Amazon stopped by Deadline’s Contenders London conference today with not one, but three pics in potential contention: Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, and Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy.
And if there’s a thruline running throughout the trio, it’s how human pain becomes poetic, though all through different prisms. Both Cold War and Suspiria share post-War backlashes that in some way work their way into the psyche of their tormented protagonists while Beautiful Boy is about addiction and how it takes its toll on a family.
Pawlikowski won best director at the Cannes film festival for Cold War and the pic is Poland’s submission in the foreign film category at the Oscars. The film, shot in black and white, tells the story of a couple from different backgrounds, who are mismatched, their romance set against the backdrop of Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris of the 1950s.
“I carried this love story with me because it’s similar to my parents volatile and hectic marriage, and divorce and marriage, over 40 years,” said Pawlikowski at Deadline’s The Contenders London, “and then a happy end just before they died.”
Despite being mismatched, something holds them. The director showed the following clip illustrating their soulful passion and torment on the screen, what was key he points is how “they respond to different kinds of music”.
“In the end what they have together in common is history….they find themselves in a place where nobody else understands them as well as each other. As the world changes, they move countries, time passes and at the end of the story they note they are destined for each other.”
Pawlikowski presented the movie in black and white “largely because I couldn’t imagine color in Poland during the 1950s, it was grey and murky.” Cold War opens in the U.S. on Dec. 21.
Remaking Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria — which centers around literally one hell of a ballet academy — had been a dream of Guadagnino since he was 14. An American (Dakota Johnson) arrives at a prestige German dance school just outside the Berlin wall. She’s innocent, yet amazingly talented. Weird things happen around the school, mainly former students, once great who go missing. As the audience, we see the school is run by a coven of witches, and their dance routines, some kind of spell with a political undertone. Yet Johnson’s Susie keeps her wits about her, and no matter the trial, literally looks to have the upper hand. “Dario’s film was set in a year in which Europe was going through a second wave of youth revolt, much darker than ’68 and more violent and rage. One of the great movements that came out of this was feminism that was storming Europe.”
“With screenwriter David Kajganich we went in a little bit of a different direction where it deals with the power of femininity, a reconciled element of a commune of women, who are bound to solidarity, fighting with one another for power,” says the best picture Oscar-nominated filmmaker.
Giving props to Amazon, Guadagnino said: “I don’t think outside at another studio this would be 152 minutes long.”
Appearing on stage for Beautiful Boy were stars Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet in addition to Van Groeningen and co-screenwriter Luke Davies. The pic is based on two books, one by the son, Nic Sheff entitled Tweak about his addiction, and the second by his father David Sheff, Beautiful Boy, detailing his point of view.
It was Davies who received the emotional applause on Saturday. He had previously written the novel and film Candy back in 2006 about his own struggle with heroin addiction during his 20s. “I said to my agent ‘I don’t want to write another movie about drugs’.” However, the development meeting was with Brad Pitt’s esteemed Plan B, and Davies’ agent insisted.
Serendipity then kicked in. “Four days before that meeting, Philip Seymour Hoffman died. The night before that meeting, my father wrote me a note randomly saying ‘Did you hear about Philip Seymour Hoffman? That’s really sad. Luke, sometimes I feel this family is so blessed’; he was talking about his awareness about the tenuous of recovery and addition and my own experience. The email made me cry, and I thought maybe this is a message that I should try and go for this job.”
Said Davies, “Candy never dealt with my relationship with my father because it was too emotionally problematic. I thought this was a message of the heavens and I went to the job and I was lucky enough to get it and I’m sitting here now.”
Beautiful Boy opens this weekend.