Ricky D’Ambrose’s most recent short film, Six Cents in the Pocket, was made as a technical exercise: an attempt to work out some ideas about composition and editing, and to practice working out a distinct aesthetic on a shoestring budget. It ended up screening at last fall’s New York Film Festival, and was called “revelatory” by the New Yorker’s Richard Brody.
The fourteen-minute film nominally concerns a house-sitter’s lonely errands, but consists largely of wild urban sound and baroque chamber music over insert close-ups of coffee being poured, letters being held open and read, and money changing hands—critics have invoked the radical simplicity of Robert Bresson’s films, pure distillations of sound and image rebuilt into philosophical visions. It’s also a very New York story, dwindling down into a particular type of urban loneliness and detachment, before a glorious climactic sequence, a “long walk” through familiar Brooklyn streets, rendered wintry and depopulated in static images, eloquent in their emptiness. While most low-budget filmmaking today is defined by chance and chaos, quotation and improvisation, D’Ambrose’s shorts aspire to a classical formal rigor in the sense of self-denial and spiritual transcendence.
Where do you live and how old are you? Prospect Heights. 29.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened? It’s difficult to say. But sometime as child (I think as a nine-year-old), I was in front of the television when Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining showed up in an otherwise unremarkable natural-disaster movie—this was 1996 or 1997. The scene was set at a drive-in, and it opened with a downward camera tilt, from the sky to the movie screen, and suddenly Kubrick’s image was there: the well-known image, of twin girls in matching dresses at the end of a yellow-and-blue floral hallway, lit by overhead bulbs. Maybe the Penderecki piece on the soundtrack had something to do with it, because I doubt I’d seen such a bright image—with its clear, plunging space—treated so forbiddingly, with music that seemed so unusual. I knew nothing about The Shining or about Stanley Kubrick, but my film education—or what passed for a film education—started then, I think, with a few seconds in the middle of a small, abysmal Hollywood movie.
Tell us about your next film. I’ve finished a new short, called Spiral Jetty, about a young archivist hired by a celebrated New York intellectual to whitewash her late psychologist father’s reputation. But the next film, An Appearance, will be a feature, based on something I’ve been writing and re-writing since 2011, and it will be shot in the spring.
To learn about more sub-30 standouts, visit this year’s list of 30 Under 30.