Three interviews with Sally Potter, whose racy interracial romance in verse, "Yes," opens in New York this Friday. Laura Sinagra at the Village Voice gets a few quick quotes from her in one of those blurby things the Voice does on occasion. On her tendency to work with actresses that are generally thought of as aloof or chilly (Joan Allen is the nameless female lead of "Yes"):
I don’t really find them cool. What I find them is intelligent. You may find a certain detachment. But I find that very moving. It’s the opposite of sentimentality.
In the New York Times, Annette Grant has a longer interview with the director, in which she speaks about her film as a response to 9/11 and her writing process.
And we linked to Scott Foundas’ LA Weekly re-interview with Potter a few days ago, but it’s worth a second look. We’ve never read an interview quite like it, with a director chastising a critic for his review, and it raises some interesting questions about the nature of criticism when it comes to small films. Foundas reviewed the film for Variety at its Telluride debut at last year, and wrote what he saw as a negative review, and what others saw as a savaging. A few notable quotes from Potter:
Itâ€™s so difficult financing independent films today, and from a filmmakerâ€™s point of view, when it takes a very long time and great difficulty to fund a film thatâ€™s risky for political, aesthetic or formal reasons â€” in this case, for all three â€” itâ€™s a blow when the industry paper gives it a thumbs-down, because that only adds to that risk-averse climate.
She seems to be suggesting a variation on Dave Eggers’ The Believer magazine, with its manifesto about never giving bad reviews to books, because books have a hard enough time getting read these days anyway. Of course, The Believer manages this by only publishing reviews of books its writers like, while Foundas was hardly in a place to tell Variety he wasn’t going to review "Yes" because he didn’t care for it.
For us, at least, this comes down to the problem of festival coverage. If we assume Potter’s film (she hardly being one of those known to rake it in at the box office) debuted without a distributor, the idea of several publications descending on it with harsh reviews seems unfair â€” they would mush the film before it ever had a chance to reach theaters. Foundas’ review may have been unfairly weighted, it being one of the few and first from a major publication, but Variety is, as Potter herself points out, also a trade, read by industry types who, we’d hope, would know better than to make major decisions on a film based on one critic’s say.
It would have been different if everyone in Telluride had thought the film was no good. Then, however well-intentioned it had been, however hard the people had struggled, however long it took and that nobody got paid and everything â€” in a way it all would have been irrelevant, because in the end the film didn’t work. But in this case, 99 percent of the people not only thought it worked, but thought it worked brilliantly. The other 1 percent happened to have its voice in print.
That we’re less sympathetic with. Foundas was clearly just doing his job as a critic, which was to give his opinion of the film â€” after all, it was a review, not an attempt at gauging the crowd’s reaction, a tricky thing in itself.
We have no real point here, it’s just part of the overall "how to cover festivals" problem we muse over from time to time.
+ Yes Woman (Village Voice)
+ Verse Film Pits Love Against the Clash of Cultures (NY Times)
+ Just Say Yes (LA Weekly)