one any way you wish) that you would recommend that film-lovers and/or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
I was really struck by the sheer audacity of My Dinner With Andre, with Louis Malle's confidence that we would listen to a long conversation between two eccentric men. And I adore Children of Paradise, a film that contemplates the mystery of Beauty itself.
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Monday. 

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