Watch Alex Zhang Hungtai Go on a Seven-Day Bender in the Feature Film 'A'
Director Mitchell Stafiej tells us the film was inspired by Harmony Korine, 'In the Mood for Love' and Lil Ugly Mane
Published Apr 14, 2020Way back in 2016, director Mitchell Stafiej shared the teaser for his feature film A with us. Starring Alex Zhang Hungtai (Last Lizard, Dirty Beaches), Romy Lightman (Tasseomancy), Petra Glynt and Bernardino Femminielli, the film is now available to stream in its entirety for free.
In the film, Hungtai stars as Konrad, a musician who goes on a seven-day bender as he tries to finish a new album. As his waking nightmare unravels, so too does the film's sense of surrealism.
But we'll let you see for yourself. A can be streamed in full below. We also caught up with Stafiej to find out more about this entirely unique project.
What was the initial inspiration for this project?
I was very deeply inspired by music around that time — more so than film or any art form. It was the only thing that really gave me any comfort in a rough patch of my life. I wanted to make a film that reflected that; a passion for sound and music. I also drank... a lot.
What was the biggest challenge in making this film?
It was my first feature film made with someone else's money (not even that much). In retrospect, I think the biggest challenge was my own confidence. Not confident in my choices. Not being able to properly convey certain ideas. I think I could have been more of an asshole (in the nicest way possible).
That... and shooting on film with our low budget definitely made it so there could be less experimentation. If we had all the money in the world, or even just a few extra grand, we could have taken more time... shot more takes.... messed around a bit more. The rigidity of always thinking about how many feet you have left for a certain day definitely got in the way of some potential further experiments. I think the image looks great — but the energy reflects a certain state of mind attached to the anxiety of shooting a feature film entirely on celluloid with very little money.
How did you end up working with so many musicians?
I knew I wanted to surround every aspect of the film with music (and sound). Even down to the casting. Everyone needed to be an active working musician. I was not very connected to the music community though, other than my dear friends Maicamia. Andi State, our casting director, worked in film and was simultaneously very connected to the Montreal music scene and worked in the Pop Montreal offices. She was so excited and passionate about the film and really made us feel that this idea of getting these musicians that we revered to collaborate with us was a real possibility. It felt like a pipe-dream at first. But even when we floated... huge names (to us)... it always seemed like a real possibility with Andi. No musician or actor was off-limits or too big. It was all her.
Did their music inspire the final project at all?
I think... music in general inspired the final project. Whatever I was listening to at the time. There's also a rhythmic energy to the montage that feels like a noise song. Unpredictable and chaotic.
Alex Zhang Hungtai's project Dirty Beaches definitely inspired this film, even if only subconsciously. I think both came from a similar aesthetic world. This lo-fi and rough experience that prioritizes energy... trapped in a time you wish you lived in. Every musician influenced this in a way, though. They brought their own performance to the film. I also love all of their music, so even subtly there just this passion for their work that comes through every scene that they're in.
Who are your influences, filmic or otherwise?
For this film it was In the Mood for Love (there's a poster of the film hanging on the wall in a few scenes). Harmony Korine was a big influence. It's strange, trying to think back to 2015 and thinking about my inspirations... Lil Ugly Mane. Hype Williams. Triple 6 Mafia.
Nowadays it's aesthetically Kelly Reichardt, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Chantal Akerman (RIP) and Gianfranco Rossi. Politically, it's Adam Khalil and any filmmaker that makes a film for no money or out of pocket, gets rejected by festivals that charge $100 for a hope and a dream, and then posts the film to YouTube and only gets 10 views.
What are you working on now?
With the current state of the world, a few projects that were supposed to be shot this summer have been put on hold. I've been in production for an experimental documentary that explores the definition of the word 'inequality' under capitalism for a couple of years now. We were supposed to finish shooting this year, but we're just waiting until we can travel again. I was also supposed to shoot a feature film called Waste Island about an irreverent asshole who returns to the suburbs to re-live his glory days, shot entirely on HI-8 and at night. Again, that got delayed... I've been teaching at a college and it's been a very inspiring experience. Hoping to maybe start production on both films in August, but it's just so weird to plan for the future right now.