Press Archives

14-May / 0 COMMENTS

Filmmaker Magazine, Summer, 1999
New by definition, is a relevant term. That’s why, for instance, we feel compelled to repeat this list. For in the year that has transpired from when we started this list, last year’s apparitions of newness have either transcended into the realm of the known or momentarily retreated from the spotlight. But new is relevant in another way, one marked less by the transitory nature of fame as by the divergant directions individuals take as they enter into public attention. The individuals this year define this directional notion of new. Each individual seems to enter the stage of independent film in a way that speaks as much about their talent as it does about the shifting structure of this industry. Some of this year’s initiates reflect traditional notions of new-college, film school, and short film. But even two such graduates of NYU film school like David Kaplan and Joel Hopkins, have found new ways of telling old stories, whether they be fairy tales or odes to alienation. Others, who have migrated to independent film from other cultural realms, bring with then a new sense of film’s capabilities. Tony-winning actress Janet McTeer imbues her film characters with a classic disipline imported from the stage. Likewise Jennifer Gentile, a student of sculpture and video, a director and set designer, treats film with a sense of materiality garnered from her work in the plastic arts. Of course, sculpture and stage are established artistic venues. With ten features under his belt, pornographer Wash West has breathed new life into one of film’s most important genres. And others, like Erik Loyer, keep new technology alive and kicking in the world of film. Some become new by re-inventing themselves and their careers. Both Tom Hodges and Hilary Swank have worked steadily in television and made-for-tv movies, and would have remained in that professional venue, if it were not for their recent exceptional performances as director and actor respectively. For Tom Krueger, who has been working a camera for over 15 years, becoming a director was both inevitable and remarkable. Of course, this list is far from comprehensive or finite. There are many talented unsung people who are doing new things every day. And that is what’s nice about new lists. They never get old.

“I’m trying to merge the extreme of what an experimental film would be with the extreme of what a narrative would be,” says filmmaker Jennifer Gentile of her current work. Gentile, who studied scultpture, performance, and video at the Rhode Island School Of Design before turning to filmmaking, focused in her early shorts on texture, sound, and ways to manipulate the image. These films are thus experimental in the sense that all narrative elements seem almost secondary to the explosion of colors and painterly textures. Corn Smut for example, chronicles a cross-country trip and, despite an array of poetic voice-over segments, the film’s real pleasure is seeing how Gentile conveys the joys and dissapointments of the journey through the very physical features of the image. Gentile generally does a lot of optical printing, pays close attention to sound and often makes her films between San Francisco, where she relies on the facilities at the Film Arts Foundation, and Los Angeles, where she lives and works. Although Gentile is well known on the festival circuit for her shorts-her two most recent films, Life History Of A Star and My Pretty Little Girlfriend screened at Sundance- she is also known for her day job as a set decorator and art director on a long list of cutting edge narrative films. She has worked, for example, with Gregg Araki, Jon Moritsugu, and Chris Munch, as well as vasious studios and on many music videos. But Gentile is now poised to make her feature. “It’s not quite a romantic comedy,” she says, “but it deals with relationships and the distinctions between what’s gay ans what’s straight, what’s ugly and what’s pretty.” Gentile also says that the film will merge narrative and experimental traditions. “What I like in many current independent films are the characters and the kinds of stories that are being told,” she says.”But I haven’t been that interested in the formal qualities of these films. I’m looking for interesting ways of telling a story, whether it’s in the way the story is structured, the way that it’s edited, the ways that sound is used, or even in the way the pacing works. For example, I’m a huge fan of Peter Greenaway-I really admire what he does theatrically and although that’s not necessarily the direction I want to follow, it’s this kind of movement between story and form that interests me. It’s a fine line, but it’s very exciting to bring real life together with some formal twist.” In September,Gentile will travel to Europe where Life History Of A Star is screening at numerous festivals. And,in addition to finishing her feature script, she’s also writing a TV pilot. “In my warped Catholic mind I’m hoping I can redeem myself with a really fun kid’s show”
– Holly Willis

