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Interview: 'Lore' Director Cate Shortland Explores World War II Landscape of Identity and Sexuality

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood February 12, 2013 at 4:25PM

Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland's "Lore," which was shortlisted for the foreign Oscar, is now playing in limited release. After her 2004 debut "Somersault" broke out Sam Worthington and Abbie Cornish, Shortland took her time coming back to helm another film. Set in vastly different territory, World War II drama "Lore" made its debut in Toronto. It was worth the wait.

SS: Female sexuality is at the center of your two films. How do you hope your films are contributing to that dialogue as it exists in the cinema?

CS: Sexuality was at the centre of 'Somersault' but just one of the elements in 'Lore'. Lore is fourteen so of course it is going to surface at some point in the film. The culture I live in, Australia, also informs how I look at sex. I think we spend half the year in the heat, we don’t wear many clothes, we come from a strange convict colonial past where sex was used as a weapon. When whites landed, there were 16 men to every white woman. I think this still permeates the culture, this odd sexual predatory thing. But I also think it makes Australian women really tough. In a good way. Sex is not something so exotic here and I think in my films it is a part of the landscape. It is not fetishised here in the same way as in Europe. But the issues around it are still as complex and compelling, I am interested in the psychology of it.

SS: What was your process like with cinematographer Adam Arkapaw?

CS: Adam Arkapaw is young and inspiring. He works very hard to achieve beauty and freshness in his work. We worked with the designer Silke Fischer very closely, and were inspired by the U.S. film 'Ballast' and the Russian film 'Come and See.' Both are landscape-based, and about adolescents. Both deal with violence and its impact on the young leads. We did a lot of improvising and Adam had a very short time to shoot, as we had four hours often, as the kids had to be off set so quickly due to German law. So it was fast and stressful. But Adam did such a wonderful job. I love his work on the film.

SS: If you could only watch one movie over and over again for the rest of your life, which would it be?

CS: 'Badlands.' 'Taxi Driver.' 'Cyclo.' Sorry, that is three…..

SS: You're directing a silent black and white film; which two living actors do you cast?

CS: Saskia Rosendahl and Casey Affleck.

SS: Best advice you've ever received? And the worst?

CS: I don’t think I remember bad advice. Only good. The producer on 'Somersault,' Jan Chapman, sent me a beautiful Chanel lipstick wrapped in a letter. The letter said, 'Something beautiful to ease the pain.' She then asked me to cut my shooting ratio in half. She has great style. Barry Kosky, a very brave theatre director told me, 'Tears are for the bedroom,' when I asked him if he is ever scared.

This article is related to: Lore , Interviews, Interviews , Foreign, Cate Shortland

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.