by Patricia Grandjean
Mar 10, 2011
12:34 PMBox Office
Q & A Web Exclusive: David Rakoff
(page 3 of 4)
I found your approach to the critiques fascinating though, because you brought so many allusions in.
That's because there were no rules, and I could just sort of free-associate in every way that I wanted. I didn't have the responsibility to tell people whether a movie was good or bad; it wasn't criticism in that way. And that was very freeing, I must say.
What are your favorite movies? Which do you think are really essential?
Golly. I've never compiled a real list. There are some that I adore and watch over and over again: The Red Shoes, The Philadelphia Story, The Lady Eve, An American in Paris . . . This is the thing, I've never had to do this. A host of others, and of course, now that the pressure is on I can't come up with any of them. I'm also aware that the pressure with answering questions like these is to sound literate and smart and I don't want to give in to that kind of self-consciousness either. It's like what Joan Didion wrote about Manhattan when [Allen] did his list of things that make life worth living and she wrote that it was "intensely bourgeois and self-conscious." You don't want to pick the "wrong" thing to love.
You mentioned The Red Shoes, and I know you've talked about that before.
It's just about the best movie ever. It's luridly beautiful, first of all. It's about ballet, which I'm a great lover of; I was a real little ballet boy when I was a kid. It's also one of those beautiful movies about creativity, and the sacrifices one has to make in order to get the work done. And it's tremendously glamorous, and hysteric, and overwrought—and sophisticated. I just love it.
Have you seen The Black Swan? That's earned some comparisons to The Red Shoes.
I did; I saw it the first day, first showing. Of course, I went hoping for some Red Shoes action. I was not particularly taken with The Black Swan. I guess I don't necessarily think that there's much to say or proved by taking an already damaged girl, a cutter and a bulimic, and just watching her go crazier. She started crazy; she went crazier. I don't necessarily know that that has anything to do with the exigencies and requirements of a creative life in the ballet. So I wasn't really satisfied on that level. I love Natalie Portman; I think she's a lucky, lucky girl to be so gorgeous and so talented. But it didn't really much for me; it seemed a little "classic horror comics," you know, "Is this real or is it fantasy?" And I would have liked a little more backstage drama. But mine's hardly the referendum that Mr. Aronofsky should be looking to satisfy. It's not his fault that I was looking for The Red Shoes and he didn't want make The Red Shoes.
Have you seen other movies this year that really grabbed you?
I don't think I've seen much; that's the problem. I've been a little housebound and a little bit otherwise preoccupied. I haven't seen The Social Network, but I haven't wanted to see it; it just doesn't interest me. I liked The King's Speech; I thought it was a totally blue-chip experience. It's why you pay $12: great acting, great costumes, great script.My only quibble is that his great personal triumph in the climax is also the beginning of World War II. But i did rather like the fact that Edward and Wallis [Simpson] were portrayed as being the vain, acquisitive people that they were—and then there's Any Human Heart on PBS right now—also very good—in which Edward and Wallis show up as well, with Gillian Anderson doing a terrific job as the Duchess of Windsor. And of course, they're horrible people. The King's Speech is a hagiography by comparison. I like history when it gets it right. Next up, The Reagans. And then we'll be okay.
I have to note, again from Half Empty, your love for The Other Side of the Mountain—which I share.
Oh my God yeah, I haven't seen that since I was a child. God Lord, horrible stuff happened in that movie. Oh, I loved it.
I loved the sequel, too. And that actress . . . what was her name?
Marilyn Hassett. Then she did a not-terrible adaptation of The Bell Jar.
Really?! I had no idea.
I always wonder what happened to her.
I remember an interview she did back when about The Other Side of the Mountain, in which she rhapsodized about what a great story it was and how lucky she was to be doing it.
Oh, sure. It was a great star vehicle; a real weeper.