ANNA BILLER: LIFE OF A STAR

Incubus starts out as a sexy thriller and winds up a full on musical. Is this blending of genres something you take particular delight in doing?
Yes, because I like to mix things up so you know you’re watching a construction, a set of ideas and images that is fake. I am mistrustful of the power of narrative, the way it says “this is so,” and it’s so powerful and you believe it. I don’t want people to ever forget that they’re watching a movie, a piece of fancy, a made-up thing from a personal perspective. That’s the way I watch films anyway, and I think it’s a good way to watch films, so I build it in to the movies . Other than that, the story seems to demand different treatments as it attacks different issues, and I like to use the most powerful images I can for any given scene. For example, the horror genre only works so far for Incubus, because in a horror film the ingenue is always a victim, or she gets her revenge in a brutal way. And I’m not interested in Lucy’s victimhood or her revenge, I’m interested in Lucy making her way in the world through an initiation. And where to better demonstrate this than the lawless Old West, where the best man or woman always wins? For Incubus the blending of genres worked perfectly, because the gothic horror film and the western are both from the nineteenth century, so at least I could remain consistent there.

Who are you favorite filmmakers?
This changes all the time, but my deepest influences are movies from the 1930’s with beautiful gowns and glamorous women, and fairy tales and anything really astonishing and startling. Of course, there’s a huge list. But it includes Michael Powell, Jacques Demy, Cocteau, Bunuel, Ichikawa, Von Sternberg, Busby Berkley and Mae West movies. Thanks to the American Cinematheque I’ve recently become aware of the films of Alexander Ptushko, and he does unbelievable things with fairy tales and Russian legends. I love early talkies, and the awkwardness and innocence of them. And I love movies with strong political agendas by oppressed groups but that are entertaining, such as the films of Oscar Michaux. Now recently I’m starting to turn towards art and sex movies from the 60’s and 70’s in preparation for my new film, and I’ve found Radley Metzger to be very inspiring. And I like odd cult and b-films, and trashy but sincere films. My taste is pretty broad.

What’s up next for you, Anna?
My next film is a feature sex comedy, “Viva.” It’s going to be just as colorful and claustrophobic and constructed as my other films, but it takes place in the early 70’s and is based on ads and cartoons from Playboy magazines from that time. It’s really exciting for me to make this movie, because it gets much more directly at the root of many of the weird things about being a woman, and also will have this insane, unhinged quality to it. I’m doing all of the things I fear most in it and embracing them as desired things, exploring the flip side of sexual ambivalence. For example, there will be nudity and sex scenes and all that, so I’ll be representing myself not just as a woman, but literally a sex object. And this is so taboo, so naughty, so awful, that I just can’t help being attracted to doing it. It’s an experiment, and I think the result of it will be quite interesting and bizarre. Because it will bring up lots of weird things about the sexual revolution, which I think is fascinating for everyone. And it will be so unbelievably stupid on the surface, but so rich and full of ideas underneath. And it will be really, really SEXY, which I think is something we’re missing in culture now. There’s so much sex, but not any sexiness. It’s still such a prudish culture, and I think I’m ready to make a film about sexy fun, about everybody feeling sexy all the time. Feeling sexy means feeling good—and when’s the last time you saw a film about people who were feeling good? And I won’t use any irony at all. It’s going to be a really unusual film.

Check out Anna Biller’s films at her official website.




Posted on June 11, 2004 in Interviews by

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