(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)
THE REELER: What can you tell me about Love Comes Lately?
JAN SCHÜTTE: It's a story about a writer, Max Cohn, who's in his 80s and is still searching for love, sex, life -- all together, in a way. He's in a state of permanent confusion. He's got a lot of imagination that's so potent it gives him nightmares but also fictions that manifest his deep desires to be with a woman. And so it's kind of a love and death subject, in a way.
R: Notes I've read about the film emphasize the fantasy elements of Max Cohn's life. How did you balance the stylistic threads of the story?
JS: It's more like a flow. He's writing a story and then, without notice, you move into the story, and he's playing the main character as well. There's a flow of imagination and reality that mixes together and becomes one thing. It's not a very clear difference of worlds between reality and imagination. In a way, it's similar; it's not easy to decide which is which.
R: The film is based on the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. How did his work influence you?
JS: I read his stories when I started coming to New York in the 1980s because I was sort of interested in this immigrant world he describes in his American stories. I did a film with the same actor [Otto Tausig] in 1994 called Bye Bye America, so this is a world I was interested in. And then I found the story Old Love, which is a beautiful and sad and wonderful love story between the elderly; they are much more experienced in the matter of loss than young ones. Old Love was the core, and then we used Briefcase and Alone to surround the story. But it's not like an episodic film -- it's one story and they all blend together.
R: What was it like working with Otto Tausig again, and as a guy who's been in the business more than half a century, what did he bring to the new project?
JS: He's such a subtle and funny actor, and also, he never has a false tone. It makes it difficult for other actors to act with him because he's always in character. He brings all his experience -- he's an immigrant himself. He had to emigrate to London from Vienna when he was 16. So he brings his skills as an actor as well as his real life to the movie.
R: What was your experience shooting in New York?
JS: We only shot a part in New York -- one part is in Vermont, one part is in Florida and another part in Long Beach, Calif. But when we shot in 2006, there were so many feature films shot [in New York] that it was very difficult to get locations -- especially affordable locations for a low-budget film [costing] under a million dollars. New York is a great background for this kind of story, but it was very hard to shoot. We had to fight just to find a crew to work on the film.
R: What locations were problematic?
JS: Just an apartment of a writer in Manhattan -- we needed three or four different locations, and it got expensive. We needed a big lecture hall, and it was impossible to find one where we could shoot. Luckily at the very end, Columbia University allowed to use a beautiful library. We only had a couple of shooting days, so it was hard to find the structure to shoot the film.
R: This is your first Sundance. What are you expecting or looking forward to at the festival?
JS: I very much hope that we get a good distribution deal for the U.S. The film was at Toronto, which was great because the audience was into the film -- they loved it. And it was mixed ages -- young and old people. But I guess Sundance has a younger crowd, so I have no idea. I just know it's important to release it in the U.S.
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