11th April 2007

“Grindhouse Gone Wild” By New York Press’ Mathew A. Stern

posted in Interviews, News, Press Coverage |

GRINDHOUSE GONE WILD

Low-budget cinema meets the corporate zombie machine

By Matthew A. Stern

Lloyd Kaufman is the legendary NYC-based, B-movie auteur and founder of Troma, an independent film studio that’s acquired and distributed thousands of films you’ve probably never heard of. Like Tales from the Crapper. Or Ferocious Female Fighters 2. But he’s better known for The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. With the grindhouse phenom cranking up, it seemed like the perfect time to check in with him and, with his inexhaustible discursiveness and characteristically bawdy wordplay, Kaufman gave a rousing defense of independent cinema, and a critique of the zombie culture that has the mainstream media, who so often ignore him, suddenly scrambling for his phone number.

NYPress: What’s your take on the sudden interest in low-budget cinema that’s come with mainstream films?

Lloyd Kaufman: I’m working on a movie called Poultrygeist. It’s about how the masses are being fed the Kool-Aid by the major media and then, like zombies, go out and eat junk food. That’s what the Grindhouse thing is all about. The major media gets word from the giant, devil-worshipping international conglomerates that own it, that say, “Now it’s time to promote Dreamgirls,” and therefore it’s Dreamgirls 24/7. We live in an age of zombies, and it’s particularly appropriate that I’m working on a zombie movie. So, here we’ve got big media saying, “OK, the big conglomerates have produced a movie called Grindhouse for 50 million dollars, so let’s brainwash everybody into going to see Grindhouse. Now I, Lloyd Kaufman, have a feeling that Grindhouse will be a good movie because Tarantino and the other guy are definitely talented directors, so I’m quite confident it will be worthwhile.

Has Troma gotten more mainstream attention since the promotion of Grindhouse?

I’ve had major media calling me up all week, and you’ll see that this stuff is coming out in The New York Times and on television. The major media had no interest in Lloyd Kaufman when Troma had its 30th anniversary, a milestone in the history of cinema. The Times and the NY media have totally ignored the fact that we own a building in NY, that we’ve got a payroll in NY of people who’d be on welfare, for sure, if they weren’t working for Troma. They’ve ignored that we discovered Samuel Jackson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kevin Costner, Toxic Avenger. The only thing the media might cover is if I blew my brains out in the middle of 9th Avenue. Now, as an excuse to do a piece on Grindhouse, the media comes to contact me, and therefore I will now be part of the Kool-Aid that brings the zombies into the theater. And, in this case, I want to make it clear that, in this particular case, because of Tarantino and the other guy, I’m happy to do it. And I’m certain that it’s going to be good. And the other good thing is thanks to Grindhouse, Troma and Poultrygeist are getting some attention! But what a pity that that’s the only way that we can get attention!

Do you think that this zombie-like reaction will help out filmmakers doing real low-budget stuff by bringing attention to them?

The message I’m getting from the articles I’m reading is that Grindhouse is glorifying crappy movies. I don’t make crappy movies. I spend two or three years making a film. I don’t take myself seriously, but I take my movies very seriously. The message from Grindhouse seems to say, “Let’s go and watch crappy movies! We’re going to see Italian zombie movies.” Those movies had nothing political to say. It was just zombies doing their thing. Romero’s movies were not grindhouse and were filled with social commentary. I’m concerned that maybe the media is emphasizing the sad movies. There are people who made one or two movies and they stink, and I think the major media is trying to use Grindhouse to kind of dismiss the real artists of the era.

I remember that years ago you mentioned Tim Burton’s Ed Wood in a similar fashion.

Tim Burton is a genius, but the message of that film is that an independent filmmaker is a clown, so if independent filmmaking goes the way of the dodo bird, we really didn’t lose much. “Now we’ve got Warner Independent, and we’ve got the Independent Film Channel and we don’t need guys like Lloyd Kaufman or Roger Corman.” These conglomerates have worked long and hard to get rid of the word competition because competition means they have to make good movies. And now they’ve won because they’ve gotten rid of the incentives that used to help independents.
You know, Gene Shalit has a policy, he doesn’t review Troma movies. The other guy, too, Joel Siegel on ABC, that’s the policy. But why? That Quentin Tarantino movie has a guy fucking and having his head chopped off at the same time. That, they’ll review. All of these mainstream critics want TV shows. They’re no longer critics, they’re reviewers. So what’s the purpose of reviewing Troma? We don’t take out full-page ads in The New York Times so they can see their names in print. Who are these people? Who’s Peter Travers? His name is on every fucking full-page ad. Who the fuck is he? Where does he come from? But he gives a good quote on every goddamned film. Everything. So he’s famous now, I guess.

Can you recommend five low-budget or grindhouse films?

Troma’s War would be one I’d recommend. I would recommend Joe with Peter Boyle, who just died. It was his first movie. Watch it. It was made for $150,000, and it actually got an Oscar nomination in 1970 for best screenplay. I think Cannibal Holocaust is a great movie. In my opinion, it’s one of the best and probably the first movie that asks, “Is the media creating the news or is the news creating the media?” It’s the best one of those kind of mockumentaries. Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, that’s an amazing, unbelievable film and is very low-budget. Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q; it’s a depiction of middle class hell. It does beautifully what American Beauty tried to do and didn’t quite do. This whole grindhouse thing, it meant slimy, disgusting theaters. Our movies had to play in these theaters—where you were walking on what could have been cola or could have been sperm, you were never quite sure. Our movies, in the fullness of time, should have been shown in the best theaters. If you look at what came out in the ’70s and ’80s, our movies are better than 90 percent of them.

You mentioned the ambiguous message about independent cinema you’re getting from Grindhouse, and equated films with a message and without a message as the same thing …

But also films that are art, rather than just crap. Bava and Argento are brilliant filmmakers, but the Italian zombie movies I fault because there was nothing happening other than the zombie thing, unless I’m missing something. With Romero, he made them into social statements, so that they were very entertaining and scary and amusing and satirical, but they also had a hell of a message. Shaun of the Dead is wonderful too, about the hopeless existence of young people today where, how do you earn a living? You’ve got the fucking baby boomer generation smothering everybody else, and you guys turn on the TV and you’ve gotta watch a piece of meat jerky called Rod Stewart prancing around because baby boomers want that shit. Happy birthday Elton John or Larry King: There’s a billboard the size of Rhode Island in Times Square. Who gives a shit about Larry King’s 50th year? What’s it his 50th year in? In licking ass? In show business? In journalism? What journalism? We’re at the mercy of the baby boomer generation, and they make us into zombies.

There are currently 2 responses to ““Grindhouse Gone Wild” By New York Press’ Mathew A. Stern”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On May 3rd, 2007, Vanessa Avalos said:

    I just want to say that even the best sharp shooter in the world is still capable of shooting him/herself in the foot. At least it’s “the establishment” doing it this time. Love the new site!

    Grindhouse Goddess aka Zombie Goddess aka V

  2. 2 On May 3rd, 2007, Lloyd Kaufman said:

    Congratulations on Matthew Stern’s excellent interview with Lloyd Kaufman.
    He is one of my favorite film directors!

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