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Cannes: 'Killing Them Softly' Helmer Andrew Dominik Talks Music As Film: 'Jesse James' Was My Leonard Cohen Song, 'Killing Them Softly' Is A Pop Tune

Features
by Benjamin Wright
May 23, 2012 3:01 PM
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Five Things Learned from the “Killing Them Softly” Press Conference At Cannes & Five New Photos From The Film

A film that probably needs no introduction at this point, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly” has been setting the Croisette ablaze with high praises coming from all around, including our own reviewer who called it “brilliant and angry,” and most notably “the anti-thriller for our times.” Following George V. Higgins’ 1974 novel “Cogan’s Trade” (the film’s title before it went all The Fugees on us), ‘Softly’ follows a point man named Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), whose job it is to scout locations for a hitman, only now he finds himself wrapped up in an investigation involving a heist of mafia assets during a poker game. For anyone who saw and loved the vastly underrated ‘Jesse James’ (we certainly did), it should come as no surprise that Dominik has once again defied the clichéd trappings of a genre – in this particular case crime thrillers – and brought along an impressive ensemble to boot; with Pitt as his lead man once again, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, and a few more character actors worth looking up to round out his admirable ensemble cast.

Many members of the cast and crew were on hand at Cannes to chat with press who were just letting out of the film following its first public screening; below are five highlights from that press conference. "Killing Them Softly" will certainly liven the fall moviegoing season as it is set for release by The Weinstein Company on September 21st stateside.

1. Dominik sees the film as a modern day parable for our times, hence why he included footage of public figures like President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
While it’s easy to call any form of artistic expression a product of its time, it seems for writer-director Andrew Dominik as if he can find a link to the past in almost anything. In 'Jesse James' he explored the idea of obsessing over a notable figure (i.e. Robert Ford’s watchful eye over James), and with “Killing Them Softly,” he found that “as I started adapting it, it was the story of an economic crisis, and it was an economic crisis in an economy that was funded by gambling -- and the crisis occurred due to a failure in regulation. It just seemed to have something that you couldn’t ignore,” said Dominik. He also cited that it was the genre of a crime film that allowed him to tell this tale, explaining that “I always feel that crime films are about capitalism, because it’s the one genre where it’s perfectly acceptable for all the characters to be motivated by desire for money only. I always think in some ways the crime film is the most honest American film, because it portrays Americans as I experience them. Particularly in Hollywood, people are very concerned with money,” said Dominik. Though he seems compelled to assure us he’s certainly not without his own financial woes, stating “At the time I was very concerned with money, because I needed to make some money,” said Dominik. Though as for the clips themselves, Dominik says “The film’s not about Obama, it’s about a crisis in the economy, and the people who have to clean it up. I thought it was a contemporary story.”

2. When asked about the brutality of the violence in his films, Dominik says he likes violence in film, referring to it as a "great dramatic tool."
“Hmmm, violence, I don’t know what to say about violence except that it was part of the story,” said Dominik, who likes violence in movies and also believes that “the most dramatic expression of drama is violence.” As for its place in the story, he explains that “in my other movies, violence is always really disturbing for the people who commit violence, and most of the violence is portrayed as a really unsettling emotional situation. This movie is maybe a little more mature, in the fact that all of the characters are aware that violence is a situation that is embarrassing or unpleasant, so they’re doing their best to avoid getting to close to it,” said Dominik. “They want to kill people softly, they want to do from a distance, and they don’t want to look their victims in the eye if they can avoid it,” said Dominik.

3. Brad Pitt believes that funding and starring in the films of underserved filmmaking auteurs is his goal as he continues his career in Hollywood.
Pitt kept an air of respect for both the Hollywood system he is so much a part of throughout the press conference, but did eschew some sentiments about helping auteurs like Dominik create great films under his production banner, simply stating “It’s the age old battle of art versus commerce, I don’t really wrestle with the relationship of two, they were never meant to get along –they’re symbiotic.” Although he believe it’s impossible to continue on his career trajectory, stating that, “There’s something noble about making something that says something, that uncovers something, and being able to it within that system where it has to be profitable or the thing doesn’t get made. I find that an interesting relationship, I don’t argue with it though.”

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