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Alfred Molina and Ira Sachs bring real life to the big screen in 'Love is Strange'
Movies rarely intersect with real life. Usually, flights of fancy, convolutions and other heightened dramatic moments abound, reminding us that we're engaged in an escapist universe.
The films of Ira Sachs ("Keep the Lights On") stand against that notion.
The New York writer-director's latest, "Love is Strange," stars Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a long-term couple facing a crisis after they get married and Molina's George loses his job at a Catholic school.
The film, opening Friday, unfolds in small, subtle moments that collectively comprise what Sachs calls "a multigenerational epic story but told in a cramped, tiny New York apartment."
The movie follows George and Lithgow's Ben as they are faced with the classic New York struggle of finding a suitable new pad once George's firing forces them to downsize.
The filmmaker is inspired by Woody Allen's classic Gotham pictures but "we were telling the story of a very different New York, a New York where money is really always a question, and that stability is based somewhat on economics and laws and these things that I think many people can relate to," Sachs says.
The realistic approach extends to Sachs' treatment of the film's central, loving relationship and their connection with characters played by a tight-knit ensemble including Marisa Tomei and Charlie Tahan. They don't always say or do the right thing and sometimes the precise words just aren't there.
"It's a testament to the quality of the writing and the understanding of the writers Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias and also with Ira's direction, they understand that this is what life really does look like in real life, in our own lives, at moments of great crisis or great intensity or great emotion. We find ourselves saying things like, 'I don't know what to say,' or 'I can't find the words,' or 'I'm speechless," Molina says.
The film is, of course, by a gay filmmaker and about a gay couple and as such will be automatically considered in terms of where it fits along that cinematic spectrum as well as for its portrayal of same-sex marriage. Molina cautions against simplifying it, though.
"I think we've certainly made a little contribution to the cultural discussion that's going on right now," he says. "It was worth doing just for that. But I think ultimately the film isn't a polemic; it's not a political movie in that sense. It's certainly a film that exists in a very specific cultural moment and, as I said, it's making its contribution to the debate. But I don't think it's a political movie. I think it's a movie about love and the strength of love and the endurance of love and I think that's a very universal theme."
Depictions of everyday minutiae, entire scenes comprised of ordinary moments, take on significant emotional resonance in Sachs' vision.
"One of my goals and what I attempt to achieve in cinema is to make the ordinary extraordinary," Sachs adds. "The film is called 'Love is Strange' and to me that's because love is very magical and very, very, very unique for each of us. We experience it as if we are always the center of our stories and in doing that I think you want to talk about the everyday ways in which intimacy is played out."