My buddy was fortunate enough to go to Sundance this past year and see a film called Resurrection. All I heard were good things, and for almost half a year, I would have to wait to see the film myself. All I really knew was that it starred two of my favorite actors: Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, and that it was a thriller/horror film. That alone, along with the image of Rebecca Hall creeping around the corner of one of those mirror pillars found in a Boscov’s, was enough to have me anxiously awaiting the film. It lived up to all of the hype I had built up in my head and is one of the best films of the year. There are strong themes in the film such as exploitation and narcissism, and while the story has some familiar beats, it’s a unique and fresh thriller.
The film is anchored by the two fantastic leads, Hall deserves a shoutout for an epic eight-minute monologue she delivers, and Roth plays a creepy, yet realistic guy so well. Their dynamic will keep you on the edge of your seat, but a lot of credit should be given to director Andrew Semans as well. It’s hard to believe that Resurrection is only Semans’ second feature-length film and first in nearly a decade. He brings a unique flare to the film’s aesthetic, with a graininess that harkens back to the 1970s, and was able to keep the level of suspense and intrigue up the entirety of the runtime.
In this interview, Semans discusses the film’s aesthetic, working with Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth and the discussions they had about their characters, and his favorite roles of theirs.
Coastal House Media: I wanted to start with Sundance. I know it’s been a few months, but can you recall what that experience was like for you, because Resurrection came out to rave reviews and was bought pretty quickly by IFC films. So what was it like to have your film find a home so quickly and get great reactions?
Andrew Semans: Oh, wow. It was terrific. We were all very gratified by the reaction. The Sundance experience was a bit odd because it was all virtual — we were hopeful that it might be an in-person festival this year, but that proved impossible — so it all happened from the comfort of my own apartment, which was very cozy but also very odd because there wasn’t the sense of a kind of communal experience and there was no theatrical screening associated with the festival; at least not the Park City version. There was, [however], a theatrical screening in London recently as part of Sundance London. So it was a little bit odd. I also had COVID the whole time, but it was also tremendous because the response was very good and we did make a deal with IFC very quickly. And so all [of] our fears around the project were put to rest fairly swiftly and we could just enjoy the positive attention we were receiving.
CHM: Did you have any inspirations for the story of the film? I mean this in the best way possible, but some of the story felt familiar, but I just couldn’t think of films that I’d seen before that specifically had the same story beats. So maybe it was just completely new.
Semans: It’s completely new, completely original [laughs]. No, of course not. There were many different influences. I mean, I try not to focus too much on any specific influences while I’m writing or making anything because you don’t want it to feel derivative and you don’t wanna just be aping something that is really great that you love, so instead, you try and pack them all in your unconscious mind and hopefully the influence will emerge in a way that doesn’t feel derivative. [In a way] that feels exciting and personal. The movies that came to mind in various ways, over the course of making this movie [Resurrection], Todd Haynes’Safe is one of my favorites and always a big influence on anything I do and that was the case here. We talked a lot about Alan Pakula’s Klute, which is such a beautifully-made movie; that was something that came up quite a bit when we were talking about the form of the movie and how we were going to approach it photographically. Little Murders is a movie that I love [and] was an influence on this, and just a lot of paranoid thrillers from the 1970s. But again, it wasn’t something where there was one kind of North Star that I was following. It was an attempt to integrate a number of different influences and movies that excited me.
CHM: Can you talk a little bit about the aesthetic of the film? You mentioned the 1970s, and Resurrection certainly had a grainy, 70s look.
Semans: Yeah, well, it was shot digitally. We weren’t able to shoot on 35mm. Of course, we would’ve loved to shoot on film, but that was just not a possibility because of our practical limitations. But we did want to give it a film-like look. And so I worked very hard with Wyatt [Garfield], our cinematographer, [to ensure] that the colors try and create something that had the richness and roughness of the film. That definitely was something that we focused on.
