It was truly an honor to get a chance to interview Jules Feiffer, who wrote the critically acclaimed “Carnal Knowledge,” a movie that was the subject of a Supreme Court case about whether it was obscene (they ruled that it was not). He also illustrated one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, wrote a book about the history of comics, and many, many other books for children and adults. His latest movie is Bernard and Huey, based on a script he wrote thirty years ago.
The full interview is on The Credits. Here’s an excerpt:
Is the conquest more important than the sex for Bernard and Huey?
Conquest is major with Huey, but he also loves sex, and giving pleasure to women. Once it’s over, he’s indifferent, and wants them out of the way. This point was made more openly in Carnal Knowledge, where it’s clear that heterosexual men didn’t like women, they liked women’s bodies. And once the sex was over, and the cigarettes smoked, they wanted the girl gone, so they could go out with the guys (their real relationships), and talk about how, and with whom, they scored. Bernard would love a real relationship. He’s just too screwed up to maintain one.
From space to skates. From doctors in a remote New Mexico town to toddlers competing in a beauty contest in Brazil to Brooklyn teenagers trying to get into college and queer and trans athletes trying to get a chance to compete and politicians trying to fight the forces undermining democracy. There is no superhero blockbuster, no story of vampires in love, no comedy about college friends catching up 20 years later that can come close to the heartwarming, terrifying, passionately humane impact of a documentary. And every year, in Washington DC, the American Film Institute Docs festival brings together the best from the US and abroad, from established, award-winning filmmakers and first-timers making the most of micro-budgets.
Some are stories of the past. The best-known documentary of WWII was “Memphis Belle,” directed by Hollywood legend William Wyler. Using footage Wyler shot from the National Archives, director Erik Nelson has made a new film called “The Cold Blue,” featuring gripping narration from some of the last surviving B-17 pilots. Some are stories of the future. Rory Kennedy’s “Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow” shows us that the most important part of our voyages into space is not what we learn about other planets but what we learn about our own, as new missions give us critical data about the state of our environment. Some are intimate family stories, like “Witkin and Witkin,” about septuagenarian twin artists, and “The Distant Barking of Dogs,” about a boy and his grandmother who live just miles from the war in Ukraine. Others tell the stories of remarkable people like Father Theodore Hesburgh, Gilda Radner, Alexander McQueen, and Australian musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Some are about unsung heroes, those working to protect children, rehabilitate prisoners, and open up opportunities for oppressed people.
Some documentary stories are on a global scale, or even beyond, into outer space. Some help us understand the very medium of film itself. “Hal” is the story of director Hal Ashby (“Shampoo,” “Coming Home,” “Being There”).
Some take us places we would otherwise never get to see, like “Into the Okavango,” a stunning journey down an African river.
This year’s Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree is Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” “The Interrupters,” “Life, Itself”), an extraordinary filmmaker who truly understands that the essence of documentary filmmaking is empathy. Documentaries can be tragic, provocative, infuriating, inspiring, heartwarming, informative, and hilarious, in any combination or all of the above. Just like life.
2017 was a good year for women in film, with “Wonder Woman” directed by Patty Jenkins and “Beauty and the Beast” in the top 10 for box office. 2018 looks even better, with “Oceans 8” doing better than its male-led predecessors with a very strong $41 million opening weekend.
This year and the last in particular have seen a number of releases featuring monstrous young women. Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds and Julia Ducournau’s Raw both found widespread critical success, while features like The Lure, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Wildling, and Tribeca premiere The Dark feature lesser-known violent ladies. Regardless of Rotten Tomatoes score, each of the protagonists in these movies are girls with uncontrollable bloodlust, whether psychological (the sociopaths of Thoroughbreds and The Blackcoat’s Daughter) or physical (the flesh cravers of Wildling and Raw). None of these movies have overtly political plots, but it’s hard to dismiss the social implications of a spate of girls-bite-back films in the era of Trump.