The Married Couple Behind the Dreamy Feminist Action Movie ‘Mayday’

When cinematographer Sam Levy and now-married writer and director Karen Cinorre, in her forties, first met in a film class as undergraduates at Brown, she was taken aback by the fact that she had “read all these interesting texts about him.” magic, environments and optical tricks you can play with the camera,” he says. “He was very hardworking and disciplined about it, and I loved that side of him.”

“I was a really curious seeker,” confirms Cinorre, who first studied semiotics, physics, and dance, but eventually became interested in cinema. “I realized,” he says, “that there are so many things I love about the filmmaking palette – science, optics, motion, sound,” and these together can create an alchemy of their own. Not that he actively considers all these elements as he goes. “For me, just do it—I’m almost subconsciously trying to mean something,” she says. “It’s like having a divination stick, looking for a way to express what you’re feeling.”

She says Levy, who appeared before the camera in high school, had a different and more conscious approach – “she strips the film down to its most fundamental and strong parts” – something that has been obvious and fascinating to her from the beginning. The couple were in touch after the first lesson taught by avant-garde filmmaker and artist Leslie Thornton, and their romance blossomed soon after they graduated and moved to New York. They got married in 2000, just starting to build their own careers. Cinorre was created and produced for Thornton; multimedia installations produced and curated; films created for opera productions; and especially worked as a set decorator and stylist for Isabella Rossellini’s experimental pornShort film series (2008) in which Cinorre also appears as a snail in love. He also wrote and directed his own short films. One of them, “smoke cloud(2010) centers on a young boy lost in a sandstorm and rescued by an ostrich, torn between the human and animal realms. “My artistic inclinations tend towards mysterious things – I’m interested in the land of the sublime,” she says.

At the same time, Levy was making a name for himself. He has shot music videos for Beck and Vampire Weekend and is a frequent collaborator of Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, and Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” (2012), shot entirely in black and white and “when we were young” (2015) and later for Gerwig’s Oscar-winning filmladybird(2017). His simple, naturalistic approach belies the meticulous attention to detail that gives the films he works on a rich, lived-in aesthetic. Levy also shot nearly all of Cinorre’s shorts, and the couple occasionally appeared on set for other productions (as in “Green Porn”). “We learned that we really like being together on set, spending 15 hours a day doing things together,” Levy says. “When I bought a property for someone else and left the house, it reinforced the idea that we had to do it together.”

In 2018, after Cinorre’s idea had been circulating for over a decade – “Sam who saw the script was the one to point out that it should be a feature,” says Cinorre. their chance. The story of what will become “Mayday,” starring Grace Van Patten, Mia Goth, Havana Rose Liu, and Juliette Lewis, and released in theaters Friday and on all major video-on-demand platforms, follows Ana (Van Patten). on a young waitress who moves to a lush and sparsely populated island in a dreamy other world. A war ensues, but a group of young women led by the seemingly cold-blooded Marsha (Goth) take shelter. Ana soon learns that the women are determined to take revenge on all the men they have brought to their death, often by imitating distressed damsels through radio broadcasts. But over time, her feminist fantasy of revenge leads to something else as Ana begins to see herself and her previous life in a different light.

Cinorre cites “Alice in Wonderland” (1865), “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) and the ancient legend of sirens as reference points for the story, which “feels a bit like a fugue”. To understand the overall aesthetic of the film, which has an appropriately hazy, hypnotic quality, the couple sought visual inspiration together. They went to live dance performances to help achieve a sense of grace and kineticity in the film, including those performed by the Belgian band Rosas and the Israeli company Batsheva. soldiers). The couple also browsed the shelves at Dashwood Books in Manhattan, looking for images of women in action and hard to find. Still, “many Japanese photographers, rinko kawauchi, talked to us — something about mystery and color,” says Levy, who says the purpose for “Mayday” is to “defy gravity.”

“It’s a big movie for a first feature film — it took a lot of muscle to get off the ground, and it was reassuring to have someone so encouraging,” Cinorre said of working with Levy, which turned out to be just as natural as both. expected. “What I always try to develop with a director is this shorthand for communication and visual language,” Levy says. “In a way, you have to be the same person – your brains must mingle and you have to complete each other’s sentences.” It’s something she and Cinorre could already do, but the two are careful to maintain at least some boundaries between work and life. “We take what we do so seriously that we shouldn’t take it. ourselves very serious,” Levy says. “We’re playful and silly and ridiculous to each other so we can bring that energy to the set, which makes the filmmaking process a real joy.”

Hair by Corey Tuttle for Special Artists. Makeup by Pearl Xu

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