Interview with Jonathan Caouette by


Jonathan Caouette is a filmmaker from Texas. His first film, Tarnation, debuted in 2003. In Tarnation Caouette incorporated over twenty years of footage to tell the story of his growing up and his relationship with his mother, Renee Leblanc. The film was executive produced by Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell. He also directed the 2009 documentary All Tomorrow’s Parties,  on the British music festival of the same name, and the experimental short film All Flowers In Time, starring Chloë Sevigny. His third film, Walk Away Renee, debuted at Cannes Film Festival in 2011. Walk Away Renee conveys the story of the voyage Jonathan and his mother make to move her from Texas to New York City, where Jonathan has lived for many years. The film begins its New York theatrical run tomorrow, November 30th, at IFC Center.

Kyle Tidd: Hi Jonathan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. This was my side of our imaginary conversation, feel free to respond however you want, it can be totally unrelated, as you please.

Jonathan Caouette: Oh thank you, I am more concerned about passing out at the moment…I’m on pain medication from a fall last week, I’m waiting right now for a lot of test results to come back…I hope it’s nothing too bad…I just turned 40 and had to cancel my celebration plans and have made two doctor’s visits and two trips to the ER just in time for the opening of Walk Away Renee.

KT: Whoa, I hope everything’s ok! I’m only going to ask you a few questions then you should rest. Is there a connection between the title of the new movie and the 1966 song by The Left Banke?

JC: Yes, The Left Banke is one of my favorite bands of all time. My mother turned me on to Walk Away Renee (the song) and Pretty Ballerina when I was a baby. Also, if it weren’t for The Left Banke there would be no Belle and Sebastian…

KT: Would you say Walk Away Renee is to Tarnation kind of like what Amnesiac was to Kid A, i.e. material salvaged from the first work that elaborates further on the relationship set up between you and your mother in Tarnation?

JC: I love that analogy, yes it is! Well, actually in a nutshell—and I’m half joking about this—but for me, in a sense the film essentially feels like it could be an opulent DVD extra, an easter egg, on disc two, for a 20 year DVD (or whatever the format will be in 2024) anniversary of Tarnation…that I somehow traveled forward in time and stole it from myself just before I put it on that disc two DVD and then came back and just, well, presented it now in 2012.

KT: You’ve mentioned H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine before, and I’ve also heard you’re working on a film about time travel.

JC: I kid you not, and I’m not trying to sound like James Franco or anything, but I have seven projects in development, all of which are going to come down the pipeline as it were in beautiful even-keeled paced succession. One of these is in fact a narrative film I’m writing and directing about time travel.

KT: Can you talk a little more about your interest in time travel?

JC: Yes. Long story short, I wish I had a time machine so that I could leave this time and go back to, I don’t know, 1950 and live until 1986. I love the subject and I am really interested in exploring it in a way that I don’t necessarily think has been done before; the idea of completely personalizing that story really excites me.

KT: And the relationship between time travel and cinema?

JC: Well, I feel a bit like John Cusack in High Fidelity. I associate specific memories and directly correlate the memories to music and films that I had seen during particular times in my life.

KT: I realize that Walk Away Renee was made in relation to certain practical considerations (the need to move your mother to New York from Texas), but it my understanding that you have always wanted to make a classic roadtrip film. Would you say a roadtrip is like time travel in some ways? Your mother moved to New York in part because she was receiving inadequate medical care in Texas. There seems to be an undercurrent in your work between cinema, time travel, and story-telling. Could you talk about that?

JC: YES, but if I answer that all the way right now honestly and detailed I would be giving away the plot of the film, which I can’t do right now.

KT: I understand. Apparently there was a segment cut from the film that had to do with a Wilhelm Reich cult group called the Cloudbusters. Are you a Kate Bush fan?

JC: Huge, huge huge fan. She is like my demi-goddess. I grew up listening to the likes of Kate Bush, Lene Lovich, Nina Hagen, Le Rita Mitsouko, etc.

