06/07/12 11:45am


“The strangest crimes in the newspapers always happen in Florida,” says filmmaker Amy Seimetz. Indeed, when it comes to the genre of broad-daylight noir, Florida is hard to beat. Compare the Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald and Roman Polanski to the Miami of Charles Willeford or Michael Mann, and Brian De Palma. It’s not the heat that deranges people, it’s the humidity. Plus the mosquitoes. And the whole pernicious moral influence of the swamps. If Plan A fails, you can always sink the evidence in the Everglades.

Into the seedy, sticky tradition of Florida crime comes Seimetz’s thriller, Sun Don’t Shine, which premiered at SXSW and will make its New York City debut at Rooftop Films this Saturday (June 9). Based on a recurring nightmare of the director’s, it tracks the mysterious peregrinations of a young couple around the backroads of St. Petersburg, Seimetz’s hometown. The atmosphere of torpid panic in the car, and the lack of air conditioning, is palpable; clearly, they’re both about to snap. The question of who goes first—Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil), a chattering doe in the headlights, or Leo (Kentucker Audley), gruff and levelheaded, but slightly dumb—drives the suspense.

This is Seimetz’s first feature to write and direct. She’s already known as an actress and producer. You may recognize her from her roles in Tiny Furniture, The Off Hours, or A Horrible Way to Die. Sheil was a prominent face at SXSW this year, appearing in three other films, V/H/S, The Comedy and Somebody Up There Likes Me. Audley directed Seimetz in his 2010 film Open Five.

I spoke to Seimetz over the phone on Monday about Florida, lady criminals, and her plans for Sun Don’t Shine.

Let’s talk about your research. During the SXSW Q&A, Kate Sheil said one way you prepared her for the role was to send her mug shots of women.
These characters are going through a really intense experience. In all my research, I found that women who commit crimes don’t understand rationally what they did. I watched a great documentary through Women Make Movies [by Allie Light and Irving Saraf] called Blind Spot. In all these stories, these convicted women criminals had no rational explanation for what they were thinking during the act.

But yeah, in Florida, they have these magazines that the prisons put out to make money. Basically, anyone who gets booked, they sell their mug shots.

Oh, right. I’ve seen those at gas stations in Texas. [Interviewer’s note: these mug shot tabloids, with titles like Slammer and Just Busted, are printed by small private companies throughout South and distributed in convenience stores. The government does not sell mugshots, but must grant access to the images at the publishers’ request, under the Freedom of Information Act. Disturbingly, these tabloids are moving online, and charging people a fee to have their photos removed from the site.]

Is that Constitutional? They haven’t even gone to court yet and their mug shots are published. You’re seeing a picture of someone at probably the worst moment of their life. I find it extremely depressing but also I can’t stop looking. The women, and the men too, all have this deep frown. It looks like the weight of their whole life leading up to that dead-end moment.

Kate and I worked on that, just to find that [facial expression] without being over the top. It’s also in the way she’s carries her body.


Her performance of that physical transformation is really impressive. Her appearance is constantly changing with her mental state.
Without being too on the nose about it, that’s one of the women-oriented themes of this movie. All her costume changes are about this metamorphosis she goes through, and where she ends up. It’s why we included the mermaid scene. She’s trying to figure out how to act like a woman, what it means. I love films about women who are trying to be “good” women, but don’t know how, like [Barbara Loden’s] Wanda or [Andrej Zulawski’s] Possession.

Trying to understanding what femininity is—take that pink dress at the end. That’s a really normal outfit for Florida. When I take [the film] around to other places, people are like, “That pink dress is just insane!” But in Florida, it’s hot, and you wear the least amount of clothing you can. When we were shooting at Weekiwachee Springs [the mermaid amusement park], little girls would come out of the bathroom where Kate was changing and be like, “I love your dress so much!” So the idea of femininity in Florida is different than what it is in California or in the New England.

The dress is definitely Crystal’s last attempt at being a good girl, like, “Look, I put on a pretty dress and I’m trying to be sweet to you.” She just doesn’t know how to do it. I guess that’s what makes her such an interesting character.

In other interviews, you’ve mentioned A Woman Under the Influence and Two Lane Blacktop as inspirations. While I watched it thought of Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide and George Armitage’s adaptation of Miami Blues. Anything to add about your inspirations?
Kate and I did an interview for Michael Dunaway for Paste. We started out saying, “I’m not sure anything directly influenced us,” then for 20 minutes went on listing books. I studied literature in college, so I’ve read so much. What we were trying to make is a hybrid of crime novels, road films, even contemporary horror movies. And classic Americana, like the mermaid shows left over from the 1940s and 50s. The characters don’t live in an urban population and don’t have the means to cover up their problems with money. They’re in that situation because they don’t have money. And they’re in Florida. Florida is this weird anomaly the South doesn’t want to claim. It’s like the bastard child of the South!

05/31/12 10:57am


The German space rock group Tangerine Dream (1967-) was one of the first-ever bands to adopt the synthesizer. Like Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can, they emerged from the same late-60s counterculture as the directors of the New German Cinema. Signed to the British Virgin Records in the early 70s, Tangerine Dream was less nationally identified than some of their Krautrock contemporaries. Throughout the 80s, they composed scores for dozens of American movies, helping to define the sound of the decade. Repertory nerds have long hoped for a Tangerine Dream retrospective, and it’s finally happening at BAM, June 1-7. What follows is a video mix of some of the best soundtrack moments in the series.


