Press Kit - Anna Biller Productions

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Press Kit - Anna Biller Productions
VIVA
A film by Anna Biller
A suburban housewife in 1972 goes out to find herself in the middle of the
Playboy-era sexual revolution, in a tribute to vintage sexploitation films.
VIVA
A film by Anna Biller
35mm, color, 1:85, 120 minutes, 2007
Film Information
Projection format: 35mm, 1:85
Sound: Dolby Digital (SRD)
Key Personnel
Director, Producer, Writer, Editor, Production and Costume Designer: Anna Biller
Co-Producer: Jared Sanford
Cinematographer: C. Thomas Lewis
Sound: Karl and Iris Lohninger
Principal Cast
Anna Biller…Barbi
Jared Sanford…Mark
Bridget Brno…Sheila
Chad England…Rick
Marcus DeAnda…Clyde
John Klemantaski…Arthur
Barry Morse…Sherman
Paolo Davanza…Elmer
Cole Chipman…Reeves
Robbin Ryan…Agnes
Carole Balkan…Mrs. James
Andrea Lain...Kelly
Johnny Holiday…Mr. Carlisle
Veronica Alicino…Miss Marker
Sam Bologna…Mr. Humphrey
Barry O'Rourke...Chris
Mark Wood…Doctor Collins
Contact
Anna Biller Productions
2216 Nella Vista Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Email: [email protected]
50 Word Synopsis
A suburban housewife in 1972 is abandoned by her husband, and goes out to find herself in
the middle of the swinging Playboy-era sexual revolution. Looking for love and adventure,
she explores nudist colonies, orgies, modeling, prostitution, bisexuality, and bohemia, in a
color-soaked tribute to vintage sexploitation films.
Synopsis
VIVA is about a bored housewife in 1972 who gets sucked into the sexual revolution.
Abandoned by her husband, Barbi is dragged into trouble by her girlfriend, who spouts
women's lib as she gets Barbi to discard her bra and go out on the town. Barbi
becomes a Red Riding Hood in a sea of wolves, and quickly learns a lot more than she
wanted to about nudist camps, the hippie scene, orgies, bisexuality, sadism, drugs, and
bohemia. Saturated to the hilt with vibrant color and exquisite period detail, and full of
the kind of innocent nude romps you see before censorship codes lifted, VIVA looks
like a lost film from the late '60s, and is a tribute to the best of exploitation cinema,
from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Suburban Roulette to Radley Metzger’s Camille 2000.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Startlingly pitch-perfect…visual detail is extraordinarily vivid. –Manohla
Dargis
VARIETY
All the sexual revolution mischief 1972 Los Angeles has to offer…
production design is a triumph…drop-dead costumes…cinematography
heightens color to an eye-popping degree. –Dennis Harvey
LOS ANGELES TIMES
A meticulously designed re-imagining of "classy"-minded '70's-era soft
porn…pops with parodic joy. --Robert Abele
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Fetishistically spot-on…hilarious…touched with wonder…a truly sexy
movie. –Owen Gleiberman
THE VILLAGE VOICE
Viva does for late-'60s/early-'70s sexploitation what Far From Heaven did for
Douglas Sirk. Guaranteed to delight erotica fetishists and porn semioticians
alike. –Vadim Rizov
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Biller is bringing kinky back in a way that few women directors have ever
dared.—Delfin Vigil
INDIEWIRE
A pitch perfect resurrection of the Valley of the Dolls days of cinema.
–Michael Lerman
THE ONION A.V. CLUB
One of the rare skin flicks worth watching for a full two hours. –Noel Murray
GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE
[Anna Biller is] one of the most strikingly individual talents to emerge in the
realm of art cinema in recent years. –Jim Healy
Director’s Statement
In the film VIVA, I am reworking old sexploitation movies from the ‘60s and
early ‘70s, from a woman's point of view. Vintage sexploitation films interest
me because they revolve around fantasies of a woman's power over the
male, her beauty, her desirability, her sex appeal. The idea was to make a
movie that seems like a sexploitation movie, and that offers up all the
spectacle and lurid promise of that genre, while at the same time talking
about what women really go through, their fantasies and sexual trials.
