Taymor touts originality in Tribeca forum

Helmer talks about fave filmmakers, 'Frida,' 'Titus'

Auteur directors aren’t influenced by other filmmakers. And certainly they never borrow or steal.

This cheeky revelation was made evident Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival when film critic Deborah Young interviewed Julie Taymor, director of “Titus” and “Frida.”

In the fest’s continuing series Tribeca Talks, Young wondered out loud if Salma Hayek’s tango with Ashley Judd in “Frida” wasn’t influenced by that famous dance sequence featuring Dominique Sanda and Stefania Sandrelli in “The Conformist.” A former Rome bureau chief for Variety, Young waxed on about Bernardo Bertolucci’s paean to sapphic eroticism until, finally, Taymor had to set the record straight.

“I saw it a long time ago,” the director said of the Bertolucci classic. Of the Hayek/Judd sequence, she explained, “It was written in the script. It wasn’t influenced by anything.”

Perhaps because he is alive, Bertolucci did not make Taymor’s best-directors list; at least, she didn’t mention him. Her faves include Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa and John Huston.

“I prefer the older filmmakers,” she said. “More attention used to be paid to the camera as storyteller.” TV changed all that. “The close-up is overused. It is indulgent. There has to be a reason you’ve come that close.”

As for influences, there aren’t many to be found in Taymor’s movies.

” ‘Frida’ doesn’t feel like anyone (else’s) film,” she said.

“Titus” is a slightly different story. “Leni Riefenstahl inspired the title sequence,” said Taymor, referring to all those centurions clomping into the Colosseum. That movie also contains a scene with some prostitutes hawking their bodies on the street. Taymor called it a really “bad Fellini moment. I wanted it cut.”

Taymor looked a tad alarmed that no one in the fest auditorium had witnessed her staging of “Titus Andronicus” at St. Clement’s back in the 1990s.

“That’s why we live in New York!” she gently reprimanded. “Well, that’s why we do film.”

More alarming, only four hands went up when Taymor asked if anyone present had seen her first film, “Fool’s Fire.”

“Aye!” she cried. “It just played at BAM!”

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