Shotgun Stories

Shotgun Stories is a tense film about family and revenge with a deliberate pace, a good soundtrack, and the confidence to keep things a bit ambiguous. The main characters are Son, Boy, and Kid Hayes, and their half brothers, whose common father’s funeral occurs early in the film. Its rural setting and feeling reminded me a bit of Tully, though I liked Tully better.

I saw it at the Camera Cinema Club on 2/10/2008. The writer/director answered questions by phone, and I wrote down these notes, which may include a few small spoilers:

  • There is no victory in revenge
  • The film is a meditation on conflict resolution
  • The outcome of revenge is either that one side decimates the other, or that both sides decide to stop—both sides are most vulnerable at that moment
  • Most revenge stories start with the act that needs revenge very early and ends with the revenge—what if the structure is entirely different, so that the audience wants there not to be revenge?
  • The director had the title before he had the story
  • There is ambiguity about how Son got the wounds that we see very early in the film—people tell stories
  • The director wanted to turn conventions on their head, and still wanted to make a good movie
  • The funeral scene sets the stage early
  • The music prepares the audience for something bad coming, but they’re not sure how or when
  • The names Son, Kid, and Boy show that no one cares about them—but the director makes sure no one explicitly talks about it
  • The film is shot in Little Rock and nearby (including England, AR)—the director used his parents’ house, father’s delivery van, etc.
  • The director has no accent—he says it depends how much he’s had to drink
  • The film is shot in 2.35:1 anamorphic with little camera movement
  • The director always knew his first film would be set in this landscape
  • The main characters are blue collar southern men, who do not wear their emotions on their sleeves
  • The director went to college with producer David Gordon Green in North Carolina—Green didn’t see this film until it was all edited—he came on as a producer to get the film out of anonymity, find finishing funds, and so on
  • Henry Smackers (the dog) was not trained—they had to rub peanut butter on things
  • The film opened in Berlin a year ago—the director has been talking about it for all that time but considers it an honor
  • There was a scene where the wounds were explained but it sounded like bad movie dialog because the brothers all knew already—so the director took the shotgun story out of Shotgun Stories
  • He does have a new film (Goat) where someone is car jacked and traumatized at the start
  • This film opens in April in the Bay Area, or at least in San Francisco

I’ll give it about 3 stars out of 4 stars.

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