Weekend Preview: Neil Jordan Discusses His Reinvention of the Vampire Genre, and Almodovar’s Latest Opens


In terms of summer blockbusters, this might be the most boring weekend of the summer. When it comes to indies, on the other hand, it could be one of the most interesting. Go figure.

Opening at Eastern Hills is Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium,” an icy, atmospheric vampire film I reviewed at TIFF 2012 for The Film Stage. (I gave it a B+; I will be posting that review here soon, but check it out at the link.) Also available on VOD, it is a fine bookend to Jordan’s “Interview With the Vampire,” and, I think, already a tad underrated.

I had the opportunity to interview Jordan for The Playlist, and while it was not a stellar interview — it was moved to the phone after a scheduling snafu two days earlier — it was humbling to chat with the man behind “The Crying Game.”

Written by Moira Buffini, “Byzantium” stars Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a vampires in a British seaside town. For Jordan, it was a chance to revisit a genre he had dabbled in previously:

“Moira sent me the script. I read it, and thought it was very interesting. On the one hand, it’s kind of a story about a mother and daughter, on the other hand about a teenager growing up in this wonderful kind of mythological context of the period and I thought it was gorgeous. It was a chance to return to the territory of ‘Interview With the Vampire’ and ‘The Company of Wolves’… I think the whole thing was a great opportunity to really reinvent the vampire legend really. It’s become a bit tired of late, you know?”

It also offered him the chance to direct “Disappearance of Alice Creed” star Arterton:

“Gemma’s a wonderful actress. She’s physically beautiful but she’s also just so bloody good, you know? And I think when I saw her in ‘Alice Creed,’ I thought, ‘Okay, this is a woman who’s very professional and very brave, in a way that most actresses aren’t.’ If you want a vengeful, terrifying vamp, to be in a movie, that also brings all the protective instincts of a mother, I can’t think of a better actress to cast than Gemma Arterton.”

And Ronan, the star of “The Lovely Bones” and “The Host,” was another draw:

“I didn’t know her, but I’ve watched her work for the last six years and I’ve always wanted to work with her — she’s incredible. She brings everything, doesn’t she? She’s amazing, very extraordinary. She’s so young and so kind of tough and accomplished at the same time. … [Arterton and Ronan] don’t actually look like mother and daughter, but the strange thing is that they seem like it. They ended up being very good together.”

He also spoke briefly of influences on the film:

“I kept thinking of ‘Don’t Look Now.’ It’s not a vampire movie at all, it’s not really horror film, except maybe for that little red coat! And I kept thinking of those great English films like ‘Séance on a Wet Afternoon.’”

Check out the rest of the interview at the link above.

I am a longtime Pedro Almodovar fan — I reviewed, and adored, his last two films, “Broken Embraces” and “The Skin I Live In” — but I have not been able to get too excited about “I’m So Excited.” There has been a curious lack of buzz regarding the airplane romp, but it is Pedro, so it won’t be dull. It, too, is opening at Amherst and Eastern Hills.

In VOD-land, the already controversial, mostly panned Paul Schrader-Bret Easton Ellis team-up “The Canyons” drops today. I’m sorry, but even with these reviews, I’m fascinated by this one …

Meanwhile, the Sundance 2013 selection “This is Martin Bonner” is playing The Screening Room. I do not know too much about this one; I reached out to the film’s PR folks and received no reply. But it drew solid press at Sundance, and it is worth a look. (Next Thursday, August 8, The Screening Room features a sci-fi double-bill, with the underrated “Gattaca” and the classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”)

Now, prepare for boredom: This week’s two big openings are “2 Guns” and “Smurfs 2,” and I’m doubly disinterested. Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington are the reason to see “Guns,” which looks awfully rote. As for “Smurfs,” I did not see the first installment, but if the kids enjoyed it, they’ll likely dig No. 2. I would expect Smurfette and friends to lead the weekend box office; “2 Guns” should slightly disappoint, and come in at No. 2 or 3.

It will be interesting to see how “Wolverine” fares in week two — it was a slight disappointment in week one — and whether or not “Fruitvale Station” and “The Way, Way Back” continue to surprise.

BREAKING: “Sharknado” is on Regal screens at midnight tonight. Catch it now, before the joke is stale. (Or is it too late?)

Squeaky Wheel has a cool “Film Fiesta” planned for tomorrow (Saturday) at 1 p.m. as part of the Infringement Festival; see Squeaky’s website for details.

Bacchus brings us the great Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids” on Thursday (August 7), while the UB North Campus has the great “Place Beyond the Pines” tonight and the so-so “Iron Man 3” on Tuesday (August 6), both at 9:15. “Iron Man 3” is also showing at the UB South Campus at 8:45 on Wednesday (August 7).

“Elysium” is coming next week — probably the last interesting biggie of the summer.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

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