Save Me is the tale of a couple of troubled gay men (Chad Allen, Robert Gant) who find salvation (of an unexpected sort) at a “conversion therapy” ministry. Save Me opened this past Friday in New York City and will have its Los Angeles premiere on September 19. Allen says that it took five years for the project to come to fruition. (Save Me was screened at Outfest last year.)
Save Me was directed by Robert Cary from a screenplay by Robert Desiderio, which in turn was developed from a story (or rather, former drafts) by Craig Chester and Alan Hines. Cary was interviewed for Gay City News, where the filmmaker explains that “Craig wrote a comedy, and I was not familiar with that [version], … It went through many different chapters in its gestation. They made it a play and did readings. When I came in, I worked with [screenwriter] Robert Desiderio who reworked the versions and made it a drama. But still, even after ten years, it had elements of Craig’s original [script.]” (Brackets are Kramer’s.)
And here’s a snippet from Robert Cary’s essay on the film’s official site:
“I had a wonderful experience directing Judith Light [above, next to Stephen Lang] in a romantic comedy called Ira and Abby at the end of 2005, so when her manager Herb Hamsher contacted me about a project he was producing called Save Me I was immediately intrigued.
“The subject matter couldn’t have been further from the Manhattan neuroses and comic carbonation of Ira and Abby, plus Judith was attached to play a role which I found fascinating: an evangelical woman running a ministry to convert gay men to heterosexuality. My initial conversation with the producers, was in March of 2006 and we were shooting by the first week of July, so it was a short, intense, and immensely rewarding journey.”
I should add that Judith Light, perhaps best known for her Ugly Betty appearances, delivers a flawless, highly nuanced performance as the dedicated evangelical Woman with a Mission. Her character, which could easily have been depicted as a foaming-at-the-mouth Christian, comes across instead as a well-rounded, intelligent, and quite empathetic human being who, like so many among us, is looking for “salvation” while struggling with her inner demons. If there’s any justice, Light will be up for assorted critics, guilds, and academies awards later this year.
François Ozon returns: ‘Angel’ movie not traditional at all
François Ozon is interviewed by The Times’ Kevin Maher, who wonders what attracted the director of the unusual 8 Women and Swimming Pool to Angel, an English-set period drama that opens in the UK on Aug. 29.
“He’s one of France’s hottest film-makers,” writes Maher about Ozon. “He makes award-winning movies filled with knockout French femmes (including Catherine Deneuve and Ludivine Sagnier), bursting with transgressive sexual subtext and topped by occasional musical numbers. So what made the 40-year-old provocateur François Ozon shoot a traditional English period drama about a fictional Edwardian novelist?”
Ozon replies: “Did you think it was traditional?” adding that he “tried not to make it traditional at all, but to make it about dreams and fantasies, and the effects of fame, and how artists reinvent themselves and their lives.”
Angel is based on the 1957 novel The Real Life of Angel Deverell by Elizabeth Taylor (no connection to the Hollywood star), itself inspired by the life of 19th-century British Gothic writer Marie Corelli (née Mary Mackay). François Ozon and playwright Martin Crimp co-wrote the screenplay.
The Angel cast includes Ozon muse Charlotte Rampling, in addition to Romola Garai in the title role, Michael Fassbender, Lucy Russell, and Sam Neill.
‘Trifling Women’ and ‘Sunset Blvd.’
I first heard of Marie Corelli (1855–1924) while doing research for my Ramon Novarro bio. Corelli wrote the novel Vendetta, which top silent era director Rex Ingram filmed twice: in 1917, as Black Orchids, and in 1922, with Novarro as one of the leads, as Trifling Women.
The now-lost Trifling Women, in which the heroine-cum-villainess (silent film vamp Barbara La Marr) destroys the lives of men (Novarro and Lewis Stone among them), may have inspired elements found in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. Those include the Norma Desmond’s dead chimp (Trifling Women featured an orangutan who reportedly fell madly in love with La Marr), Desmond’s black-widowish look and persona (what Barbara La Marr’s vamps would have looked like in 1950), and Sunset Blvd.‘s Gothic feel – not coincidentally, John F. Seitz shot both Trifling Women and Sunset Blvd.
Charlotte Rampling, Sam Neill, Romola Garai, Michael Fassbender Angel photo: Fidélité Productions.
