INTERVIEW: Matt Porterfield


Matt Porterfield’s latest feature, I Used To Be Darker, opens theatrically in New York City on Friday, October 4 at the IFC Center and a week later in L.A. at the Sundance Sunset 5. It’s already screening in Baltimore, MD at The Charles Theater. Filmmaker Onur Tukel recently spoke to Porterfield.

I loved Matt Porterfield’s I Used To Be Darker.  It’s easy to say that.  It’s poetic and understated, features beautiful photography by Jeremy Saulnier and incredible performances by its lead actors, Kim Taylor, Deragh Campbell, Hannah Gross and Ned Oldham.  The sound design is rich but economical.  The editing is tight.  It’s flawless.  But well-made movies don’t impress me anymore.  I need to connect with what I’m watching.  I very much connected with I Used To Be Darker.   On the surface, the film is about divorce.  Kim, a singer/songwriter, has just left her husband Bill, and their daughter Abby is not happy about it.  Bill isn’t happy either, but he’s also bitter because he abandoned his own musical ambitions to provide for the family.  When Abby’s cousin Taryn arrives to their home unexpectedly, we’re allowed to observe their lives for a few days.  I’ve never gone through a divorce.  My parents stayed together and I’ve never been married.  Still, the idea of getting hitched terrifies me. I make films, I paint, I draw and write stories.  I don’t know if I do these things well, but they keep me going.  And I’ve always feared that being a husband or father would take time away from doing these things.  Art takes commitment.  Marriage takes commitment.  I imagine doing both is exceedingly difficult.  And that’s the main reason I found I Used to be Darker so intriguing.

Onur Tukel: Were your parents artists, musicians?

Matthew Porterfield: Both of my parents were teachers and my dad is a novelist and playwright, also a poet — largely unpublished — but he’s been writing his whole life. He taught English at a junior high school in Baltimore and he’d wake up every morning at 3am and type on his Royal typewriter for several hours before he had to go into work. In the 70s, he staged some work and was a big part of the avant-garde scene in Baltimore. He had a couple of plays staged in London and New York. He’s never had any of his work published but he’s still going. Every day. Read more

New York Film Festival: Frances Ha Ha, or Frances Weird?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about the 50th New York Film Festival, based on press screenings and films seen during the actual festival (September 28-March 14). In addition to the 33 main slate films, this year’s festival features many interesting sidebars, including a rich selection of episodes from the French TV series “Cinéastes de notre temps.” There are also gala tributes to Nicole Kidman (accompanied by the premiere of her new film “The Paperboy”) and to Richard Pena, who is leaving after 25 years as the head of the festival.

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Noah Baumbach’s exhilarating new film Frances Ha, co-written with and starring Greta Gerwig, is stylistically a love letter to the cinema of early Truffaut and Godard and even ‘70s Woody Allen. The story is ultimately about a deep friendship between two women (played by Gerwig and Mickey Sumner) in their late twenties —actually a rare subject for an American film— as Gerwig pointed out herself during the Q&A immediately following a recent press screening. Gerwig plays the titular character Frances (you don’t learn why it’s called “Frances Ha” until the end), a 27-year-old dancer in New York whose financially poor, but emotionally rich life is turned upside down when her best friend and roommate Sophie (Sumner) moves out of their apartment and in with her yuppie boyfriend. A search for work and cheaper lodging follows; she moves in with two hipster guys (one played by Adam Driver, best known as Lena Dunham’s inattentive lover in “Girls”), flies home for a Christmas trip to Sacramento (Gerwig’s real birthplace), takes a ruinously spontaneous two-day trip to Paris, and endures a stint as a dorm counselor at Barnard College. Read more