To create a distinctive look for VIVA, I looked through a bunch of decorating
books and magazines, some vintage Playboy magazines, and some late 60's
films. I would tear out magazine pages, absorb the atmosphere, daydream,
and then write scenes based on what I imagined was going on in the different
ads and cartoons, or design sets based on the weird rooms or movie scenes
I saw. It’s a very psychedelic and colorful film, but that’s the way the ‘70s
looked, even in suburbia. All that acid green and yellow, all that orange,
brown, blue, purple, and red.
I spent months making costumes, collecting objects from thrift stores, doing
macramé. I made the film much like a gallery artist makes work, one
installation at a time. We had 34 sets and I wore 34 costumes in the film,
plus we had about 150 actors, all of whom had to be costumed and wigged,
not to mention all the upholstery, drapes, paintings. But it was possible
because of spending a couple of years doing one scene at a time, on
weekends spread far apart.
The most difficult thing about doing this film was directing while acting halfdressed and...IN THE NUDE! I was copying the sexploitation genre, so I felt I
had to do the nudity, especially since my co-star opted out of it. I've always
been terrified of nudity, so it was good therapy to get over the trauma and
just do it. My shyness comes through in the film, making me seem like a
victim, although I am in control as the director. So there’s this weird split.
It’s very far-out.
Because my impressions of that time are from early childhood, VIVA has a
strange innocence, like a child’s view of a grown-up sex world. But that also
makes it very unhinged and emotionally intense, much like the actual films
from the time, where these types of images were new, fresh, and taboo. I
see VIVA as totally original, but also as part of a new wave of sexually
challenging and disturbing films that have recently gained notoriety in the
independent film world, including the smart and daring films of Ms. Catherine
Breillat.
LOS ANGELES TIMES INTERVIEW
Anna Biller brings free sex back to a sex-free nation
The no-budget L.A. filmmaker on movie gender politics, the struggle for good lighting and
her retro-risqué sex romp "Viva."
Anna Biller's first feature-length film "Viva," an eerily authentic recreation of early 1970s
soft-core sex comedies, opened Friday at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. But
Biller has been making highly mannered, beautifully realized short movies for more than
ten years. All of them have worked a rich vein of high-to-campy style, meticulous
production value, affectionate but not gentle homage, self-aware narcissism, non-political
feminism and overheated performances. In the process she's created a body of work that
actually deserves that much-abused descriptor "unique" without quite achieving the status
of a cult favorite.
Biller's feature debut, which even with cost overruns and a much-delayed four-year
production process still ended up costing only $1 million, may change that. Reactions have
ranged from enthusiastic raves to bemused pans — and the difference between the two is
not always clear. One review in The Times praised "Viva" as a movie that "pops with
parodic joy [and] converts an earlier male generation's notion of swinger gratification into
the pitfalls for females of the unfulfilled tease" while another disdained its "uneasy balance
between camp and spoof." That fits the ambiguity Biller courts in her work.
Biller spoke with Opinion web editor Tim Cavanaugh.
Opinion L.A.: "Viva" and the new TV show "Swingtown" are both
positioned as cutting-edge explorations of sexuality, yet both cover
material from more than 30 years ago. Why is it necessary to reach
back nearly four decades to find that kind of action? What caused
artists and audiences to lose interest in sexuality in non-porn movies?
Anna Biller: I think sex in the arts has always been associated with progress on some
level, by the lifting of censorship laws and the granting of new freedoms. But this can shift
when too much sex is thrown at people with too low an artistic value. This happened
during pre-code Hollywood, and again during the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s. I
think the sexual revolution disgusted many people, and many are still licking their wounds
from the excesses of it and trying to live an asexual existence, at least in terms of the
media they consume.
The sexual revolution was a special time, when people really did believe in sex as a radical,
anti-establishment force. Sex became a political expression, the same as being anti-war or
vegetarian. It was a way of rejecting the values of the parents and finding new ways to
interact in the world, and many people thought it was a sign of progress and modernity.
