At the center of the film is this idea that there is no muse, or that it’s a beautiful word for hiding the reality of how women have been collaborating with artists. I wanted to portray the intellectual dialog and not to forget that there are several brains in the room. We see how art history reduces the collaboration between artists and their companions: before, a muse was this fetishized, silent, beautiful woman sitting in the room, whereas we now know that Dora Maar, the “muse” of Picasso, was this great Surrealist photographer. And Gabrièle Buffet-Picabia, the companion of Picabia, was intensely involved in his evolution…
I wanted to portray the reality of that in the process of actually making a film in strong collaboration with my actresses. — Céline Sciamma, writer and director of PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
Sciamma and her stars—Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel—are in town to present a special screening of PORTRAIT OFA LADY ON FIRE, followed by a Q & A. Three days later, the writer-director will present an encore screening.
In the 1960s, Hydra was a seemingly magical refuge from the world, a bubble that kept you safe as long as you stayed inside it. But for many who left the Grecian island and returned to what was then referred to as the “rat race,” life away from their sanctuary proved dangerous, and there were many casualties along the way.
Leonard Cohen met an early, essential inspiration for his life’s work on Hydra—Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian woman who was visiting Greece with her husband and son. This is where MARIANNE & LEONARD—WORDS OF LOVE—the fascinating new documentary by NickBroomfield—begins. Cohen’s obsessive self-involvement provided its own buttress against straight society:
“A large part of my life was escaping, whatever it was… It was a selfish life, but at the time it felt like survival.”
It was left to Marianne to take what Broomfield—during his Film IndependentPresents post-screening interview with artistic director Jacqueline Lyanga—called the “oddly unflattering” role of muse. MARIANNE & LEONARD brings us the lifelong entanglements, the separations and reunions, the breakdowns and break-ups, the round-the-clock use of speed, wine, LSD, and other substances (“They used to call me Captain Mandrax,” explains Cohen in the film, citing the Quaalude-like drug he used to combat paralyzing stage fright)—all told through the eyes and hindsight of a man, Broomfield, who was also on Hydra in the ’60s and also fell in love with Marianne.
The film ends with Cohen reciting the last lines of his poem “Days of Kindness”:
“… What I loved in my old life I haven’t forgotten It lives in my spine Marianne and the child The days of kindness It rises in my spine and it manifests as tears I pray that loving memory exists for them too the precious ones I overthrew for an education in the world.”
Ihlen and Cohen died less than four months apart. And in the end he did give her what she wanted most, sending her a last message on her death bed: “See you down the road my friend. Endless love and gratitude, your Leonard.”
Black and white photographs: Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen in Marianne & Leonard—Words of Love (2), courtesy and Nick Broomfield and Roadside Attractions. Color photographs: Broomfield (2) and Jacqueline Lyanga at the Film Independent Presents special screening of Marianne &Leonard at the Arclight Hollywood on July 2, 2019. Photograph by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.
THE WHITE CROW—the story of Rudolf Nureyev‘s student years in Leningrad, his first trip to Paris and performances at Palais Garnier, and his defection at La Bourget airport—was directed by and co-stars Ralph Fiennes, who wrote a filmmaker’s letter for the Landmark about the experience:
“Although I had no great interest in ballet and I didn’t know much aboutNureyev, I was gripped by the story of his early life. His youth in Ufa in central Russia in the 1940s, his student years studying dance in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and then culminating in his decision to defect to the West in 1961. That story got under my skin… and sat with me as a great possibility for a film. I didn’t really see myself directing it. It was just the idea. It’s so dramatic and is about so many things. It has an interior personal dynamic, the drive to realize himself and the ruthlessness that goes with it. It’s also within the context of the ideological divide between East and West at the height of the Cold War. It was that character, that will of Nureyev’s that made him realize who he was—an artist that really grabbed me.
“David Hare was our ideal writer. David writes what I call ‘high-definition,’ provocative characters who have strong contrasting elements that are challenging for an audience. He writes those big spirits and he writes them brilliantly. Also, David is known for writing things that have a strong political and social context. He has an instinctive understanding of the political climate in our story. I feel I have a good connection with David. We batted many ideas back and forth, feeling the temperature and the tone and the shifts of what we wanted to do. It was very inspiring to sit with him and wrangle the challenges of structure and drama. We asked ourselves, ‘What was the essential story we were trying to tell?’ We were clear this was the story of young Rudolf’s defection. I first thought it should be linear. What emerged in our discussion was the three time frame structure: Paris 1961, the Leningrad years from 1955 to 1961, and the childhood years in the late ‘40s. These time frames interweave giving us a portrait of the evolution of this boy and leading us to a point at La Bourget in June ’61. The timeframes come together at this point.
“We employed two casting directors in Russia to do a big sweep which ended up with four or five candidates, and I identified this young Ukrainian dancer, Oleg Ivenko, from the Tartar StateBallet company. I felt he had a latent acting ability and he is a strong ballet dancer who has a physical proximity to Nureyev. When I did the screen tests, I could see that Oleg picked up immediately on direction. If I demonstrated something, he got it very quickly. A couple of times I would say ‘No, this is what I want’ and I would demonstrate an attitude or a feeling and he very quickly got it. There was something about the way he sat in front of the camera, some ‘X factor’ that made me think ‘That could be Rudi.’ I pushed him to understand the best screen acting is rooted in being really present and in the moment. You’re reacting and listening, so the thing to get him to feel is: Don’t show me you’re angry or shy or irritated or whatever; just feel it, be it. Have it inside. If you really have it or are close to having it, it will reveal itself. It sounds quite simple, but it’s hard to be really present and the beauty of his work is that he is very present. It’s an uncluttered performance. He was very generous and allowed me to steer him a bit, but he has a real pure screen acting instinct.” — Ralph Fiennes
The film is based on Nureyev: The Life, by Julie Kavanaugh, who uncovered the importance of Teja Kremke, the East German dancer who triggered Nureyev’s move to the West.
From top: Oleg Ivenko and Ralph Fiennes on set, The White Crow; Fiennes (left) as ballet master Alexander Pushkin, with Ivenko as Rudolf Nureyev (center); Ivenko, with Louis Hofmann as Teja Kremke; Ivenko, in Paris with Adèle Exarchopoulos as Clara Saint; Ivenko in Paris. Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Carey Mulligan—the vital, mordant center of Paul Dano’s directorial debut WILDLIFE—will be crisscrossing town at breakneck speed for same-night post-screening Q & A’s at the Landmark and Arclight Hollywood cinemas.