Just speaking more broadly in terms of the visual approach of the movie, we really wanted to shoot it in a way that was pretty simple, stripped-down. I tend to prefer a more minimal approach to coverage; it’s just an aesthetic preference of mine. And it was a good choice in terms of our schedule, which was very, very limited. We had to shoot the movie very quickly, so a very simple visual approach was something that lent itself to the schedule.
In terms of the look, I was really interested in the movie looking realistic [and] naturalistic, almost plain or mundane. The movie takes place in a lot of very mundane locations, apartments, hotel rooms, department stores, offices, things like that, and because the story is quite outlandish and some very weird things happen in the movie, I really like the contrast between those elements and a world that felt very familiar and exceptional. So the trick was [to] always to try and maintain the sense of reality and try to maintain the sense of the mundane but also imbue it with the feeling of paranoia of men and menace of malignancy and how to sneak those elements in while maintaining the sense that it is a very familiar world.
CHM: Shifting to your lead actors, Rebecca Hall’s defining moment is the monologue she gives that lasts about seven minutes. I know everyone will ask you about it, but can you take me behind the scenes a bit? The monologue is fully focused on her without any cuts, right?
Semans: Once she starts her monologue, we stay on her for the entire thing.
CHM: So was that monologue completely scripted or was there any improv? And I read that it was done in one take, is that correct?
Semans: We did two takes of that, both of which were tremendous and Rebecca [Hall] nailed [and] didn’t drop a line [in either take].
There was no improvisation in that whatsoever. She was reading the lines [and] was scripted precisely the way you see it in the movie. And Rebecca [Hall] is just such a remarkable actor and so well prepared that she could come in, sit down, and do an eight-minute monologue and knock it out of the park.
We did it twice and that’s all we needed and [then] we moved on. It was a really remarkable thing to see. By that time in the shoot, I had such confidence in Rebecca [Hall]; I knew she was going to come in and do something special. At that point, we’d been working with her [for] a couple of weeks and she had been blowing us away so consistently that it’s just par for the course for her. She’s a very special talent.
CHM: And then also you have Tim Roth, who can be big if you need him to, or can also play characters gentler. What was it like to get him on board?
Semans: He [Tim Roth] came [along] much later in the process. Rebecca [Hall] came on board and stuck with the project for a while as we were trying to get it up and running. Tim [Roth] came on much closer to when we were rolling [the] camera. But that was also very, very quick. We got him the script and he was available and he responded to it. It wasn’t very complicated; he didn’t require a lot of seduction. And so it was very straightforward with him as well. That’s not a very good story *laughs*. He just read it and said, “Okay.”
CHM: I was reading that you and Tim Roth had discussions about his character, David. I don’t mean to paraphrase, but I read that Tim Roth wanted to play him quieter and didn’t want him to be over the top.
Semans: Well, that’s true. He [Tim Roth] didn’t want to just ooze menace all the time. One thing that he and I talked about was that these kinds of people, these kinds of malignant, narcissists, sociopaths, very toxic manipulative people, don’t see themselves as evil; they don’t perceive themselves as the villain. We talked about the idea that David understands himself as the protagonist in his own story. If he imagines himself as someone who is doing the right thing, doing good by himself, by Margaret (Hall), by everyone involved, albeit through some very unconventional means, he wouldn’t project evil and menace and violence at all times, he would seem like a relatively normal person.
And that’s how Tim [Roth] wanted to play him. And I like that idea very much. His portrayal of David is at times kind of subdued, rather subtle but in a way that I feel enhances the sense of menace rather than diminishes [it].
CHM: Before I shift off of the actors, I just wanted to ask you if now that you’ve directed both Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, you name a favorite role of theirs? It can be Resurrection [laughs].
Semans: [laughs] That’s back a boring answer. I would say with Rebecca [Hall], she’s now my favorite actress, but I was a huge fan of hers for so long, so that is very hard to [just] say one. I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but I just would like to point out for those who haven’t seen it, the movie’s Oren Moverman’s The Dinner. Rebecca [Hall] has a supporting role where she’s kind of in the background for a lot of the movie, but in the third act, she has a scene with Richard Gere that she just nails. She’s so good and I remember watching that scene over and over thinking, “Wow, she’s just blowing me away.”
