Sundance 2011: Lucky McKee Responds to the Controversy Surrounding The Woman
Sure, we've all laughed at the videos of the ruckus that was raised by one disgruntled patron at the Sundance 2011 screening of Lucky McKee's The Woman, but what does the director himself think about it all? Read on for McKee's response to his irate hater.
Movieline's Jen Yamato went straight to the source for McKee’s version of what went down when the credits started rolling. Accused of misogyny and artlessness by his critics, McKee (May, The Woods, Red) mounted a convincing artist’s defense of his film, about a feral woman captured by a sadistic family man, as difficult by design. “The stuff is dark and hard,” he said, “but there’s a catharsis I get out of doing it, putting it out there and sharing it with people like, ‘Look, I see this stuff. Do you see it, too?’”
What follows is just a small excerpt of the Q&A between McKee and Yamato. For the rest be sure to hit up the above link.
Yamato: For the record, we have to ask: Was the infamous shouting angry man a plant?
McKee: No, absolutely not. If you had been there and seen my reaction to it, you’d see that it was genuine. For one thing I’ve been working on this for two years with a few collaborators. This stuff gets really personal after a while, then all of a sudden you’re in a situation where you have to share it with 500 people. It’s almost physically debilitating for me.
Yamato: And that’s just having your film premiere, not even with someone shouting at you.
McKee: Yeah, you put so much stuff in this and watch the audience, and obviously there are a lot of people walking out. And I knew that would happen, it’s happened with stuff I’ve made in the past, so I get it. Some stuff is a little too much for some people, and there’s stuff they don’t want to confront. I was sitting there watching the movie, and the ending is pretty intense, and I saw this girl trying to get out of her row but the seats are so tight in that theater that she was having trouble getting out. She was getting kind of panicky and she walked right by me and heard this terrible sound. I got up and walked back there and this girl had really taken a bad spill, I guess she just fainted. I was like, “Stop the movie, somebody help this girl!” Nobody seemed to know what to do, and they didn’t stop the film.
It was just so bizarre. But that was really concerning to me and it upset me. There are a lot of people who were like, this is great for publicity, this is great for the movie, but it’s like, you know, she could have really hurt herself! So that really bothered me.
Yamato: What happened next?
McKee: I went outside to have a cigarette and saw the emergency people showed up, and I told the volunteer to tell them where to go. I went back upstairs, and I was walking through the lobby and I saw this guy standing there with a lady and he was talking to himself. He was saying a lot of the things he ended up screaming in the theater, and on the video that ended up online. It looked like he was trying to work it up in his head; this is while the credits were running. As he was saying this stuff out loud — “This isn’t art, this is bullsh*t, what kind of a sick person would do something like that?” — I just happened to walk right by him. And I introduced the film, so he knew who I was. Three steps behind me after I walked in he came in and made this big scene. I just went to my chair and wanted to crawl inside myself. It was awful, you know?
Yamato: You must have known going in that this film could be very divisive…
McKee: Yeah, and I know how people react to stuff that goes that deep and doesn’t turn away when you think it should. It really is eliciting physical responses from people, which really kind of blows my mind. Just the right succession of pictures and sounds can do that to somebody, which says a lot about the art form.
Yamato: How do you respond to accusations that your film is anti-female due to the violence done to women, especially your lead character?
McKee: I’ve read one negative review by a fellow who was very upset with me, and very upset that I’m adding to all this negative stuff around women. But I adore women! Watch all of my films! It’s like Hitchcock’s movies always had scary mothers in them, but if you read about his life he loved his mother dearly. So having a scary mother in a film is what’s scary to him. Your mom is the person who’s supposed to protect you, and if that person’s bad, that’s scary. That was scary to him. And to me, women that can be put under the thumb of a man is scary, so I wanted to explore that. Sorry if it’s hurting people.
Yamato: If The Woman were to come with a warning label, what sort of warning would you give to folks like the man from the Q&A?
McKee: That’s a really good question. If you’re afraid of something being brutally honest about the awful things that happen in this world, then don’t watch it. It’s nothing if not honest, and it very much plays like a nightmare because nobody’s reacting to what’s happening in a correct way and you don’t know why that is until you’ve been through the film once. It’s designed to be watched multiple times, and its designed to be completely different the second, third, and fourth time you watch it. But if you can’t get past the first viewing… But if someone’s getting physically upset and it’s hurting them in some way, by all means don’t watch it, get out!
The Woman stars Angela Bettis, Pollyanna McIntosh, and Sean Bridgers.
For more information dig on the official website for The Woman.
The Woman is the last surviving member of a feral clan that has roamed the Northeast Coast for decades. When the last of her family is killed in a battle with the police, The Woman finds herself alone, severely wounded, and vulnerable. Unfortunately, she is now a far too easy prey for local hunter, successful country lawyer, and seriously disturbed family man Christopher Cleek. With his twisted set of ideals, Cleek decides to embark upon a deranged project - to capture her and "break" The Woman - a decision that will soon threaten the lives of Cleek, his family, and The Woman.
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