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    Out Writer/Director Andrew Haigh Talks About 45 Years, and Explains Why He Doesn’t Always Tell Gay Stories

     

    GaryKramerbyRyanBrandenberg

    45 Years is an incredibly affecting drama by out writer/director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, Looking). Kate (Charlotte Rampling in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) are forced to re-evaluate their marriage in the week leading up to a milestone wedding anniversary celebration. The catalyst for this is a letter Geoff receives containing news from his past. How the information taints their lives–eating away at both characters in different ways–forms the basis for this intimate, absorbing drama. Haigh recently spoke to me for the San Francisco Bay Times about making 45 Years.

    Gary M. Kramer: What inspired you to make this film and adapt this story? Have you had something from the past influence your current relationship?

    Andrew Haigh: I think the past always influences our relationships. We can’t escape our past no matter how much we want to. The story became lodged in my head. It’s a bookend to Weekend. That was a gay relationship looking forward, and this is a straight relationship looking back. What appealed to me is that I could explore relationships, and our identities within relationships. I didn’t feel I had to put myself in the body of a 70-year-old to write it.

    Gary M. Kramer: Your films Weekend and now 45 Years are also mostly two-handers; what is the appeal of that narrative strategy of charting the gulf between two people over time, be it a weekend, a week, or longer?

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    Andrew Haigh: My interest in relationships is that for most of us, the relationships we have are the most important thing in our lives. That’s fertile ground for exploring characters and looking at people. I’m interested in the relationship we have with other people, and I like the contained-ness of two character stories. I was telling 45 Years over the course of a week. The couple is long lasting, but their relationship has this fragility to it; it could crumble and be thrown into doubt so quickly. We reassess our decisions and choices that can throw our lives off balance, or off course.

    Gary M. Kramer: Was that a purposeful agenda in making a film about a straight couple? Did you feel pigeonholed as a gay filmmaker? 

    Andrew Haigh: I don’t think so. Before Weekend had even come out, I wanted to make 45 Years. It wasn’t a reaction to being classified as a queer filmmaker–I don’t mind that label, it doesn’t bother me. I have to ignore the boxes people put me in. I just want to tell stories that interest me. I don’t only want to tell gay stories. I want to tell different stories. Sometimes gay, sometimes not, but they will always have my perspective.

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    Gary M. Kramer: You create an incredible, intense intimacy in the film. Can you talk about that and how you created the film’s relentless tension? 

    Andrew Haigh: That’s the idea I like: it becomes a haunted house/ghost story–the past has infected this house. There’s a strange growing tension, and like Kate, you are thrown off balance. In everyday life there are struggles, and they are small in scale, but life is so difficult. I want to tell stories in a kind way, of us doing the best we can. I like to get up close and personal, and feel that, and bring kindness to the characters as I explore that and watch them.

    Gary M. Kramer: What decision did you make in the casting of Charlotte Rampling? 

    Andrew Haigh: I wanted to make sure we had a strong female lead, and see her doubts and feelings crumble. Charlotte had that inner strength, and she had a mystery to her, and I find that really interesting in a film–not really knowing people. The characters are trying to express their pain to each other, and Rampling can do that with a look or feeling. She has a mystery that draws you in and, you see this sympathy of emotion behind her eyes, and then she pushes you away.

    Gary M. Kramer: Do you feel that the choices we make taint our lives? Do you feel a partner is someone you should tell everything to? 

    Andrew Haigh: Unfortunately, I think it’s so difficult–the hardest thing is that we all have our individual pasts and feelings and doubts and fears and anxieties. Some things you shouldn’t articulate to your partner; you don’t want to risk that love or have them become unsettled or disappointed or broken by something you feel. In an ideal world you would be 100% honest with each other, but life doesn’t work quite that way. It’s impossible to put the past to rest. Every decision we make is based on our experience, despite self-help books promoting us to move on. The past will always come back and cause issues.

    Gary M. Kramer: Then let’s talk about the future. Can you report anything about Looking for an Ending?

    Andrew Haigh: I’m shooting at the moment. You’ll have to wait and see.

    © 2016 Gary M. Kramer 

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

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    Gary M. Kramer 22 BAY TIMES JANUARY 28 , 2016 

    Sister Dana sez, “Scientists reported last Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in the historical record by far, breaking a mark set only the year before–a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is shaking up weather patterns all over the world. In the United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. And yet the Repugnican idiots keep saying there is no such thing as climate change. Yeeeesh!”

    Sister Dana was attacked for several weeks by the Horrible Bronchitis Demon, thus rendered incapable of attending events and doing his usual intrepid reporting. Therefore my column will be a bit flimsy–echoing the state of my health at this time. Cough! Choke! Sigh.

    The GGBA (GOLDEN GATE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION) held their JANUARY MAKE CONTACT at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, providing the opportunity to network with friends and colleagues while having enjoyment to sample some of San Francisco’s great LGBTQ arts and theater offerings throughout SF. President JP Leddy spoke about GGBA. Founded in 1974, the Golden Gate Business Association is the nation’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the first business organization founded by LGBT entrepreneurs. With members who live and do business across San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Marin counties, and beyond, GGBA proudly serves as the voice for the San Francisco/Bay Area’s LGBT business community. Their mission is to champion opportunity, development, and advocacy for the LGBT & Allied business community. The Make Contact event included food, drinks, and performances by Avenue Q (puppets singing the hilarious “If You Were Gay”), ManDance (with a lovely and very queer interpretation of The Nutcracker Suite), and Velocity Circus (with a scary sword swallower with no gag reflex) and a genuine whirling dervish, his twirling skirt forming something like the rings of Saturn up and over his head. ggba.com

    KREWE DE KINQUE, the all-volunteer Mardi Gras-themed social club and fundraiser, held our members meeting to plan the upcoming BAL MASQUE XIII, a masked ball with the theme of “Saints & Sinners” to be held on Saturday, March 12, at Beatbox, 314 11th Street and Folsom: 5–6 pm VIP reception, 6–9 pm general admission. The Ball will benefit JAZZIE’S PLACE, the new LGBT Homeless Shelter operated by DOLORES STREET COMMUNITY SERVICES. It should be noted that 29% of San Francisco’s homeless population identify as LGBTQ, and finally have a unique, safe place for temporary shelter and services. For more info or to join our club (tell ‘em Queen VII Sister Dana sent ya) browse sfkinque.com

    We joined ACADEMY OF FRIENDS to TOAST THE NOMINEES OF 2016 at Sui Generis clothiers in the Castro. Academy of Friends has been in existence and evolving for nearly 34 years. Soon after the onset of the HIV epidemic, they dedicated themse