Mexico’s Michel Franco is back in Venice after his triumphant Silver Lion win last year for his dystopian thriller “New Order.” His new film “Sundown” is in competition at the Lido where it world premieres on Sunday. Variety spoke to the director and the film’s star Tim Roth.
While “New Order” used thousands of extras and was shot on a larger, more ambitious scale than any of Franco’s previous films, “Sundown” is a return to a more intimate, personal drama with Franco’s long-time collaborator and friend Roth leading the cast.
In it, Roth plays a wealthy man going through an existential crisis while vacationing in Acapulco with his family (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Albertine Kotting McMillan and Samuel Bottomley). Not much more can be said of the plot without revealing its twists.
This is the second time Roth stars in a Franco-directed film. Their relationship sparked nearly 10 years ago when Roth, as Cannes’ 2012 Un Certain Regard jury president, championed Franco’s breakout film “After Lucia,” which went on to win the sidebar’s top prize.
He was so impressed with Franco that Roth seized on the chance to star in the then budding filmmaker’s next film, “Chronic,” where he played against type (think “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction”) as a kind male nurse working with terminally ill patients. “When Michel told me his next film would be about a nurse, I said, ‘make it a male nurse and I’ll do it with you,’” he related, adding: “And he did. Immediately.” “He’s a very unusual filmmaker and has a beautiful eye,” said the peripatetic Roth whose more recent projects include New Zealand-set “Punch” by new filmmaker Welby Ings. He’s next working on a film in Ghana, Africa.
Roth also starred in arms smuggling drama “600 Miles” by Gabriel Ripstein, which Franco produced. He’s also an executive producer in Franco’s 2017 pregnant teen drama “April’s Daughter” as well as in “Sundown.” “I’m there whenever he wants me, I’m around,” he said, adding that they are in talks over a couple of other projects. “It’s always a wild journey but it’s worth it,” he mused.
For Franco, the idea for “Sundown” stemmed from his own personal crisis when he was about to hit 40. “This is a more personal movie in terms of aesthetics but mainly regarding what the character is going through, the big questions we face and my own fears,” said Franco. “I didn’t get the answers to my questions but I got a certain kind of satisfaction from making this movie, I guess,” he added.
While not to be compared in scale to “New Order,” “Sundown” presented its own set of challenges. “I chose not to close down the beach in Acapulco and I could have, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to capture,” said Franco as he recalled the heat and unavoidable interruptions from people milling around.
What he found equally, if not more challenging, was to “portray the journey of a man and to make it moving and interesting.”
He shot “Sundown” a mere 10 months after “New Order” with the same crew and department heads. “It took me a few movies to find the best team of people but now that I’ve managed to put them together, I hope we can stay that way,” said Franco, who has two to three new projects he’s developing. For Brussels-born DoP Yves Cape, this is his fourth film with Franco.
“Sundown” was produced by Franco’s Teorema in coproduction with Sweden’s CommonGround Pictures and Film i Väst as well as Paris-based Luxbox. He produced it with his partners Eréndira Núñez and Cristina Velasco.
Lorenzo Vigas, director of 2015 Venice Golden Lion winner “From Afar” whose latest film “The Box” also competes in Venice this year, serves as executive producer alongside Roth.
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