Distributor: The Match Factory.
Love & Anarchy 28th Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF).
Viewed on a screener dvd.
First HIFF screening 21 Sep 2015
Two women who grew up together discover they have drifted apart when they retreat to a lake house together. (IMdB)
HIFF Catalog and Website:
"Hell is other people – especially the ones who know you best (…)."
"Catherine (…) comes to spend a week of self-imposed “exile” at the lake house of her best friend, Virginia, following the death of her father and a bad breakup from her longtime boyfriend. We are somewhere in the tranquil Hudson River Valley, and the silence is deafening."
"Catherine arrives seeming almost shell-shocked, sleeping most of the day away (…). Against this, Perry shows us what life at the lake house was like a year earlier, when Catherine previously paid a visit – earlier times, and happier ones, too, for some characters if not for others. The Catherine we see there is in the full bloom of her romance with James (…) whose influence over his girlfriend is a source of pronounced irritation for the dyspeptic Virginia."
“We should trade roles and see how we feel then,” she says to Catherine, intoning the shape of things to come. Back in the present, the tables have indeed turned, with Virginia now under the sway of the literal boy next door (…)."
"The wonderfully eerie tone (…) keeps you on a razor’s edge of uncertainty as to whether a murder or a reconciliation – or both – lurks just around the bend." (Scott Foundas, Variety)
Director Alex Ross Perry will attend all screenings of Queen of Earth (21st – 23rd of September). (HIFF Catalog)
AA: Alex Ross Perry's previous film Listen Up Philip was about male unrest. Queen of Earth is about female anxiety. The scale is more compact in Queen of Earth.
Again there is a country home for solace and refuge. The retreat in the countryside is a place of getting in touch with oneself more deeply.
Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) is recovering from deep shocks: the death of her father, and a break-up with her boyfriend. Her friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) has already recovered from her disturbances the year before.
The intimate story has affinities with Persona (Bergman), Three Women (Altman), and Interiors (Allen). It is a tale of fragile psychological conditions. There are long monologues. The film is a tale of friendship and a study on the microphysics of power.
The nightmare about metal disintegration evokes Polanski's Repulsion. There is a hallucinatory dimension in the film and also a touch of a Henry James ghost story in the undercurrent. The film is a mystery tour into the psyche, enigmatic, contradictory, ambiguous. [In Jutta Sarhimaa's interview with Alex Ross Perry in Helsingin Sanomat today the director himself also mentions affinities with Altman's Images, Harvey's Carnival of Souls and Hancock's Let's Scare Jessica to Death.]
The music of Queen of Earth is different from Listen Up Philip, a part of a rich and evocative soundscape including ghostly electronic sounds.
As a non-native English speaker I found the mumbling and whispered dialogue at times hard to follow and longed after subtitles. (They call this trend mumblecore).
Even more than in Listen Up Philip there is in Queen of Earth a predilection for extreme close-ups. There are scenes in long takes in close-up. There are hallucinatory superimpositions and bitter memory flashes. There are also interesting compositions where we follow the two women in different rooms and floors like on a split screen but without optical tricks. The colour world of Listen Up Philip was warm; Queen of Earth is cooler.
A film of unique sustained psychological tension.
JOHANNA SIIK (HIFF CATALOG AND WEBSITE):
JOHANNA SIIK (HIFF CATALOG AND WEBSITE):
Kun parisuhde loppuu, paras ystävä auttaa, eikö niin? Mutta jos ystävyyssuhteessa on kytenyt kriisi jo vuosien ajan, tarjoaa bestiksen seura hermoromahdukselle vain lisää polttoainetta.
Alex Ross Perryn jännittyneessä draamassa käsitellään ystävyyttä yhtenä ihmissuhteen muotona. Suhteen menneisyys ja nykyisyys käydään läpi välähdyksinä, kuvina ja kohtauksina yhden viikon aikana idyllisessä amerikkalaisessa kesämökkiympäristössä.