KT: Why were the Cloudbusters cut from the film?

JC: That scene, coupled with a lot of other scenes coupled with a structure that I could not properly and comfortably digest, was screened at Cannes. The Cannes version of Walk Away Renee is an entire book in itself. For me it was the right film but the wrong version at the wrong time at the right festival. I was so unbelievable gobsmacked grateful beyond words to have the opportunity to show the film as the work in progress at Cannes. But that version became re-tooled about three times just after that showing. The new and final version will be present at IFC this Friday, November 30th. My family and I will be at the last showing of the night. I’ll be on crutches!

The Art Market’s Dead Reckoning by

Raj Mahal - Brian Reed

It was brunch time on a sunny Saturday in New York’s West Village. Julian Schnabel, the celebrated artist and filmmaker, was holding court at Sant Ambroeus’ main table. The larger than life New York artist was surrounded by seven friends, most of whom cowed by Schnabel’s towering personality. Dressed in one of his signature pajamas outfits, he introduced “Paolo!,” his “favorite waiter,” to the crammed table. Rula Jebreal, the stunning Italo-Palestinian journalist (and Schnabel’s life partner), was squeezed to his left, and folding chairs were added so Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson could fit in. Power-agent Bryan Lourd stopped by, dangling a baby over eggs crostino so the artist could cradle the newborn for a second or two. Downtown fixtures gave quick greetings while the artist nodded behind his sunglasses. Schnabel “had” the room. Nothing could upstage him.


Interview with Famke Janssen by

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BRINGING UP BOBBY, written and directed by Famke Janssen, opens in New York on Friday, September 28 at the Beekman Theatre. Janssen will be in attendance for Q&A at Friday and Saturday screenings.

Whether she’s an ensemble player in a big-budget genre film (Goldeneye, X-Men), or the lead in an Ameri-indie (Love & Sex, Turn the River), Famke Janssen carries an aura of admirable self-sufficiency. Her exotic looks means that she can hold your attention even when’s placed at the margins of the frame. Orgasming to the sounds of machine gun as an assassin who kills men with her thighs in Goldeneye, or giggling at the idiocy of lover Kenneth Branagh, Celebrity (1998), she always seems game – even when the movie may have forgotten what to do with her.

While her leading roles feel like concepts derived from diva worship, Janssen is winningly, refreshingly opaque. In Turn the River (2007), she plays a working-class pool-shark, determined to win back custody of her son. The movie sounds like boilerplate for a de-glammed actor vehicle, but Janssen doesn’t pry for empathy. Her coolness results in a physical and emotional awkwardness that is true to the character.

A Dutch-born former model and New Yorker since the 80’s, Janssen debuted on-screen in the mid 90’s. In a fickle industry, genre films tend to be the sanctuary to Euro-goddesses. But while Taken 2 (opening October 5) might pay the mortgage, Janssen has written and directed her first feature, Bringing Up Bobby. Ukranian- Olive (Milla Jovovich) is a con artist and single-mother raising her young son in Oklahoma. But when one of her schemes results in jail time, she has to decide whether to fight for her son, or let him try to live a normal life with a wealthy couple played by Marcia Cross and Bill Pullman.


May the Changes Keep Coming: An Interview with Peter Quinn by

Daniel and Peter

Peter Quinn was a speechwriter at Time Warner and also wrote for New York Governors Carey and Cuomo. Quinn is  an Irish-American historian, an expert on all things New York and an accomplished novelist. He also happens to be my father.

He and my mother were both born and raised in The Bronx and our family has deep artistic, political and personal ties to this city. I asked my father some questions in order to more clearly understand his relationship to New York and the city’s continuing evolution.

Carlos by

Carlos consists of three vignettes, three windows into the life of a struggling art student.  I made the film as my final video project for a college class on narrative filmmaking. The film stars my best friend Carlos Diaz, and my grandmother, Margaret Kavoussi. Carlos is entirely autobiographical – I majored in Studio Art at a small, isolated liberal arts college.  I spent a great deal of time there frustrated, insecure, and alone, typically in my studio, and there were days when the only person I’d speak to would be via the phone or internet.  Carlos is my attempt to show the beauty of a nuanced “artist” life.

