Hobo With a Shotgun: Short Interview with Director Jason Eisener
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
"The film is not for everyone." director Jason Eisener told me in our recent interview. Hobo With a Shotgun lives up to that ridiculous title. "There is a heart in the film and I hope the audience can see the heart that is in the making of Hobo." I asked his opinion of one reviewers comment that this was a "Gore covered love letter." "I love it," Eisener replied.
And gore covered it is. Hobo (played by Rutger Hauer), and he has no other name, arrives in Hope Town, looking to make a fresh start in life. It does not take him long to realize that this is not a town in which to begin a new life. Hobo is soon enmeshed in an urban hell controlled by an evil and sadistic crime boss, Drake (Brian Downey) and his two murderous sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman who also plays RIP). Nothing like a decapitation to introduce you to degradation. Eisener said, "I grew up watching every horror film I could get my hands on. One film I loved was The Blood of Heroes. Growing up in a Catholic home I never had the chance to see gore at the cinema but a backyard shed was turned into a gore filled cinema for Eisener and his friend John Davies, the writer of this film. Hobo With a Shotgun is not exactly a tribute to these films but we built upon the films we saw. We loved that genre."
Passing a pawn shop, Hobo sees a lawn mower, considers opening a lawn mowing business. That transaction is interrupted by yet more mayhem which places a shotgun in Hobo's hand and he decides that violence might equalize the corrupt police and Drake's evil ways. "You are vultures circling this city, tearing off the flesh of of everything that is innocent," said Hobo.
Newspaper headlines: Parents Smile As Bodies Pile. Hobo Deliverers Justice One Shell at a Time.
The film had its origins in 2007 when Ain't It Cool News ran an item on SXSW's contest for fictional trailers for Grindhouse. For six days Eisener and friends ran around the city filming a blood soaked hobo with a real shotgun. Hobo won and with a title like that immediately received wide support. Thus the team from the small town Halifax, Canada, received help in negotiating style, script and budget. "The winning trailer was more of a 1970s exploitation film. The feature is more 80s action film."
"The film was tightly scripted although it was open to cast and crew for input. Rutger likes to be in the moment. The character was transformed when someone like Rutger adds to it. One scene he changed was the one where the girl brings Hobo back to her flat. He is on her bed, blood splattered and ad libs, "I have to wash this guy's ass hole off my face." We kept the line.
I asked about the almost monotone constructed scenes. Some were blood red and others were a deep blue. Eisener said, "Those were always there. I love color. Used prime color in 1980s cartoons. Love to see color used. My AD is also inspired by color."
One scene stands out as almost King Lear in depth. Hobo is searching a hospital and comes up to the new born baby creche. "This monologue," Eisener said, "was in there from the beginning. Rutger added, 'You could be like me, a hobo with a shotgun."
For the director one memorable scene involved a background player during the decapitation scene. He had been blind for years and had just had a medical procedure that led to his gaining sight while we were filming. The first thing he saw was the gusher of blood and said, "Red is beautiful."
At the end of a film filled with carnage Hobo says: "I just wanted to buy a lawn mower."
Hobo With a Shotgun opens at the West End Cinema on May 20.
Comments on The Arbor
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar was the author of three raw and witty plays, including the play The Arbor, and the film Rita, Sue and Bob Too, drawing heavily on her experiences growing up on the notoriously deprived Buttershaw public housing project. The Arbor is the name of the street Andrea grew up on. She was also someone who led a short and often grim life, dying of a brain hemorrhage at age 29. Returning to Buttershaw 30 years after The Arbor was written, director Clio Bernard uses multiple layers of storytelling to explore Dunbar's creative work. Actors flawlessly lip-synch the interview material to gripping, moving effect. Scenes from the film are performed outside on the estate, watched by residents past and present in a film that is shattering but also filled with compassion. Ironically, Dunbar died in the same pub, The Beacon, a few years after it had been used as a location for her only film.
The Arbor was a Must See film in our review of the London Film Festival.
Andrea had three children (Lorraine Dunbar, Lisa Thompson and Andrew Dunbar) each with a different father. Much of rhe film focuses on the troubled relationship between Andrea and Lorraine.
