“Reunion” director Jerry Schatzberg on “hiring wonderful actors” and what an audience brings to a film


Director Jerry Schatzberg speaks with the Film Society's Caroline von Kuhn, photo by Godlis

“[Schatzberg] has a particular gift to restrain the emotions only to make their release more powerful, and to avoid the obvious by suggesting rather than by over-defining. He makes us feel something that is too often missing in contemporary American Cinema: an adult and mature artist, dealing with adult and mature themes and characters,” said Michel Ciment’s in his introduction to director Jerry Schatzberg‘s Reunion (1989), screened last night as a part of the “Mavericks and Outsiders” series.

On getting great performances out of actors, Schatzberg said: “The moment is what matters to me, the truth is what matters to me. If I can find the truth, that’s a little bit unusual. I’d love to find something that is a little bit improbable but possible. I think if you are going to hire actors to do something, then let them do it. We talk about it, we set it up, and surprise each other once in a while, but as long as it stays within the bounds of what we are trying to say …. You know, people tell me, “You are wonderful with actors.” And I say “I hire wonderful actors.””

On what the audience brings to a film, the director said: “There was one critic who was a wonderful supporter of the film Scarecrow (1973). He invited me to do a seminar with him at MoMA about it, and I agreed. As it happened, he had recently come out of the closet and changed his lifestyle — had a partner, and was just living this different life from before. At the seminar, I was in the audience watching, he started analyzing the film, describing the homosexual values in it, what the film was leading to. Afterwards, when I came up to join him, he asked me, “What do you think about what I said?” And I said, “If that’s your experience, than you are right. It’s not what I thought it was, but….” But every time I look back on the film now I see exactly what he was talking about.

It’s really up to the audience, the audience is responsible for a film, too.”

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