Just A Minute With: Todd Solondz, "heir to Woody Allen"

Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:39am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters Life!) - Director Todd Solondz has been described as "the true heir to Woody Allen," for his new movie "Life During Wartime" that premiered at the Venice film festival to glowing reviews and will next play at this week's movie festival in Toronto.

A sequel-of-sorts to 1998 critical hit "Happiness," the film returns to the dysfunctional and troubled Jordan family and again uses offbeat humor to tackle tough topics of pedophilia, incest, suicide and depression.

Solondz spoke to Reuters in Venice about the movie and what it feels like to be compared to comedy the master, Allen.

Q: Why did you call the film "Life After Wartime?" While there are references to conflicts going on in the wider world, it is never overtly part of your picture.

A: "It's always good to catch an audience off balance and there are different kinds of wars. There are of course the wars in the Middle East and Africa and so forth, and of course there are the personal, internal wars that we live with. And the title song is sung by the main character, and it's not the first time I have named a movie after the title song.

"But as an American it has been a peculiar experience, this war. As we know the history of the world is the history of war, but at this time since, I guess, 9/11 and then 2003, I've lived in a country (the United States) where there was not a draft. It was very distinct populations that were going off to fight ... We could be so insulated, so many of us, from the realities of war. We could talk a really good talk about it in New York, but I don't know anyone, and nor am I connected to anyone who was connected to anyone who was actually involved militarily. I think the movie in some sense is reflective of that."

Q: The characters in your film elicit plenty of laughter, but it often has an element of humiliation about it. What do you say to critics who dislike that about your movies?

A: "I certainly can relate to humiliation. It's a good friend of mine. In fact, there are two things I would hope to achieve. One is I hope to survive it and the second is I hope not to be humiliated. I think it's a little reductive to make that argument but I'm not interested in arguing. I just accept that. I don't hope to appeal to everybody."   Continued...

<p>American director Todd Solondz poses for photographers during a photo call for his film 'Palindromes' screened out of competition at the American Film Festival of Deauville September 11, 2004. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>