Mustasukkaisuudesta ja irrationaalisista reaktioista tulee Catherinelle (Elisabeth Moss) ja Ginnylle (Katherine Waterston) toinen todellisuus. Kumpikin katuu käytöstään, mutta ylpeys ja näennäinen toisen ihmisen tunteminen ajaa yhden tuijottamaan öisin kattoa silmät levällään, toisen keksimään alitajuisesti keinoja loukata ystävää yhä pahemmin.
Maan kuningattaret jäävät jääräpäisyydessään yksin, vaikka samassa talossa asuu ihminen, joka oli joskus valmis auttamaan milloin, missä ja miten tahansa.
Perryn trilogiaksi laajenevassa elokuvajatkumossa on aiemmin käsitelty sisaruussuhdetta (The Color Wheel, 2011) ja maskuliinisia parisuhdetraumoja (Listen Up Philip, R&A 2015). Queen of Earth osoittaa, että tunnetodellisuuksista on mahdotonta tehdä tyhjentäviä tulkintoja.
Ohjaaja Alex Ross Perry paikalla Queen of Earthin kaikissa näytöksissä (21. – 23. 9.). (HIFF Catalog)
SCOTT FOUNDAS REVIEW IN VARIETY
Berlin Film Review: ‘Queen of Earth’
Hell is other people — especially the ones who know you best — in Alex Ross Perry's acidly funny and unnerving portrait of a psychological breakdown.
Scott FoundasChief Film Critic @foundasonfilm
If Alex Ross Perry’s previous film, “Listen Up Philip,” aspired to the kaleidoscopic narrative density of a John Fowles or William Gaddis, his new “Queen of Earth” carries the spiky intensity and tart aftertaste of a John Cheever short story, as it observes the psychological breakdown of a young woman coping (badly) with a series of abrupt life changes. An unnerving, acidly funny work that fosters an acute air of dread without ever fully announcing itself as a horror movie, Perry’s fourth feature may unfold on a smaller canvas than the expansive “Philip,” but is every bit as sure of what it wants to do and how to get there, built around an utterly fearless central performance by Elisabeth Moss. Audiences who found Perry’s earlier work misanthropic won’t want to touch “Queen” with a 10-foot pole, but heartier souls — and connoisseurs of uncompromising auteur cinema — should rise to the occasion.
A deep-dish cinephile with a pronounced affection for late 1960s/early 1970s alt-Hollywood cinema, Perry is working this time in a style that seems equally influenced by doppelganger narratives like Bergman’s “Persona” and Brian De Palma’s “Sisters,” as well as by the claustrophobic domestic terror of “Repulsion” and Chantal Akerman’s seminal “Jeanne Dielman.” (Perry himself has also cited Woody Allen’s “Interiors” as a key influence.) Here, the obligatory woman on the verge is Catherine (Moss, also credited as a producer), who comes to spend a week of self-imposed “exile” at the lake house of her best friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston), following the death of her father and a bad breakup from her longtime boyfriend. We are somewhere in the tranquil Hudson River Valley, and the silence is deafening.
Catherine arrives seeming almost shell-shocked, sleeping most of the day away, complaining of a strange (possibly psychosomatic) pain coursing through her face, and making fitful attempts at painting Virginia’s portrait (Catherine’s late father, we learn, was a noted artist, for whom she worked as a kind of glorified assistant). Against this, Perry shows us what life at the lake house was like a year earlier, when Catherine previously paid a visit — earlier times, and happier ones, too, for some characters if not for others. The Catherine we see there is in the full bloom of her romance with James (Kentucker Audley), a terminally laid-back dude whose influence over his girlfriend is a source of pronounced irritation for the dyspeptic Virginia.
