Director Alex Ross Perry is explaining the concept of his new movie, Listen Up Philip to us. Even though Perry has lived in Brooklyn for five years and Manhattan for even longer, it will be the first time that he shoots a film completely in New York. Perry tells us, “Everyone I know who’s made the New York movie, has made them all kinds of romantic and magical and fun and creative and funny, but for someone who’s not from here, who came here for school like me and got thrown into everything I’ve been a part of here, I haven’t seen the movie that’s, like, it sucks here. A lot. Everyone you meet in every field you’re in, at least in creative endeavors and probably others that I don’t know about, is super competitive and super petty and every good thing you make happen for yourself comes with negativity and bad feelings from everyone else. And I’m not saying that to be negative and I’m not saying that to be funny I’m saying that because it’s genuinely true.”
Listen Up, Philip, Perry tells us, will say “A New York Movie” beneath the title. And, from the sound of it, that is exactly what it will be. Perry is the very young and very talented director of Impolex and The Color Wheel, which are both films that toy with and then reject the conventions of current independent filmmakers. The Color Wheel in particular seems to be laughing at everything an audience thinks it might know about what an indie film that centers around a road trip and a girls with bangs ought to be. And it does this brilliantly, in a completely new way that makes the film seem both fresh and familiar. Perry first came to New York to study film at NYU and from there he worked at the now-gone-but-never-ever-forgotten Kim’s Video, where he connected with some of the people, like Sean Price Williams and Kate Lyn Sheil, with whom he continues to collaborate today. Despite having a truly encyclopedic knowledge of film, when asked about who if anyone is a cinematic inspiration, Perry says, “The idea of an inspiration on each project doesn’t really exist. It’s more about what makes me excited in general. Some people might inspire me because they make good movies but not because I want to do what they’ve done. It’s like walking around New York and looking in people’s windows and wanting to do what they’re doing. That’s just mimicry, not inspiration. If you look at my movies, they seem really different. The lines—the dots—don’t connect so easily. But if you see everything all at once, it makes sense.” And, really, that is what Perry’s films, and kind of what everything, are about. Deconstruct things scene by scene, or moment by moment, and you’ll find long periods of excruciating discomfort or the agony of humiliation. Moments that are “deeply sickening but so unavoidable.” But step back a little bit and you see the arc, you see the movement forward. Life still might be awful. You might, as the main character in Perry’s next film does, “lose things because they become uninteresting to you.” But, actually, as Perry tells us, “It’s a comedy.” And it is. It is all a comedy. A truly smart, dark comedy. The very best kind.
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