German Film Series: American Cinematheque
The Goethe-Institut’s film series “German Currents: Bavaria,” which kicks off on Wednesday, September 24, at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica is described as “an exploration of new German Cinema with a focus on films and filmmakers from Bavaria and its vibrant capital Munich, one of the most creative, well funded and equipped filmmaking centers in Germany.”
This year’s 12-film series includes the U.S. premiere of Uli Edel’s The Baader-Meinhof Complex, starring German superstar Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck (the antiheroine in The Lives of Others) as the two notorious Red Army Faction terrorists, and veteran Bruno Ganz as the man in charge of capturing them; Academy Award winner Caroline Link’s A Year Ago in Winter, in which a painter (Josef Bierbichler) attempts to unveil the complex relationship between his young subject (Karoline Herfurth) and her recently deceased brother; Vivian Naefe’s Wild Chicks in Love (top photo), about teen girls and the four-letter word; Robert Thalheim’s And Along Come Tourists, which was inspired by Thalheim’s own experiences while working at Auschwitz; and Doris Dörrie’s latest effort, Cherry Blossoms, about a terminally ill widower (2008 German Film Award winner Elmar Wepper) who travels to Tokyo for the cherry blossom festival.
The Aero Theatre is located at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Calif.
Schedule and synopses from the American Cinematheque’s press release:
Wednesday, September 24 - 7:00pm
U.S. Premiere! A YEAR AGO IN WINTER (IM WINTER EIN JAHR), 2008, 90 min. The latest drama from writer/director Caroline Link, whose first feature film, BEYOND SILENCE, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, and her third feature film, NOWHERE IN AFRICA (NIRGENDWO IN AFRIKA), won the Oscar® in that category in 2002. The drama, featured at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival and adapted by Link from Scott Campbell’s novel Aftermath, follows renowned artist Max Hollander (Josef Bierbichler, who also appears in WINTER JOURNEY) and the 22-year-old dancer Lilli (Karoline Herfurth, PERFUME), whose portrait he has been commissioned to paint with her younger brother who was tragically killed in a traffic accident. As he paints, Max slowly begins to understand the depth of the relationship between Lilli and her brother and is touched and changed by this highly unusual creation. Opening night presentation plus producer Uschi Reich will introduce the screening. The screening will start at 7:30pm.
Thursday, September 25 - 7:30pm, 9:15pm
Los Angeles Premiere! LISSI AND THE WILD EMPEROR (LISSI UND DER WILDE KAISER), 2007, 85 min. The animated version of one of Germany’s most beloved stories, the fairy-tale marriage between Bavaria’s teenage Princess Elizabeth and Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph, gets a royal send-up by co-writer/director Michael Herbig. “Funny and charming! Pic’s bright, widescreen visuals – courtesy of top Munich effects house Scanline - and Ralf Wengenmayr’s lush orchestral score combine for a very smooth ride, and there’s a live-action look to the framing and direction.” - Variety. Presentation by Special Effects Supervisor from Scanline.
Los Angeles Premiere! RABBIT WITHOUT EARS (KEINOHRHASEN), 2007, 115 min. Til Schweiger co-wrote, directed and stars in this slick romantic comedy, which became a huge box office success in Germany. Hack reporter and ladies man Ludo (Til Schweiger) is sentenced to 300 hours of community service in a kindergarten. Anna (newcomer Nora Tschirner), the head of the school, at first wants nothing to do with the egocentric womanizer, until her attraction to him unexpectedly begins to blossom. “Schweiger has built a career out of playing cocky, good-looking macho types, often sending up his screen persona in the process. However, in East German-born Tschirner, 26, he finds an actress who can match him: From her first appearance, in glasses and semi-frumpy duds, she’s a winner, mixing determination and klutziness in a performance somewhere between a younger Diane Keaton and Sandra Bullock.” – Variety
Friday, September 26 - 7:30pm, 10:15pm, 11:45pm
U.S. Premiere! THE BAADER-MEINHOF COMPLEX (DER BAADER-MEINHOF KOMPLEX) 2008, 149 minutes. Directed by Uli Edel (LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, CHRISTIANE F.) and written and produced by Bernd Eichinger (PERFUME, DOWNFALL), this high-paced thriller traces the history of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a movement that is believed to have killed more than 30 public figures in an attempt to crush West German capitalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Moritz Bleibtreu (RUN LOLA RUN) stars as Andreas Baader alongside Martina Gedeck (THE LIVES OF OTHERS) as Ulrike Meinhof, who are fighting a violent war against what they perceive as the new face of fascism: American imperialism supported by the German establishment, many of whom have a Nazi past. The man who understands them is also their hunter: the head of the German police force Horst Herold played by Bruno Ganz (DOWNFALL, WINGS OF DESIRE). While he proceeds in his relentless pursuit of the young terrorists, he knows he’s only dealing with the tip of the iceberg. Director Uli Edel will not be in attendance as was previously announced.
