Fourteen

Dan Sallitt
2019

08.02.2019 19:30 OV Zoo Palast 2
09.02.2019 22:00 OV CinemaxX 4
11.02.2019 19:30 OV Colosseum 1
15.02.2019 16:30 OV Delphi Filmpalast

94 min. English.

Mara and Jo are best friends. Mara is dependable and Jo is troubled; they met when they were fourteen years old. Neither of their lives are stable, their jobs are precarious and their dates go nowhere, writing is something done on the side, like so often in Brooklyn. Amid the everyday events and chit-chat, the only constant is their friendship, or, rather, its dynamic: Mara’s phone will ring and Jo will need her help, Mara will drop everything for her, but Jo’s thoughts will already be elsewhere by the time she arrives. The plot skips forward delicately, alighting on another manifestation of the same pattern each time, though Jo’s troughs deepen and Mara’s resentment grows. Time passes and there are new jobs, new boyfriends, drugs, tears and fresh starts, a pregnancy and later a little girl, all of which steadily tug at Jo and Mara’s bond. At times, the camera lingers on some street scene, as if lost in thought, considering, like the whole film, the nature of friendship, a theme so seldom given the same quiet scrutiny as either family or partnership, despite its own unconditional currents. It arrives without warning and departs the same way, how to describe the feeling in between? (James Lattimer)

Dan Sallitt was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA in 1955. In 1976, he received a B.A. in Mathematics from Harvard College (Cambridge, Massachusetts), and in 1979 an M.F.A in Screenwriting from UCLA (Los Angeles, California). Sallitt was the first-string film critic of the Los Angeles Reader from 1983 to 1985. He has written film criticism for many other outlets, including MUBI.com, Masters of Cinema, and the Toronto Film Festival. He runs the film blog Thanks for the Use of the Hall (http://sallitt.blogspot.com) and has published an online monograph on the Japanese director Mikio Naruse (https://mikionaruse.wordpress.com). Dan Sallitt lives in New York City.

The entropy of our lives

Low-budget filmmakers generally keep their projects manageable by restricting their subjects: few locations and few actors, with a heightened sense of drama that follows naturally from observing the unities of place and time. After four such films, I began to run out of ideas for appealing subjects that lent themselves to this model. At the same time, the circumstances of my life changed, making it impossible for me to take a long enough vacation from my day job to accommodate both preproduction and a three-week shoot. The only solution was to shoot in small chunks separated by several months each; and a new project developed around the advantages and limitations of these production circumstances. FOURTEEN became my first opportunity to try a new narrative format, to jump through time and space freely, to move away from drama and to try to capture the entropy of our lives – to make a film under the sign of Pialat instead of Rohmer. The price of this pleasure was a protracted and disaster-prone production schedule – five mini-shoots ranging in length from two to seven days, spread out over a year and a half – that I’m in no hurry to try again. But one forgets the horrors of filmmaking if and when one likes the finished film.
My pattern has been to alternate between films in which I have no idea who will play the lead characters, and films written for the actors I’ve just worked with. Part of the reason for the pattern is a simple fear of casting. But it’s also exciting and inspiring to write dialogue for performers one knows well. FOURTEEN was written for two particular actresses, but things didn’t work out as planned, and only the wonderful Tallie Medel, the star of my previous film THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, ended up playing the role intended for her (and bearing her middle name Mara). As it happened, Norma Kuhling decided independently of us that she was born to play the role of Jo, and her fervour in pursuing and inhabiting that character was a force of nature that none of us could resist.
FOURTEEN is a sad movie. There are some great films that kill their characters freely, even enthusiastically. I had never killed a character before, and I atoned for that cruelty by thinking of the entire film as a lament for the loss of a single, infinitely valuable human life. (Dan Sallitt)

Production Caitlin Mae Burke, Graham Swon. Production companies Caitlin Mae Burke (New York, USA), Graham Swon (New York, USA). Written and directed by Dan Sallitt. Cinematography Christopher Messina. Editing Dan Sallitt. Sound Sean Dunn, Lian Luan. Production design Grace Sloan. Make-up Kelly Miller. With Tallie Medel (Mara), Norma Kuhling (Jo Mitchel), Lorelei Romani (Lorelei), C. Mason Wells (Adam), Dylan McCormick (Conor), Kolyn Brown (Leah), Willy McGee (Josh), Scott Friend (Jonathan), Evan Davis (David Marshall), Ben Sloane (Tim).

Premiere February 08, 2019, Forum

Films

1986: Polly Perverse Strikes Again! (98 Min.). 1998: Honeymoon (90 min.). 2004: All the Ships at Sea (64 min.). 2012: The Unspeakable Act (91 min.). 2019: Fourteen.

Photo: © Christopher Messina