Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

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mfunk9786
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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:14 pm

It's not every day you see a trailer that is unlike anything you've ever seen before.

This got raves out of Sundance - it looks a little too IFC Center (if that makes any sense) to catch on with a wide audience, though.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#3 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:17 pm

That trailer is already one of the best films of the year

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#4 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Jul 03, 2018 5:58 pm

I haven’t watched it, but I read somewhere that the trailer was shot separately and isn’t part of the final film.

ETA: Not where I saw it, but here’s an article that mentions it.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#5 Post by ianthemovie » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:42 pm

Yeah, the movie is not edited in the style of the trailer. I saw it earlier this year when it screened at IFF Boston.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jul 24, 2018 6:47 pm

The young star of this and her mother are facing eviction, a GoFundMe has been set up to help (and already surpassed their goal)

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#7 Post by Foam » Tue Jul 24, 2018 9:00 pm

Very excited for this. I still need to catch Flames, but Thou Wast Mild & Lovely and Butter on the Latch are some of the best, most stylistically singular, and underrated films I've seen this decade. Hope this brings more attention to her work.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#8 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Mon Oct 01, 2018 3:09 am

Does anyone know what the home media situation is on this? I know that it's being released digital in a few places in this month, but does anyone know if a DVD/Blu-Ray release is in the future?

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#9 Post by soundchaser » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:01 pm

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Mon Oct 01, 2018 3:09 am
Does anyone know what the home media situation is on this? I know that it's being released digital in a few places in this month, but does anyone know if a DVD/Blu-Ray release is in the future?
Oscilloscope put it out theatrically, so I can't imagine a Blu-Ray isn't forthcoming from them.

Speaking of being released, I finally saw this yesterday (in Baton Rouge, of all places), and I'm sorry to say that I didn't connect with it at all.

The trailer remains one of the most amazing things I've seen this year, but the film isn't cut like that at all. Instead, it's made up of a bevy of out-of-focus close-ups, no doubt intended to give us a glimpse into Madeline's mental state, where things are constantly shifting, hard to get a grip on, etc. Not a problem by itself, but certainly one when looked at in the context of the rest of the film. Once the novelty of this style has worn off, the experience becomes exhausting, and the overwhelming soundtrack makes paying any real attention difficult. It's a movie full of visually stunning shots, but the sheer volume of them makes them difficult to appreciate in the moment.

The story is going to invite lots of comparisons to Rivette - oblique plot? Check. Crises of identity? Check. Experimental theater troupe? Very check. And, like Rivette, Decker seems (on the surface) to be probing the distinction between actor and character, and where the line blurs. Helena Howard, the actress playing Madeline, does a brilliant job with the material she's given - and she takes risks that I suspect more seasoned actors wouldn't. The scene where she walks around New York oinking at passersby like a pig is bizarre, but strangely compelling in its rawness.

But Howard, who is far and away the best part of the film, is only given a few moments to really shine. The rest of the film appears to be a "woe is me" lament by Decker herself, in the form of Molly Parker's Evangeline. She can't control her actors! Nobody's listening to her costuming plans! What makes this obvious self-insert even worse is that we're not supposed to *like* Evangeline. She's fickle, self-obsessed, and unintentionally cruel to the people around her. Why, then, do I call her a self-insert? Because of the third-to-last scene in the film. Evangeline decides that the troupe's story is now going to be about Madeline's strained relationship with her mother, and one of her black actors asks "have you thought about the optics of this?" Decker attempts to question the morality of her, a white woman, telling the story of a black (or mixed-race) teenager. The sequence that follows appears to be the answer to this question - "let your actors act." Madeline
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takes over the theater troupe and tells HER story - swapping out the pig masks for cat faces, creating rooms of flashing lights that simulate her visual overstimulation, etc. She draws Evangeline into her world, and the whole thing concludes with a transcendent quasi flash mob on the streets of New York, with regular folks joining in the creation of art.
But then, the ending. The shot of
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Madeline walking away from the camera in a hospital gown, implying that the whole film, or at least the preceding sequence of boundless creativity, is the hallucination of a deranged asylum escapee
is so curt and mocking that I cannot understand its inclusion. It's as if Fellini ended 8 1/2 with Guido
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not joining in the dance of life but sitting alone in a tub making babbling noises with his finger in front of his lips.
It's cruel to the audience, and it's cruel to the characters. If a tracking shot is a question of morality, then this one shot, with the character in focus, in the middle of the frame, and nothing on the soundtrack, following the disorienting experience preceding it, is surely on the same level.