But sexual predators took advantage of women's sudden openness and lack of cultural
protections, and a lot of bad things happened. This is partly what my film "Viva" is about.
The other thing that happened was, as soon as hardcore films hit the market, the softcore
producers all wanted to jump on the bandwagon and make only hardcore. They thought
softcore was now old-fashioned and no one would go to see it anymore (sort of like
when the "talkies" took over from the silent pictures). These films began to cater to a
specialty customer, who didn't care about acting, directing, script, sets, costumes,
cinematography, who didn't care about anything at all except getting turned on. So the
films lost their artistic value, which made them laughable and shameful to the wider public.
Now we still live in the shadow of those times, which is why it's very difficult to make a
"sexy" movie without people thinking you're doing something low. Although it's true that
many of those sexploitation films were trash, a lot of those films were actually quite
beautiful. They were good films and really ground-breaking in terms of how they showed
human sexual relations, often with great maturity and insight. Most people who say I'm
trying to imitate a "bad genre" haven't actually seen the films. Others, who have seen the
films, sometimes complain that my movie isn't "sleazy enough." None of these people
understand that I'm actually trying to make a serious film, not a parody or piece of camp.
Sexuality is not a joke, the '70s were not a joke. It's that lingering feeling of
embarrassment about sex, and the '70s as the time of excess in sex and in visual taste,
that makes people shudder to this day. I try to represent all of that excess; it's what
makes "Viva" so visceral.
Opinion L.A.: So "Speed Racer" died in a multicolored swirl of hatred;
"Viva" has taken some lumps for being too campy; and to this day there
are people who don't get the late Russ Meyer. Why are audiences so hung
up on naturalism, so eager to accept the most shopworn clichés as long
as they're delivered with "realism," and so resistant to any heightened
sense of fun? Are you tempted to make a naturalistic picture just to
prove that you can make a "regular" movie?
Anna Biller: Oh yes, I think film is always a dialogue between the filmmaker and the
public, and I was disappointed that people placed so much emphasis on my design and the
fact that my film was stylized. So I am really tempted to try and do naturalism just to be
more in synch with the world. I'm not trying to be "weird" on purpose; it's just that I take
from the whole history of film when I work, and not just the last thirty years.
I really can't understand this obsession with naturalism as the only virtuous style,
especially as it seems that what passes now for realism is often just laziness and lack of
vision on the part of writers and directors. Nothing is really natural when you put it to
film; everything has a style, and within "naturalism" there are also hundreds of styles.
Cassavetes was a great talent, Robert Altman's films are marvelous; but Michael Powell
and Jacques Démy were also geniuses.
People now go back to earlier eras and laud actors that they consider were breaking out
of the fake acting styles they laugh at today. But the fact is that most actors, the good
ones, from the past were very natural, more so than almost any actor today. And there
was tremendous skill in recreating a time period, a feeling of character and of experience,
that hardly my movie can capture anymore. So why this persistent myth that we've
progressed in culture as far as movies go?
The shift from the studio to location was undoubtedly exciting, and I can feel the
excitement when I watch those movies. Sets replaced by action. The hero replaced by the
anti-hero. But another shift happened, and that's the shift from a female/gay male-centered
world of glamour and interiors to a world of masculine austerity and exteriors! So the
masculine principle took over in film at about the same time that the male became superdominant in general during the sexual revolution. That's one thing I like to address in my
movies. But next time I want to play more by the masculine rules of style and form, to see
what will happen.
Opinion L.A.: You've spoken out somewhat about the gender politics of
the film festival circuit. It seems like you could make a movie about a
bunch of South Philly hoodlums beating and shooting people and stand
a good chance of getting it called a serious art-house picture. But if you
make a movie about a woman exploring the varieties of romantic
experience, the haters will call it fluff. Why are male pathologies valued
so much more highly than female sensibilities?
