"When a woman confronts her loneliness, she's free." That's one of the lovely first sentences spoken in Amanda Eliasch's impassioned "The Gun, the Cake and the Butterfly," a jarringly constructed documentary-hybrid that examines, and recreates, the tragedy, and the comedy, of her life as an artist, photographer, writer, actress and, ultimately, filmmaker.
The film, which begins in childhood and lands in the present, is about the value of self-awareness in the life of an artist -- are you really living your life if you're in your head, filtering it through the prism of the imagination, all the time? You might say that Amanda Eliasch is more like a character in a book than a person in real life. But in real life, she is, in fact, quite a person -- a real presence that I got to know over the course of a few weeks as her distinctive, and promising, self-made doc played LA's Brit Week. (It's up for sale at the Cannes market right now.)
When the film screened at the Arclight on Sunset Blvd, I moderated a lively post-screening Q&A that generated more Qs than As (as they ought to). But beforehand, Amanda, surrounded by her reps, and I had dinner, and I sensed her visible nervousness about how I, and the press in general, would perceive her, and this odd bird of a film into which she poured her mind, body and soul. (With a little help from some Brut -- though not for Amanda, who doesn't drink or take drugs, really, and makes that very clear in the film -- we broke the ice quite easily.)
As a British fashion editor (for Genlux Magazine) -- born in Beirut to a family of artistic raconteurs -- Eliasch has lived a life of varying degrees of privilege. But as you see in the film, she is busily reinventing herself through her art at all times. Before "The Gun, the Cake and the Butterfly" was ever a feature, for example, it was a prose-poem assigned to her by her father ("write 5,000 about your life"), then a play, then a short film -- all sifted through the wheels of her brain.
Now, of course it's a feature, and Eliasch is already dreaming of ways to remake it in some other form. It chronicles her personal and professional life -- from a rocky start in LA to a celebrity marriage on the rocks -- and her propensity for fascinating, devastating love affairs. Though the talented Justine Glenton, a British character actress, plays Eliasch throughout many scenes, Eliasch steps in to play herself in key moments, particularly when a relationship is dismantled by yet another another breakup.
Her grandfather was Sidney Gilliat, an English filmmaker who wrote for Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed. Eliasch has a drama school background. Her love of film and performance shows in this heightened, sensual, exuberant film, which is the stuff of opera. But what's it all about, in her own words? Here's an email she sent me:
What does anything mean?Does it have to mean anything.Am I superficial am I not?Am I faking my life or is it real?
That offers some insight, or perhaps even more delirious confusion, into the kind of questions she's asking. Watch as Eliasch discusses her film (and as I awkwardly lose my Q&A-moderating virginity) below. And watch the trailer here.