By Livia Bloom in Web Exclusives on Thursday, June 7th, 2012
“I want to want you,” says the cripplingly depressed Miranda (Selma Blair) to her suitor with excruciating honesty. The coddled, overweight Abe (Jordan Gelber), a compulsive collector who still lives at home with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken), will take what he can get. “That’s enough for me,” he breathes. In Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, the queasy tale of a 35-year-old man-child who decides to add a wife to his possessions, the writer-director’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, each line an arrow poisoned with sincerity.
Known for colorful, stylized, cynical films including Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), Happiness (1998), Storytelling (2001), Palindromes (2004) and the masterful Life During Wartime (2009), Solondz makes movies populated by anti-heroes and -heroines that include bullies, pedophiles, and housewives. He has the ability to zero in on the insecurities, weaknesses and existential loneliness of a Robert Altman-like stable of characters with merciless X-ray vision. Like the stories of John Cheever taken to an uncomfortable extreme, Solondz’s “storytelling” gives the lie to the American dream — and suburban paradise, in particular — exposing the underlying tragedy, comedy, and absurdity at its center.
In this conversation, Solondz discusses the Japanese fan-boy culture that gave rise to Dark Horse, the unlikely filmmaker who inspired his career (you’ll never guess!) and his own unhappy bar mitzvah.
Filmmaker: What first drew you to filmmaking?
Todd Solondz: I went to film school at NYU. The shorts and the films I made there gave me the confidence to think that I could actually make a career at this. When things go well and you have that kind of history, you really latch on to it. I have a weak character in the sense that I need encouragement. I need a sense that people appreciate what I’m doing. I’m not someone who is indifferent to what others think and goes about his business regardless of public opinion.
When I made some of these shorts, I could see that my audience was genuinely responding to the work. I recognized that things clicked; I was not going to let go of that. There was something there. That’s really where I found myself...."