Kiss and Tell: Marialy Rivas and Alicia Rodriguez by


Marialy Rivas’ debut film Young and Wild (2012) premiered at Sundance and received the World Cinema Screenwriting Award. We got the opportunity to talk with Marialy Rivas and Alicia Rodriguez, the lead actor from Young and Wild, about their experiences at Sundance, their upbringings in Chile, and their times in New York. Marialy and Alicia will also be at the NewFest Closing Night screening of Young and Wild, tonight on July 31st.

Daniela (Alicia Rodriguez) wakes up on an anonymous naked man after a wild night. First, she masturbates. Then, she presses ignore on her cell phone to reject her mother’s third consecutive call. And finally, she rushes to her Evangelical church service. Marialy Rivas’ Sundance Award Winning film, YOUNG AND WILD (2012), depicts the life of a Chilean teenager caught between her Evangelical upbringing and hormone-driven, blossoming body.


Francophrenia – Shots are Thoughts by

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In quantum labs you can see an object in two different places at once. Yes, at the same time. Laugh, I used to, but quantum physics is a radical science. I studied electrical engineering and was taught Heisenberg’s theory that atoms are not things but rather tendencies. Still I can’t totally believe that one object can be in more than one place at the same time. This was the first paradox I came across in my adult life, something I re-lived watching Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), an experimental film around James Franco’s appearance in a soap opera.


Negative Joy: Keeping it Real by

Monica Cook's "Volley"

443 PAS is a NYC gallery that exhibits emerging and established artists in Kevin Asbec’s interior design firm. Recently they held an event called “Negative Joy”, screening video art portraying our sometimes dark lives in a humorous, ridiculous, and maddening light.

I originally went to the “Negative Joy” video art screening at 443 PAS because I saw Shana Moulton and Tim Davis on the list of artists. As often is the case, I was more engaged by the other artists than those whom I had come to see. Animated works by Rao Heidmets, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Monica Cook were the most grotesque, ridiculous and emotionally truthful animations I had ever seen. The videos’ humorous animations and absurd story lines (or lack of) juxtaposed with their underlying sense of fear and realism, reminded me of dreams I have when I’m sick. The hallucinatory, illogical worlds in these videos engulfed me enough for me to experience and relate to the otherwise nonsensical worlds. More…

Jared Buckhiester in 1991 by

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This week in Art and Autobiography, we’re beginning a new feature, asking some of our favorite visual artists to explore the autobiographical nature of their work. First up, New York-based artist Jared Buckhiester, whose drawings and sculptures often recall faded snapshots of awkward teenage moments. 

My sculpture “Jared Buckhiester in 1991” was actually made in 2008. At that time, like in my earlier drawings, I was definitely in a place of needing to work things out from my personal history, needing to rewrite it or simply rethink it. For a long time I collected yearbooks from high schools and middle schools I did not go to. They provide an opening for me to an experience that is shared in almost every American, and most human. I could look at the pictures in them for hours.  In relation to my work I usually find myself hunting for photographs of the kids that seemed what I would call “unchosen”, not necessarily queer but the ones that interested me most usually seemed to be. More…

All Letters Are Queer: Jonathan Kemp on “Twentysix” by


One of the central ideas at the core of Keep The Lights On is that we must be committed to talking about the secret behaviors which we’ve learned to keep hidden from the world. UK-based author Jonathan Kemp’s new book Twentysix is one of the most dynamic illustrations of this idea I’ve read in some time. The book is a slim yet dense collection of 26 gay sexual encounters told in unsparing detail alongside philosophical observations that try to get to the core of the narrator’s pursuit of pleasure. Like Georges Bataille and Jean Genet before him, Kemp’s prose is titillating, dark, and honest to its core. I spoke with Kemp this past weekend about his influences and how he created such an involving and unusual piece of writing. More…