I was an immediate fan of filmmaker Can Evrenol once I saw his previous feature, Baskin, and I’ve been patiently waiting to see what kind of movie madness he would unleash on us next. Thankfully, the wait is nearly over, as his latest film, Housewife, comes home to DVD, VOD, and digital platforms tomorrow, courtesy of RLJE Films.
I recently caught up with Evrenol for a quick chat, and we discussed how he approached the story of Housewife, the similarities between this film and Baskin, and collaborating with the film’s star, Clémentine Poidatz, whose character Holly undergoes quite the transformation throughout the movie.
So great to speak with you today, Can, as I am a big fan of Baskin. I would love to hear about what your approach to this story was at the script level, the influences, and basically what Holly's journey is through this film, because it is a very transformative experience for her, especially once she connects with Bruce [David Sakurai].
Can Evrenol: Actually, I did this movie very much in the same mindset as Baskin. I approached it like I'm not ever gonna do a movie again, like this might be the only second chance I'll get. And I just wanted to throw my brain out in the same manner that I did with Baskin, and grab and hold on to these ideas in your mind, try to connect them, to make a coherent story between these blank ideas and scenes. First, I highlight the scenes I find and then I try to connect them and see what scenes fit and what scenes don't fit. Then it evolves into these characters and ideas.
But, initially, the idea was that making a feature version of a short film I did in 2010, which was called To My Mother and Father (you can find it online on Vimeo), and again, it's about some hidden identity in a family and this kid discovering his identity through something the parents do. I think that gave me this idea to explore this hereditary, nightmarish fate, if you will, and I was really surprised while we were shooting the movie by how many similarities there are between the two movies. I was fascinated by the fact that if you're checking the boxes, they both go down the line. Both are about these ideas of transformation and being worshipped, and those are ideas I love exploring.
You just brought up a really good point in terms of some of the similarities between these two films, because to me, it's the genre working on a different level, where it's taking stories to these existential planes, where you're sort of forced to confront some of these ideas in ways that you don't get just from a simple A-to-B narrative. There are certain things you confront in Baskin, there are certain things you confront in Housewife as well; are those the kinds of things that, as a film fan, tend to draw you in?
Can Evrenol: Yes, definitely. I'm very much attracted to this dream logic in films, especially David Lynch’s Lost Highway or Eraserhead. I love movies that have this nightmarish logic that is tangible, that hangs above the whole movie and the characters. Sometimes it comes down in the form of music, sometimes it comes down in the form of a weird, out-of-place character out of nowhere, sometimes it comes out like a deus ex machina at the end of the movie. And those kinds of things are very much what I enjoy watching myself as a movie fan. In some ways, it's like I'm trying to write these films for me, and in a way, I'm getting therapy for myself and I'm putting what's on my mind onto paper, and I'm trying to get to what all these things in my head truly mean. My art is my very deliberate way of working through all these things I love about movies, about horror, about comics, about all the art I consume in my life.
Can you talk about working with Clémentine? She's such a driving force in this movie, and her character goes on quite the journey throughout this story.
Can Evrenol: It was very difficult for me to make this character hard, but not broken. Whenever I was giving these brief instructions to Clémentine, I just didn’t want her character to shut herself down from the outside world. Very little of it had to do with gender, really. She's so traumatized that it could have been easy to do things that way, but that’s not what I wanted.
When I was with Clémentine, we had such a good chemistry when we were working together. She told me she loved the script when we first sat down, and I was like, "Is she acting? Is she such a good actor that she's acting so much that I can’t tell if she really loves this script or not?" But it turns out that she really loved it, and once we started shooting, it was so easy for me to work with her. A couple scenes, we didn't even talk much about the scenes before we shot, we talked generally about the movie and we talked generally about many other things, but she just really understood what I wanted to accomplish.
Throughout the film, Clémentine and David Sakurai were my main spirit warriors, if you will, more than my DOP [director of photography], more than my co-writer [Cem Özüduru], even. These two people were the main anchors of the production. They took very little rehearsing, but did so much talking and they did so much improvising as well. I was very happy with the results, too.
Her French accent was a problem for my producer, and I said ,"You know what, I don't care. We can dub her if you want after the fact, but I want to go with her. And during post-production, he ended up liking her voice as well. We didn't even want to include an explanation as to why this character has a French accent, since our movie is a tribute to ’70s and ’80s Euro-horror films, where everybody's dubbed and they're all speaking different dialects anyway. I think that added something to the vibe of the movie and the producers ended up agreeing with me.