And so that's why comparisons with Rivette ring hollow - he is never a cruel filmmaker, even when his characters are left alone or dead. The least-charitable interpretation of Out 1's ending cannot hope to match the abject smugness of this film. At no point during the 13 straight hours of Rivette did I want to claw my way, cat-like, out of the theater, and out of this nightmarish metaphor for artistic creation and mental instability.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#10 Post by Cronenfly » Tue Oct 02, 2018 4:24 pm

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Is that really what she’s wearing in the final shot of the film? I don’t doubt you but that went right over my head. Thanks for the analysis.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#11 Post by soundchaser » Tue Oct 02, 2018 4:41 pm

Cronenfly wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 4:24 pm
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Is that really what she’s wearing in the final shot of the film? I don’t doubt you but that went right over my head. Thanks for the analysis.
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I can’t find anything that backs me up on this, but it’s certainly how it came across: green, vaguely plastic-y, and tied up in the back with a rubber band. If I’m totally misreading the last shot, then I’ll admit that my ire isn’t completely earned. (Although I still didn’t like much of the preceding 90 minutes.)

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#12 Post by pianocrash » Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:15 am

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Image

I had to do a double take after reading this thread & seeing the film last night (rented it on demand right after midnight), but during the final sequence, it's the last costume change, though I don't believe it's a hospital gown (the front features a loose, flowing neckline & is quite striking).

But what you see is what you see, right?

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#13 Post by soundchaser » Sat Oct 20, 2018 9:11 am

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Looking at it again, I think you may be right - the shoulders are too elaborate. I see how I made that mistake, though.

Still, I think the implications of the shot are largely what I outlined above. If you have a different interpretation, I’d be curious to hear it.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#14 Post by pianocrash » Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:48 pm

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While I don't share the ire overall for this film, I also don't hold the end result in any real esteem. But really, the fluidity of the whole of the film was pleasant enough, even for someone like me who really loathes the idea of witnessing any theater troupe doing anything at all. The unique achievement of portraying them as a living, breathing unit was quite spectacular (like an organism that keeps changing shape), especially as the third act kicks in all the doubt that was bubbling up from the first two. As for Decker's mirroring of herself in the Molly Parker character, that's less important overall (though, if you want to get picky, I've always felt that directors who credit or co-credit themselves as editors are being too precious about their work, despite any non-artistic/monetary reasons that may defy them doing just that), but if it is, then by all means, don't mind me. But that final moment was almost an upheaval of the rest of the film, even if it was tucked into the previous scene of Miranda July honking her car horn at an otherwise oblivious, costumed person walking in the middle of a busy street - it lessened the power of what came before it (it was all in her head, she's insane!, it's just that simple!, the end). From that perspective, it's the opposite ending of La Dolce Vita - but then again, maybe it's the exact same thing? Either way, I'm not so sure the hype built onto Decker for this movie is warranted (is any?), but she does possess a narrative style that is decidedly her own, even if it's not as entirely sharp as it could be in places.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#15 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:15 am

I may or may not have a lot more to say about this movie, but first: Can anyone point me to detailed first-hand accounts of how Helena Howard's performance was achieved that don't come from either Decker or Howard?

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#16 Post by swo17 » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:36 am

I can't help with that but I'd be eager to hear your thoughts! I just watched this too and my head is still spinning

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#17 Post by Never Cursed » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:41 am

I know I read an interview with the cinematographer after watching this fascinating and frustrating film where she said something about working with Howard, but I can't seem to find it. She gave several interviews related to the film, however, one for Indiewire, and another for the MPAA, which may or may not have that information/be the article I'm referring to in the first place. I was no particular fan of this movie (for reasons that had to do with its style more than anything) and I even wrote but did not post a pretty negative take on it here, but I second swo in wanting to hear what you have to say about it and in particular its most interesting aspect!

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#18 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:31 pm

I go out of my way to avoid people approaching movies like I’m about to approach this, so I understand if anyone would prefer to skip the following. But my own specific experiences tell me something may be off here.

