INTERVIEW: Josh Mond, writer/director of “James White”

9 12 2015

Back at it again! I had the really awesome chance to interview Josh Mond, the writer/director of “James White,” and the big conversation is over at Movie Mezzanine. But not all our talk made the final published interview, so for those that are curious, I’ve included two more questions here that Mond answered.

But what neither this post nor the full interview includes are the periods before and after our “official” conversation, so to speak. Right when I got on the phone with Mond, he said had just finished watching the Kurt Cobain documentary Soaked in Bleach before our phone call. (Apparently, someone around his office had told him, “I don’t know why you just watched that before doing an interview,” just prior.) We talked about documentaries for a little while before I got the official questioning underway, and then returned to it afterwards.

Unlike many interview subjects, rushing out after the final question to get to their next stop on the media tour, Mond stayed on the line for a full ten minutes to keep chatting about movies. Like any other cinephile, he is rapidly trying to work through the best films from 2015 during the year-end rush. Mond’s favorite to date is “Inside Out,” though he is still filling some gaps in his viewing. (We also discussed “Amy” and “Cartel Land” among others  – I put in a good word for “Mistress America.”)

But anyways, on to an excerpt from our conversation. This came from the tail end when he got reflective on the process of releasing the film.

Josh Mond directing James White

MOVIE MEZZANINE

You’re now at the tail end taking James White around the world. Has there been anything surprising to you about the journey of putting this personal story out there for audiences to interact with?

JOSH MOND

No matter the difference in cultures and how people have been responding around the world – in America after Sundance it was super vocal and great, other countries intellectualized – there’s always been one person at the very least who shares their story with me about what they’re going through or what they’ve been through [at the Q&A or after].

It’s continuing a dialogue, and the fact that it’s connecting so much that people feel okay doing that is … you know, I made this movie to connect. It’s a very hard thing to talk about, and it’s been awesome in that way to have a real connection with human beings all around the world.

MOVIE MEZZANINE

Is it going to be weird to move onto another project and have James White on the backburner?

JOSH MOND

It’s going to be extremely weird, but what’s really cool I learned – well, I’m still learning – a lot about what it is that I like. What makes me feel connected in what I want to say or be involved in.

I’m very lucky, though, because the day after one of the last things I had to do for James it was announced that Antonio’s new film [Christine] and then this other film we mentored and executive produced [Nicolas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother] both got into Sundance. It’s cool, though, like there’s more of us, we’re a family, and we’ve got other projects going on – I have other things to put my energy and the things I’ve learned into.

But the short answer is yes, it’s a little weird.

Christopher Abbott as James White

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REVIEW: James White

7 12 2015

James WhiteExpressive close-up shots are a crucial building block of cinema, and they are especially foundational element for films that hope to elicit identification and empathy with the characters on screen. Perhaps nowhere is that more clear than “James White,” the feature directing and writing debut of Josh Mond.

Mond trains director of photography Mátyás Erdély to stay tightly fixated on the face of Christopher Abbott’s titular character as he goes through the ringer of grief. This young man, barely capable of taking care of himself, must see his widowed mother (Cynthia Nixon) through the deterioration of her health in the wake of terminal cancer. Think Michael Haneke’s “Amour” by way of Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona.”

The film is largely inspired by the filmmaker’s own experience of losing his mother, and the emotional authenticity becomes palpable both in Abbott’s performance and the audiovisual schema Mond devises. Erdély’s roving, personal camera – a veritable ballet as it follows James’ erratic, explosive motion – works wonderfully in tandem with a spellbinding score by Scott Mescudi. (Yes, that’s Kid Cudi.)

Abbott pulls off a rare combination: volatility and vulnerability. James flirts with disaster and near complete collapse in practically every scene, which proves difficult and stomach-churning to watch unfold. But in spite of his poor decision making, he still manages to inspire intense feelings of identification and support. We root not for the circumstances, terrible as they are, to change. We root for him to rise to the occasion, to summon the strength of character Abbott shows us in a small glance or a gentle word.

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