Hard Eight

Hard Eight (1997)

Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson

 

Hard Eight is the story of a friendship that begins when an older man meets a young man, down on his luck, and offers him a cigarette, a cup of coffee, and, eventually, a path to a new lease on life. John (Reilly) is sitting on a curb outside a diner, having come to Las Vegas to win money to bury his mother, when he meets Sydney (Hall), a longtime card shark who sees something in the desperate young man, and offers him help. Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature begins simply, lacking the bombast and import that would come to define his masterful later work. It’s a small, character-driven drama that explores the seedy world of small time cons and the seedy characters who pull them in casinos and pool halls. It’s an aimless, meandering sort of picture for the first hour, allowing the audience to really get a sense of who these characters are and what their relationships are to one another, and to completely get a sense of place as the action shifts to small town Reno, Nevada. The film’s final act picks up the pace, providing a few surprise reveals and some violent retribution, but at its core, Hard Eight is a movie about four desperate people and their desires and shortcomings. It isn’t a pretty movie, or a fancy one, but when I’m looking to briefly dip my toes into the type of world peopled by figures both sad and seedy, it’s a perfect choice.

Hard Eight 1

I’ve written about a lot of first features and debuts in this space, but I think that Hard Eight is the most accomplished yet. Though it offers only fleeting glimpses of the cinematic mastery that Anderson would eventually display, the film stands on its own as a tight and entertaining caper. The thing that I’m always impressed by when I return to Hard Eight, which I do fairly frequently, is the efficiency with which Anderson builds up these characters and their relationships. A few lines of perfectly written and delivered dialogue are enough to make the audience feel that they know each of the principals and their motivations. Though each of them keep secrets until the end, these characters are familiar and, mostly, endearing. In a way, these characters are tropes – The Benevolent Grifter, The Down-on-his-Luck Loser, The Hooker with a Heart of Gold – but Anderson’s narrative subtlety and the excellent performances of the entire cast, elevate them beyond thin stereotypes.

Anderson managed an impressive assemblage of talent for his debut feature. Hall, who also starred in the short film Sydney, from which Hard Eight is adapted, is perfect in the role of the paternalistic, wise conman. His lined face speaks to the years of experience Sydney has had and the things that he’s seen in those years, existing on the fringes of underworld societies. Watching Hall take a long, patient drag from a cigarette is akin to taking a master class in world-weariness. There is a hardness at the core of his performance, but it never registers as cruel, rather that hardness is earned through experience, and in his interactions with the other characters, it manifests itself as a persistent, paternalistic care, especially for Reilly’s John. The two make a good pair of foils, obviously forming a father/son pairing as Sydney takes the place of the father who John lost many years ago. John is a typical Reilly character, kind and sweet, but more than a bit naïve. I’ve always been impressed by the vulnerability that Reilly often shows as an actor, and that openness and vulnerability is on full display here, as he plays a character completely set adrift in the world, looking for any harbor.

Hard Eight 4

Though the film is, without a doubt, the story of Sydney and John, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson round out the supporting cast and are each given a few scenes in which to shine. Both characters are used to reveal deeper characteristics of the two principals, with Paltrow’s Clementine falling for John, and vice versa, and helping to introduce a stronger, more independent side to his character in the film’s third act. Clementine has an inner strength that’s belied by her made-up exterior, a quality that Paltrow fully puts on display in the film’s pivotal scene. She and John have beaten and kidnapped a john who refused to pay Clementine after sex, and they call Sydney for help. Though she’s understandably emotional and hysterical, Clementine is pulling all of the strings in the scene, urging John and Sydney to kill the man, remaining singularly focused on her money and her besmirched dignity while John is spinning out of control in the face of a situation he can’t comprehend. This is Paltrow’s only featured scene in the movie, but she makes the most of it, revealing a nuance to her character that wasn’t readily apparent earlier in the film. Likewise, Jackson isn’t afforded many opportunities to really shine in Hard Eight, but he plays the role of Jimmy, a small-time hustler and keeper of an important secret, perfectly. Jimmy’s big scene comes near the film’s end, when he confronts Sydney about a secret from his past, and demands that Sydney disappear. To this point, Jackson has played Jimmy as an affable, if sleazy, character, whose sinister side is well contained. However, when he confronts Sydney in the parking lot, he seethes rage and righteous anger, delivering the sort of monologue that Samuel Jackson has become known for. Jimmy is intimidating without ever becoming unhinged, and his malice is all the more potent, because Jackson’s restrained performance gives the impression that it could be wielded as a club, if need be. It’s a short scene and a small role, but it’s vintage Samuel L. Jackson, and the venerable character actor nails it.

Hard Eight 5

Beyond just crafting realistic, relatable characters, Anderson also brings Las Vegas and Reno to life in subtle ways. His casinos feel lived in, a bit worn down at the heel, but authentic. He isn’t interested in the glitz of the strip, but rather in the second-rate casinos and the seedy, extended stay motels that proliferate throughout the rest of Las Vegas. Hard Eight does every bit as much examining and extrapolating on the character of Nevada as does Casino, but the stakes here are smaller, simpler. When Sydney introduces John to a particular hustle early in the film, the object is not to get rich quick but to get a comped room, and maybe a free meal voucher. The scene in which Anderson introduces the con is brilliant, Hall breaking down the intricacies of the simple grift in voiceover while Anderson meticulously documents the ins and outs of the scheme, which involves John appearing to spend more than he is by cycling his chips and a small amount of cash through different cashier windows and getting a player’s card stamped for money that he isn’t really spending. It’s a simple but effective con, and the scene is, likewise, a simple but effective way of suturing the audience’s interest to this particular world and expanding their understanding of it. The rest of Hard Eight is understated and murky, while this early scene is insistent and direct, but it serves as the perfect introduction to the film’s world. Anderson does the one thing a gambler should never do, by tipping his hand early, but it works.

Hard Eight 2

P.T. Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I think that he will be thought of as one of the greatest directors of all time, if that consensus hasn’t already been cemented. Hard Eight, of course, falls short of the cinematically sublime level that a few of his more recent pictures have achieved, but it is a great achievement in and of itself. It might be easy to dismiss this small film as an inauspicious debut, but it’s such a well-crafted, fully formed work, one that features hints of the greatness that Anderson would go on to achieve. Hard Eight is, honestly, the Anderson movie that I end up rewatching most frequently, probably at least once a year. It simply never disappoints, and when I’m looking for a taut, character-driven drama, there are really few better in my collection. It’s a movie that I suspect is still rather underseen, but it really deserves more attention, even outside of the context of Anderson’s larger body of work, or his auteur status. From its well-written characters, to its perfectly established and envisioned world, and impressive performances across the board, Hard Eight has a lot to like on its own. It’s a somewhat forgotten movie worthy of reflection and reevaluation.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (2000)

Dir. Jim Jarmusch

Written by: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Forrest Whitaker, John Tormey, Isaach de Bankolé, Henry Silva

 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was my introduction to Jim Jarmusch, a filmmaker who I’d go on to really get into in my early twenties. When I first watched the movie, probably around 16 years old, I picked it up because I knew that all the music had been composed by the RZA and I knew that it combined two of my favorite things: kung fu/Eastern martial arts culture and old school New York City hip hop culture. While I expected to like the movie, simply based on its premise of a modern assassin who lives by the ancient code of the samurai, I didn’t expect it to strike me in such a way. Quentin Tarantino aside, I hadn’t found a filmmaker who seemed this interested in projecting a specific idea of “cool” through his cinema, by way of inscrutable references, impressionistic sequences that seem to exist outside the realm of the narrative, and an insistence on creating mood over narrative clarity. I enjoyed Ghost Dog a great deal, but it was never a movie that I watched very often. It isn’t terribly complex, but I did find it to be challenging when I was a teen, maybe because I wasn’t as steeped in the practices of a post-modern filmmaker like Jarmusch. Going back and watching it today, with a decade and a half of viewership under my belt, and a more than passing familiarity with Jarmusch’s brand of “cool” cinema, I think that I enjoy Ghost Dog even more.

ghost dog 4

The film’s protagonist, the titular Ghost Dog (Whitaker), is a contract killer sworn to live his life by the strict code of the samurai. Shortly after the film opens, Ghost Dog is fulfilling a contract for Louie (Tormey), a low-level gangster who employs Ghost Dog, and to whom Ghost Dog has sworn fealty due to Louie’s saving his life when he was a teen. While Ghost Dog carries out the hit on Handsome Frank (Richard Portnow), he doesn’t realize that there is a woman in the room with Frank, whom he leaves alive and who gives him a copy of the book Rashomon. It turns out that the young woman is the daughter of Louie’s mob boss, Vargo (Henry Silva), and Vargo puts out the word to his crew to find and kill Ghost Dog in order to distance the mob from the murder. This proves to be more difficult than expected, however, as Ghost Dog only contacts Louie by carrier pigeon and is notoriously secretive about his personal life. While the mobsters have difficulty tracking down a ghost, Ghost Dog begins turning the tables on them and hunting them down to save his own life.

ghost dog 2

The first time I saw Ghost Dog, I was taken in by it almost immediately. Its overwhelming sense of cool was enveloping, and its style was unlike any gangster movie I had ever seen before. The movie is a pastiche of so many disparate influences that it seemed specifically engineered to my own personal taste preferences at the time. It blends classic gangster movies, Eastern philosophy and religion, hip hop culture, and classic American pulp, and the end result is a mélange of signifiers and cultural references that add up to a great action movie, all held together by the glue that is Jarmusch’s impressionistic, post-modern directorial style. Scenes fade in and out at random, intercut by passages from the Hagakure, an ancient Japanese text that defines the life and rituals of the samurai. These spoken passages serve as both counterpoint and context for the film, and help to define the personal philosophy of Ghost Dog, who is never outwardly expressive or outspoken. The movie is often dependent on its cultural references, using them to imbue otherwise mundane conversations or happenings with a greater import. This could potentially be seen as a weak storytelling device, but within the framework of the hazy world that Jarmusch has created, within the framework of the film as a dream, reliance on these signifiers is key. Just as in dreams, these cultural signifiers act as markers that help to orient the characters and the viewer, and there are enough delightfully strange elements at work in Ghost Dog that one could certainly support a reading of the film that paints it as one big dream, but I don’t necessarily agree with that reading. I don’t think that Ghost Dog is a film that can so simply be defined as representing a dream or objective reality, but, rather, I think it is a film that is primarily interested in exploring a dreamlike philosophy of existence.

ghost dog 3

From its inception, theorists writing about the cinema seemed likely to compare the experience of watching a movie to that of dreaming. The idea of accepting images, sometimes strange and foreign to our consciousness, broadcast through a stream of light onto a screen in a darkened space brought to mind the somnambulant experience of the dream. Since then, movies have seemed to be a perfect medium to explore otherwise difficult to quantify psychological and dreamlike phenomenon, and Ghost Dog is a perfect example of the film working to codify and represent a dreamlike existence. The film explicitly references the dream in one of the interstitial passages in which Ghost Dog reads from the Hagakure, which says, “It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world that we live in is not a bit different from this.” This passage, along with the presence of Rashomon, a classic tale about the illusory nature of concrete reality, indicate strongly that Ghost Dog is interested in representing not an actual dream, but a state of being in which the subject has some control over a dreamlike existence. Ghost Dog is awake, and I believe that the incidents depicted in the film are meant to be objectively real, but through his adherence to meditation and Eastern philosophy, Ghost Dog has achieved a state of being in which he floats through the corporeal world as if he would a dream world.

The film also supports this reading in more concrete ways, as Ghost Dog is frequently treated by all of the other characters as some sort of Other. He famously cannot understand the language of the man he calls his best friend, Raymond (de Bankole), an ice cream man who only speaks French, but the two have no trouble communicating with one another. The mobsters seem totally vexed by Ghost Dog, unable to track his movements efficiently, and unable to understand his strict adherence to the moral code of the samurai. In the film, Ghost Dog exists separately from other characters, communicating on different wave lengths, and often seeming to pass by strangers unnoticed, as would an apparition. It is also important to note that Ghost Dog is sometimes recognized by strangers who appear to be privy to some knowledge of the lifestyle that Ghost Dog has committed himself to. Perhaps this is because he is truly operating on a different psychological and existential plane. He seems to inhabit the place of the waking dream, existing in the real world and able to have a tangible effect on an earthly plane, but also readily able to slip back into an elevated and obfuscated level of consciousness, submitting to the logic of the dream state.

ghost dog 7

Stylistically, Jarmusch insists on maintaining a tenuous grip on narrative reality, allowing the story to unfold out of sync, told from multiple points of view, and featuring several elliptically cryptic inserts. This narrative structure is obviously readily identifiable as a dreamlike structure, as are the aforementioned cultural references that Jarmusch packs in relentlessly. Ghost Dog is clearly an homage to several gangster films that came before it, including most obviously Melville’s Le Samourai and Suzuki’s Branded to Kill. These films, as well as Rashomon, heavily influence the movie in the same way that visual media and pop culture have an insidious way of sneaking into dreams. The cultural appropriations also serve to orient the ways in which the characters see themselves, for example all of Louie’s mob friends are paint-by-number gangsters. They lament their ineffectualness as criminals, and respect Ghost Dog for “taking [them] out the right way,” when he goes on his killing spree, but their entire identity is constructed from the gangster archetype established by classical Hollywood. Through a maze of signifiers, Jarmusch has created not only a framework of relevant texts through which to interpret and understand his post-modern gangster film, he’s also revealed the source material through which he, and by extension, his characters have come to understand the world. It’s a very meta- tactic, and the sort of filmic exercise that could certainly turn some viewers off, but it’s one of the things that I love Ghost Dog for the most.

ghost dog 6

Of course, all of Jarmusch’s high-minded philosophical import would be largely irrelevant if he weren’t able to craft a film that was equally engaging as a crime thriller, and, luckily, Ghost Dog is certainly that. The movie is a satisfyingly grimy low-stakes crime caper. It reminds me of classic crime films like Cassevettes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Like in that film, the characters in Ghost Dog are down on their luck losers, for the most part, and though the stakes are high, individually, none of the action would resonate in the way that it does in epic crime films like The Godfather. It’s a hard-scrabble vision of the criminal underworld, and it’s peopled by memorable characters played by familiar character actors who all turn in impressive, understated performances. Forest Whitaker is the perfect Ghost Dog, relying largely on gesture and his expressive face to convey meaning in a role with very few lines of dialogue. Though he’s had at least a half dozen higher profile roles, I still always picture him as the stoic assassin Ghost Dog. I’m sure that most people would be content to simply enjoy Ghost Dog for its merits as a great, low budget crime thriller, and would totally eschew the sort of philosophical exploration that the film invites me towards, but, to me, Ghost Dog is the rare movie that is as cinematically satisfying as it is intellectually satisfying, and the ending of the movie begs for a sequel, although I doubt one will ever come. Still, the movie exists wonderfully as it is as an homage to supposed “low culture” art forms, such as kung fu, hip hop, and the gangster film, that combines all of these elements to transcend them in creating a movie that asks questions about the very nature of the human experience.

Clerks

Clerks (1994)

Dir. Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti

 

Mallrats might have introduced me to Kevin Smith and hooked me on his brand of humor, but Clerks literally changed my life. Not only did the film deepen my appreciation for Smith, who was one of my youthful film heroes, but it totally opened up my eyes to the possibility of a different kind of cinema. Of course I knew that there was such a thing as “independent cinema,” but it existed more as a nebulous concept than a concrete entity in my mind. I had seen a handful of movies on Independent Film Channel when I was 11 or 12, over a month when my parents’ cable offered a free preview of the channel when it became available in our area, but, for the most part, these movies just seemed like slightly less glossy versions of what I could see in the local multiplex. It wasn’t until I saw Clerks that I think independent cinema really clicked for me as something that could be radically different from the mainstream. Clerks turned me on to the idea of filmmaking existing outside of the Hollywood system, and the idea that anyone can make a movie if they really want to. At that time in my life, I really wanted to.

Even at 14 years old, I was an aspiring filmmaker of sorts. Most of my friends were getting into skateboarding and I became a de facto cameraman because my parents had recently bought a video camera, and I was also too uncoordinated to skate with any proficiency. At first, our videos mostly consisted of poorly shot and executed skateboard tricks and stunts, modeled after the MTV show Jackass, but I got more interested in learning how to edit the footage and add music. Seeing Clerks around this same time further cemented my interest in filmmaking and led to me trying some very basic narrative experiments in addition to the skate videos that I was shooting. What were once strictly stunt videos started becoming slightly more narrative with the addition of loosely scripted sketches and parodies. The “humor” contained therein was still overwhelmingly physical, but we were striving towards a more cinematic vision of our silly videos. My friend Mike introduced a distinctively performative aspect to the videos with his incessant mugging and rapping for the camera, and his various alter-egos, many of which were clearly influenced by Jason Mewes’s performance as Jay in Clerks and Mallrats. Our videos never really advanced beyond the most rudimentary experiments, and all of the tapes have been lost for over a decade, but I remember those days that we spent filming ourselves hurting each other with great fondness. I continued to dabble with filmmaking throughout high school in various forms, but it was largely something that I abandoned until I moved to Pittsburgh.

Clerks 2

Of course, while my interest in making my own films waned in high school, my interest in watching them and consuming the medium was only beginning to peak. I don’t know if I used Kevin Smith and Clerks as a jumping off point, per se, but at this time in my life, I began to more fully explore the American independent film movement of the 1990s. I truly discovered Tarantino around this time, I saw Do The Right Thing for the first time at 15, Richard Linklater started to bubble into my consciousness through his comedies. Through these filmmakers I started to branch out, discovering their influences, and laying the groundwork for my later formal education in Film Studies. Even though it was a period of great exploration and discovery for me, I always came back to Kevin Smith. As I wrote last week in my Chasing Amy post, I was obsessed with the View Askewniverse all throughout my late teens. By the end of high school, I’m not sure if I would have mentioned Smith as my favorite filmmaker above Tarantino or, perhaps, Kubrick, but that would have likely been youthful posturing. In retrospect, I was always watching more Kevin Smith than anything else. That changed somewhat after I came to college and my expanding tastes and more crowded viewing schedule put an end to the ritualistic repeat viewings of Smith’s films. That time in my life also, coincidentally, dovetailed with an artistic low period for the filmmaker, whose post-2000 output has been of varying quality, at best. Clerks, however, has been the one film in his filmography that I’ve come back to over and over again, year after year. I still revisit the other 1990s Smith films, but Clerks is the only one that has become truly indispensable for me.

Clerks has been different things for me at different points in my life, but it’s always been a film that I watch once or twice a year. I’ve definitely seen it over 50 times in my life, and maybe even close to 100 times. When I was first introduced to it, it was inspirational, challenging in its simplicity. It was a film that dared me to want to make something of my own. In college, even though I often found myself thumbing my nose at Smith’s current films, Clerks was still the high water mark that my film school friends could all agree on. When I started my bartending career after college, Clerks gained a professional relevance that I wouldn’t fully appreciate until I started managing bars in my late-20s. I don’t know how many times in the last five years I’ve found myself repeating Dante’s (O’Halloran) catchphrase from the film, “I’m not even supposed to be here today.” It’s become a mantra to get me through the long nights and weekends. The beauty of the film to me is a malleability belied by its overall simplicity. I can appreciate a different aspect of Clerks every time I watch it depending on my mood or how my week has been going, and even though I’ve seen it dozens of times, it never gets old. Smith’s ambitions as a filmmaker have certainly grown since Clerks, and his technical prowess has greatly improved, but Smith has never made a better film than Clerks, and he almost certainly never will.

Clerks 4

Famously shot on a self-financed budget of just under $30,000, Clerks follows a day in the life of register jockeys Dante Hicks, who works at the Quick Stop convenience store, and Randal Graves (Anderson), Dante’s friend and erstwhile employee of neighboring RST Video. The two clerks deal with annoying customers, drug-dealing loiterers, and Dante’s romantic foibles as he tries to decide between his current girlfriend, Veronica (Ghigliotti) and his ex, Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer). He’s not even scheduled to work on this particular day, and Dante just wants to get through his shift and get home, but life keeps throwing obstacles in his way as he’s forced to live out his mundane, hellish existence. It’s a depiction of existential nothingness, and a perfect expression of a frustrated sense of arrested development. Clerks is the end result of a person deciding that they have a story to tell so important to them that they have to get it out there by any means necessary. Clerks is filmmaking by necessity, which makes it great.

The film is based on Smith’s actual job at the time, and was primarily shot in the convenience store that he actually worked at. It’s decidedly lo-fi, shot on 16mm black-and-white, and featuring almost exclusively non-professional actors. Rather than being hampered by the constraints placed upon him by his limited budget and lack of experience, Smith uses his technical simplicity and idiosyncratic cast to his advantage, and plays to his strengths. The film is conversational, broken up into nine vignettes (in reference to the nine circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno) that consist primarily of lengthy passages of conversation between Dante and Randal, or between one of the two and his customers. These dialogues are shot simply, often consisting of a lengthy master shot, broken up by a bit of shot/reverse shot, with the occasional reaction shot of an eavesdropping customer thrown in. The simplicity is surely due to circumstance and to Smith’s limited filmmaking experience, but it isn’t incompetence. Instead, the lack of edits and the largely static camera work to highlight the script, forcing the audience to pay close attention to the cascade of pop-culture references and vulgarities that the two protagonists exchange throughout the film. The languid visual style also exhibits Smith’s already developing sense of comedic timing. When he does make cuts for comedic effect, they work more often than not. Smith doesn’t over extend himself as he sometimes will later in his career, and it pays off. The film also gets some of its most memorable moments from the unusual shooting requirements. Because the film could only be shot in the middle of the night, after the convenience store closed, Smith had to fabricate a reason for the store’s steel shutters to be lowered. In the film, vandals have plugged the shutters’ locks with chewing gum, forcing Dante to write a sign on a bedsheet with shoe polish that reads, “I assure you, we’re open!” It’s my favorite running gag from the entire film, and it’s the result of forced ingenuity.

Clerks 6

Clerks also manages to bring out the best in a cast made up chiefly of Smith’s friends and other non-professional actors. The performances in Clerks are not necessarily good, in fact, sometimes they’re not very good at all, but they are perfect for the film and for the script. Though it very much feels true to life, Smith’s dialogue is often somewhat off-kilter and affected, especially early in his career as a screenwriter. O’Halloran and Anderson manage to internalize those affectations and their line delivery feels completely real. I think that often when Smith employs non-professional actors, such as in Clerks or in the case of Jason Lee in Mallrats, they give more naturalistic performances and are able to translate the idiosyncrasies in Smith’s dialogue into speech patterns that read as familiarities between the characters. O’Halloran and Anderson, as Dante and Randal, speak in the language of close friends, which drives home the film’s realism. The rest of the film’s characters, who could broadly be described as the customers, with the exception of Veronica and Caitlin, provide a counterpoint to the chummy, laid back nature of Dante and Randal’s relationship. They’re shown only in glimpses but could largely be characterized as manic and reactionary, outsiders who are imposing their neuroses on the Quick Stop. As Randal says, “This job would be great if it weren’t for the customers.” This type of characterization of the retail customer and the sometimes antagonistic relationship between customer and employee will likely ring true for many who have worked in service.

I don’t know if there will come a time when I get tired of the movie Clerks. It’s certainly a film that is aimed towards people of a certain age demographic, which I am rapidly approaching the tail end of, now that I’m in my early thirties. Clerks is definitely a product of post-adolescent fury, and it speaks to concerns of youthful rebelliousness, but I think its anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian message transcends age demographics. It was a seminal movie for me at a time when I was starting to discover my own anti-authoritarian streak, and it’s adherence to DIY principles was inspiring to me. It’s stayed with me through the years as a reminder of one of my youthful obsessions, but also as a movie that has remained relevant and changed in meaning for me over time. Sometimes I sympathize more with Dante, a tired man clinging to a scrap of professionalism and optimism in a town full of savages, and sometimes I’m more of a Randal, openly antagonistic and despairing for the state of humanity. Clerks is an important movie in the history of independent cinema, and it set Kevin Smith up to be an important and influential filmmaker throughout the rest of the 1990s. For me it’s an important film because it’s a reminder of who I was when I first started getting serious about movies and filmmaking, and because it provides a symbolic throughline from the kid I was then to the adult that I’ve become.