Giles Edwards interviews director Julio Maria Martino and writer David Hauptschein about Country of Hotels, their triptych of surrealist vignettes that “linger in the mind like stale cigarette smoke in a shabby hotel room.” The men discuss the proper role of mystery in film, the Brown Chicken murders, and the importance of leaving your living room. Plus, restaurant recommendations for London and Chicago.
On February 25th, Giles Edwards chatted with via Zoom about his feature film debut, Man Under Table, which just debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival. Here is the transcript (lightly edited for clarity); the raw video is at the end of the post.and
366: We’re here to interview Noel David Taylor about his debut film, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, called Man Under Table. It’s a surreal satire about a sarcastic young filmmaker trying to making his first script in the indie world where all his peers’ careers seem to be advancing a little bit faster than his. Mr. Taylor, as an introduction, would you care to give us some information on your own background and how this project came to be?
Noel David Taylor: I have been making short films pretty much as long as I can remember. I just moved to LA about six years ago, and just bounced around trying to find a place. I got kind of frustrated and embroiled in this “indie film” scene that I’m satirizing in this film, and I started writing about my little experiences and frustrations in that arena.
366: “No” is a perfectly reasonable answer to both parts of this two part question: can you explain why you named the movie Man Under Table, and the follow-up is, did you ever consider naming it “Guy Under Table”?
NDT: It’s funny, “Man Under Table” is the first part of this film. Me and a friend of mine were just joking around one day, sending fake movie titles back and forth, and we landed on that one, and for some reason, it just stuck with me. I think I was starting the script at the time, and I just thought it was funny. And yeah, there is that part of the movie where the character Gerald keeps saying “guy under table”, which is almost the titular line, but not quite.
366: You are writer, director, producer, and star of this feature, so obviously a very personal film for you, and as you just mentioned, talking about a number of personal experiences hashed out in a semi-fictionalized way. Of these four, which was your favorite? Did you like to be acting more? Did you enjoy the direction? Or is this just one ball of output?
NDT: I think it’s a combination. Because I started messing around making short films when I was a kid, I always used each part of it to aid the other part. So for certain projects—my own projects—I feel like it’s really hard for me to separate those things. They kind of lend to each other. But more and more, especially starting with this project, I kind of just enjoy the writing. It’s the part where there’s slightly less stress. You can do it in your own time, no one’s around.
366: Except in the experience of the main character there, yeah.
366: He always introduces himself as, “I’m writing a movie”, and that reflects your thoughts there. A brief follow-up question in that vein: did you ever think to cast someone else as you?
NDT: Oh yeah. When I started building this project, I intended on doing a lot more outsourcing. I certainly didn’t want to shoot it. The people I had around me, I couldn’t really get on board. I had Continue reading UNDER THE TABLE WITH “MAN UNDER TABLE,” NOEL DAVID TAYLOR
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DIRECTED BY: Nick Gatsby
FEATURING: Eric Willis, Scott Mitchell
PLOT: A hapless tenant finds himself dying at the hands of his neighbor over and over again.
COMMENTS: There’s a grandeur that kicks off Nick Gatsby’s first feature film that is both beautiful and disorienting. Haunting choral music, haunting wind sounds, and a haunting, burning moon (?) behind scraggly, leafless branches. The moon turns green, and there is a cut—appropriately—to psychedelically-lit puzzle pieces. This abstraction crops up throughout the rest of the film: interesting shots cut up by post-production static, over-exposure, jump cuts, and—my favorite—hilarious intertitles. With what seems like zero dollars on hand, but plenty of focus for fastidious editing and micro-effects, Gatsby has put together a creative anomaly; I wouldn’t describe it as a movie, per se, but it would hold its own among the video installations I’ve enjoyed at various modern art museums.
The story, such as it is, remains basic: a man mysteriously appears in a chair, slumped over. He awakens and is quickly menaced by a (largely) unseen neighbor. He’s about to be killed, and on a very short timer. Looming butterflies act as harbingers. Skulls appear, tiki bars are disregarded, and only in the fifth iteration do things seemingly fall into place.
Watching My Neighbor Wants Me Dead with a group was apt, as the chatter (pleasant though it was) acted as something of a distraction. And wouldn’t you know, the film’s tagline is “A film about distractions.” More than most (more straight-forward) narratives, My Neighbor lends itself to multiple interpretations. I saw it as a meditation on depression: the protagonist continually tries and fails to survive and get out of his door. Distractions subsume him: the promise of a “Tiki Bar,” threats from his neighbor, and even idly wandering through his barren apartment. Knowing a thing or two about depression myself, I know that one of the main challenges it presents the sufferer with is distraction: a simple, but driving distraction from being able to just face the day.
