on 1 Jan, 1970
At the moment, James Gray, writer/director of Marion Cotillard’s upcoming movie ‘The Nightingale‘ is part of the jury at the Marrakech International Film Festival. The Playlist spoke to him and got more details about the movie. He finished the movie last week and saw the first print before heading to Marrakech. He hopes to premiere the movie at the Cannes Film Festival next May, “if they’ll have [him].”
The Playlist will post some further stories around the origins of the film and the shooting experience later but for now we get the story about the title confusion:
“It was originally ‘Lowlife’ and is probably going to be called ‘Lowlife,’ ” Gray said. He further clarifies: “It has nothing to do with the Luc Sante book [of a similar name]. What happened was they had classifications for people coming in through Ellis Island. Believe it or not, ‘moron,’ ‘cretin’ all this stuff, they’re technical terms, which seems ridiculous. And you didn’t want to be classified a ‘lowlife,’ — they also called it ‘liable to become public charge’ — which meant that you were going to be a ward of the state and they would not allow you into the United States. So I called the movie ‘Lowlife’ and Jim Jarmusch who’s a friend of mine said I should read his friend Luc Sante’s book ‘Low Life’ because I was talking about Luc Sante’s book ‘Evidence,’ which is a series of crime photographs.”
“And I remembered it had come out maybe twenty years before and I read it, and it was the wrong time period; it was New York around when Marty Scorsese’s picture takes place, ‘Gangs of New York,’ which was about sixty or seventy years before the film I was writing takes place,” Gray continued. “But it was still very interesting, I used very little of it, and then I spoke to Luc Sante, who’s brilliant, and he said ‘I don’t want you using the title.’ So I said ‘What do you mean? My movie’s not based on your book and you can’t copyright a title; it’s called ‘Lowlife’ — it’s not even two words, it’s one.’ So the legal department said, ‘No you can’t call it ‘Lowlife’ because you communicated with him in an email. So I said ‘Rght, his email to me said ‘I can’t really help you with any of your research and don’t call your movie ‘Lowlife.” That’s hardly a contact with him. And they said, ‘But it is a contact.’ ”
“So then it became ‘The Untitled James Gray Movie,’ which is completely awful because unintentionally for legal reasons you sound like a megalomaniac,” Gray laughed. “The editing room would call up and it was [mimics sing-song phone-answering voice] ‘Untitled James Gray Movie!’ It was like that for a while, and then there’s a speech that an actress gives in which she says that ‘the nightingale sings sweetest when it’s darkest,’ and I thought ‘Well, that’s nice, if I can’t call it ‘Lowlife’ I’ll call it that.’ ”
“And then everybody else decided they hated that title, and I said, ‘Screw it, let’s just call it ‘Lowlife’ which it’s supposed to be called’ and that’s where we are right now. I wish I could be more detailed than that,” he adds wryly, “but you now know what I know.”
I can’t wait to hear more about this movie. James Gray also said that people who like his movies and have seen this one say it’s his best film.