Anna Biller: I think I just addressed this a bit. The critics have somehow glommed on
to a male sensibility as being superior. This happened sometime in the 1960s and it's still
going. (I think it happened maybe even earlier, with the great Italian post-war films,
actually). You had all these really ground-breaking directors doing really male-centered
work that everyone adored, like Antonioni or Godard, and there was a kind of stylistic
and existential nihilism that became associated with greater honesty and artistic
innovation. I like these films too, and I agree with the assessment of their importance in
culture and to audiences, but I think it's a bit extreme to have that type of film be the only
thing people are allowed to do and be taken seriously.
So, movies about women and their lives started to become sort of second-rate, like bad
Hollywood melodramas or soaps, stuff that any hack could make. What's weird though is
that all of these years later people still have those emotional reactions to an environment
that no longer exists. I remember people griping and moaning about the overwrought
1950s Technicolor melodramas that were oppressing them, when I was in school. And I
was thinking, I'm not oppressed by that, I'm oppressed by all of these bratty auteurs
thinking they're geniuses just because they shot something without a script!
Opinion L.A.: Cinematographers all over the land conspire to put too
little light on their subjects, and thus it has been decades since we've
seen a movie with the bright, spare, clean, classic-color images you
achieved in Viva and in your short films. Even a successful director like
Todd Haynes, making a picture ("Far From Heaven") that was consciously
designed to reproduce that exact look, failed to stop the
cinematographers in their unhallowed work of light-sucking, artmurdering destruction. Steven Spielberg himself has complained in an
interview that he can't get his DPs to give him enough light. So how did
you, with no budget and no clout, make the magic happen?
Anna Biller: I'm very persistent. I was originally a visual artist, a painter, so I try to
make my films look as fresh as paint. You need quite a bit of light to make colors pop.
When I went to CalArts we had access to these giant sound stages with free big, oldfashioned tungsten lights, and nobody was interested in them! I thought, this is my chance!
So I checked out the studios and the lights as much as possible, and shot on film. I made
many mistakes at first, with letting DPs run things against my better judgment, then I
stopped allowing that and got really tough. So mostly I've had a lot of experience, starting
with Super 8mm, then on to 16mm and then 35mm. I've always done it wrong before
doing it right, but I will never again trust a DP to light it the way he wants, because what
I'm doing is so against how they've been trained. I fired two DPs on "Viva" before calling a
guy I used to work with in school, and he was very easy to work with.
But also, if you want that Technicolor look a lot of it is art direction. They used tons of
color on their sets in those old movies. They were very controlled and designed, and they
didn't allow too many colors so that the frame wouldn't get cluttered. Basically, with the
old black and white films they painted with light, and with the color films they painted with
color. Eisenstein talks about this, about how you can't let color into a film unless you
make the color a character in the movie. That's the way I've always worked with color.
Color has such strong symbolic properties, and is a powerful tool for creating mood and
feeling.
Other than that, we just lit the sets (and exteriors) with hard white light (no gels), and
overexposed a stop. I promised my DP I'd print it down, but actually in post I printed it
up! This really made the colors pop. Everyone complained, especially the color timer. But
audiences find it gorgeous. But even if you want a moodier quality, it's good to
overexpose and print down, as that makes your color deeply saturated rather than just
grayed down as they get when you have less light. Soft light also grays colors down.
Opinion L.A.: You've done a supernatural western, a drawing-room
thriller, a seventies sex romp and an experimental musical. What
genre's next? I see science fiction in your future: Can't you make the
umpteenth visit-to-the-planet-ruled-by-women plot but finally make it
right?
Anna Biller: I'm actually making a witchcraft movie next, but unfortunately there's no
consistent "witch" genre. The directors who have been interesting me most lately are the
more naturalistic yet transcendental directors, whose films feel magical even when the
settings are banal: Joseph Losey, Bresson, Pasolini, Bergman, Dreyer. All of these directors
make films that have a touch of the magical, no matter what the subject. But of course I'm
going to mix it up too, adding influences from American melodramas (the more emotional
the better), and also a bit of sleaze films, as I want to do a really seedy burlesque scene,
one of my fantasies for awhile. And I'm going to mix up the time periods as well, going
from the '70s to medieval times, in dream sequences — get it really witchy.
