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Monday, January 21, 2013

Interview with Ian Samuels, director of "Caterwaul"

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If the first six minutes of Up were directed by David Cronenberg, the result might look something like Ian Samuel’s 13 minute short, Caterwaul. The film, which I caught at last year’s FantasticFest, and has played a bunch of festivals recently including Telluride, Slamdance and Toronto After Dark, tells the story of an aging fisherman who finds himself drawn to a lobster that begins to resemble his recently deceased wife.

While the premise may sound strange or even grotesque, there’s no denying the film’s quiet emotional power.  Samuel’s execution is that of masterful minimalism; with almost no dialogue, the story is communicated largely through the expression’s of grizzled character actor George Murdock (in his final role) and the eerily soulful eyes of the strange, amorphous creature that he takes into his home. The puppetry used to bring “Hattie” to life is excellent, while the grey skies of Cape Cod, Massachusetts lend the film a muted beauty that reflects perfectly the pain of loss and loneliness.

Tom Clift: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Ian Samuels: I always liked telling stories.  Before I could write, I dictated stories about witches to my parents and then illustrated them.  This evolved into me performing one-man shows with a pre-recorded supporting cast (me) on a tape recorder… often about witches still. In middle school I started a marionette company with a friend of mine.  We built shows and toured Western Massachusetts.  I started getting into filmmaking around the same time.  I would make little stop motion films with objects around the house.  I decided sometime in high school that I wanted to go to college with a film program.  That was my first commitment to filmmaking.

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