Although he’s unarguably one of the most versatile working filmmakers, Francois Ozon’s movies have always suffered from lackluster screenplays. He either lets his ideas get the best of him and delivers convoluted plots (like in Swimming Pool) or he allows the style of the picture to engulf it, often leading to nonsensical—but gorgeous—films (like Potiche). His latest film, an adaptation of a play by Spanish writer Juan Mayorga, might be his most mature work to date.
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Kiss of the Damned tells the story of Djuna, a vampire who falls for a mortal named Paolo shortly before her less accepting sister shows up for a week’s stay. It’s the feature debut of Xan Cassavetes, a writer/director from a family of legendary artists that includes her father, maverick indie film director John (Faces, Husbands, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie), her mother, celebrated actress and her father’s muse Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence,Opening Night, Gloria) and siblings/fellow film directors Zoe (Broken English) and Nick (Unhook the Stars and The Notebook).
Your movies tend to be quite serious, would you say The Angel’s Share is the closest you’ve been to making a full on comedy?
Ken Loach: A number of the films that we’ve done have comedy in them because you can’t tell a story about people and not smile sometimes. But first, the definition of comedy itself means that that there must be a happy ending as well as making you smile. So we always try to include two or three smiles in our movies.
Based on the 1968 novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, Kes is perhaps Ken Loach’s most universally beloved movie. Set in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the film centers on the young Billy Casper (David Bradley), a 15 year old living with his mother (Lynne Perrie) and half-brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher). A misfit at home and in school, Billy spends his days wandering along the yellowing countryside where he dreams of a life that doesn’t include him going “down the pit”, like the rest of the men in the mining town.
Ladybird Ladybird opens with actor Crissy Rock’s character “Maggie” giving the performance of a lifetime: her version of Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. “Maggie” is giving this performance everything she’s got. What the audience sees is a dynamically-moving, weary-eyed delivery of this (let’s face it) kind of corny old song. Rock too is giving the performance of a lifetime, showing the spectator everything they need to know about this character in the span of just a few well-chosen moments. That is if they are paying attention. “Maggie” exists in the minutiae of Ken Loach’s deceptively realistic world as presented on screen.
No other director has become so synonymous with the working class as Loach, yet his films retain a fairytale-like quality that works almost in direct opposition to his dedication to authenticity. In films such as Ladybird Ladybird these elements work together seamlessly, woven together by Rock’s daring, risky turn. “Maggie” is a real woman, a believable, three-dimensional creation, and Rock is not just an actress pretending to be one. Her own background, filled with startling abuse insured the kind of authenticity that viewers had come to expect from a Loach film.