Gatsby earns plenty of bonus points for style, and several more for the oddball humor sprinkled throughout. There’s a cartoon intermission, plenty of ragtime music, and obscenely pictographed phrases during the intertitles. The ending did elicit a bit of, “Well, I should have seen that coming…”; but seeing as how I didn’t, I can’t complain. I am glad to say that I look forward to Gatsby’s next (great?) outing.
BONUS INTERVIEW: In the final minutes of the screening, filmmaker Nick Gatsby mysteriously appeared, telecommuting from his bunker in Colorado. The 366 crew all chipped in questions for him about his film. Continue reading 366 UNDERGROUND: MY NEIGHBOR WANTS ME DEAD (2019) WITH BONUS INTERVIEW
In 2016 I interviewed and about their debut film, the dog-grooming video art fantasia She’s Allergic to Cats, which has since been released on video-on-demand and named an Apocryphally Weird selection. Four years later, we follow up to see how an alphabetization controversy impeded the film’s distribution prospects, Reich’s pooch Martin’s new career as a video star, and whether a gory marionette anti-marijuana film will be the duo’s next project.
In the summer of 2019, Why Don’t You Just Die! wowed Fantasia at a jam-packed screening. Chronicling the vengeful efforts of Matvey against a father who dun wronged his girlfriend, WDYJD! is a Chekovian chamber drama doused with a bucketful of comedy and filled with as much violence as can be crammed into a three-room apartment.
Maintaining a healthy social distance of 4,200 miles, Giles Edwards spoke with Kirill Sokolov, the director of Fantasia’s “New Flesh Award“-winning feature debut, Why Don’t You Just Die! (For the Russian title, give the interview a listen; we won’t be using such foul language on this website… not in writing, anyway.) Rest assured that Mr Sokolov is alive, well, writing, and eager to start his next project. Audio interview is embedded below.
As a bonus, here is the first scene of Why Don’t You Just Die?
Note: The following interview may contain slight spoilers for Koko-di, Koko-da.
Koko-di debuted at Sundance, won the “Camera Lucida” prize at Fantasia, and is currently playing at Austin’s Fantastic Fest (catch the final screening on September 26). Dark Star Pictures has acquired the movie for a November 15 U.S. theatrical release.
The title comes from a macabre children’s nursery rhyme (“my rooster is dead, he will never sing koko-di koko-da”). The story involves a married couple—once loving, now squabbling—who go on a camping trip in the woods four years after a tragedy ripped their lives apart. Once there, they wake in the middle of the night to find the same events repeating themselves. Three figures trudge out of the woods: an old man dressed in white, a tall female leading a vicious dog, and a unibrowed giant with a dead dog slung over his shoulder. The trio terrorize the campers; then, they wake up in their tent, as if from a dream, and the cycle repeats itself. The man becomes conscious of what is happening and futilely tries new strategies to avoid their fate. All the while there is also a mysterious white cat running around in the woods, and scenes from a bizarre shadow play where animal puppets reenact a peculiar fable that seems relevant to the couple’s personal history. Will they escape this treadmill of horror and recrimination?
366 Weird Movies’ Gregory J. Smalley spoke with Mr. Nyholm via telephone.
366: Would you consider this a Swedish or a Danish film? According to IMDB both languages are spoken in the film.
Johaness Nyholm: Mostly Swedish. We shot most parts in Sweden, and most of the team was Swedish as well. But I have a Danish co-producer who helped a lot on the film, and there is quite a lot of Danish spoken, especially from one character in the film.
366: I think it’s fair to say that this is a mysterious movie, in many ways, and I wanted to know if you thought there were any cultural references that Scandinavian audiences might pick up on that people in other countries might not get.
JN: No, I don’t think so, actually… the music is a French lullaby.
366: I was wondering if the “Koko-di Koko-da” song was written specifically for the movie or if it’s a traditional folk song.
JN: No, it’s a traditional folk song. Of course, we made many different versions of it.
366: Peter Belli is a well-known Danish singer. Did you have him in Continue reading BEHIND THE REAL WORLD: JOHANESS NYHOLM ON KOKO-DI, KOKO-DA