With [Tim] Roth, that is also very hard. I’m going to have to go back to the first time I ever saw him when I was a kid and watching Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead because my dad was watching it and I saw Tim Roth for the first time and thought he was the coolest guy I’d ever seen in my life. It was a long time ago, but it was a big moment for me as a young person to see him in that movie. So I’ll go with that one.
CHM: As the film prepares to head to theaters and streaming at the end of this month, what do you want audiences to take away from the film?
Semans: Yeah, well it has played in a number of regional festivals all over the states and it has played in London and it’s going to be playing in some international festivals coming up as well. And then, of course, it’s going to be released in theaters on July 29th and then streaming on August 5th, you don’t need to know that.
What do I want audiences to take away? I am terrible at this question, I never know. I want audiences to find the film compelling and gripping. I hope [that] they feel it’s worth considering and discussing and engaging, [that] when it’s done it has resonance for them after the viewing and it isn’t just another disposable thriller. I don’t know, I just always fail at this question. I just hope people think it’s worth their time.
IFC Films will release Resurrection is in theaters on demand now.
EXCLUSIVE | Alma Poysti and Jussi Vatanen On How ‘Fallen Leaves’ Became Such a ‘Learning’ Experience
Fallen Leaves premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and went on to win the Jury Prize. On the other hand, Aki Kaurismäki’s direction, screenplay, and performances by Alma Pöysti & Jussi Vatanen received critical acclaim. Finland has decided to send the MUBI film for Best International Feature at the 96th Academy Awards.
Apart from being praised at several prestigious festivals, the Finnish movie has received a lot of love from the viewers in its theatrical run. Whether it is storytelling or acting performances, the Aki Kaurismaki directorial is getting the recognition it deserves. Alma Poysti and Jussi Vatanen are impeccable in their roles and continue to take the audiences by storm. Luckily, I, on the behalf of Coastal House Media, had the opportunity to speak with both stars at the movie’s press conference earlier this week. We discussed how their experience on stage aided in preparing for such complex roles.
Both the actors have been astonishing on the stage, but we all know that movies are a different ball game. I asked how they mentally processed the acting experience while starring in Fallen Leaves and although they shared different anecdotes from what they learnt while shooting the film, both actors admitted that they were “grateful” for this experience. While answering the question, Poysti said she loved how silence can also mean so much in movies and it’s something that she is still processing. She said, “I’m so inspired and so grateful for this experience, and the amount of humanity that runs through our roles. Work is so beautiful and it actually means something to people. This kind of purity inspires me to investigate how much can you take away and when less is actually more. Also, you have to be quite brave to let the camera in when you are taking off the masks and taking away the pretending.”
“Being as bare as one dares can create a fascinating and beautiful space. Trusting the silence reveals a silent dialogue within and between characters, where few words are needed but carefully chosen, with nothing extra. I’m still processing and enjoying contemplating this concept,” Poysti added.
Meanwhile, Vatanen echoed the same sentiment and credited the filmmaker to make things so easy for them. He said, “It definitely was a learning process and we got to witness old-fashioned filmmaking that is so minimalistic. I and Poysti, we both learned how can you achieve a lot by doing so much little and deliver a lot of emotions by just being present in that moment. Of course, Aki is there to help us and you just need to follow what he is trying to paint on the canvas. So, it took away all the pressure.
The actors also shared that the movie was filmed in a mere 20 days, jokingly noting that they’ve spent more time discussing the film than actually shooting it.
Fallen Leaves in currently playing in theatres across the US.
EXCLUSIVE | ‘Joram’ star Manoj Bajpayee Reveals He Never Takes Time To Get Out Of His Characters: ‘Never Had The Luxury…”
Actor Manoj Bajpayee is known for playing intense roles. From Bhiku Mhatre in ‘Satya’ to Professor Siras in ‘Aligarh,’ Bajpayee has always enthralled us with his impeccable acting performances. His upcoming movie, ‘JORAM,’ is no different and sees him playing an immigrant labourer.
