Dark Horse

“Dark Horse” director Todd Solondz (left) and actors Selma Blair and Jordan Gelber

“They’re all autobiographical, even if it didn’t happen,” writer and director Todd Solondz said of his movies this past Saturday night at Angelika Film Center.  Solondz appeared following a screening of his new film, “Dark Horse.”  The director appeared with his “Dark Horse” lead actor, Jordan Gelber.  Solondz went on to elaborate on his rather contradictory statement, explaining that his films are autobiographical in that they are, “a reflection of a sensibility.  A process of self discovery.”  He added, “Everything I’ve done has shaped me as a filmmaker.”

Solondz, whose darkly comic filmography includes “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995), “Happiness” (1998) and “Storytelling” (2001), specializes in the creepiness and angst behind seemingly ordinary (exclusively suburban) lives.  His films hold a painful mirror up to taboos and the breaking of mores.  To say the characters in a Solondz movie are socially awkward would be tantamount to describing the Empire State Building simply as being “tall.”

While Solondz’s first film, “Welcome to the Dollhouse” dealt with the pain of adolescence, “Dark Horse” deals with the pain of arrested adolescence.   The movie’s title is a horse racing term that refers to a horse that is a long shot, one that may, or may not, win.  To that end, Gelber’s character, Abe, is in his late thirties, still lives at home, sleeps in his adolescent bedroom and leads a dull existence working for his father’s business.  Abe’s life is in marked contrast to that of his successful brother Richard (Justin Bartha) who is a doctor.  Abe tries to change his life by his awkward pursuit of Miranda (Selma Blair) a woman he met at a wedding.

Gelber talked of his character’s “perpetual adolescence and the dreams and hopes that go with it.” Of his character’s plight Gelber explained that Abe “is still a big baby.  He never grew up and had no guidance.”  Solondz said that he was moved by Abe’s plight.  “One child has success, while the other cannot leave his junior high school bedroom.  It’s a mystery.”

One possible clue to the mystery of Abe’s existence may lie in Abe’s dull, clueless parents, nicely played by Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow.  One of the film’s funniest scenes is an extended tracking shot of a meeting between Abe’s and Miranda’s parents.  In keeping with the film’s theme of social awkwardness, all they can talk about are driving directions and traffic routes.

On the creation of his characters Solondz said that he does not do research.  He explained that for him, “Writing is not a psychological process but a creative one.  I may not agree with the characters but I try to be true as to how they behave under the circumstances.”

Solondz concluded his appearance by saying that he wants audiences to connect with the worlds he creates.  “I hope you are engaged in this world and that you connect with the characters.  You feel a little more vital and alive…and then you have a nice dinner.”


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 11, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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