Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Envelope gathered seven filmmakers for its annual Directors Roundtable — with the strongest representation of women to date. The wide-ranging conversation, led by The Times’ Mark Olsen, included Darren Aronofsky (“mother!”), Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”), Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Angelina Jolie (“First They Killed My Father”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”). The group found commonalities in their works, the outsider stories, the power of the parable, the emotional truths. And then there was that director who called Aronofsky’s “mother!” weird, how’d that go over? Here’s an excerpt from their conversation edited for length and clarity.

Mark Olsen: Darren, I'd seen you mention that before shooting “mother!” you'd shown your actors the Luis Buñuel film “Exterminating Angel.” What does that do for you or for your actors when you're getting ready to shoot?

Darren Aronofsky: Just probably so they can see there’s a history of weirdness, it's not just me. And that's what Luis Buñuel did in that film was to take a huge social, cultural issue and reduce it to a single room. And I was trying to think about how to talk about — the largest forest fire in the history of Canada happened this summer, the superstorms that just happened this summer. It's a very hard thing to relate because it's such a huge magnitude. But everyone remembers the house guest who spilled red wine on the couch. So that was the breakthrough. I was, like, “Oh, this is our home, this planet. What if I made it all about a home and stuck Mother Nature in the center of it, and sort of let humanity invade?”

Guillermo del Toro: What I share with Darren is the power of the fable, the parable. I mean, when you make a parable you can approach these things. The rest is symbols that you can harvest from pop culture or you can harvest from classical painting, from photography. I consider myself a very curious sort of magpie that goes to any form of culture that attracts me.

Jordan Peele: Unlike Darren, “Get Out” didn't start with me having something to say. It really started with me wanting to entertain, wanting to scare. And as I explored what that was, the movie kind of taught me what it was about. I realized there's something inside of me that has been trying to tell myself to express. So from that point forward I knew I wanted to make this a thriller about race. And it became looking at movies that have figured out the social thriller, so, “Rosemary's Baby,” “The Stepford Wives,” the way those movies made very elegant but fun statements about gender, that was a signal to me that you could pull that off with race.
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Angelina, where does the storytelling process on your film start?
Angelina Jolie: It was that I had read this book years ago. For me, it's very much about the country. I was very humbled every day to be a part of the filmmaking of someone else's history and to really listen to the community. It's a beautiful thing about making a foreign film is that you really are there listening to the language of, you know, listening to the music of their language, listening to the way they would speak, listening to the way — you can only direct to a certain point because you're really trying to be a vessel to allow the country to speak.

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