How To Make an American Movie

We decided to make a movie using the best young talent in Hollywood. First we found a writer, and had him come up with a premise. Then we assembled a crew and put them to work. Here are the results. Jennifer Gentile: “I’m not really interested in money when it comes to production designing,” admits Jennifer Gentile. “Maybe someday that will change, but that’s how I feel now. If an interesting job comes along, I’ll go for it. But I want to feel that a project is saying something.”Among the filmmakers Gentile feel are saying something are San Francisco-based hyperstylist John Moritsugu, for whom she worked on Mod Fuck Explosion, Terminal USA, and Fame Whore, and Gregg Araki, for whom she worked on The Doom Generation and Nowhere. Dividing her time between production design, art direction, and set decoration-encompassing everything from devising the overall visual aesthetic of a film to putting finishing touches on sets-the 29-year-old Gentile, who began as a sculptor, has been a fixture on the West coast independent fringe since her graduation from the Rhode Island School Of Design.”I art direct and decorate more or less for a living,” says the versatile Gentile, whose other credits include Color Of A Brisk And Leaping Day, and Johns. “I’ve been really particular about what I want to get involved in as far as production designing.”Her next production-design project will be Britta Sjogren’s Claire’s Bones. “Production designing takes a lot of my time and thought,” she says. “You basically give away a part of yourself to the film, so you’d better have something invested in it and feel strongly about it. Life’s too short to just keep working for money if it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, a lot of people do it, but…”

On Sunday Morning: “I would definately approach the director to see what they would think, but I would hope that if I was doing this, the reason would be to take it way over the top. Take these white guys from West L.A. and make them so white in their surroundings and totally play up the stereotypes-play on everything. Take potsmoking Andrew and give him a joint that’s a foot long. And the screaming Italian woman downstairs-I’m Italian, so I had a hard time with that- take her and put a rag around her head. I might even have a doll attached to her wrist that she would drag around. A lot of times I’ll pick one theme and weave it through everything. Since the T.V. is so important to these guys, I might use that. For instance, the issue of control- both literal and symbolic-could be represented by the remote control. If you push to the extreme in every way, then it could become a comment on how absurd it really is. Think of it how it would be played straight and then blow it through the roof so that when someone watches it they go, ‘Oh my god. The girl working at McDonald’s, why would she want to go out with you?’ The characters are thinking that they’re so great, but the audience is going, ‘What are they thinking?’ I believe that if you’re going to push something, you can’t just push it a little bit because sometimes people don’t get it. You either have to push it all the way or go another route entirely and think of another way of handling the material.”
– DETOUR MAGAZINE, November, 1996

I Can’t Keep Up: Works by Jennifer Gentile & Martha Colburn

“Jennifer Gentile, relocated in Los Angeles from the Bay Area, creates quirky, digressive narratives. Whether on road trips or guilt trips, Gentile’s couples disintegrate before our eyes. Much of her work centers on women’s experience, and in fairy-tail stories, imagined biographies, and hyperreal dialogues, things tend to get difficult. Moods shift over minor annoyances, life takes unexpected turns, and narratives inevitably spill over into absurdity. Gentile is fascinated with the possibilities of storytelling itself; explorations vary from whimsical to disturbing, from strange to playful, but are always vibrant.”
– Kathy Geritz, Pacific Film Archives Berkeley Art Museum, January, 1999


“There’s not an uninteresting shot in any of Gentile’s short works”
– Manohla Dargis, LA Weekly, December, 1996

San Francisco Bay Guardian Local Discovery Awards

We started to kiss’, a woman says in the voice-over of Jennifer Gentile’s film Corn Smut. ‘Then he wanted more.’ A frightening kind of ‘more’ is, in the end, what Gentile’s small but growing body of film works delivers. Sexual politics are cranked to high volume. Visual excess is Gentile’s stock-in-trade – whether it’s the blood flowing from a woman’s self-inflicted wound or the dizzying shakiness if a driving scene filmed with a hand held camera. Her most recent film, One Eye Leads, uses the story of Saint Lucy, patron saint of the eyes, as a backdrop to sexual turmoil. In this film, as in Corn Smut, women, men, and wounds are elemental. Pain is created through the impersonal juxtaposition of her archetypes. A film/Video graduate of Rhode Island School Of Design, Gentile also attended Brown University (in advanced acting and directing) and City College of San Francisco(in electronic music composition). She’s worked with the Complex Corp. in San Francisco, Metro Films in Los Angeles, and the Bay Area Video Coalition in San Francisco. It’s the ability to know what’s worth arguing about – to distinguish the objects from their owners; to take dark cultural motives out of an individual context of systematic injustice – that makes Gentile’s work rewarding.”
– Susan Gerhard, San Francisco Bay Guardian, September, 1993


Cityzooms jennifer gentile set decorator