I also want to be sure to include a rear-projection motorboat scene, a man in a gorilla
suit, and a very exciting scene with lovers on horseback, very British-feeling. There's a
hyper-masculine, hyper-handsome cop in it, who is the perfect man and every women's
dream but lacks empathy because of this (one of my recurring themes). There are also
male victims of the witch, who are less desirable as partners but more easily manipulated.
I'll get to the Sci-Fi women's movie someday!
Biography, Anna Biller
Anna Biller is an artist and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She has completed a
number of films, including the feature '70s sexploitation film Viva, and the
acclaimed horror-western short A Visit from the Incubus, as well as several fulllength stage musicals. Her work has shown at numerous film festivals and art
spaces around the world, including the Rotterdam and Moscow Film Festivals,
and has been favorably reviewed in many prestigious publications. She is known
for her use of film genres, humor, the burlesque, and visual excess to talk about
female roles within culture, and for her colorful stylized sets and costumes,
which she creates herself. She has a BA in art from UCLA and an MFA in art and
film from CalArts.
Cast in Order of Appearance
Anna Biller
....................................................................Barbi/ Viva
Jared Sanford
..........................................................................Mark
Bridget Brno
..........................................................................Sheila
Sam Bologna
........................................................Mr. Humphrey
Damon Wellner
...................................................................Hippie
Chad England
...........................................................................Rick
Corky Parks
...................................Sailor/Nudist Hot Tub Man
Evan Spector
.........................................................................Sailor
Veronica Alicino
......................................................Miss Marker
Barbara Duffy
......................................................................Model
Deirdre Gaffney
..................................................................Model
Barry Morse
....................................................................Sherman
Cole Chipman
....................................................................Reeves
Rob Scott
...........................................................................Doctor
Morgan Blair
................................................Man at Billiard Party
Tyra Chipman
.....................................Woman at Billiard Party
Roger Schueller
..............................Businessman Street Ogler
Richard P. Conas
............................Businessman Street Ogler
Carole Balkan
.............................................................Mrs. James
Mark Wood
........................................................Doctor Collins
Wendie Aston
...............................................Blonde Girl at Bar
Tyger Brenneman
......................................Brunette Girl at Bar
Loa Allebach
..........................................................Ski Girl at Bar
Charles Schneider ….........Waiter/ Man at Party/ The God Pan
Catherine Perkins
......................................Restaurant Hostess
Johnny Holiday
..........................................................Mr. Carlisle
Adrienne O'Sullivan
................................Nudist "Justice" Lady
Dick Holmes
............................................Nudist Nature Lover
Larva
.................................................................Jacqueline/ Nudist
Annie McAuley
...........Nudist Hot Tub Lady/Lady with Joint
Robert Babish
..........................................Nudist Hot Tub Man
Nudist Professor
....................................................Jared Sanford
Lisa Ann Davis
......................Nudist Student/Orgy Love Slave
James Applebury
…….…………............Nudist Pot Grower
Josh Garrett
...........................Nudist Pot Grower/Auditioner
Teersa Kramer
...........................................Nudist Pot Grower
Anna Simpson
.............................................Nudist Pot Grower
Cory Richardson
…………........…...........Nudist Flute Player
Paolo Davanza
.....................................................................Elmer
Julie Hassett
...........................Nudist/Auditioner/Orgy Guest
Carol Holst
........................................................Nudist Feminist
Jessica Chortkoff
...............................................Nudist Feminist
Julien Nitzberg
...............................................Nudist Rule-Citer
Joachim Cooder
.............................................Nudist Drummer
Jared Smith
....................................................Nudist Bass Player
Jenny Hedley
…………...................Nudist Tambourine Girl
Michael Cullen.......Piano Player/ Nudist/ Orgy Guest/ Prostitute
Stefano Griffin
......................................Nudist Ping-Pong Player
Harrison Marriott
........................................Nudist Seated Man
Erik Nye
.........................................................Nudist Seated Man
Marcus DeAnda
...................................................................Clyde
John Klemantaski