This is a movie that made me extremely uncomfortable, and neither the formal distancing aesthetics of its construction nor its narrative elements are why. I have significant reservations at how Howard is used in this movie, and the film talking out of one side of its mouth by quasi-addressing this in the narrative itself only makes me more suspicious. Howard's perf goes beyond compelling or immersive into something else, I think, though this does not necessitate its impetus originating from Decker (though the decision to depict it lies with her). Howard may be a tremendous acting discovery in possession of the rare gift of being able to navigate a complex role like this unguarded, without ego, self-preservation, or artifice. Nevertheless, as someone who's spent years working with dozens of young women of similar backgrounds whose own stories are not far from Madeline's, I'm uneasy with what we see on screen.

For some sense of comparison, consider Alicia Witt in Fun, which I would consider to be among the greatest youth performances I’ve ever seen (and you can read my more in-depth thoughts on the film here). Fun is a film in which Witt plays an unrepentant teenage murderer, lying and vacillating between emotions in a flutter of attempts to manipulate and toy with whoever she’s talking to. Heady, adult stuff for a teen to take on. But at no point during Witt's performance did I ever doubt it was just that, a performance. There are boundaries evident, and I feel confident, at least based on what we see on-screen, that Witt was not exploited by the filmmakers. I do not feel confident in saying that about Howard here.

I didn’t start to doubt Decker’s intentions or methods until she introduced doubt herself, seemingly unprompted, into the film's narrative. And then all I could see was the on-screen response of a guilty conscience. And then I really got uncomfortable reading about how Howard and Decker met, helpfully relayed on Howard’s Wiki entry. An adult actor, with life experience and full volition, is of course welcome to submit themselves to a director’s manipulation and exploitation— great performances have resulted from this methodology— but I question how much of what I’m seeing on-screen is performance at all, and given the subject matter and my own experience with teenagers who share Madeline's profile, I have concerns. Either we are seeing two artists collaborating to create an extremely well-observed and relayed portrayal of an artsy young woman of color struggling with mental illness, or we’re seeing Portrait of Jason 2.0. I must stress that were it not for Decker herself injecting these doubts into the narrative, I’m not sure I would have cast aspersions in the first place. Of course, this may just be symptomatic of Decker’s overall insecurity as a filmmaker— never more evident than in the constant interruptions and obfuscations in the cinematography and sound design that function as gimmicks and are more juvenile than the film’s subject.

This is an uneasy film, and I immediately suspect any movie that lays out a bulletproof defense for an attack no one was making til they started waging a rebuttal. This movie is not above questioning just because it introduces questioning into its narrative. And my impressions of concern for Howard’s treatment by Decker may be completely unwarranted. Indeed, I hope I am wrong, because that means not only was a teenager not exploited, but we’re seeing an acting savant with decades of work ahead of her make her debut. But as Meryl Streep once said, I have such doubts…

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#19 Post by soundchaser » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:51 pm

Thanks for articulating that issue so clearly, domino. I have very similar concerns with the way the film treats Howard, if only because it is so easy to read the whole thing as Decker's exercise in self-exoneration - "this thing I'm doing is possibly really harmful, but that's art, right?" And what's worse is that I think the film very nearly pulls it off (even if I still don't like it for its technique), but then Decker has to remind us of the issue with the ending. I'm not sure, thinking about it now, whether I'd have preferred the film to end ten seconds earlier, because a stronger finish could have kept my concerns out of the spotlight.

I don't want to call Decker exploitative, because that would require some very strong evidence that I don't think we have access to. But this film certainly doesn't make it easy to stay away from that rabbit hole. The more I've thought about it over the last few weeks, the more uncomfortable it's become.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#20 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:17 pm

Madeline's Madeline is now streaming on Prime and a Blu/DVD release has been set for January.

I saw this back in August and absolutely loved it; the negative responses it's received on this board have made me wait until I've rewatched it before posting anything in depth.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#21 Post by knives » Thu Dec 13, 2018 4:50 pm

I am in full agreement with the two major takes above. The false Rivette, and July, narrative and thematic issues are pretty evident to any discerning person, but the potential ethical issues of the performance are much harder to pick out to a layman and so needs a greater break down.

Before I go into my professional knowledge I just want to bring up two films. Throughout this reminded me of Pedro Coata's Horse Money, a film I consider to be a blatant example of criminal exploitation and abuse. That film's lead performer at the time was beginning to go through dementia and Costa activated the dementia to get a certain performance. This is particularly apparent in the final sequence which supposedly so triggered the fear and stress of dementia as to cause the actor to assault crew members thinking them to be a violent threat. That not only utilized a disease for 'art' but caused stress that may have lead to exaggerated or worsening his condition. If Howard has PTSD or ODD or schizotypal as suggested by this film then this potentially becomes non-therapeutic acting. Likewise the circumstances of Howard's casting reminds me of Rosario Dawson getting cast in Kids. That lead to us having one of our best actresses and I hope Howard replicates that success. As Domino says with Witt though Dawson was always apparently a performer and gave no apparent sign that she was doing anything beyond acting. I can't say that here.

