GORE IN THE STORE
IN CONVERSATION WITH PATRICK PICARD
Director Patrick Picard’s feature directorial feature debut is a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s mystery, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.
Francis (Liam Aiken) is summoned to the secluded home of his wealthy childhood friend, JP Luret (Joe Adler), who is suffering from a mysterious affliction. Upon his arrival, he learns that JP and his sister twin sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) are the last surviving members of the Luret family. As inexplicable incidents begin to occur and the sense of dread grows, an act of betrayal may be Francis’ only way out.
In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Picard discussed his ideas on adaptation and the musical influence of composer Morton Feldman on the mood of the film, and reflected on how he suffers from the imposter syndrome.
FRIGHTFEST: THE BLOODHOUND strikes me as a film that will be effective on a second viewing, because it’s the type of story that you can’t fully anticipate.
Patrick Picard: I know what you mean, and when I try to think about what some of my favourite films are, they’re usually the ones that beg multiple viewings.
After the first time you’ve watched THE BLOODHOUND, you’re going to know how things end up, so there’s not going to be the same element of suspense that there was. But even though there may be a suspense when watching it the first time, there’s a funny thing with the film that it gives the game away, by telling you what’s going to happen.
From the start you know where it’s going to go, and it’s just a matter of how it gets there. So you can go back for multiple viewings and not worry about where it’s going, but start looking at the images, and start feeling the rhythms and atmosphere, and sink into things. This would be the hope, and I wish that I could watch it for the first time.
I said to my editor that after shooting it, and before an assembly is put together, I wish I had a magical hammer that I could hit myself over the head with to forget everything I’d done, so that I could come back to it and have a good critical approach. I envy people who can watch it for the first time - I wish I could [laughs].
FF: Some filmmakers like to keep the music subtle so that it doesn’t intrude, while others encourage its presence. The soundtrack of this film was noticeable early on. Do you see music as not being intrusive, but part of the texture of the film that emphasises the emotions of the characters, and creates a connection with the audience?
PP: I’ll sometimes listen to music when I’m writing, and I was listening to a lot of Morton Feldman, a modern American composer who was mostly popular in the middle of the century, and into the 60s. It’s not minimal Philip Glass, it’s traditional orchestral instruments, but there’s not a lot of friendly melody in it. So it doesn’t give you too many clues about where it’s going, and it doesn’t make you feel safe and pillowy.
It has a weird tension to it, but it’s simple, and I remember that I didn’t have a lot of tonal instructions for the actors. But the one thing I remember we talked about early on was that I felt even in the performances, there should be a sense of the same thing that’s in Morton Feldman’s music, which is that you can’t get a balanced feeling on where it’s going to go. There’s a mystery, a tension, and an awkwardness, because there’s not the familiar melody or progression. You’re thinking, ‘How long is this going to repeat for?’ And then suddenly it changes, and it’s very quiet for a long time.
There’s only one melody in the film, which is a cello piece, and it’s really sweet when it comes out. But otherwise, tink-tonk, tink-tonk, and you don’t know where you stand, which is either enjoyable or frustrating to the audience.
I know that sounds a little woo-woo and abstract, but this is how I was thinking about the mood of the film.
FF: It's a commitment to make a film, requiring you to give up a period of your life. Given that you can only tell so many stories in your career, what compelled you to believe in this film and decide to tell this story at this particular point in time? And in terms of adaptation, is it less about being faithful to the narrative and more about honouring the spirit of the characters?
PP: What I want to see from a filmmaker is not necessarily the faithful adaptation, but like you say, being true to the spirit of the characters.
What happened with the Poe thing was random like everything else. I was still at the AFI Grad-school and I was sitting on my couch trying to get some ideas, and it just wasn’t happening. On my bookshelf I had an old anthology of Poe stories that had belonged to my grandfather, and so I just opened it up, and the first story was THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. I read about two pages and I got really jazzed about the initial setup and the atmosphere. Not that I’m a Poe scholar or critic, but what I find the most successful in Poe are the beautiful atmospheres and mysteries he sets up at the beginning of his stories.
I got so excited by these first two pages that I started getting all of my own ideas. I liked this idea of visiting an old friend, and all the sogginess and the strangeness around that. I was constantly having dreams about being in an old friend’s home with him and his little brother, and I was trying to find something where I could express some of those feelings.
So it was a little bit of a spark, and when you’re sitting there thinking you don’t have any ideas, you have endless ideas, but you need something to let the unconscious go. So that started kicking in and I wrote most of the story without having read the rest of Poe’s.
When you’re talking about you can only make so many films in your career and why this film, it wasn’t that I went, "Oh gee, I really want to make an Edgar Allan Poe story as my first movie”, it was just random. I had the desire to make a movie and it’s an unfaithful adaptation for sure. When you talk about the essence of the story and the characters in Poe, I’m circling and trying to be true to that feeling I got from reading the first two pages, and that’s what I want to come out. And what I’m interested in watching other people’s adaptations is them trying to express that, to get caught in the thing itself and what they’re noticing inside the story.
FF: 'What we are' versus 'who we feel we are' can often be out of synch. I've spoken with directors who say that it took a number of films before they felt they could call themselves a filmmaker. Do you feel that you can call yourself a filmmaker?
PP: I have that imposter syndrome as well. I remember when we were shooting THE BLOODHOUND, I went to the grocery store and as I bought milk or whatever it was, I suddenly felt like a filmmaker. It was fleeting, but otherwise no, not really. It’s just I have ideas, and sometimes if I’m lucky somebody pays for me to make them into a film. But I don’t know who does – maybe Quentin Tarantino.
THE BLOODHOUND is exclusively streaming on ARROW now, and is out on Blu-Ray 22 March from Arrow Video.