In Joram, skillfully directed by Devashish Makhija, we follow the poignant journey of Dasru, an immigrant laborer. His life takes a harrowing turn when his beloved wife is tragically murdered, and he finds himself entangled in a relentless and unforgiving system determined to defeat him at all costs. Faced with unimaginable challenges, Dasru makes a desperate choice to protect his infant daughter, Joram, and embarks on a daring escape to his long-forgotten homeland nestled deep within remote forests.
The movie, which was screened at this year’s JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, received a standing ovation from the audiences. Bajpayee, who was present at the screening of the film, opened up about how he prepared for the role of Dasru and how he manages to come out of them.
While responding to a question posed EXCLUSIVELY by COASTAL HOUSE MEDIA journalist Aayush Sharma, the renowned actor revealed that he drew upon his personal experiences of originating from a humble village to authentically portray the character of Dasru.
“I come from a village. My journey has been very, very long. I have met several people. Such has been my journey that I don’t need to go to jhopadpatti to play a jhopadpatti guy. There are so many experiences stored here (points to his brain). I had to simply refresh m memories from my childhood. That’s how my character Dasru cam alive to me. I felt like I had seen him before. I just had to construct him for this film,” Bajpayee said.
On the other hand, the ‘Gulmohar’ star admitted that he never had the luxury of taking a lot of time to get a character out of his mind. Bajpayee added, “As to how I come out of it, I jump to my next film (laughs). Nowadays directors like Devashish Makhija are very, very demanding. They just want to suck you in and want you to forget everything and take a plunge in their world. I try to be a sincere listener to my directors. It’s in my DNA that I don’t get nostalgic about my films. All of us actors are like that. We find our ways to approach our actors. When we don’t work, we try to relax and go back to reading, spending time with family, etc. However, I have heard several actors taking a lot of time to come out of their characters. That is a luxury I’ve never had.”
The film also stars Smita Tambe, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub and Tannishtha Chatterjee in pivotal roles. ‘Joram’ is scheduled to hit theatres on December 8.
INTERVIEW | Petersen Vargas, Kaori Oinuma, and Gillian Vicencio Talk Filipino Dark Comedy ‘A Very Good Girl’ and Its Overwhelming Success: ‘A Big Achievement For Us’
With movies like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Shoplifters receiving worldwide praise, there is no doubt that Asian cinema is finally getting the recognition it deserves and it is in no mood to stop at all. Joining the bandwagon is Petersen Vergas’ new movie ‘A Very Good Girl,’ starring Dolly De Leon and Kathryn Bernardo in the lead roles. The movie tells the story of Philo (Bernardo) and what happens when she is fired from her job by a stylish retain mogul named Mother Molly (De Leon). However, things go out of control after the firing as Philo embarks on a journey to take revenge and is certain about how she wants to destroy Molly’s empire.
Apart from Bernardo and De Leon, the film also stars two young stars of Filipino cinema – Gillian Vicencio (Joenna) and Kaori Oinuma (Rigel) – who have surprised everyone with stunning performances. As per our review, ‘A Very Good Girl‘ is a roller-coaster ride, filled with brilliant performances, high fashion, and superb production design. Its captivating narrative and visually stunning presentation keep audiences engaged and entertained from beginning to end. The film has received a lot of praise from critics as well as viewers for its storytelling, acting performances, and visually stunning production design.
Coastal House Media caught up with the director Petersen Vargas and actors Gillian Vicencio and Kaori Oinuma to learn more about the creative process and what kind of preparations went into making ‘A Very Good Girl’ such a massive success.
You are working with two of the biggest stars in Asian Cinema, Kathryn Bernardo and Dolly De Leon. Were the roles specifically written for them and they were the first choices for playing Molly and Philo? Also, do you think that the world will be surprised by their Mukti-layered performances?
