The Museum of Modern Art. New York City. What an auspicious rollout for The Death of Alice Blue. We were very honored and elated. Needless to say we were also pretty nervous.
The World Premiere of The Death of Alice Blue had finally arrived, late March 2009. We were part of the Canadian Front programme at the Museum of Modern Art. We were programed with seven other Canadian films, including ones by Bruce MacDonald and Denys Arcand. It was the MoMA's opinion of what was happening in Canadian film this year. After all the hard work and time, it was hard to believe we were finally going to have an audience, and at what a venue.
One of the actresses from the movie, Laura Thorne, was going to make the trek down along with some friends. As it turned out, she and her friends had friends in New York, so we had our own cheering section. Which was excellent.
We had no way of knowing how the audience would react. I've learned that audiences can be quite different. They'll laugh at something another audience wept through. And I've learned that different venues attract different audiences.
The theatre was packed, some four hundred heads were poking above their seat backs as we entered. Larry Kardish, senior curator, introduced The Death of Alice Blue by saying it was a post-modern deconstructionist vampire tale. I had a feeling he was joking and it made me smile. He then called Alex and myself up to the front. I mumbled something about having spent some time in advertising and having spent some time as a vampire, a joke Alex gave me, and that seemed to go over well. Alex and I headed to the far back so tense we could hardly walk.
It's different than when it's a live performance, you can't react and modulate for the crowd, you just sit and hope they're going to get into the swing of things, or else all fails and there's nothing you can do. Fortunately this crowd was receptive, in fact they amazed me with just how well they got certain bits, bits I had even forgotten about. They totally got the "quirky" humor, they reminded me of just why I had been so excited and amused in the beginning. I noticed something of a polarizing effect, there were those who were literally slapping their knees with merriment, and there were those who sat bemused. Anyway, I was thrilled with the reaction, and I told myself polarization was a good thing.
Then Alex and I were called up to answer some questions, we called up Laura Thorne. We were still nervous but we did our best. And the questions were good ones. There was repeated interest in our theatre backgrounds and how that had affected what had just been seen. This was something I had never thought about, and right there I began to realize our theatre background (and I might add experimental theatre background) had affected The Death of Alice Blue. I had thought there was a feeling akin to Jim Jarmusch or Hal Hartley films, of awkwardness, futility, and absurdity - that out of futile attempts to communicate or connect came this great hilarity. This was something in our plays anyway, but there was more. The audience noticed the physicality of some of the acting which at times is Chaplinesque, or silent screen era, and then can be completely deadpan. And we had used both stage and screen actors, and their styles could be differentiated. All this is a good thing and and is a means to achieving the humor of despair I have described above. There is also this sense of fun and experimentation in everything. It is whimsical and has a child-like delight. Narrative is not the be all and end all, it is the hangar on which we drape our coat. So a lot of our sensibility in creating theatre transported over to The Death of Alice Blue. This may seem natural, but it was never a conscious thought.
One lady made a comparison to another director which would happen again. She cited Terry Gilliam and in particular Brazil. This surprised me as while I have seen some of his films I hadn't thought of him for a long time. From what I remember this makes sense and is a nice compliment. Clearly I've got to check him out again.
She also made mention of the feral animals in the movie. This took me back a bit, but it is true that they are there, and are there to illustrate Alice's growing powers. It was interesting she picked this out as one of our more obvious scenes involving feral animals, wild dogs, we had not been able to get. I was pleased this story line was evident, and that in being evident it harkened to what a vampire is about. There were other quite erudite questions, some about music and art direction, but these seem to have stuck out for me.
So feeling quite elated, with our heads in the clouds, we and our posse went off to celebrate at a discotheque high in the sky (the name of which I forget).
Our second screening went equally well. As it was a Sunday matinee I noticed quite a lot of white haired heads in the audience. I thought they might be put off, but this was not the case. One kind lady smiled at me at the end and said since she had sat down her headache had gone and it had not returned.
Afterwards we did an interview with the vampire centric web show Twilight Vision. You should be able to see it on the net soon.
Ah, New York, New York, you didn't disappoint.