"RACHEL MCADAMS IS PERFECT AND PROVING SHE'S A SUPERB ACTRESS"
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a la Mod:
Megan Abbott: With me, it’s never one-to-one or conscious exactly. But this is interesting: when I had the title for The End of Everything I watched Mulholland Drive again and it’s a line in that film: “This is the end of everything.” Someone told me, “Oh, it’s also a line in your first book” [Die A Little], which I had written the year Mulholland Drive came out, so clearly that line is/was tattooed in my brain. So I think it mostly comes out in unconscious ways.
But that’s a great analogy. The Laura Palmer/Donna relationship is such a fundamental female friendship dynamic and that’s a perfect example with Beth and Addy. There’s always the one friend who takes all the air out of the room or is such a presence and the other one who is secondary and is longing to be that bigger person. There are those moments when Maddy comes and looks like Laura and then Donna realizes that she’s going to be dethroned again. There’s something about that complicated female dynamic that I think has been a pulse through a lot of my stuff.
And then sometimes I look at Lynch when I’m trying to add odd tensions to a scene. I get that a lot from him. It’s never direct either. But I’ll just sort of watch a bunch of his stuff to remind myself of why things are scary that wouldn’t necessarily seem scary. There’s a scene in Dare Me where Beth is talking about a dream she had and that definitely feels like a Lynch kind of thing. You know, when someone’s telling you the dream, but they’re telling it in a way that it becomes terrifying to the listener.
Also, in Lynch’s films everything is infused with eroticism. That’s something that’s probably characteristic of maybe all my books, but certainly the last two where it’s adolescence, so it takes over everything anyway.
William Boyle: Early in the book you confront the fetishization of cheerleaders head-on: “All those misty images of cheerleaders frolicking in locker rooms, pom-poms sprawling over bare bud breasts. All those endless fantasies and dirty-boy dreams, they’re all true in a way.” This put me in mind of Brian De Palma. It’s almost as if you’re playing a kind of trick he’d play, making us believe that’s true but yet undermining it with the portrait of the Cheerleader Real that you wind up painting. Was that your intention?
Megan Abbott: Absolutely. De Palma. I can never think of a female locker without thinking of the beginning of Carrie, which is exactly what “dirty boy-dreams” I had in mind. And it’s funny because I always feel like I go both ways with that. I love De Palma. I’m a big De Palma fan. And I want to diffuse the fantasy, but then it also turns out to be partially true. That’s always the thing—it’s the two sides of me. My Times essay is my intellectual take. I want this to be real. But when I write, it’s a different part of my brain—it also wants it partially to be a fantasy. And for it to be a fantasy part of it has to be true. So there are moments in the book where the fantasies are made real, they are kind of literal, there is a sensory pleasure the girls get from each other’s bodies even in just touching each other during stunts. I wanted that to be in there. The sort of thinking feminist part of my head wants to puncture this stuff, but the other part of me knows it is part of the Real in some ways, that all fantasies have some basis in reality. People always say De Palma’s a misogynist, but I think he’s actually really a feminist. And I think he gets to have it both ways. I mean, that’s sort of his trick. He’s making fun of it, but he’s still indulging it.
"The Vietnam War and the assassination of Kennedy made us aware that the government was deceiving us. When we realized that they lied about the war, and when we saw that the government was making excuses for the Kennedy assassination, none of that made sense to our eyes. For us, who trusted in our political leaders, it was a revelation. Today, obviously, we doubt everything they say."
"With Iraq, we fell, again, to the lie of a war, and we sent kids there helpless to fight for something that they had no idea what it was. They had horrific experiences and then they too responded to them in a terrible way."
On establishing the idea of deception with the viewer:
"Film can be the art of deception. You can create movies that lie and deceive the public with pictures, and there are elements of it in my movies."
On the visual language of motion pictures:
"Many of the images developed in the movies are inspired by the material with which we work, but the advantage of thriller and horror films is that they rely on a specific visual language... Voyeurism is a staple of the cinema. It is intrinsic to the art, because the movie has to do with observing an action: we're pointing a camera at a person who pretends to not have a lens pointed at her... There is a vast reservoir of movies from the past which show how the way to tell a story visually has evolved, something that originated in the silents. We saw what happened when sound came in and made films in static forms, which worsened with television."
On beauty in cinema, and studio resistance:
"Beauty is an important idea for me, and there is not enough beauty in film, because it costs a lot of money to the studios... Making Scarface was a terrible struggle. Studios said it was too violent, and they had immense fear. We always find that kind of resistance in the industry and I don’t believe this has improved in the last two decades."
On the pictures getting smaller:
"Much of what we see on the screens [phone] and television coverage is just for boring dramatic events, instead of formats that seem to have the aspects necessary to tell a story in a visual way. They’re not able to create exciting visual experiences, which I feel are an important part of the cinema: large images made for a big screen... A film like Lawrence of Arabia or Once Upon a Time in the West would not make sense on a small screen. This part of the achievement has been lost today, and we see how movies are mechanical and do not have well choreographed sequences. And images that are repeated endlessly because they are programmed by a computer."
And in closing, Valente notes that De Palma's cinema has a sentimental layer underneath the suspense, and quotes De Palma once more:
"I'm drawn to classical tragedy because I see it as a way to tell a more emotional story. I'm only interested in art that is emotional, that withstands the test of time."