The following is extracted from the Q&A at the London Film Festival with the Executive Producer, Tabitha Jackson, and the Producer, Tracy Diriordan.
Q. How did the project develop?
A. Artangel and the British Arts Council put out an open call for art with an emphasis on place. We did not know Lorraine's story at that time. Clio's project had been underway for a year and a half before the call. Clio had 90 hours of interview tapes with people important in Andrea's life. When the UF Film Council came on board the first thing we did was to set up an audio edit; quite unconventional but essential. In the end we delivered an audio screenplay. That changed when we went to shoot the film. We could not judge it as a radio play as we knew the visuals would have an impact.
Q. Was it always lipsynch?
A. Yes. Not until I saw Clio's short film (Lambeth Marsh, 2000) did I know lipsynch would work. I always knew Clio was on to something and had a compelling audio of Lorraine. Hearing it from their POV was crucial. We had to listen very intently and not judge and hope it makes the audience listen intently. Only one actor met the person he was portraying.
Q. How does the family feel about the film?
A. The family supports the film. Some members found it hard to hear what Lorraine had to say about Andrea. Film scenes at the beginning show that the two sisters have very different views of their childhood. They saw the film with Clio in the privacy of their own home and feel the story has been told. Each actor takes the lip synch in different ways. One did it as a piece of music. Clio's direction was generous and allowed the actors to use their instincts. Could not put emotion in their voice, that's difficult for an actor.
We had a screening in Bradford and a number in the estate have friends and neighbors in the background in the outdoor scenes. Jimi Mistry (voices Yousef) is a big hero for his role in East is East and the TV series Strictly Come Dancing. Tomorrow there is a screening at the House of Lords, this goes back to something in the play. Lady Irving was so struck she had one of Andrea's plays performed in the House of Lords. The film will be shown to peers.
The Arbor picked up two of the top awards at the London Film Festival:
Best British Newcomer: Clio Barnard, director of The Arbor. Honoring new and emerging British film talent, and recognizing the achievements of a new writer, producer, director, actor or actress, the award for Best British Newcomer was presented by Andy Serkis to Clio Barnard, director of The Arbor. Juror David Morrissey commented: "This year's Best British Newcomer category was amazingly strong and the jury was impressed by all the candidates. The three young actors nominated all delivered exceptional performances, and at a time when raising money for films and keeping them on track is so difficult, the two producers on the shortlist should be commended for their exceptional work. Tony Grisoni added, "Focusing on playwright Andrea Dunbar’s uneasy relationship with her daughter, Lorraine, Clio Barnard’s genre-busting film The Arbor is innovative, eloquent and emotionally resonant. This film, which touched all of us, both challenges conventional filmmaking and at the same time engages with real lives. A stunning debut."
Sutherland Award: Clio Barnard, director of The Arbor. The longstanding Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative feature debut in the Festival. This year, Clio Barnard took the award for her film The Arbor, which was presented by jurors Michael Winterbottom and Olivia Williams. Festival Artistic Director and Chair of the jury, Sandra Hebron, commented: "The Arbor is a brave and highly original debut with many levels of experimentation on show. With outstanding performances that give a great resonance to the words of real people, Clio Barnard’s film tells a fascinating story with sophistication and haunting emotional impact. This is a challenging, moving and utterly memorable film and a deserving winner of the Sutherland Award."
The Arbor just opened in New York and will open in Los Angeles soon. We weren't able to find a definitive date for our area, but expect it will be here shortly.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
An Alfred Hitchcock Retrospective in three parts which began in February continues in May with Suspicion, Mr. and Mr. Smith, Shadow of a Doubt, Saboteur, Spellbound, Lifeboat, Notorious, The Paradine Case, Strangers on a Train, Rope and Aventure Malgache/Bon Voyage. More in June.
To follow up from last month's show of Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah is a day of out-takes from that film plus a panel discussion on May 1 at 3:00pm.
A series of films starring Morgan Freeman, this year's recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award began in April and continues in May with Lean on Me, Glory, Unforgiven and The Shawshank Redemption. More in June.
