Love and Demons, J.P. Allen's dark, quirky, Woody Allen-ish romantic comedy, is a love letter to San Francisco. The City resident, a dancer turned filmmaker, offers a stylish, sophisticated look at neurotic love by the bay.
An unnamed couple, billed only as Man and Woman (Chris Pflueger, Lucia Frangione) navigate their way through a stormy, dysfunctional relationship as two demons, Mr. D (Allen) and Ms. D (Arnica Skulstad Brown) pull all manner of devilish strings along the way.
The writer/director chatted with SF Weekly about his unusual, wildly original, and ultimately insightful little movie.
SF Weekly: The way Love and Demons is photographed suggests that you have a deep love for the city -- the streets are dramatically lit and look magical.
Allen: Yes, I have a deep love for San Francisco. For me it's kind of a beautiful, secret labyrinth. I will always explore it, write about it, and probably keep making films about it.
SF Weekly: Your bio says that you're also a novelist and a dancer. Can you talk about that?
Allen: My original passion is writing. Our first film, and our company, is called Coffee and Language. I love the relationship between language and film. I wrote a novel called Gambling that I made into a film, and another novel called The Filmmaker related to the film Gambling.
I danced for choreographer Neil Hess, his company is the Lone Star Ballet. In Austin I got to train with Igor Youskevitch who had a major role in Gene Kelly's Invitation to the Dance. I studied dance because I was interested in directing and wanted to learn to understand and use movement. Later in Austin I formed an experimental theater company with my friend Michael Slattery called New Movement Theater. Marcia Gay Harden, John Hawkes and many others did small projects with us.I went on to work in independent film, Michael went on to work in music. His band Shoulders is often featured in our films.
SF Weekly: What drew you to film making?
Allen: I liked to take photographs as a child -- my father built a darkroom for me when I was twelve. Later, film making was a natural extension of that early experience, especially when combined with acting and writing.
SF Weekly: Who are your film making influences?
Allen: My most important film making influences aren't other filmmakers but are the close relationships and friendships that I've had with other people, and my experiences with them, what we've shared, places, feelings, images, which form the landscape of my imagination, what I'm trying to convey in films.
SF Weekly: Why did you choose to not name your lead characters?
Allen: The film is a fable, or maybe a dark fairy tale, about the dangers of love. The main characters are a kind of every man and every woman, so no names.
SF Weekly: Mr. D. assures the audience that he's real, yet whether he is or not remains vague. Is he real?
Allen: I consider him absolutely real, and he's coming to visit all of you very soon.
SF Weekly: What do you hope audiences will take from Love and Demons?
Allen: It's more an exploration than a message -- I've always loved haunted houses, like at carnivals. The film explores a kind of haunted house of love, or maybe a wild, absurd tunnel of love. How do our fears, our demons, invade our relationships? And yet, I think our demons can also become our angels.
SF Weekly: Any advice for fledgling indie filmmakers?
Allen: Make films about your demons.
Love and Demons opens today, Friday, March 14, at the Opera Plaza (601 Van Ness).