It's hard to think of another indie filmmaker in recent memory who has taken advantage of his post-Sundance moment quite as well as David Lowery. After conquering the fest last year as a triple-threat (with three separate films)—co-editor on Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color," co-writer on Yen Tan's "Pit Stop," and perhaps most notably as writer/director on "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," the '70s-flavored romantic crime drama we called "a wholly engrossing and impressive piece of work"—Lowery got straight to work on figuring out his next project(s).
Currently on his lazy Susan of possibilities are the David Fincher serial killer project "Torso," the Robert Redford-led caper "The Old Man And The Gun," re-teaming with 'Saints' star Casey Affleck for the heady sci-fi "To Be Two," and the remake of "Pete's Dragon," which he was recently slated to direct. (Oh, he also found time to squeeze in an episode of Sundance Channel's "Rectify," and lent his name as producer to Alex Ross Perry's forthcoming "Listen Up Phillip," one of our favorites from Sundance this year.)
Lowery took a short break from writing "Pete's Dragon" (and likely three or four other possible features) to be the latest participant in our My Life In Movies series—whose previous interviewees include Terry Gilliam and "Hide Your Smiling Faces" helmer Daniel Carbone—and spoke about the varied cinematic influences that have shaped his life.
1. The first movie you ever saw.
One of my earliest memories, movie-related or otherwise, is of seeing a man dunking a man's head in a toilet on television, and my mom telling me that this is what would happen to me if I ever joined the army. It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I would discover that this was a scene from "The Great Santini," starring Robert Duvall. My mother's admonition worked; I never had any inclination whatsoever to join the military, and still feel somewhat ill at ease about working on a war picture, which I now am.
2. The first moviegoing film experience you can remember.
The first movie I ever saw in the cinema was Walt Disney's "Pinocchio," upon its 1984 re-release, which would have put me at three years old. I loved it, developed an early crush on the Blue Fairy (or rather, the standee in the lobby, which made a bigger impression on me than the film) and decided I wanted to be Pinocchio when I grew up.
3. The best moviegoing film experience you ever had.
A 35mm screening of "Two-Lane Blacktop" at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was actually a double feature with "The Shooter," and Monte Hellman was there, but those details are irrelevant. It was "Two-Lane Blacktop," all on its lonesome, that gave me a particularly exhilarating high. I can't quite explain it, but I'd never experienced prior and certainly haven't since. I won't deny that external circumstances might have had something to do with it, but regardless, the film remains in my top four or five favorites of all time.
4. The first film you saw that you realized, you too could be a filmmaker.
Predictably (hubristically), it was "Star Wars." Perhaps not even the films, but the Random House storybooks, which I took to heart long before I saw the movies (I grew up without a TV and was too young to see any of them in the theater).
5. The first movie you became obsessed with.
If a 7-year-old can truly be obsessed, then see above. If 17 is a more reasonable age, see below.
6. The movie that always makes you cry (or the movie that is your emotional comfort food movie).
"Buffalo '66." This was the first film that hit me on the level of emotional autobiography. Perhaps its to the detriment of my own character that it still does, but I hope not. The hot chocolate and the heart-shaped cookies at the end—they make my heart swell. The last time I watched the film, about six months ago, I looked up the actor who plays the donut shop clerk in that last scene. His name is Manny Fried, and I was sad to learn that he passed away in 2011. I hope he was proud of this tiny, perfect performance.
7. The movie that always freaks you out/makes you scared.
David Lynch's "Fire Walk With Me" has a scene in it that scared me so bad that I don't remember it. I blocked the memory out—repeatedly! I've seen the film two or three times, and I can never remember what it is that scares me. It's probably not even a scene but a particular accumulation of images and sounds, arranged just so, that triggers whatever synapse in my brain release the waves of sheer terror I associate with this blank space in my memory of the film.
8. The movie you love that no one would expect you to love.
"Step Brothers," maybe, although anyone who knows me wouldn't be too surprised about that.
9. The movie that defined your coming-of-age/high school experience.
There are too many of these to count. I'll go with "Romeo + Juliet," because it was released my sophomore year, right before that pivot point in adolescence when one begins the gradual tip towards adulthood. And also because I saw it six times in the theater.
10. The movie that defined your childhood.
Since I already mentioned the 'Star Wars' movies, I'll shake things up in the mildest way possible now and cite the 'Indiana Jones' movies. I don't think any of these choices need much explanation, although I would like to note that my favorite of the latter trilogy always was and still is 'Temple Of Doom.'
11. A film you didn't like at first, but later came to love.
"Gummo" is the example that comes to mind first. I rented it in high school and couldn’t get through 40 minutes of it. A few years later, after having a more positive reaction to "Julien Donkey Boy," I tried again and found it far more favorable. In the years since, I saw "Trash Humpers" in the theater three times, so clearly whatever rot Harmony Korine introduced to my brain has taken hold. I also did an about-face on Jim Jarmusch’s "Dead Man," although I think my negative reaction to it had more to do with the fact that I watched it with my dad, who found it not the father-son-bonding-over-a-Western experience he had in mind. All it took was a solo viewing for it to become one of my very favorite films, and one which I quote even more often than "Step Brothers."
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is now available on Blu-ray/DVD.