A must-see for John Carpenter fans, Michael Laughlin’s Strange Behavior is part comedy, part slasher, part homage to 50s sci-fi-horror, generously slathered in ennui and paced accordingly. Michael Murphy plays an policeman, widower, and single dad who spends most of his time sighing and collapsing into chairs. Until a string of high school kids are murdered, and his son (Dan Shor) starts acting spooky. Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher lends a hand. The pensive T. Dream score matches the wallpaper and keeps us on our toes by omitting conventional cues:

THIEF (1981)

Michael Mann’s first movie, Thief (1981), set the bar for his career. His signature is already stamped on every frame: macho melodrama, neon lights, spectacular set pieces, slow-mo battles, cutting to music and so on. Frank (James Caan) is a safe cracker eager to exit the criminal underworld and start a family with his newest wife (Tuesday Weld). Willie Nelson plays Frank’s mentor, and Dennis Farina, in his first movie role, has non-speaking part as a hired goon.

Spoiler alert. Things don’t work out for Frank. Yet, thanks to Tangerine Dream, his ultimate rampage of destruction feels like a triumph.

THE KEEP (1983)

Michael Mann’s stoner movie. What if the Nazis had won? What if they invaded a haunted fortress in the Carpathian Alps in 1961? Can a motorcyle-riding mystery man protect Romania from the Nazis and the black magic they’ve unleashed? The Keep’s plot is a stretch, but the soundtrack fit. Turns out dark, windy corridors are a perfect spot for space rock.

NEAR DARK (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow’s first movie is a Western with redneck vampires. Well, technically, vampires can’t be rednecks. but these bloodsucking Winnebago-dwellers come pretty close. Wafting among the tumbleweeds is electronic music of the extreme 80s variety, Tangerine Dream’s contribution to this gonzo experiment in genre.

04/02/12 4:00am

Claudia Weill’s 1978 debut Girlfriends is about the estrangement of a pair of Manhattan roommates in their mid-twenties, Susan, a photographer (Melanie Mayron), and Anne, a writer (Anita Skinner, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Chloe Sevigny in The Last Days of Disco). After Anne moves out and gets married to her boyfriend Martin (Bob Balaban), Susan struggles to make a place for herself in the bitchy Soho art scene. Like Enid in Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World, Susan is alienated by every dimension of her social life, and possessed of brilliant comic timing. She has a fling with a much older, married rabbi (Eli Wallach) and a nice, young, available guy she’s just not that into (Christopher Guest). I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. It screens tomorrow,Tuesday, April 3, as part of BAM’s series Hey Girlfriend! Lena Dunham Selects, which begins tonight. Weill will be on hand for a Q&A.

Weill and Dunham met a year ago after Not Coming to A Theater Near You’s screening of Girlfriends at 92YTribeca. This summer, Weill, who has a long career as a television director (thirtysomething, My So Called Life) will shoot an episode for Season 2 of Dunham’s HBO series, Girls.

Girlfriends is an exquisite study of female communication. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Weill is a wizard in the conversation department. We talked on the phone on Saturday, and within 45 minutes, she’d extracted as much information about my life story as I had about hers. We dished about moms, work frustrations, and relationship foibles—what follows is boiled down to the relevant: the making of Girlfriends, her experience as a director, and how the world has (or hasn’t) changed in the interim between Girlfriends and Girls. I began by asking her about a 1980 interview by Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ebert starts out by saying, “We really need to stop talking about ‘women directors,'” then he proceeds to ask you if you’re planning to get married and have kids. Would he ask a man that? Like, “Mr. Scorsese, what’s going on with your marital status? I heard you got divorced.”
Right! I would love to read an interview with Martin Scorsese by Roger Ebert at the time he was making Mean Streets. About when he thought he might settle down and have children! That would be hilarious.

Seemed to be kind of a common theme in interviews with you. All these people wanted to know, “When are you going to get married?”

Just like my mother! And they were film critics!

Film critics are mostly men, and so are directors, so when they talk to a woman director, maybe it seems like a reasonable question.

I don’t think it’s any of their fucking business. Unless they’re willing to ask the same question of any artist. Ground rules are kind of set between the interviewer and the interviewee. But the assumption is made that if it’s a woman, it’s a fair question to ask regardless of any rules set down.

How did you start the Girlfriends project?
I got a grant from the AFI. It was for a film about growing up Jewish in America, a documentary, and by the time I got the grant and started working, I realized I wanted to make a feature film. I didn’t know what that meant, so let’s say I wanted to make a “dramatic film.” I started working on the story and I got my girlfriend Vickie Polan to work with me.

That situation [between Susan and Anne] had happened to me many times by then. My sister got married, my best friend, everybody got married, and I was nowhere in the ballpark. Like completely, are you kidding? How do people get married? I totally did not get this. First of all, how do meet somebody that you like, and second of all, how could you possibly know you want to be with him for the rest of your life? It was so remote a possibility. Also because I was so involved with my work… I was always that “other girl.” So I just started working on a film about it.

You shot on 16mm, and BAM is showing your 16mm print. How was it distributed?

It was released on 35mm. I sold it to Warner Brothers in 1979. They took over all the prints and advertising.

Did you have any specific influences as far as novels or movies, or was it more of an autobiographical story?

There was a wonderful novel written by Eleanor Bergstein called Advancing Paul Newman [1973]. The last sentence of the first chapter was, “This is a story of two girls, each of whom suspected the other of a more passionate connection with life.” I think that’s kind of what Girlfriends is about. Even if Susan contemptuous of Anne, she feels like Anne’s got something. We go around thinking everybody else has the answer, or they’ve got the life. But you just have to get on your own program and have respect for it, whatever it is.