Friday, November 30, 2007

Haynes HIS Way: The touch, the feel, of Dylan



He’s been spinning through awards season like a rolling stone, but director Todd Haynes left the Hollywood hoopla for Paris, France to present his critically acclaimed Dylan biopic “I’m Not There.” The Dylan biopic, which recently nabbed four 2008 Independent Spirit Award nominations, will screen as part of a retrospective of Haynes’ work during independent film festival Les Rencontres Cinematographiques organized by the city’s Forum des Images. (and during which, yours truly is a member of the prestigious Jury) Haynes sat down with me to talk about the film’s success, working with an A-list cast and how to get Bob Dylan drunk enough to finally sit down and watch his movie.

“I’m never reluctant to come to Paris,” Haynes said, wearing a sweater and jeans and sipping un café in a boutique hotel in Paris’ très chic Le Marais district. He looked very relaxed for a man whose film may quite possibly be in the running for every major prize as awards season gets underway.
But let’s cut to the chase, the question we’ve all been waiting for … drum roll please… will the film’s most buzzed about star Cate Blanchett, be nominated in the “Best Actress” or “Best Supporting Actress” category should she be nominated for an Academy Award? “I really don’t know,” Haynes said. Oh, come on Todd, stop playing it “Safe” (that was a reference to the helmer’s 1995 film of course) – give us the scoop! “A campaign for Cate in the ‘Best Actress’ category would bring a lot of attention to the film as a whole,” he explained, but, based on the film’s recent success, “That’s not necessary.” “I’m proud of the performance no matter how it’s categorized,” Haynes said. While some may say that Cate has “outgrown the supporting actress category,” Haynes told me: “It’s Cate Blanchett. She’ll always be someone of note and it’s all good for the film,”
Haynes also emphasized the fact that “I’m Not There” “is really an ensemble piece” but added that he’s not surprised Blanchett’s performance has been highlighted: “Jude is the central performance in my film. It’s Dylan’s star turn, Dylan’s electric period. He’s the most famous of all the Dylans in the movie. And Cate Blanchett is extraordinary in the role.”
However, Haynes added: “I’m so proud of all the actors in the film.” Including – bien sur! – Gallic actress Charlotte Gainsbourg who plays Dylan’s wife Claire in the film. “Charlotte was the only actor I thought of while writing the script,” Haynes said of the “composite character, who is really a mix of several women.” But was the half-anglophone daughter of Jane Birkin who speaks perfect English “French” enough for the role? “I wanted her to be more French,” Dylan admitted, “I told her to put on the French accent.”
Gainsbourg is a big star in her native country, not unlike the other members of the A-list cast – Heath Ledger, Julianne Moore, Richard Gere and co. So how did these big stars feel about not being alone in the spotlight for a change? “They’re all big stars but they were all up for the challenge of such an unprecedented, experimental approach to a film. They all jumped in whole, they were all just so with me. They’re all true artists,” Haynes said. Not to mention, “These actors all worked for nothing. They basically paid me to be in the movie,” Haynes added, laughing.
While filming went smoothly, Haynes said that money to fund such an ambitious project wasn’t exactly “blowin’ in the wind. “American films over the past few years – specifically those made by the major studios – have been fairly risk-averse. It’s hard to get things like this financed,” he said. “Audiences really are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. If you give them crap, they’ll eat crap. But this film has really covered a whole range of venues and audiences.”
However, despite the wide critical acclaim and strong box office stateside, the iconic musical legend and subject of Haynes’ film has yet to see the finished work. “Hopefully he’ll see the film. But it’s hard to be Bob Dylan and sit and look at yourself everywhere. He’s always kind of on the run from himself. I hope he’ll be able to sense a lightness and sense of humor the film has, not just the over-worship he’s used to.”
Haynes laughed. “I don’t know if it’ll take an Oscar or just a couple of brandies to get him to watch it.”


Culinary genius of the day: Pierre Hermé



I always thought ambrosia – the Greek “nectar of the gods” – was a myth. How could anything possibly taste so scintillatingly delicious? It had to have been just a page from Zeus’ book of lies. And then I wandered into Pierre Herme, tasted his famous macarons and had what can only be described as a culinary orgasm. Yes, I admit. I’ve lived in Paris for over three years and just tried Pierre Herme macarons a few days ago. Why, you may ask? Because I have been loyal to La Durée and couldn’t possibly imagine anything better. They say you always remember your first time, and I certainly do. It was a cold winter night and I will never forget wrapping my lips around that hard …. cookie shell and decadently soft filling. It was a “green tea and chesnut”-flavored macaron, a brassy gold on the outside and a green circle surrounded by light brown chesnut filling around it. It was a cacophony of flavors entertaining my tongue and waking up my taste buds. I had to do it again. I tried “vanilla and olive oil” – ostensibly a horrible combo, but actually quite good – and rose-flavored, which made La Durée’s version of the flower-flavored cookie taste far less blooming. And those are just the macarons… The desserts themselves look almost too beautiful to eat. I said, ALMOST. The vanilla millefeuille is just that – “one thousand sheets” of pastry goodness filled with a light yet amazingly flavorful vanilla cream. Pierre’s (yes, Pierre – I feel we should be on a first-name basis, don’t you?) desserts are, as we used to describe my grandmother’s matzoh ball soup “so light and fluffy,” They are calorie-ridden sins disguised as light bites from heaven. Try a bite-sized or full-sized macaron, some of the pastry master’s famous chocolates, millefeuilles or perhaps even an “ispahan” – featuring rose-flavored macarons, cream of rose petals, whole raspberries and litchi – and you will not be sorry, I promise. And, if I thought my neighbor hood was “dangerous” before (see: hundreds of fabulous boutiques tempting me at every turn), with a shop on the rue Bonaparte, my life – or more specifically my health – and wallet – Herme’s treats aren’t exactly a steal – are at risk.

Quote of the Day (or “Why Gertrude Stein is my hero”):
““It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
-Gertrude Stein

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