Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Zach Braff “Shocked” By "Unfair And Unfounded" Kickstarter Campaign Backlash Zach Braff “Shocked” By "Unfair And Unfounded" Kickstarter Campaign Backlash Watch: Joaquin Phoenix Gets His Stoner Detective Groove On In Trailer For Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ Watch: Joaquin Phoenix Gets His Stoner Detective Groove On In Trailer For Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ David Fincher Will Direct The Entire First Season Of HBO's 'Utopia' In 2015 David Fincher Will Direct The Entire First Season Of HBO's 'Utopia' In 2015 Best To Worst: David Fincher's Complete Music Videography Ranked Best To Worst: David Fincher's Complete Music Videography Ranked Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Co-Star Shia LaBeouf Is "One Of The Best Actors I've Ever Seen" Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Co-Star Shia LaBeouf Is "One Of The Best Actors I've Ever Seen" First Look: Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult In Drake Doremus’ Sci-Fi Film ‘Equals’ First Look: Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult In Drake Doremus’ Sci-Fi Film ‘Equals’ John Cusack Says Hollywood Is A "Whorehouse" That "Eats Young Actors Up And Spits Them Out" John Cusack Says Hollywood Is A "Whorehouse" That "Eats Young Actors Up And Spits Them Out" Review: 'Southcliffe' May Be The Best New Series On Netflix You Haven't Yet Watched Review: 'Southcliffe' May Be The Best New Series On Netflix You Haven't Yet Watched New Image From 'Inherent Vice,' Paul Thomas Anderson Completely Changed The Ending From Thomas Pynchon's Book New Image From 'Inherent Vice,' Paul Thomas Anderson Completely Changed The Ending From Thomas Pynchon's Book Why 'You're The Worst' Turned Out To Be The Best TV Show Of The Summer Why 'You're The Worst' Turned Out To Be The Best TV Show Of The Summer Watch: First Trailer For Michael Mann’s Hacker Heist Thriller ‘Blackhat’ Starring Chris Hemsworth Watch: First Trailer For Michael Mann’s Hacker Heist Thriller ‘Blackhat’ Starring Chris Hemsworth Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody New Look: Reese Witherspoon And Joaquin Phoenix In Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' New Look: Reese Witherspoon And Joaquin Phoenix In Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Review: David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens & More Review: David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens & More 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Interview: Director David Lowery Discusses His Sundance Sensation 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' & Assembling 'Upstream Color'

Photo of Cory Everett By Cory Everett | @modage February 1, 2013 at 10:21AM

David Lowery went from being a relative unknown to having one of the heavily anticipated films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the outlaw drama, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” Though his most recent short film “Pioneer” picked up acclaim at the festival in 2011, not many saw his previous micro budgeted feature “St. Nick,” a dreamy brother-sister tale which cast only non-professional actors. And yet the anticipation for this film was off the charts thanks in part to the casting of Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine and Nate Parker for this “Bonnie & Clyde”-like tale of criminals determined to reunite with each other at whatever cost.
2

Lowery Bodies
David Lowery went from being a relative unknown to having one of the heavily anticipated films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the outlaw drama, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” Though his most recent short film “Pioneer” picked up acclaim at the festival in 2011, not many saw his previous micro budgeted feature “St. Nick,” a dreamy brother-sister tale which cast only non-professional actors. And yet the anticipation for this film was off the charts thanks in part to the casting of Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine and Nate Parker for this “Bonnie & Clyde”-like tale of criminals determined to reunite with each other at whatever cost.

Our review from Sundance called, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” a “wholly engrossing and impressive piece of work that the movie world will be talking about all year long” and in a recent Indiewire Critics Poll, Lowery and the film were ranked as the #2 Best Director and Feature of the festival (behind Richard Linklater's “Before Midnight”). As if being the writer and director for one of the most well received films at the festival wasn’t enough, he was also the co-editor of Shane Carruth’s beguilingly abstract Upstream Color” and the co-writer of the NEXT selected love story “Pit Stop.” Shortly after IFC Films picked up ‘Saints’ for distribution, we spoke to Lowery about his unexpected influences for the film, sidestepping clichés and pulling off the ultimate Sundance hat-trick.

Lowery set
Where did your initial idea for the movie come from?
The idea for the film came sort of as a response to my first feature, “St. Nick” which was a slow and nearly silent film about children running away from home. I wanted to move in a different direction, so I thought, “Well, I made this incredibly slow, very ponderous and serious movie, let’s try something different. Let’s make an action film next.” It started as sort of a lark and I started to try to write something but very quickly the action part fell away. Initially I was going to open the film with this giant jailbreak scene with lots of intense action and chases, but maybe subconsciously I was disinterested in the action part of it, so I just skipped the actual jailbreak and started with the guy already out. I still think the film really is my version of an action film -- only the whole film is all about the aftermath of action rather than the action itself.

The other big inspiration was just like a lot of the classic American films from the ‘40s through the ‘70s. I really wanted to make something that felt very old-fashioned. With “St. Nick” I was very much into European cinema and, especially Pan-Asian cinema, directors like Tsai Ming Liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien and [Hungarian filmmaker] Bela Tarr and all the filmmakers that really mastered the art of the long, long take where nothing much happens and yet a lot happens at the same time. And I love that genre of filmmaking but having made that film already, I was ready to try something else and I was really getting into some American filmmakers like John Ford, John Huston and also '70s filmmakers like Robert Altman and Michael Cimino. So I felt a strong desire to make a film in that mode that had that sort of clarity, simplicity and muscularity. I really wanted to tell a classic story that was pretty well known, not like a true story or anything but a film that followed traditional beats where you wouldn’t have to pay too much attention to as far as the plot goes. I really love movies where you’re able to sit back and luxuriate in the details or the characters or the moments in between the big scenes. That’s what I really was, more than anything else, really trying to do.

I’ve spoken a lot about how “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” was influence on this movie but more than the film itself, perhaps, is something that Robert Altman had said on the commentary track which is that if you give an audience a story that they already know, it gives you an opportunity to just mess around in that story, to look in the corners and find all the weird details that you wouldn’t necessarily notice in another film. But because everyone knows where it’s going because it’s all so familiar, you’re really able to present something entirely different and entirely new by paying attention to what’s happening behind the action, so to speak.

Were there any clichés of this kind of outlaw story that you consciously tried to stay away from?
When I writing the script, I was always thinking, “If I were watching the movie, would I be disappointed if I went in this direction?” And sometimes you do have to go in those directions because it seems proper or it seems easy but those are always the directions I would have to catch myself on. For example, there's a certain expectation in these types of films that the outlaw and the sheriff are going to have a confrontation at the end, which is the way to tell this story traditionally by having those characters fulfill their archetypes. So I was always trying to find circuitous routes to achieving those classic moments or clichés as you might say. So indeed, the sheriff and the outlaw do indeed have a confrontation at the end but it’s not the one that you might expect from “High Noon” or any of those classic movies where the good guy and the bad guy finally meet up. And there’s certainly plenty of clichés but if you do them well -- by side stepping the expectation and yet fulfilling it in a roundabout manner -- they are satisfying in a really wonderful way. And so when I was writing the script I was always just very conscious of where I needed to get to but I always looked for backhanded way to get there.

This article is related to: Ain't Them Bodies Saints, David Lowery, Interviews, Interviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates