Interview with “Palindromes” director Todd Solondz

Hatchet: What pushed you to get involved in filmmaking and go to film school?

Todd Solondz: After I went to college I thought I would never go back. I studied at Yale for undergraduate where I majored in English, and it was a waste of time. But now it is hip to go to film school, which has made it more competitive. I don’t know if I would have gotten in had I been a student today. When I was in Los Angeles once I went to an evening of student shorts, the best of UCLA, and I was astonished. They were remarkably bad and hard to endure. I wasn’t sure if I could become a filmmaker but that pushed me into it. I called up NYU and I asked when the deadline was and they said today, and it was a time when you get in on that basis. I was accepted after sending them a screenplay, but that was a different time. But I feel that if you are an aspiring filmmaker, there is no better time than (now)… when I was in college, no one imagined you could go ahead and make your own film and build a career. When I applied, I thought about John Sayles and the way he carved out a career for himself; though we are not similar stylistically, I admired him at the time. This was 1981. Now technology has changed so much, it’s like the invention of the typewriter, the democratizing of the art form so that any of you can prepare a “Blair Witch Project.” You need to be resourceful. I hope that tells you why I was aspiring to be a filmmaker.

Hatchet: How did the mixed responses to “Storytelling” affect the creation of “Palindromes?”

TS: To some extent or to some degree I have received a mixed response on all of my movies. There have been awful things said about me and you don’t have to look far to see them. Some say certain films of mine are my worst and others say it is my best, it just depends.

H: The narrative styles of “Storytelling” and “Palindromes” seemed similar. Were there parallels in the messages you were presenting within the two films?

TS: Well, it’s just telling at things from different angles; films take different shapes. “Storytelling” was the creative process broken up into double stories and was classical in structure. You get into the third story with James Van der Beek that was completely cut out but there was so much more cut from the film than that; it was only that he was a famous young star that it was so widely known about.

H: There seems to be a welcoming atmosphere but you seem to present an overbearing sense of naivety in that household, even when Aviva asks for a glass of Evian, which is ‘na?ve’ spelled backwards, was this meant to be an inverted place for Aviva to enter?

TS: (laughs) Evian, that’s smart. I didn’t notice that. Before you were born there was a Tylenol scare and some people were being poisoned by the Tylenol and then people were coming forward who had noticed that it was ‘lonely t’ spelled backwards. But um, this is her entering the pro-choice world, not the Costco world of aesthetics, but a different way in which children are nourished. Aviva comes from the progressive push.

H: Was there meant to be a tie between Mark Weiner’s conversation with Aviva and the eulogy he gives at this sister’s funeral at the film’s intro?

TS: I didn’t want her Dawn Weiner to die in this movie because I wanted Heather Matarazzo in this one too. And I begged her to be in this as well; I never beg anyone, and she refused me! She did not want to revive this character. As for Mark Weiner I have always had an affection for him because it is a part of myself. To an extent I do agree with what he is saying but he is getting into the notion of a soul that does not change and he describes all of the elements that make up a person trying to change, and I have to agree with him. It’s a metamorphosis that takes place. You’ll always be you.

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