................................................................Arthur
Robbin Ryan
.........................................................................Agnes
Nick Paul
...............................................................................James
David Cooper
...................................................................Murray
Natasha Paz
........................................................................Crystal
Larry Layton
..........................Man with White Beard at Party
Karina Michel
..............................................................Beach Girl
Lonna McLoughlin
......................................................Beach Girl
Tanya Fishburn
............................................................Beach Girl
Barry O'Rourke
....................................................................Chris
Andrea Lain
.............................................................................Kelly
Daniel Merlot
..............................................Medieval Orgy Man
Robin Cruea-Bray
……………….........Orgy Go-Go Dancer
Jourdan Dion
………………………...........Orgy Love Slave
Jim Goulden
…………………………........Viva's Orgy Date
Sumiko
..........................................................Japanese Mae West
Tosh Berman
..........................................................Orgy Pervert
Lun-na Menoh
...............................Orgy "Paco Rabanne" Lady
German Legarreta
………………..........Orgy Man on Leash
Marcela Pierce
................................Orgy Lover on Velvet Bed
Salvatore Soria
...............................Orgy Lover on Velvet Bed
Cat Robinson
....................................Orgy Vodka Girl/ Lesbian
Genevieve LaCourt
………………………........Orgy lesbian
Steven Nielsen
........................................................Orgy Dancer
Nathan Kim
.............................................................Orgy Dancer
Sapphyri Windsor
..................................................Orgy Dancer
Brian Rone
..............................................................Orgy Dancer
Pendu Malik
.............................................................Orgy Dancer
Julius Buckner
.....................................................Orgy Drummer
Keith Bossier
.......................................................Orgy Drummer
Barry Morse
........................................................Man in Shower
David Andrew
.........................................................Delivery Man
Crystal and Avery Lent
....................Sheila's Nanny and Baby
Crew
Written and Directed by …….................................................Anna Biller
Produced By
......................................Anna Biller and Jared Sanford
Cinematography ….........................................................C. Thomas Lewis
Costumes, Sets, and Music …................................................Anna Biller
Production Sound …...........................................Karl and Iris Lohninger
Editing
...................................................................................Anna Biller
1st Camera Assistant …............................................................Cory Clay
2nd Camera Assistant ...…..............................................Colette Gabriel
Assistant Art Director …......................................................Steve Dietl
Property Assistant
........................................................Barbara Duffy
Key Makeup and Hair …......................Tony Valdes and Joseph Hayes
Additional Makeup
.....................................................Carol Cisneros
Additional Hair Stylist …...……….................Mr. Barry of Hollywood
Associate Producers …............................Robert Scott, Alan Steinman
1st Period Assistant Director ….......................................Kristin Mente
Gaffers …......................Chad Glendon, Gene Fereaud, Sean Haeseler
Electricians ....Jesse Crusing, Bill Riley, John Rogers, Ben Van Cleave,
Michael Witczak, Sonoko Shimamoya
Dolly Grip …….....................................................................David Sheetz
Key Grips ……...........................Rick Peebles, Jean-Pierre Marangokis
Grips …............Jeff Philip, Omri Waisman, Clarence Smith, Jim Firios
Still Photography ….....Steve Dietl, Karl Lohninger, Mariel Lohninger
Production and Art Assistants ......Benjamin Jones, James Applebury,
Jim Embrescia, Josh Garrett, Mark Davis
Orgy Dance Choreography ….........................................Steven Nielsen
Pollution Song written and Performed by ….................Michael Cullen
Additional Cinematography ….......................Daron Keet, Guy Livneh
Additional Sound ……...................................................Mariel Lohninger
Additional Boom …...................................................................Rob Reyes
Additional Camera Assistants …........Philip Jaffe, Florencia Cardenal,
Alicia Robbins, Joseph Walsh, Craig Jenette
Additional Makeup for Orgy Scene …….................Kathleen Abraham
Additional Hair for Orgy Scene ……..............................Samantha Dale
Additional Makeup for Theater Scene …..……..........Tracy Morales
Racecar provided by …...................................................Real Ride Racing
Stunt Driver …......................................................................Sean Murray