“You’d think what a great culture of freedom there is in the United States, which is true, yet there are quite a few themes that are made taboo. This is rarely good for art. It definitely hurts filmmaking.” – said the Hungarian cinematographer Marcell Rév, a long-time collaborator of Malcolm & Marie writer-director Sam Levinson. The pair first worked together on Levinson’s feature debut Assassination Nation and continued into the hit HBO series Euphoria.
“Malcolm & Marie”, Sam Levinson’s provocative new drama starring Zendaya and John David Washington, is about a lot of things: an artist’s struggle to be recognized and validated on his terms and not through the filter of racial politics; the fine line between inspiration and appropriation; the (dire) consequences of forgetting to thank your partner in a speech. But it is also, at its core, a movie about the movies.
“The question of identity has again become central to the arts, but a great many simplistic judgments and unwritten rules are being made without real debate and consensus. Thus, political content is often shed as an ideological weapon.” -said Marcell recently, who is also known for “White God” (2014) and “Jupiter’s Moon” (2017).
“I think, for example, there’s little talk about what it means to have a story about gays processed by a straight director, or if a film about black problems isn’t directed by a black director. Or even a woman’s story is told by a man, and vice versa. I think these are also important issues. Malcolm struggles long on this in the film, and everyone has a political opinion on it, but I feel it’s very hard to talk about it openly.”
Filming Malcolm & Marie
“We tried to pay homage to a certain kind of movie, but at the same time, I think our focus was the performances and how we get close to these two characters — of course with this certain style, but it always has this fine line that you navigate with a performance-driven piece like this. You want to give something that’s imagistically enjoyable, but at the same time, you don’t want to get into the way of performance.”
“When we figured out how to make the film black and white, we wanted to break away from realism in the first place. In the age of color film, this meaning of black and white is clear. I think in the dialogues, too, it was Sam’s intention not to write texts he heard from a neighbour. These are committed written dialogues, rather we wanted to get close to some kind of American films of the sixties. So small realism was not our goal, but emotional realism was – our behaviour that had to do with reality.” – said Macell Rév to the 24.hu.
“It gave us a lot of opportunities, just the fact that it has an open-structured living room, so you have the whole surrounding landscape as a backdrop, as opposed to just walls. And also it has a maze-like structure in the other half of the house, where you have the bedrooms and bathrooms. So if we wanted to have a completely different feel to a scene, then we could just walk down those hallways and [into] the little bathrooms with the actors.”
Big Movie on small screens
“We didn’t even think at work that this movie was going to run in a movie theatre because by then everything was already closed. Our plan was to do and present the film very quickly. We didn’t know where yet, but we did know that it wasn’t in a movie theatre.”
“We already had a lot of restrictions due to the coronavirus, so we wanted to live this and make it somehow a movie experience. One of the elements of that is the stock itself. It gives a cinematic feeling to watch something shot on movie. With digital, you have to create everything from scratch. But with film, you automatically have a certain kind of aesthetic in your hands. Of course, logistically speaking is a more complicated process and it requires more equipment, sometimes more lighting, maybe a little more care too.”
“For me, it is primarily a relationship, emotional film. I could go with that part, but I see the professional, artistic theme of the film is very important in the United States. It’s in the air, though they don’t like to talk about it so much. They approach it very carefully, as if it was treated as a taboo. This is also felt at the reception of the film. Problems in my profession arise only indirectly and less spectacularly, and I still feel relatively outsider in the country. I am only slowly beginning to understand many deep-seated problems, I am also embarrassed by them.”
“I think people are scared of these issues. It would be worth talking about these openly, and then getting rid of judgments and taboos could approach some kind of social consensus.”
Marcell’s new work as a cinematographer is “The Story of My Wife” directed by Ildikó Enyedi, is in post production, coming to theatres in 2021.
Sources: Variety, Vogue, 24.hu