Los Angeles Premiere! WINTER JOURNEY (WINTERREISE), 2007, 99 min. Hans Steinbichler directs a stellar cast which includes Fassbinder muse Hanna Schygulla, Sibel Kekilli (HEAD-ON) and Josef Bierbichler, who won the German Film Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Franz Brenninger. Beautiful and strangely reassuring, this portrait of manic-depressive 60-year-old Brenninger, a once successful businessman whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic as he digs himself deeper into debt and despair, losing all that remains of his savings. Determined to recover the funds, he sets off for Nairobi, a journey from which he will never return. “Pic’s highlight is the masterful lensing, making much use of contrasts between the cold, snow-reflected light of Germany and the golden warmth of the African sun. Glorious landscapes betray more than a passing influence from the German romantic painters.” – Variety
Los Angeles Premiere! SHOPPING (SHOPPEN), 2007, 90 min. The first feature by writer/director Ralf Westhoff, a former journalist. The idea of speed-dating provides a glimpse into the lives of today’s singles scene as the film follows 18 young people living in the city of Munich who are looking for the love of their life or just a date for one night as they voice their frustrations, dislikes, disappointments, expectations and desires. “Amazingly the first full-scale feature set in the world of speed dating, SHOPPEN is a frisky, beautifully played and written comedy that just goes with its oddball characters rather than trying to draw social messages from its subject. It’s a neat idea that’s sustained by Westhoff’s good ear for dialogue, traversing everything from politics, food, music and sex to lateral subjects like trends, attitudes and dreams.” – Variety
Saturday, September 27 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles Premiere! FREE TO LEAVE (FREIGESPROCHEN), 2007, 95 min. The momentary distraction of a stolen kiss causes a train wreck in writer/director Peter Payer’s haunting drama which explores the impact that such guilt has on the individuals involved. Based on Ödön von Horváth’s play Judgement Day (1937), Payer transposes the drama into the context of a modern relationship where all balance is destroyed by the power of fate.
Saturday, September 27 - 7:30pm, 10:00pm
Los Angeles Premiere! CHERRY BLOSSOMS (KIRSCHBLÜTEN), 2008, Strand Releasing, 127 min. One of Germany’s foremost filmmakers, award-winning Doris Dörrie (MEN, NAKED, AM I BEAUTIFUL?) directs this tender, emotionally intense and profoundly moving story of marital love. Only Trudi (the legendary Hannelore Elsner) knows that her husband, Rudi (Elmar Wepper), is suffering from a terminal illness. She decides not to tell him and convinces him to visit their family in Berlin. Then, suddenly, Trudi dies. Rudi is devastated but vows to make up for her lost life. And so he embarks on his last journey - to Tokyo - in the midst of the cherry blossom festival, a celebration of beauty, impermanence and new beginnings. Discussion following with writer/director Doris Dörrie.
Los Angeles Premiere! BEST PLACE TO BE (BESTE GEGEND), 2008, 98 min. The latest film by director Marcus H. Rosenmüller reinvents the road movie German-style when Kati and Jo decide to take a trip in their vintage Mercedes after graduation. But the journey ends earlier than expected when the car suddenly breaks down and Kati learns her grandfather is dying. Torn between homesickness and wanderlust, their friendship will be put to the test in this sequel to BESTE ZEIT, the second installment in a trilogy about teens growing up in rural Bavaria.
Sunday, September 28 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles Premiere! Family Matinee: WILD CHICKS IN LOVE (DIE WILDEN HÜHNER UND DIE LIEBE), 2007, 105 min. Co-written and directed by Vivian Naefe, this second installment of the hugely popular WILD CHICKS franchise is based on Cornelia Funke’s series about a group of adolescent girls’ trials and tribulations while growing up and experiencing love for the first time. The action unfolds as all five “wild chicks” – Sprotte, Frieda, Melanie, Wilma and Trude – reunite to stage, fittingly enough, a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Discussion following with co-writer/director Vivian Naefe.
