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Early Cinematic Influences
by Todd Haynes
from Cinema Papers, December 1998

American independent filmmaker Todd Haynes, the man responsible for Poison (1991), Safe (1995) and, most recently, Velvet Goldmine, talks about early cinematic experiences and influences on his own work:

The films that influenced me as a kid were films that kids are taken to see when they're my age. The first one was Mary Poppins [Robert Stevenson, 1964], my very first movie when I was three, and I almost had a psychotic obsession for Mary Poppins. There's probably a lot about that film, and a lot about film in general, that really deeply affected me, and made me respond by wanting to create things in response to it. I would draw pictures and play or perform the songs; relive the experience in all these different ways. It definitely inspired me creatively, and I guess that's my point; something about seeing films at that age got my motor running. And that would continue; there'd be certain films that would just really penetrate me.

It's funny, a lot of them were English in theme. The next one was Romeo and Juliet, Franco Zeffirelli's film [1968]. I went through a massively romantic period; I was a little Shakespeare freak as a kid. I was probably so insufferable to be around, so pretentious.

Later, films that definitely hooked me were films that probably came out of the 1960s drug culture, experience movies like Performance [Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970], Women in Love [Ken Russell, 1969], A Clockwork Orange [Stanley Kubrick, 1971], and 2001: A Space Odyssey [Stanley Kubrick, 1968].

They were films that I thought a lot about in making Velvet Goldmine, because they invited you to go somewhere you'd never seen before. I think that was responding to a youth culture that wanted that and created that experience. They really wanted to be surprised and challenged, and, unfortunately, I don't feel like those kinds of films are made so much today. I was hoping that Velvet Goldmine might rekindle some of those feelings of mystery, and excite the imaginations of young people that see it.

I loved Hollywood films like Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941] and Fritz Lang, but, moving into college, I would discover Fassbinder's work, who remains my most favourite filmmaker. His Angst essen Seeie auf [Fear Eats the Soul, 1973] is my favourite of his films.

There are so many, and they're so different and varied, and the whole body of work is so astounding. But I was still very much into Hitchcock and Douglas Sirk. I also saw Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles [Chantal Akerman, 1975] in college; that remains a real pivotal film for me, as well. I love Nashville [Robert Altman, 1975], Lola Montés [Max Ophüls, 1955] and also a lesser known film by Max Ophüls, The Reckless Moment [1949], with John Bennett and James Mason, an amazing internal melodrama that I particularly adore.

I have unintellectual passion for a film like Picnic [Joshua Logan, 1955], which has a profound effect on me; I start sobbing from the opening credits through to the end. It definitely touches me in some bizarre way. I also love certain experimental films like Blow Job by Andy Warhol [1963] and Un Chant d'Amour [A Song of Love, 1950] be Jean Genet.

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