Eugenio Mira • Director
"Cinema is a technique, just like playing the piano"
- At the age of 36, the director from Alicante, helped by his colleague Rodrigo Cortes as a producer, launches a thriller selected in Austin, Sitges and London.
Composer and director Eugenio Mira was noticed with his first film, in 2004, the horror comedy The Birthday. His next film, Agnosia [+see also:
film profile], was a romantic film betting on a baroque style, which is re-used in his new feature, Grand Piano [+see also:
interview: Eugenio Mira
film profile], which was filmed between Spain and Chicago with American stars Elijah Wood and John Cusack in the main roles.
Cineuropa: How did you manage such an ambitious project as Grand Piano?
Eugenio Mira: Although Luces rojas by Rodrigo Cortes, did not become a phenomenon like Buried [+see also:
interview: Rodrigo Cortés
film profile], the European and American international sales companies showed interest for the film’s production company, Nostromo Pictures, and they looked into its other projects. Because Nostromo has very precise ideas that can be sold easily of the "high concept". These sellers told Cortes and his associate Adrian Guerra: "If you specialize in these types of projects, we will back you". This enables to film with the money from pre-sales by having a guaranty that the investors will get their money back and even make some more. In some countries, some companies profit from tax incentives and dedicate a part of their profit to the audiovisual sector. Everything is increasingly cheaper and insecurity is such on the international market that the classic figure of the producer doesn’t exist anymore, and sometimes it is an investor from Abu Dhabi or China.
It is impossible to talk about your film without mentioning the multiple cinematographic references it contains...
It’s normal: VHS had a special place in my training as a filmmaker, much more so than theatres. I watched films at home, with my sister, and we would comment out loud. The best commercial cinema in history was made in the 80’s, since Fritz Lang never made films for children. Before that time, no one had ever made titles that also targeted children such as E.T. and carried the signature of a genius like Spielberg. Thus, during those years, we saw films like E.T. at 8 years old and we were mesmerized, and movies like Gremlins too, which today would be censored in many countries. I do not say this out of nostalgia: it’s just a crazy movie. I love Brian de Palma, especially Blow Out. I love the way it is filmed. In Sitges, I met Quentin Tarantino and we had a moment of complicity when he told me it was also his favourite film by Palma. I also really love conspiracy thrillers by Alan J. Pakula and the cinema by Scorsese and Polanski.
How did you get hold of the film’s screenplay?
With this film, I felt very comfortable because I did not write it. Since I was a young boy, I always counted scenes, I don’t know why. Directing is telling something by following a rhythm, in a concrete manner. Whilst Bergman and Hitchcock told different stories, they had to use their camera in a similar way, like you necessarily hold a microphone in one way at any concert. Cinema is a technique, just like playing the piano. I would never have written Grand piano. The screenwriter, Damien Chazelle, was supposed to direct it, but then he stopped thinking about it because he moved on to another project and he was advised to put it on the market, because while it still had issues that needed to be resolved, the buyer could take care of it. I came and seized the project. Grand piano is a 100% directing film. My childhood dream of having someone write a screenplay for me came true and I am very happy about it. The film works because the screenplay works without us thinking about its absurdity and lack of logic: it operates in a way that makes it transcend all that. I hardly changed a thing, and all the merit goes directly to Damien. I like to think this film is like a song that can be whistled, with words that make you think, in the end, but that is first and foremost good music.
What is going to happen now for the film?
In January, it will arrive in American cinemas, distributed by Magnolia Pictures, which will launch it simultaneously in theatres and on VoD: nowadays, this type of release is the best option. Before its screening at the Austin Fantastic Film Festival in September, Grand piano had already been sold to over 30 countries thanks to the audacity of Rodrigo and Adrián: for this, they are not only pioneers in Spain but all around the world.
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