Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Contact - Review and Interview

I was approached yesterday to watch a very low budget independent movie known as Contact. Director Jeremiah Kipp asked me if I would watch Contact and review it for my blog or if I would be interested in doing an interview with him and lead actress Zoe Daelman Chlanda. Well, I told him that I would do both… yes, I am not only going to review his movie, but also interview both the director and the lead actress. This has been a first for me.

Contact opens up with and mother and father anticipating the arrival of someone as they get ready for dinner or lunch. The bulk of the story is told in flashback and we see a young woman with a young man buy drugs from somebody and after taking a few hits of the unknown drug substance, the young couple are in for way more than they expected. They are flung into a world of paranoia, horror, nudity and confusion. “Drugs, nudity, gore, psychotronic violence...we went for it!” says Kipp.

The film is beautifully shot in black and white and gives the atmosphere a nourish tone and it gives the audience a sense of fear and discomfort. The film can easily pass as black and white silent film and people would still understand what is going on. The actors and actresses heavily rely on physical communication and they do it quit well and they seem to really grasp their characters. The drug scene itself is filled with beautiful threatening imagery that accents the mood of the whole film. It’s disorienting and frightening at the same time. This movie has one of the most horrifying kisses that I ever saw in a horror movie… I was taken aback by it. Overall, the directing is great, the camera work is stark and the editing is crisp; it’s the textbook definition of an experimental art house movie and I really enjoyed it.

To view the movie, please click here.

Now, as for the interview, I wanted to conserve some space for all the questions so I asked five questions each and they were pretty hard to narrow down. There was so much that I wanted to ask. Here is my interview with Director, Jeremiah Kipp.

What were your influences in coming up with a story about drugs and nudity?
Do you know the great Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who made that incredible 1960s acid western masterpiece EL TOPO. He once said that the only possibility of freedom and poetry was in the horror film. I also suspect he was blown out of his mind on peyote much of the time. But drugs, in the horror film, are a way of expanding the possibilities, so we’re moving beyond the so-called normal world into a strange new world where anything is possible. As for nudity, I consider it part of the fabric of the movie. These characters create a very sensual experience for themselves before is slips into a bad trip, leaving them vulnerable.

Why black and white?
We were hoping to pare everything down to the essential, reducing the script, characters, images, everything, and when nothing is left, you realize the fewer elements you involve in a film, the stronger it becomes. Black and white was a way of making the film spare—creating a sense of awe and hallucination we do not associate with reality. It has an ethereal quality, don’t you think? Some people say they dream in black and white.

Have you always been into psychological horror?
I’m very interested in people, because the more you come to know someone, the more mysterious they become. We’re very frightened a lot of the time, which causes us to be inhibited when we are with others. This, to me, is a source of great horror and tension, and if you push those elements to the most extreme, or the most grotesque, you can potentially achieve very emotional, harrowing scenes in the psychological horror film.

Were there any differences between Contact and The Pod?
CONTACT was a reboot of THE POD, which was twice as long and cost twenty times as much to make. The earlier film has a different set of characters, with a woman pursuing her lover into the night, and they are both alone while they take the drug and frightened to be tripping out in the streets. But it feels more like prose, whereas CONTACT is a poem—and poems express metaphor in just a few lines, a few images, and they are purely visual and tactile.

You were directing a movie that had barley any use of dialogue, was it hard to direct physical emotion?
We very much enjoyed working on a movie told more through physical action than dialogue. Also, we had actors who have a kind of marked charisma that reads onscreen. My wonderful producer, Alan Rowe Kelly, has a keen eye for talent; he reminds me of one of those old school Hollywood masterminds like David O. Selznick who is able to discover actors with a unique star quality. He found ZoĆ« Daelman Chlanda and made her the lead in his feature I’LL BURY YOU TOMORROW, where she made a tremendous impression on me. And she’s quite a chameleon, a kind of beautiful and glamorous variation on Lon Chaney, where she can transform into many different roles, while retaining her singular allure. When you have an actress like her, one look or gesture is loaded with meaning; and working without dialogue in fact allows us the freedom to be more expressive. I hasten to add that Alan is also an actor, and I cast him as the mysterious drug dealer in CONTACT because he too has this effervescent quality we see in someone like, say, Barbara Stanwyck or James Cagney, exuding a kind of sexy danger that is captivating. I felt lucky to work with all of these actors: Katherine O’Sullivan, Tom Reid, Danny Lopes from SATAN’S PLAYGROUND and the fantastic playwright and performer Robb Leigh Davis. If we are to discuss physical emotion, it is all about the dynamic energy of these wonderful actors.

Kipp was also very nice to let me have a chance to speak with the lead actress Zoe Chlanda, whose performance really highlighted the movie (along with her co-star Robb Leigh Davis). Both of their performances were captivating and very believable.

Did you want to be an actress? If so, who inspired you?
I’ve always wanted to be an actress, one way or another. I like performing. My parents took me to the ballet often as a child. I begged them for dance lessons and I was enrolled in ballet school on my fifth birthday. To me, ballet (dance in general) is acting without using words. As I got older and realized the physical and mental demands of a ballet career, and that it was short lived, I started thinking about becoming an actor. I could utilize my voice and do it until the day I died (if I wanted to). I enrolled in acting classes soon after college.

How did you come across Kipp and Contact?
I met Jeremiah Kipp on the set of Alan Rowe Kelly’s THE BLOOD SHED. We drove to and from the set together every day and really got to know one another during the rides. We then collaborated on a few other film projects. I like working with Jeremiah immensely. He is honest, direct, and gets the best film there is out of a project. He’s relentless in getting the best performances out of his actors. And, I think it inspires everyone on the set, because he’s not just asking it from us, he is doing it himself. His example is clear.

What was the most demanding thing that came out of the role that you played?
Certainly shooting the drug taking and its effects was mentally and physically demanding. Jeremiah made it as comfortable as possible that day (very few people on set, a very focused set) but nonetheless, it was exhausting. I also found the last scene of the movie demanding. Koreen returns home, her hopes for herself and her life diminished. That was an agonizing decision for my character—to return home. Although safe, it is in its own way a life sentence. She tried to fly and crashed. I don’t know if Koreen will ever have the strength to try and live life again on her own terms. It took everything she had the first go-round. She might be home to stay, to live out her parents’ idea of what her life should be like. What a retreat. A huge failure.

What are you feelings on the character that you played?
I am so sad for Koreen. I was thrilled for her during most of the film. It was a wonderful time in her life—she was spreading her wings—living and loving on her own terms. Not worried about the past or future, but simply very involved in the moment. She was really following her heart. What a wonderful place for one to be in! Unfortunately she hit quite a big speed bump. I think she was so knocked off course that she may never fully recover. I don’t think she can/will gather the strength or courage needed to again attempt venturing out on her own. It is a matter of choosing that which you know (and Koreen knows she is not fulfilled) rather than taking a chance on the unknown. Pretty sad.

How was it working with co-star Robb Davis?
Working with Robb was wonderful. He is such a giving actor. It was easy falling in love with him. I certainly hope we work together again in the future. Robb is multi-talented; he not only acts, but is the Founder and Artistic Director of Blakkapricorn Productions, which is a multimedia production house.

This concludes my little ‘double-feature’ article on Contact. Honestly, I really enjoyed making this post and I really enjoyed conversing with Jeremiah and Zoe. It was a blast watching their indie film and I hope to see more from those two in the near future.

For more information on Jeremiah Kipp, click here.


the jaded viewer said...

Saw the short as well. Nicely shot. I'll be interested to see what Kipp does next.

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