Garfein on Something Wild

Something_wild
18 September 2012

Interview with director whose rarely-seen work is to feature at LFF.

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Park Circus: How does it feel to have Something Wild back on the big screen?

Jack Garfein: Aaron Copland the composer of the music for Something Wild was asked by the Mayor of N.Y. what present he would like the city to give him on his 80th birthday. The Mayor expected him to ask for a full orchestra and choir to perform one of his works. Instead Copland asked for a screening of: ‘Garfein’s film Something Wild.

jack garfein

The people in city hall never heard of the film, nevertheless, they set up a screening in the Metropolitan Museum. The then Governor was looking at the ceiling during most of the screening while the N.Y. senator’s eyes kept drifting to the floor. Copland sensing my disappointment took my arm and said: “Jack, as far as this film is concerned, just live long enough”. Well, I’m glad I’m alive.

PC: Tell us about your time making the film?

JG: Except for the basement apartment, all was shot on location. I also insisted on a two week rehearsal before the shooting because of the complexity in the relationship between the two main characters. I think rehearsal is a prerequisite of good film making.

I also was eager to find a director of photography whose work had a poetic sense. The city in this film is a character. I did not want it to be merely background shots. When I found out that Eugene Shüfftan was still working in Paris, I made every effort including a big fight with the union in NY to get him. I was so impressed during the shooting with his lighting and his work that I asked who he studied with, “the greatest” was his reply. “Who was that Gene?” I asked. “Rembrandt” was his reply.

I was fortunate to get Saul Bass for the title sequence for it was important for me visually to introduce the power and the forces of the city itself.

PC: After working on Broadway in New York what was your experience of the Actors Studio with the likes of Tony Curtis and Ben Gazzara who went on to star in your film, The Strange One?

JG: It was Ben Gazzara, George Peppard, Pat Hingle, Mark Richman, Paul Richards and James Dean. Actually George was not in the Actors Studio project where I first developed my film End As A Man (The Strange One). The great experience of that project was that we set no dates for presentation. We worked like artists, novelists and painters. We would present the work only when I felt it was ready for presentation. That is when the characters emerged. Tony Curtis was not in the Studio. He was in my acting class together with Rod Steiger and Harry Belafonte in Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop.

PC: Does the prospect of a new audience being introduced to your film make you excited?

JG: It is an astonishing experience to see particularly a younger audience, a generation that was not even born when the film was made to respond emotionally to the film. Well, I too after fifty years discovered in myself new responses I was not aware of at the September screening in Telluride. 

PC: We’re delighted to see Something Wild included in the London Film Festival. How important do you think it is for festivals to include classic films in their programmes?

JG: I think it is invaluable. For times change and we hopefully grow with it. What we could not at times perceive before can become revelatory to us later. Since all art is personal and sub-conscious in it’s creation, the artist himself becomes aware years later what impelled his work. As happened to me at the Telluride screening.

PC: What classic film would you suggest is long overdue rediscovery back in cinemas and why?

JG: A silent French film The Wonderful Life Of Joan of Arc (1928). One of the greatest ever made. When Joan is burned at the stake, I felt I was present at the crucifiction. I wept bitter tears.

Also The Informer by John Ford. I think it’s his masterpiece. What an amazing revelation about human behavior.

Something Wild will screen at the London Film Festival on 18 and 20 October at BFI Southbank and the Renoir Cinema respectively. For more information please click here.