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Thursday, June 19, 2014

BAMcinemaFest 2014: Q&A with Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan (For the Plasma)

Grafting sci-fi mystique and lo-fi melancholia into one surprisingly intimate drama is no mean feat. But filmmakers Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan have done just that, creating a gorgeously shot 16mm feature that’s getting its world premiere at BAMcinemaFest. We chatted briefly with the directors of For the Plasma to get a glimpse at their process.

For the Plasma. Courtesy the filmmakers

What films have served as inspiration in your work?

Bingham Bryant: Innumerable inspirations, but three models: Raúl Ruiz’s The Territory, Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s Charisma, and Ermanno Olmi’s The Scavengers. Very different films that have their individual significance to us, but all ones that move modernism out of the cities and into settings usually monopolized by naturalism.

Kyle Molzan: I think of Eric Rohmer's La Collectionneuse, Raúl Ruiz's The Territory, and Susumu Hani's A Tale of Africa. The ambiance of the conspiracy plot was definitely indebted to Ruiz's movie. In terms of framing and color we were indebted to Nestor Almendros, and Eric Rohmer's patient explanations felt right as well. A Tale of Africa is a film built out of the accumulation of beautiful things, and I think Tom Lloyd’s role in our film has some similarities to Jimmy Stewart’s in Hani's film.

You shot on 16mm, a medium that’s becoming more and more rare these days. Why film and not digital?

Bingham: Because we were afraid we might lose our chance? But more than just taking film for a spin, the relationship between digital and analog is key to the formal scheme of the film, as well as one of its main subjects.

Kyle: Also for its color, the bright greens and weathered, bleached quality that made sense in that part of Maine.

©Robin Holland/ 
The movie's score really unsettles the idyllic setting and seems to play a key role. How did you work with music in the process of shooting/editing?

Kyle: We always thought our “digital-pastoral” would have a synth or musique concrète score. Near the end of production we contacted Keiichi Suzuki, whose work we knew through his band the Moonriders and Takeshi Kitano’s films. He made an original score of 15 cues in just two weeks. We think he's a genius.

Bingham: Even before shooting, Japanese synth-pop had informed the ideas and atmosphere of the movie, even sneaking into the script (as the teaser shows). It’s music that, though it shares a lot of the same technology and DNA as American or European music from the same period, has a totally different vocabulary of images and concerns, even when it’s exoticizing the West. Paradoxically, I think Suzuki’s score feels native to the world of For the Plasma, even though that remains distinctly American.

What was your initial inspiration for this film?

Bingham: The juxtaposition of two images. First, the redwoods in California, where Anabelle [LeMieux, one of the film’s two actresses] and I were visiting her family. Second, something her mother told me about how all those photos from the Hubble you see in school textbooks are originally in black and white before a painter colorizes them.

Talk about some of your favorite movies of the year.

Bingham: Wang Bing's Til Madness Do Us Part is such a mysterious feat of form and empathy that I’m sure I’ll be coming to terms with it for a long, long time. Tsai's Stray Dogs is the sort of nightmare that I need to have every now and then to stay awake. And James Gray has made the best American film in years with The Immigrant. They’re films that build emotion not just in people but in space, which is what makes all the difference to me.

Kyle: If I’d had a chance to see them, they would've been Gebo and the Shadow, The Immigrant, and that formal Swiss cat movie.

What are you most excited to see in BAMcinemaFest?

Kyle: Probably the ghost without a ghost film.

Bingham: Yeah, I'm looking forward to Ignatiy Vishnevestky’s Ellie Lumme. He's a great critic, and one with an agenda, which is important. I want to see Appropriate Behavior, because one of our leads, Rosalie Lowe, has a part with a ridiculous name in it.

For the Plasma screens in BAMcinemaFest on Saturday, June 21 at 9:30pm.

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