The French Film Festival screening at the Cremorne Orpheum of The Sisters Brothers was followed by a Q&A that David Stratton held with director Jacques Audiard. The Orpheum's second largest theatre, the Walsh, was full and the audience very appreciative of what seems an odd inclusion for the French Film Festival, but for the prestige of the director.
For me, this Western shot in Spain and Romania with four brilliant actors in top form, Joachim Phoenix, John C Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed, has to be the most interesting of its genre in ages.
But will The Sisters Brothers be more widely shown? The advertising had suggested it would not be getting a general release in Australia, bizarre given the cast, its accessibility, and the appealing blend of humour and drama. Here's hoping it does get taken up.
The Q&A was an insightful one as Audiard responded at length in French through an interpreter to very pertinent questions from David and the audience.
We learned that:
1. John C Reilly brought the book to Audiard and enthused him for the project.
2. Audiard filmed it on European locations rather than existing North American ones with their standing Western town sets because he wanted his own look rather than a borrowed one seen in other productions.
3. Stylized visuals such as the depiction of the gunfights, and I suggest, the discovery of the river gold as it is induced to glow in the darkness, are due to Audiard wanting a certain storybook illustration feel to his film.
4. When asked about his interest in the genre, Audiard professed that the Westerns he admired were the American (but not the Italian) ones of the 60s and 70s. However, the model for his film had not been a Western, but Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter.
The connection here I feel is not so much the narrative of relentless pursuit as Audiard's interest in that storybook feel Laughton created through an episodic journey and powerful, singular imagery.
Altogether a rewarding afternoon.