The greatest thing about Sophia Takal’s Always Shine is that she doesn’t try to hide her influences & inspirations. Takal’s film is, without a doubt, from the school of Bergman’s Persona in that it’s about mental illness and the loss of identity from the perspective of an actress/performer who essentially "cracks" due to pressure & stress (pretty much the premise of Persona on the most basic level). But to get from Persona to Always Shine there’s a few stops along the way in the form of Images & Three Women (Robert Altman), Sisters (Brian Depalma) Mulholland Drive (David Lynch), Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky) & The Clouds Of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas). There’s obviously a bunch of secondary films that could be mentioned (The Swimming Pool, Inland Empire, etc) but we’re just going to stick with these core films.
|Persona / Always Shine|
|Persona / Always Shine|
|Images / Mulholland Drive / Always Shine|
|Mulholland Drive / The Clouds Of Sils Maria / Always Shine - all three films feature similar rehearsal scenes that blur the lines between fantasy & reality...|
...Brian De Palma and other influences, like Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman - all those directors are very astute observers of human behavior. ...Another [reference]: I saw the movie Black Swan. - Sophia Takal
And by pulling from so many great filmmakers, Takal ended up making a film that is all her own (it should be noted that she avoided the sexual tension angle that almost always comes along with these kinds of movies when you have two attractive leading ladies)...
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to. – Jim Jarmusch
There’s nothing more hilariously frustrating than when a filmmaker claims to be a hardcore cinephile/movie nerd yet when they get asked about an obvious homage or reference in one of their films, they suddenly get amnesia and/or don’t know classic films by people like Godard & Truffaut.
Take a guy like Quentin Tarantino for example. He always goes on about every rare movie he’s seen and how much he loves video stores and how much he loves to consume film. But when asked about The Bride Wore Black and it’s (obvious) influence on Kill Bill, he had this to say…
QT: Here’s the thing - I’ve never actually seen The Bride Wore Black.
QT: I know of it, but I’ve never seen it. Everyone is like, oh, this is really similar to The Bride Wore Black. I’ve heard of the movie. It's based on a Cornell Woolrich novel too, but it’s a movie I’ve never seen. The reason I’ve never seen it is because…I’ve just never been a huge Truffaut, fan. So that’s why I never got around to see it. I’m not rejecting it, I just never saw it. I’m a Godard fan, not a Truffaut fan. So I know of it, I know all that stuff, but it’s a movie I’ve never seen.
Interview: I thought of it because The Bride has that list of names she checks off.
QT: Oh, is that in there too?
For those that don’t know, both movies are about a woman seeking revenge on the people responsible for her husbands murder on their wedding day. Sound familiar?
|The Bride Wore Black|
Or how about Xavier Dolan who claims to have only seen 1 or 2 Godard movies…
|Contempt / Heartbeats|
Nicolas Winding Refn is always namedropping & bragging about all the movies he’s seen yet he claims to have never seen Bergman’s Persona…
|Persona / Fear X (even I admit this one is a bit of a reach but I think you see what I'm getting at)|
I obviously have no way of knowing who has seen what. Sometimes movies slip through the cracks. No one has the ability to see every movie ever made, but I always find it odd when lovers of film claim to have never seen certain specific classic/"important" movies.
Always Shine is the story of two friends/fellow actresses (“Beth” & “Anna”) on opposite ends of the career spectrum. Beth’s career is on the rise while Anna is still struggling to book commercials. Beth’s growing success makes Anna somewhat jealous especially since they both kind of look alike (Anna is clearly wondering what Beth has that she doesn’t considering how similar they look). The two friends go off for a weekend getaway where the tension between the two friends gets so thick that their relationship takes a turn for the worse…
Sophia Takal is a woman unlike Bergman, Lynch, Altman & co. I’m not saying men can't make great films about women (because they absolutely have), but who better than a (talented) woman in the film industry to make a film about being a woman in the film industry? Always Shine has layers to it because outside of the actual movie, it’s safe to assume that the actresses in the film have gone through the same auditions & rejections as the characters they portray.
While Always Shine may not break new ground in terms of plot, it’s execution is a breath of fresh air because we get a woman’s perspective on a film centered around women. Takal also manages to pull off a frightening & thrilling film without the use of monsters, ghosts and other typical supernatural elements & jump scares that one would expect these days.
Always Shine would make a hell of a triple feature with Persona & Mulholland Drive.