Screening this Wednesday, Amber Tamblyn’s Paint It Black has a Vancouver connection

Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) stars in Paint it Black, the directorial debut from Amber Tamblyn.

Paint It Black, the directorial debut from Amber Tamblyn, makes its Canadian premiere this Wednesday (June 7) in Vancouver, at the Rio Theatre. Vancouver’s an apt choice for the premiere, since the movie has a local connection – one scene includes a performance by members of Vancouver punk rock band White Lung (since one of the members couldn’t make the shoot the musicians are listed individually in the credits).

Set in Los Angeles, Paint It Black is based on the novel of the same name by Janet Fitch (White Oleander). In its review, the Hollywood Reporter says that the movie “probes the experience of grief in a subjective, intuitive manner, and it achieves remarkable intensity in exploring this theme. The narrative dislocations convey the disorientation that can trail a sudden, senseless death… Tamblyn demonstrates impressive command of the camera in her feature debut. Mac McCaughan’s haunting, dissonant score enhances the film’s impact.”

We talked to Tamblyn, an actor, former child star and published poet (Dark Sparkler is her most recent collection), about her film. Following the screening at the Rio, the director will also take part in a Skype Q-and-A, moderated by Neil LaBute.

Q: Janet Fitch’s novel is set in the eighties. Was that part of the attraction for you?

A: Not a lot. I know for a lot of people the love of the book is based on that. It’s great to have that in the book. But my film does not take place in the eighties. It (the time period) wasn’t as important to me as the dynamic between the mother and the girlfriend in the story.

Q: The only thing that’s really eighties about the movie is the punk rock. And the lack of cellphones.

A: Yes. And that’s purposeful. If I could make a movie regardless of the time period it’s in without cellphones that would be great. That’s a cinematic pet peeve of mine, when people have to tell story through showing what someone’s written in a text on a cellphone. I feel like film should always feel classic, no matter what.

Steve Buscemi (one of Paint It Black’s producers) gave me a great note. There’s a scene towards the end of the movie when Josie (Alia Shawkat) is at the bar and there’s a moment right before she finally calls Meredith (Janet McTeer), and and she turns to these two women and she says, “F*** cellphones, am I right?” And Buscemi was like, “I would cut that out, that just drew my attention to the fact that there are no cellphones in the movie.” So I cut that part out.

Actor/writer/director Amber Tamblyn.

Q: As someone who lived in Los Angeles for most of her life, do you have any favourite L.A. movies that might have influenced the look of the film?

A: I wouldn’t say any L.A. movies… It’s not even remotely the same thing, but I have described the film as “if David Lynch directed (1975 documentary) Grey Gardens.” With that being said, maybe I was thinking of (Lynch’s) Mulholland Drive. I like things that have a dark tone like that, like Under the Skin, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966), even (Robert Altman’s 1977 film) 3 Women. I like movies about really conflicted, complex, messed-up, volatile women.

Q: What can you tell us about White Lung’s involvement? The band’s singer, Mish Way, is credited as “Lola Lola” in the end credits but she doesn’t have a scene, except when she’s performing with the band, is that right?

A: In the book, there’s this incredible character Josie is friends with, a punk singer named Lola Lola. And there’s a fantastic scene, which we also shot for the movie, where Josie is on the roof getting high with this chick Lola Lola, and it’s the only time in the book and the film where she talks about Michael’s death, and she sort of gets some words of wisdom from her. I tried to shoehorn it in every possible place because it was such a beautiful scene. And Mish is so naturally talented, and she’s actually a really a great actress, she really embodies that punk quality and attitude. But ultimately it didn’t fit anywhere in the movie. But I still have it. Maybe some day, on DVD extras.

Paint It Black screens this Wednesday, June 7, at the Rio Theatre (1661 E. Broadway) at 6:30 p.m., doors at 6. Tickets are $12 at and $14 at the door.

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