Sunday, September 28 - 7:30pm, 9:30pm
Los Angeles Premiere! THE WAVE (DIE WELLE), 2008, 107 min. Riding a wave of positive buzz following its world premiere at Sundance, co-writer/director Dennis Gansel’s cautionary tale about the roots of fascism is a fictional retelling of the 1967 experiment conducted by Palo Alto, California history teacher William Ron Jones - and transposed to Germany today. Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel, ROSENSTRASSE, GOOD BYE LENIN!), a young unconventional high school teacher, is stuck lecturing on autocracy (he prefers anarchy) during the school’s project week. He turns the lesson into a simulation, temporarily transforming his class of some 30 students into a microcosmic dictatorship. The experiment spins dangerously out of control when the movement takes on a life of its own. Discussion following with co-writer/director Dennis Gansel.
Los Angeles Premiere! AND ALONG COME TOURISTS (AM ENDE KOMMEN TOURISTEN), 2007, 85 min. Writer/director Robert Thalheim’s (NETTO) second feature is loosely based on his own experiences working at Auschwitz. Performing his national service abroad, Sven (newcomer Alexander Fehling) is sent to Auschwitz, where he slowly realizes that the present reality of the place as a tourist destination is bound up with the past, and is the unlikely background for a love story between a young German and Pole. An official selection at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar, the film toys with heavy subject matter in a contemporary and light-hearted way without seeming frivolous or disrespectful. “Young German director Robert Thalheim’s second feature film is a quiet triumph. Thalheim’s original script – loosely based on his own experiences working at Auschwitz’s International Youth Meeting Center – economically blends modern life’s truths, such as the fragility of 20-something love affairs, with universal themes, such as the search for meaning and the human need to expiate guilt.” - Hollywood Reporter
Bill Condon, Laurence Mark to produce Oscar 2009 ceremony
Producer Laurence Mark (I, Robot; Dreamgirls) will produce and writer/director Bill Condon (Kinsey; Dreamgirls) will executive produce the 2009 Academy Awards telecast, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis has announced. It will be both Mark and Condon’s first involvement in the production of an Oscar show. (Image: Kinsey and Gods and Monsters writer-director and Oscar 2009 executive producer Bill Condon.)
Laurence Mark and Bill Condon movies
Laurence Mark and Bill Condon have worked together before. In 2006, Mark produced and Condon wrote and directed Dreamgirls, a lavish musical starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy. The film received eight Academy Award nominations (none for either Mark or Condon) and won two Oscars: Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Hudson) and Best Sound Mixing.
Mark is currently in post-production on Julie & Julia, written and directed by Nora Ephron, and starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (who also co-star in John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt). Julie & Julia is scheduled to open in 2009.
Laurence Mark’s other movie credits include Alex Proyas’ I, Robot, starring Will Smith; Scott Frank’s The Lookout, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, and Matthew Goode; Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester, with Sean Connery; and the highly popular Cameron Crowe-directed Tom Cruise star vehicle Jerry Maguire, which received a Best Picture Oscar nomination back in early 1997.
Additionally, Mark served as executive producer on James L. Brooks’ As Good as It Gets, starring Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, and on Mike Nichols’ Working Girl, starring Harrison Ford, and Oscar nominees Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver.
Bill Condon is currently working on a screenplay about comedian Richard Pryor for The Weinstein Company; Condon is also supposed to direct the project. Previous Condon movie credits include the Oscar-nominated adaptation for the Academy Award-winning Chicago, directed by Rob Marshall, and starring Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones; in addition to having written and directed the Alfred Kinsey biopic Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, and Gods and Monsters, starring Ian McKellen as a fictionalized version of ’30s gay movie director James Whale and Brendan Fraser as a fictitious Whale acolyte. For the latter film, Condon took home the 1998 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Academy Award nominations in all categories will be announced on January 22, 2009. The 2009 Oscar ceremony will be telecast live by ABC on Sunday, February 22.
Photos: Suzanne Tenner (Bill Condon), Alex Berliner © Berliner Studio / BEImages (Laurence Mark).
American Cinematheque website.
The Goethe-Institut website.