Which I guess leads to my professional experience. As I have mentioned before I work in special education, but to get into specifics I work with kids with emotional disabilities like some of the ones mentioned above integrating them and students released from prison into general education settings. I want to say Howard doesn't have that level of trauma, but her performance and behaviors give me great doubt. Right away with the cat sequence with her mother I was shocked. This is something to the dollar one of my students last year did and was part of her inability to differentiate certain realities. Even beyond grand things like that some of the editing techniques have me worried. The improper syncing of some dialogue reminded me of Soderbergh's technique of documentary sound making me feel that Decker is using actual confessions as art. Likewise many looks that some are calling naked and unguarded simply don't come across as acting, but the exact faces and gestures and phrases of my students in various moments. This documentary performance also makes me wonder about a few scenes. For example how did the porn scene get made? I won't condemn the film, but I need more information about it.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#22 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:04 pm

Since topics of mental health, artistic exploitation, and the process of making the film itself are key points in just about everyone's response to this film, here's a link to an interview with Helena Howard. I still have yet to rewatch this, but I went back through everyone's responses and it made me curious to get an interview with Howard herself (who is rather quiet in the group interviews).

Edit: Another interview, notable for the following passage:
That gets down to what I’m most curious about. Madeline’s Madeline is about an actress pushed too hard by a director who wants to tell her story. How does that compare to the dynamic you had with Josephine while making this film?
There’s no connection. During filming, our relationship was nothing at all like the script. To avoid anything as exploitative as what happens between Evangeline and Madeline, an actor just has to make sure to use their voice, and to get themselves in situations where they feel safe speaking up about what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable. As a director, you’ve got to know your boundaries, and know who you’re working with. Some directors feel as though they can dictate, because as an actor, it’s always your mission to please the director. So it’s sometimes hard to stick up for yourself.

To go back to your previous question, though: While working, I had a hard time saying no. I don’t think I said no at all. I spoke up, we had a few artistic differences we worked out, but for the most part, I just wanted to make Josephine happy. I could see how much this film meant to her, and still does. While filming, I wanted to make everyone working on it proud.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#23 Post by soundchaser » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:31 pm

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:04 pm
To go back to your previous question, though: While working, I had a hard time saying no. I don’t think I said no at all. I spoke up, we had a few artistic differences we worked out, but for the most part, I just wanted to make Josephine happy. I could see how much this film meant to her, and still does. While filming, I wanted to make everyone working on it proud.
EDIT: Reading this again, I'm still concerned, but perhaps not to the same extent. Phrases like "I had a hard time saying no" are going to be red flags coming from a young actor regardless of the context, but I don't know that Howard means them quite as badly as I read them.
Last edited by soundchaser on Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#24 Post by knives » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:33 pm

That was very edifying and it makes it sound like the goal was more O Lucky Man! though I don't think it works on that level either. Just to clarify as well even if Howard turns out to just be supernaturally talented I don't think the film succeeds. It is just that the quality of the performance and the nature of how the film was developed make me nervous about endorsing that element.

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Re: Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)

#25 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:41 pm

As someone who has acted, and as a director who has learned to prioritize the experiences and emotional temperaments of actors, my personal interpretation of Howard's comments (one that I don't hold to be the final word by any means) leads me to not want to place very much blame at all on Decker. In my experience working with shy, young adult actors (which to me fully describes Howard), even if the environment is very welcoming and casual, there is a hesitancy to want to stop things from moving forward. It doesn't sound to me that Decker was creating a bad work environment for Howard, but that Howard's personality and youth inhibited perhaps a lot of her own opinions from being voiced, which is always an unfortunate issue.

Based on some of her comments elsewhere in the interviews, however, I am less sympathetic to the idea that Howard struggles with severe mental illness similar to her character's and that Decker was utilizing that for the film.

Knives, I completely understand that perspective. The density of comments on here that raised concerns made me concerned as well, and I wanted to find at least some concrete material that could shed light on Howard's feelings on the shoot.

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