Not until I managed to get my hands on a Digital Bolex, was I able to put my moldy old Switar C-mount lens to use. I'd inherited it, along with the rest of his home-movie equipment, from my maternal grandfather. Everything was siezed including the focus ring on the lens, so I never had much use for it other than mementos of a man whom I'd loved but never fully understood. For about a year, I toted the odd-looking camera around, ostensibly testing it for my day-job, but really just excited to make so-called home movies. Because of the condition of the lens, I had to unscrew it a bit to change my focus. Fortunately, the iris still moved freely so I was able to stop down and give myself room to breathe, so to speak. Most of the footage didn't result in anything cohesive, or even that interesting, not at least as yet, but the winter weekend spent playing games with my neice and nephew at my parents' house provided me with an intimate departure from the more formalistic pictures I'd been working on at the time. The result is as much a loveletter to my father and his unerring nostalgia as it is to my rambunctiously blooming buds, Remi and Luci.
Although I hadn't originally conceived of Interiors and Exteriors as a diptych, once I'd completed the first film, I knew that it needed a companion. Using the same basic concept of superimposing the script for a film over the ostensibly empty images of scenes described in the script, I began mapping odd landmarks to film in New York. Generally uncomfortable with carrying a $90K camera package round the city alone, to say nothing of setting it up at the very spot where, several years prior, I'd been beaten up by a group of young men, I invited my friend Ferran to help. Niether of us knew it at the time, but he would later became a character in the film. If I'd have known and told him so, I wonder now if he'd have helped.
I was on a strange date with a woman who, when I first met her, seemed rather shy and plain and only vaguely alluring, but who, when all gussied up for an evening downtown, betrayed the features necessary to her former career as a model. An absolute bombshell with confidence to spare. I enjoyed myself well enough, but it became clear to me – and likely her too – that there was nothing between us worth pursuing. I inadvertently underscored this fact when I announced that I had to be up before dawn the next day to film the sun rising. No doubt this sounded like a feeble excuse to cut an otherwise pleasant evening short or else I came off as some sort of eccentric avant-guardist who was more dedicated to making a phenomenally boring picture than, quote, making a move. Either way, we didn't see each other again after that. Thinking back, it seems to me now that the barren little melodrama I ended up making fully supports the latter of these two theories.
Craig, my first roommate, had owned a T-top Monte Carlo that he'd decked out and souped up. I wasn't much into muscle cars at the time, but was duly impressed when he showed me the secret illegal nitro switch that he'd installed under the center console ashtray. He didn't have nitro installed, of course, he said, but if he did, boy would it rip. Around the same time that I moved in with Craig, Ryan, a dear friend with whom I rode BMX, had purchased a near mint Grand National. I suddenly found myself peripherally involved in american muscle car culture. However brainless I ultimately found racing to be, I do have fond memories of the Epping Dragway, watching as my friends tooled and tested their speed machines. I recall, for instance, Ryan's pride when he managed to clock the 1/4 mile at 12 seconds and change.
Perhaps it was that I began to miss these and other friends after moving to New York, or perhaps it was simply that I missed having and driving a car, but I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to make a film about automobiles. I had come into some recently expired 35mm film stock and decided that it was the exact right medium for the job. Less influenced by Frankenheimer's lush Grand Prix montages than Kenneth Anger's Kustom Kar Kommandos and Scorpio Rising, I knew only that I wanted to capture the beauty of cars in some way. Convincing Eli to run sound (and, perhaps more importantly, borrow his parents' car), we drove up to New Hampshire where we spent a crisp dry fall day moving from machine to machine with camera and mic at the old drag strip. The result, for me, is something of a contemplation of popular nostalgia, the sort that takes hold of certain individuals, individuals who can't help but look back longingly to a paradise, a time before they were born.
I must have been thinking about shutters when the idea, at the time just a vision in my head, of filming my parents playing peekaboo sprang into my head. I'd been contemplating the broader implications of object permanence at the time and thought I saw a direct connection to the illusion of motion pictures onscreen, specifically the flicker-fusion-threshold. But it was only when my nephew was born, and I was faced with the reality of a new generation of Marchands, that the film assumed anything like a discernible shape.
Looking back at this film I can't help but become nostalgic at this point. My grandmother, the center of the annual event, is dead and the house has been sold. Whether or not the family will continue the tradition, remains to be seen, but no doubt if we do, the days of forty-plus players are well behind us.
Shooting from the hip with a borrowed Bolex, I knew only that I wanted to document my family's unique provincial event. When none of the footage from that first shoot cohered into something whole, I returned the next year with another borrowed camera, Eli – who I'd convinced to run sound – and several ideas of how to answer the incomplete themes that I thought I percieved in the footage I'd shot.