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Kenneth Lonergan Discusses The Changes In The New Cut Of 'Margaret,' Digital Vs. Film, 3D & More

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist July 10, 2012 at 11:04AM

Of the many interpretations of the story of its tortuous, years-long journey to the screen, for a time the favored narrative for "Margaret" ran something like this: overambitious director of indie-darling first feature, dashes sprawling, pretentious sophomore effort on rocks of own hubris -- chaos, bitterness, lawsuits ensue. It’s the kind of Hollywood story that writes itself, based around some putative generalised notion of The Director as a towering Wellesian figure of limitless ego and myopia-verging-on-madness where his creations are concerned.
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Margaret Anna Paquin Matt Damon
An interesting aspect of the film’s protracted birth was the Greek chorus of opinions voiced about it, positive and negative. Do you read reviews?
“Some of them. Maybe about a dozen. I shouldn’t read any of them, but if they’re complimentary I can’t help it.” We suggest that he must have read quite a lot from us, in that case. “Yes, Indiewire has been very supportive. [And when] you read things... and you agree with them and didn’t think of them it’s fun and interesting.” Of course, the converse also holds, and Lonergan responds to some of the opinions he disagreed with definitively. “I don’t agree that [Lisa is] unsympathetic. Some people find her repellent, dislikable, horrible, awful, but I don’t find her any of those things. And I don’t find the mother self-centered. That reading I find very interesting because everyone who writes that [review] cares very much about their job and how they’re received and whether it’s going well, as in ‘I liked your article very much/I hated your article...’ But the mother, because she is concerned about her play is perceived to be self-centered... I think the mother is just a woman in her 40s trying to live her own life and trying to help her daughter but getting shut out completely. I think in the extended version that element comes out a bit more, and some of the more sympathetic side of what happens with Lisa comes out a bit more.”

Looking to the future, have you any new film projects lined up as yet?
“I have couple of different films that I'd like to do and I don't know which to do. I did a play 2 years ago called ‘The Starry Messenger’ with Matthew [Broderick] and J. [Smith-Cameron] and Catalina Sandino Moreno which I really thought was very good and I'd like to make a film of that. And I have two scripts that I'm writing and I've about 25 pages apiece and I'm stuck on both of them. And all of the plays I've written -- I'd like to make movies of all of them. But I'm concerned that my wife [Lonergan is married to 'Margaret' star J. Smith Cameron] just got a job on a TV show that shoots in Georgia, a Sundance Channel show, and she's going to be away, so I'm concerned about our daughter, and making a film because it really is all-consuming. Unless I can get European work hours. Clint Eastwood work hours, Woody Allen work hours -- if I could get that I'd do another film right away.”

Margaret
Would you consider directing someone else script?
“No, I don't like directing. I only direct my own screenplays because there's no other way to protect them. Along the way I've become interested in directing, but I started out doing it to protect the work.”

What do you think of recent developments in filmmaking technology, like digital and 3D?
“I think it’s appalling. Except for ‘Hugo’ which is the only time I’ve seen 3D used [right]...and it’s incredible. [But] I’ve seen children’s movies in 3D and it’s horrible, only occasionally good. I mean, it’s very good that they can make dragons and dinosaurs and I like that kind of movie and I like science fiction movies very much, but I’m very much afraid that digital technology is going to destroy film completely and it just doesn’t look as good. I sat in a color timing session for the DVD and I was frightened by what you can do. Because it’s ‘Oh his face is a little dim, can you make it brighter?’ and then the light is wrong and now his shirt is wrong, and it’s like filling in a coloring book, and then the ambient light for the whole room is different, it’s gone, it’s not there… I also think this is one reason that now so many films have a stylized look, because in a computer it’s much easier to color time something if everything is blue or everything’s red, or everything’s saturated. But to capture real light, film does it still much better, and there’s a lot of people working very hard to destroy it forever so it will be a very short-lived thing. And perhaps I’m wrong and digital technology will be able to be as good as film some day, and I certainly enjoy watching the ships crashing into each other in the ocean and the fake CG, and the dragons in ‘Harry Potter,’ I love them, but I’m afraid film is like black and white - no one’s going to know how to do it in 20 years.”

Perhaps part of this fear springs from Lonergan’s own love for classical Hollywood filmmaking. “I like older movies, I prefer them generally to contemporary films. But contemporary directors - Almodovar, I think he’s wonderful, of course Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, (who’s not contemporary anymore but nearly so). I think Paul Thomas Anderson is wonderful. Werner Herzog, I’m crazy about him as well. [But really] William Wyler, Carol Reed, Howard Hawks, John Huston... William Wyler I think is my favorite director probably - there’s so many. Francois Truffaut. I always leave people out. I’ll go home and be like ‘Oh! I forgot! Joseph Mankiewicz!’”

Margaret
Of course, Scorsese famously helped you with the edit of “Margaret.” What is your relationship with him like?
“He was very helpful just with advice on how to proceed and he also worked on the film with me for a few months -- the spring before the release, in May/June/July. He's been wonderful to me for a long time now. I love him.

Part 2 of our interview, including a closer look at “Margaret,” will post tomorrow.
 

This article is related to: Margaret, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Kenneth Lonergan, Interviews


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