A retrospective of five films directed by Todd Haynes continues in May with Safe, Velvet Goldmine, Far From Home and I'm Not Here.
"A Season of Rohmer," films directed by Eric Rohmer will be split among the AFI, the Embassy of France,and the National Gallery of Art in April and May. May films at the AFI continue with La Collectionneuse, My Night at Maud's, Clare's Knee, Chloe in the Afternoon, The Aviator's Wife, and A Good Marriagewith the rest in June.
A series of films by Czech director Frantisek Vlácil's films continues through May and June. Titles in May are Marketa Lazarova, Valley of the Bees, Adelheid, Sirus, Smoke on the Potato Fields, Shadows of a Hot Summer; the series concludes in June.
"Libary of Congress Showcase" highlights two recently restored pre-code films from Warner Brothers: on May 7 at 5:15pm is The Match King (Howard Bretherton and William Keighley, 1932) and on May 8 at 5:00pm is The Mayor of Hell (Archie Mayo, 1933). A film showing how the National Film Registry selects films to restore, These Amazing Shadows is on May 9 at 7:00pm.
The "Korean Film Festival DC 2011" takes place at the AFI and Freer Gallery of Art. Titles for May are The Housemaid with director Im Sang-soo in person on May 7 at 5:30pm, A Good Lawyer's Wife also with Im Sang-soo in person on May 8 at 4:45pm, I Saw the Devil and Scandal Makers. See the website for more details.
Other special events at the AFI include Public Speaking with author Fran Lebowitz in person on May 12 at 7:00pm and "The 48 Hour Film Project" on May 3, 4, 5, and 6 and the "Best of 2011 48 Hour Film Project" on May 26.
Freer Gallery of Art
The Korean Film Festival DC 2011 takes place at the Freer and the AFI Silver Theater. Films at the Freer in May are The Housemaid with director Im Sang-soo in person on May 6 at 7:00pm, A Good Lawyer's Wife also with Im Sang-soo in person on May 7 at 1:00pm and The President's Last Bang with director Im Sang-soo in person on May 8 at 2:00pm. Three films by director Kim Ki-young are The Housemaid (1960) on May 15 at 2:00pm, Woman of Fire (1982) on May 20 at 7:00pm and Carnivore (1984) on May 22 at 2:00pm.
National Gallery of Art
"A Season of Rohmer" is a comprehensive retrospective of all of Rohmer's extant films, shown at the Gallery, the AFI Silver Theater and the Embassy of France in April, May and June. Titles shown at the Gallery during May include Rendezvous in Paris, The Marquise of O, The Lady and the Duke, Triple Agent, Astree and Celadon,, plus a documentary Eric Rohmer, Supporting Evidence (1994).
Special events include the Washington premiere of My Perestroika (Robin Hessman, 2011) on May 1 at 5:00pm; Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971) on May 15 at 4:00pm; "Painters Painting" on May 20 and 21 at 12:30pm; and the "International Festival of Films on Art" on May 28 at 2:30pm, May 29 at 2:00pm and May 30 at 2:00pm--three separate programs of award winners from the 2010 International Festival of Films on Art.
On May 14 at 2:30pm is a "Cine-Concert" with Dennis James performing an original organ score for La Boheme (King Vidor, 1926).
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
On May 12 at 7:00pm director Julian Schnabel will discuss his recent projects and on May 13 at 8:00pm Schnabel's film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly will be shown, with an introduction by the director.
National Museum of the American Indian
The documentary Kaho'olawe (David Kalama, 1997), about the efforts of Native Hawaiians to recover their sacred island, is shown on various dates in May at 12:30pm and 3:30pm.
On May 20 at 7:00pm is Papa Mau: The Wayfinder (Na'alehu Anthony, 2010), a documentary about Hawaiians reclaiming their native arts.
A day-long Hawaiian festival on May 21 and May 22 10:30am-4:30pm includes a few documentary films. See the website for more information.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On May 5 at 6:30pm is The Seventh Victim (Val Lewton, 1943) to complement the George Ault exhibit. The Silent Orchestra will premiere an original score for Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) on May 14 at 3:00pm.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On May 1 at 5:00pm is Killing Kasztner (Gaylen Ross), a documentary about Rezso Kasztner in a tale of intrigue, murder and heroism. Director Gaylen Ross will be present for discussion joined by survivors rescued by Kasztner.
