Anomaly 2021 Film Festival Kicks Off with Sweet and Weird ‘Strawberry Mansion’ | Features of the film
In the independent film “Strawberry Mansion”, we are in 2035, and we have to pay taxes on our dreams. The film follows a world-weary tax collector, James Preble (Kentucker Audley, also co-director), who embarks on an unexpected adventure when he audits the dreams of a strange old woman who evades tax for years.
The resulting visual treat – “Inception” by Wes Anderson – opens Anomaly: The Rochester Genre Film Festival, in its third year, on Thursday, November 4. The festival ends on Sunday November 7.
CITY spoke with co-director Albert Birney about the film’s origins in Rochester, its cinematic inspirations and the magic of VHS tapes. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CITY: Where did the idea for “Strawberry Mansion” come from?
Albert Birney: The initial idea came to me 14 years ago. I was living in Rochester at the time, I was working at the Dryden Theater. I watched movies every night while working there and got ideas as I watched them. The image came to me of a pink house in a green field and a person walking towards it with a hat and a towel. I saw it very clearly in my head. And then a few days later another image came up of what was inside the house, and it was just floor to ceiling VHS tapes, wall to wall. He was trying to figure out how to make a story that would bring these images to life.
Did you film it during the pandemic?
We were really lucky, we filmed it right before. I remember back in December 2019, when we did our last week and a half of filming, you could hear the reports on this virus. It was that very disturbing feeling, and I’m so grateful that we were able to film before it all ended for a year.
Can you describe the idea behind this colorful, retro-futuristic production design, and the old technology – the VHS tapes – that you included in the movie?
When you build a world like we were, you can really put whatever you want into it. For example, if Preble drives a car, let’s make it a car that we would like to see aesthetically in a movie. So we picked a 1967 Corvair. Modern clothes don’t come off the screen like a 1940s costume. Same with VHS tapes – the kind of retro analog technology is so beautiful to me. A VHS tape is like a box that you can unscrew and open, and it feels like it contains magic. We were like, “Let’s put everything we love in this movie, even if it’s going to mix different decades and genres. If we mix it all together, it creates the world of the film. “
Another retro element is the musical score. How do you think this influences the film?
Dan Deacon is such a talented musician, and we gave him carte blanche. We sent him some references of music from films that we liked, and a lot of them were from the 1980s, fantasy, adventure films, that had very synthesized scores. I think we were on the same page looking at these synth sounds, but he also brought in a lot of organic sounding instruments, violin and harp.
What previous films have inspired the look and story of “Strawberry Mansion”?
Kentucker and I talked about the movies we grew up watching, like “Neverending Story” and “Labyrinth,” those movies that are from a kid’s point of view, and they take these epic journeys with weird characters around every turn. . It’s like we’re trying to make a movie that makes us feel like adults like we did when we were kids, movies where you get lost for 90 minutes and get transported to another place. We wanted to step into abstraction and give people a release from the weird and troubled times we live in.
The film suggests that dreams are a place where unconscious messages and repressed emotions pass. After watching the film, what unconscious messages came to you that you didn’t even try to convey?
Right now, I may still be too close to him to see him clearly. The lesson that I forget and always relearn is this: you always have a sense of what the movie will be like, then you put it all together, and it will be something different. It’s a combination of knowing what you want and being very sure and doing all that planning, but also throwing it all out the window. The tight and the loose.
Anomaly – The Rochester Genre Film Festival presents “Strawberry Mansion” on Thursday, November 4 at 6:30 pm at Little Theater 1, 240 East Avenue. A question-and-answer session with film co-writer / co-director Albert Birney follows the screening. $ 12 general admission, $ 10 students and seniors. $ 85 for a full festival pass. Proof of vaccination, passport photo and mask required. 585-258-0400. anomaliefilmfest.com.
Madelyn Geyer and Ellen Mintzer are members of the 2021-21 cohort of the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Comments on this article can be directed to [email protected]