Tuesday, September 25, 2007

James Gray in the NYTimes

(From a few weeks ago, hat tip to Ryan for pointing out what I'd missed):

We Own the Night makes the most of seldom-seen locations, especially in the three action set pieces. To film a nerve-shredding drug bust, the production team found an actual stash house in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx is the scene of a rainy car chase reminiscent of The French Connection. And the final face-off unfolds in a patch of head-high reeds at Floyd Bennett Field, a former airport in Brooklyn. (One of the reasons it took years to get the film off the ground was Mr. Gray’s refusal to shoot any of it in Toronto.)

Like Mr. Gray’s other films We Own the Night strives for a heightened emotionality that often seems in conflict with its macho environment. “There’s surface subversive, where it’s worn on the sleeve,” he said. “Everyone wears a hat, the ending comes in the middle. What I prefer is where the subversivenes is almost a Trojan horse and is deeper within the film,” as in classical Hollywood cinema.

“There’s a repression about that period I find amazing,” he added. “You’ve got the ‘A’ story and then beneath that something totally at odds with it. You have a movie that exists on two planes.”

Mr. Gray is smart and neurotic enough both to complain about being misinterpreted and to know that he shouldn’t. He doesn’t want to sound defensive but can’t help griping about what he feels are wrongheaded criticisms.

To his chagrin the Variety review of his new movie called him out for using Blondie’s 1978 song “Heart of Glass” in the opening club scene. “The idea that if your film takes place in 1988 it should only have music from 1988 shows a totally limited sense of history and how history is an accumulation of details,” he said. “Is all your furniture from 2007?”

But he is most irked by the contention that his film is cop-glorifying, flag-waving or even pro-Bush, a connection some have made because of the Bushian ultimatum Mr. Duvall’s character issues to Mr. Phoenix’s: “Either you’re gonna be with us or you’re gonna be with the drug dealers.”

“That was a conscious George Bush comment,” Mr. Gray said. “But that’s not the filmmaker endorsing the behavior. One of the reasons Henry IV [which was an influence for We Own the Night--ZC] reverberated for me in the first place was the current White House.”

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