On May 22 at 11:00am is Land of Genesis (Moshe Alpert, 2010), a kid-friendly documentary film about Israel.
"Growing Up: German Youth in Film" is a series of feature and documentary films about the youth culture in Germany. On May 2 at 6:30pm is Run If You Can (Dietrich Bruggermann, 2009) which was the opening night film at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival. On May 9 at 6:30pm is Neukolin Unlimited (Agostino Imondi and Dietmar Ratsch, 2010), winner of the Best Youth Film at the Berlin Film Festival. On May 16 at 6:30pm is Pool of Princesses (Bettina Slumner, 2005/7) and on May 23 at 6:30pm is Sasha (Dennis Todorovic, 2009).
The French Embassy takes part in the Eric Rohmer film retrospective. On May 4 at 7:00pm is The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque (1993) preceded by a short film Charlotte And Her Steak (1960).
On May 10 at 7:00pm is Poupoupidou (Nobody Else But You) (Gérald Hustache-Mathieu, 2011), a thriller-comedy about a crime novelist who helps solve a murder.
On May 4 at 8:00pm is Hell House, a behind the scenes look at a modern-day fire and brimstone experience. On May 11 at 8:00pm is 45365, about daily life in an American town. On May 18 at 8:00pm is Same Sex America, a documentary about same-sex marriage. See the website for more information.
On May 12 at 6:00pm Stanley Nelson will present his documentary Freedom Riders about college students who challenged segregation in the South in 1961. For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is The Old Man and the Sea, featuring the cinematography of James Wong Howe on May 14 at noon.
This month's "Greek Panorama" film, is Ulysses Gaze (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1995) on May 4 at 8:00pm. For the May "Czech Lions" film is a Twosome (Jaroslav Fuit) on May 11 at 8:00pm. The "French Cinematheque" film for May is Home (Ursula Meier, 2008) starring Isabelle Huppert on May 18 at 8:00pm. On May 25 at 8:00pm is this month's "Reel Israel DC" film Lost Islands (Reshef Levy, 2008), winner of four Israeli Oscars.
Anacostia Community Museum
On May 10 at 10:30am is From Florida to Coahuila (2002), a documentary about Black Seminole ranchers in Texas and Mexico. On May 22 at 2:00pm is Family Across the Sea (Tim Carrier, 1991) tracing linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner's discovery of a connection between the Gullah people of South Carolina and the people of Sierra Leone. On May 25 at 10:30am is The Language You Cry In (Angel Serrano and Alvaro Toepke, 1998).
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program
On May 7 as part of the day-long (11:00am-4:00pm) Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a screening of The Killing of a Chinese Cookie (Derek Shimoda), about the fortune cookie, at 1:00pm. Derek Shimoda will be present for discussion.
Atlas Performing Arts
The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee “Scratch” Perry (Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough) explores the life of the Godfather of Reggae and the man behind Bob Marley. Narrated by Benicio Del Toro. Shown on May 12 at 7:00pm and 9:00pm and on May 13 at 7:00pm and 9:00pm.
Sixth and I Synagogue
On May 25 at 7:00pm is the documentary As We Forgive, winner of the 2008 Student Academy Award. A panel discussion with the filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson will follow.
University of Maryland, Hoff Theater
On May 6 at 8:00pm the Alloy Orchestra will accompany Man With a Camera (Dziga Vertov). Free and open to the public.
On May 8 at 4:00pm the Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra accompanies a program of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films including a reconstructed orchestra score for College.
Washington National Cathedral
On May 1 at 2:00pm is the Academy Award winning documentary The Stone Carvers (Marjorie Hunt, 1984) The event includes a demonstration by the Cathedral's mason and a Q&A follows the film.
The Woodrow Wilson Center
On May 23 at noon is Diary from the Burned Ghetto the first film to present excerpts from the diary of Tamara Lazerson who survived the Kovno ghetto.