“We should trade roles and see how we feel then,” she says to Catherine, intoning the shape of things to come. Back in the present, the tables have indeed turned, with Virginia now under the sway of the literal boy next door (Patrick Fugit), who, in one of the film’s most impressive scenes, becomes the target of Catherine’s most vitriolic contempt, the very personification of all that is wrong with the human race.
The flashbacks in “Queen of Earth” are like little Proustian splinters that lodge under the skin of the characters as they run their hands along the bannisters of the past. Perry, who excels at finding cinematic analogs for the time-shifting narrative devices common in literature, gives the movie the superstructure of a diary, delineated into daily chapters, and within each of those chapters moves nimbly back and forth between now and then. Whenever we are, the small wooden house is a constant, rarely parted from and seeming ever more like a Bunuelian prison from which the characters are unable to leave. The wonderfully eerie tone (enhanced by composer Keegan DeWitt’s minimalist, atonal piano score) keeps you on a razor’s edge of uncertainty as to whether a murder or a reconciliation — or both — lurks just around the bend.
Hell is other people in Perry’s world, especially the people who know you best, who understand exactly how to push your most sensitive buttons — which, at the end of the day, seems to be this filmmaker’s particular definition of friendship. Waterston (“Inherent Vice”), who towers over the diminutive Moss, is a passive-aggressive delight as the friend who wears her social privilege with an air of casual smugness. But the movie belongs to Moss, who was wonderful as the title character’s neglected girlfriend in “Listen Up Philip,” and who again seems to have gotten profoundly on to Perry’s wavelength. She plays out Catherine’s decline with such startling, unpredictable rhythms that her every gesture seems conceived in the moment. Together, she and Perry pull you deeply into the character’s jaundiced orbit, until even her wildest suppositions seem to make a kind of private sense.
Like “Philip,” “Queen” sports a terrific handcrafted look courtesy of cinematographer Sean Price Williams’ warm 16mm lensing, which favors tight closeups of the seemingly mundane actions that could, in the right circumstances, drive a person crazy. The front and end credits fill the screen in an elegantly calligraphic font by designer Teddy Blanks, like invitations to a party no one in their right mind would want to attend.
Attentive viewers will note that Waterston’s leisure reading in one scene consists of a novel by fictional “Philip” scribe Ike Zimmerman.
Berlin Film Review: 'Queen of Earth'
Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 6, 2015. Running time: 89 MIN.
A Forager Films presentation in association with Faliro House and Washington Square Films of a Her Majesty September production. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Elisabeth Moss, Alex Ross Perry, Joe Swanberg, Adam Piotrowicz. Executive producers, Peter Gilbert, Edwin Linker, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos.
Directed, written by Alex Ross Perry. Camera (color, 16mm), Sean Price Williams; editor, Robert Greene; music, Keegan DeWitt; production designer, Anna Bak-Kvapil; costume designer, Amanda Ford; sound, Clayton Castellanos; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Ryan M. Price.
Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson, Kate Lyn Sheil, Craig Butta.
BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 2015 SYNOPSIS:
Catherine and Virginia are best friends. Last year, Virginia wasn’t doing well, while it’s Catherine who’s struggling this year. Virginia’s parents own a lakeside cabin, the perfect place for a week of mutual wound licking. Sun pours in through the windows, framing the cool green of the trees outside. But this isn’t the refuge it seems and it’s not just the music that awakens the menace in the images. The ripples across the lake and the wan sunlight offer little comfort, to say nothing of the picture of a skull lying forgotten in a cupboard.
Last year’s events keep crashing in upon the present, things weren’t good then and they aren’t better now. When the two women confide in one another, it’s like two separate monologues, the camera gliding between their strained faces as if they were one and the same. They otherwise stick to wry barbs, each criticizing the other’s privilege as they still cling on to their bond. As salad leaves wilt, men come and go, and tension gives way to hostility, what even remains of this friendship?
Dark-ringed eyes alight with rage, a stream of quiet bile, one face cut into another, two true Queens of Earth.