Vargas: Yes! So, the way we developed the material like we were already thinking of Kathryn and De Leon. So yeah, those roles were tailor-made for them. But what was surprising was what they added to the roles because their performances provided more depth to the characters. It’s surprising because as you’ve said, Kathryn hasn’t done a role like this. So, I think a lot of people were very pleasantly surprised and embraced her character. Viewers call it the new era of Kathryn Bernardo. Meanwhile, as far as Dolly De Leon, I already knew she was gonna kill it, but seeing it in person, directing her, and seeing what she’s done for the film, it still amazes me I could never get tired of watching her thing.
Kaori, you are the jack of all spades. You are a dancer, model, and actress and you can sing as well. The future of Asian Cinema or Filipino cinema is looking bright when people see you on the screen. But what was the first instance where you felt that acting is something I want to do professionally and make my career in?
Kaori: Oh, my gosh! I fell in love with acting while doing my first-ever project, I wasn’t good at that time and even now, I know that there’s a lot to improve. But I just realized that for me, I realized that when you act, you’re free to do whatever you want to, to feel the needs of your character, and as a person, I am not that free. I think I want to dive into acting just because I want to be free, as a person, I can’t wait for that time that I’m free.
Gillian, your character, Joenna, is one of the most important ones and takes the movie in a whole new direction. When the script came to you and you got to know that you were playing this character, what was your first thought and what kind of preparations went in to make sure you nailed the character?
Gillian: You know, when they offered me this role, I just really accepted it, right there and then. But when I read the script, I understood the struggle and the pain of the people who are being taken advantage of, and for me, it’s important for this kind of situation to be known and to be represented. So, no matter how sensitive the topic was or what was going on with the character? I think it was time to spark some discussion about it, especially here in the Philippines. So, I discussed the creatives and directors about the backstory of the hierarchy, and I just did my best to portray it. I just hope that I did justice to the topic because it’s very important, it’s very, crucial.
Outfits play a very important role in this movie because it shows two very distinctive personalities of every character. Was that always a part of the movie? Or you thought of giving the story a spin by including this aspect while shooting.
Vargas: I think it was very much part of the DNA of ‘A Very Good Girl,’ just because it was like a showdown for me and costume design was very key in getting a glimpse of these characters. Like, once you see what those characters were, you’ve kind of like get to know them already, just from that visual. So, it was very important because we wanted to take this campy route very, very seriously. (laughs) I wanted it to be very over the top, I wanted it to be extravagant. So it was fun and because I think Philo’s character is a superhero. Like she, she dresses down to like her normal self, and then suddenly just transforms into a superhero with her with her killer outfits. Yeah, I think I’ve always just envisioned this film ending with two beautiful women in long gowns, but like, you know, like, a drip in blood and jewels. That was always the vision. So yes, definitely, outfits were a big part of the storytelling.
So, the movie has been released and it got amazing reviews. How are you guys feeling after the amazing reviews/social media reactions and do you think such reactions would be able to tell the world that Filipino cinema is back with a bang?
Vargas: The response has been very overwhelming. We are very grateful that we are successful at the box office and people are flocking to the cinemas, giving this film a chance. It’s just a pleasure to see those seats filled out. We’re very grateful and I liked how people started talking about the important themes of the film. Of course, we wanted to engage the audiences in a very fun way in this dark comedy journey, but beneath that, it was very important for us that people talked about the important topics of being good and accountable and this whole story of womanhood. So yeah, I appreciate it a lot and I hope that the audiences outside of the Philippines could feel the same way and support the movie in the same manner.
Gillian: I agree with Peterson. We came out from a pandemic and the Philippine cinema was not doing good. But, we are finally having viewers in theatres right now because of ‘A Very Good Girl’ and I’m very happy that ‘A Very Good Girl’ is the first Filipino film to premiere in Hollywood. So that’s a very big achievement for us and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so happy and grateful. It’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming. I’m just happy with the way people are receiving the movie. Thank you so much for appreciating our work.
Kaori: I think they said it all. Seeing people go back to the cinemas is a very big achievement for me and all of us. The responses and the praises for the movie, I mean, Oh my gosh, it’s overwhelming. The best thing is that people are now open to the new genre and they’re committed to us as well. We love them. We love very good people.
‘A Very Good Girl‘ is currently playing in theatres across the US.
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