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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



RESTLESS, with Gus Van Sant!



SUMMARY: “The story of a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII”.

During the press conference at Cannes I sat next to actor Henry Hopper’s mother and she said, ‘that’s my son!’ with pride and a twinkle in her eye. Many say that RESTLESS (2011) is a tribute to French cinema. It may even hint to a touch magical realism meets Woody Allen (just read this sweet summary! lol!). But, this being a Gus Van Sant film I say this is Van Sant at his best dialectic mixing gritty realism style with a taste for the fantastic, leaving the viewer with a sense of wonder over the perplexing paradox of human nature.

Below are dialogues taken from the press conference at 64th Cannes Film Festival for the film RESTLESS which was featured out of competition in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category. Actress/producer Bryce Dallas Howard, writer Jason Lew, actress Mia Wasikowska, actor Henry Hopper (Dennis Hopper's son in his film debut) and director Gus Van Sant all answered questions to eager international Cannes press.


QUESTION: To Bryce Dallas Howard…How did the film get started? And to Henry, what made you finally decide to begin your acting career with full focus?

BRYCE: I simply brought Gus the script. The project was born at NYU. Plus, I liked the story. It was about a girl who was dying but could appreciate simple moments in life.

HENRY: I have always wanted to act. I have a love for art and film and resisted it for a while. I resisted it because it was a struggle and it's an intense thing to do,

JASON: It’s three different stories about being in love with death with characters that are obsessed with war. I found story compelling and wanted to put them together.

QUESTION: How do you feel to have your film in ‘Un Certain Regard’?

GUS: It's great to have a place in any section at Cannes. I think the press elevates it to this aesthetic sort to be able to compete like a gymnast would but with a film and it's great to. Not be in the middle of that by being in ‘Un Certain Regard’.

QUESTION: Your film looks like a love gesture for French cinema reminiscent of the classic French films like RESTELSS and BREATHLESS. Was this a payment of respect you knew about beforehand or did you discover while making it?

GUS: The homage to French cinema you refer to, I only discovered when the film was finished. Jason was my influence, but I didn't see it because I was focusing on a story that had an American writer but I realized we were making a singular love story that resembles amazing French films.

JASON: It wasn’t so much that it was an homage to French cinema more than it was more about what that whole movement galvanized. We started it in the real cinema.

QUESTION: This question is for Bryce. In changing roles from actress to producer of this film, what did you learn about spending other people's money?

BRYCE: Well, it was a great lesson I learned. It's a crucial at this time to be fiscally responsible and we have a lot to learn. Plus, I knew that making movie with Gus would be a great experience because he makes beautiful movies that touch a lot of people.

GUS: The most classic thing about RESTLESS is that while it’s about dialogue I tried to push dialogue out of the film and the way dialogue is treated to advance the narrative. There was a listless and playfulness of dialogue in the film.

QUESTION: Do you feel that in the film for the characters that being close to death they feel more alive?

GUS: One thing I've known about this situation is about someone who is facing a catastrophe there is a kind of strange jolliness in facing death and often a young person of about 12-14 years old expressed a negation of what death actually is. They are so young that there is little to no meditation on death so a lot of times those young people are just looking to continue with their life, but they run into problems with family members who have lots of grief. In the hospital, family visits can be sometimes only 30 minutes. When Annabel talks about her sister they don't want to talk about time and death so Annabel finds someone outside of the hospital to become their closest friend. So, she meets a eunuch and they become friends.

JASON: I spent a lot of time at funerals and had an interesting relationship to death. It's never the person who is sick to make peace with it. It's the family who can't deal with it. So, out of necessity, they find someone on the outside that is removed from the situation to help them through it.

QUESTION: Why did you choose to direct this positive film after so many negative films?

GUS: I think a film like GERRY (2002) or ELEPHANT (2003) were open questions of things I'd read in news. GERRY was court case about why this guy did what he did and my questions surrounding the situation like…Was it delusional, etc.? So, with GERRY it was an investigation film whereas ELEPHANT was an investigation as to why students did or didn't lash out and kill each other. And in LAST DAYS (2005), I wanted to explore the questions surrounding Kurt Cobain such as ‘Where was he the last days of his life? What was he thinking? What led him to kill himself?’ Etc. A lot has been written about Curt Cobain and Osama Bin Laden but we don’t know what really happened. I like to ask those questions and try to give possible answers. Can a dramatic question be turned into entertainment or is it entertainment when you’re investigating story? And like death itself it's not an investigation into a journalistic story, it’s an alive story, which continues to grow outside the film and long after. In RESTLESS, the film itself has a death as it's theme and raises the question of death, but it's not about the story it's about the people in it…But to answer your question of this being a positive film when I normally focus on more negative subjects. Well, GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997) was positive in my mind. I've always had a connection with different types of stories. I've done other. It's just a wing of myself.

QUESTION: In movie THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010), we are dealing with the changes of communication and social networking and how we express ourselves to one another today and yet in RESTLESS, the only form of communication expressing real emotion is that of the written letter which is of love and peace written in ink, which now is so outdated a communication today. Was that a choice?

JASON: Yes, that was a choice. With the handwritten letter, I wanted it to feel timeless. And the characters in this film are more timeless to me. They didn't seem to be kids who were texting. That just didn't feel right. I think it spoke to their uniqueness and these irreverent individuals.


Amen! the handwritten word, indeed a dying art. Even print has gone digital and books have become outdated. But still the eternal themes of storytelling remain: love, war, life and death… and all of it can be found in Gus Van Sant’s latest film, a tribute, RESTLESS (2011).

Written by, Vanessa McMahon on May 20, 2011


Read more about the film on the official site:


photos of RESTLESS (2011) cast at press conference, Cannes. 

Restless (2011)



Henry Hopper in RESTLESS! 


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