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Jordan Klaja’s neo-noir short Headless Swans kicks off the 2018 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 1!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 05/29/2018

Jordan Klaja’s neo-noir short Headless Swans kicks off the 2018 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 1!

 

Jordan Klaja’s neo-noir short Headless Swans kicks off the 2018 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 1!

Here is an interview I did with Jordan a few weeks ago:

Nigrin:  Your terrific neo-noir short film Headless Swans follows Leon Latour, a private detective who works to expose extra-marital affairs. Please tell us more about your film and why you decided to make it?

Klaja:  The film is less about the actual work of Latour and more of a character study about what drives him. He makes his living off of exposing extramarital affairs, but what really makes him tick is doubling back on his clients after the hired work is done to see the destruction of the relationships that he investigates. It’s not really in a “peeping tom” kind of enjoyment - there’s not a sexual undercurrent to the pleasure he derives from watching the fights between his clients and their spouses. I see him more as an addict, or a junkie for the pain and distress of others. Latour is someone who has carried around a lot of unresolved anger and pain inside of him to the point where he is completely numb. At the point where we join him in this film, he's discovered this "thing" that he gets pleasure from - the pain of others - but he hasn't examined it fully. Maybe he's able to rationalize what he does, or maybe he doesn't care to think about it beyond what he gains from it. But, like with most addicts, once he doesn't get his fix is when he has to confront those questions. 



 
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Nigrin:  Why is your film called Headless Swans?

Klaja:  This is a question I get a lot, but I don’t ever answer. I do have my own personal reason for why I called it that, but one of the most interesting things for me is to talk to people after seeing the film and ask them what they think it means. It becomes a bit of a Rorschach test. With a film like this, where we are in the head of an alienated, disconnected individual, I enjoy hearing how people interpret his actions, and a lot of that is shown in what they think the title means.

Nigrin:  The chiaroscuro lighting of your film is quite beautiful. It is almost like another character in your film. Was this consciously done? 

Klaja:  Absolutely. When you’re talking about Noir films, the lighting is a key element. But more than that, it's a reflection of the character. Latour is a man who, as a PI, operates in the shadows, but the lighting also represents his internal struggle - traditional morality would say what he is doing is wrong, but if it brings him pleasure, does he care? My cinematographer, Vincenzo Marranghino, and I began talking about the look of the film when we started pre-production in London, and then we made adjustments for almost three months before shooting while in Louisiana. We had watched films like Blue Velvet, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and The Long Goodbye to solidify certain aspects of our style.

Nigrin:  Jason Dowies who plays Leon Latour does a really great job at playing a troubled private eye. Tell us more about him and how you chose him?

Klaja:  Jason was perfect from the first time we saw him read for the role. We had been seeing a lot of people at our little home base at a library meeting room in rural Louisiana, and to be honest, there was a point where we were worried that we weren’t going to find the right person. It’s a complex part – there’s manipulative aspect to the dialogue, but there’s also so many scenes in which he needs to convey complex emotions and thoughts in silence. Jason hit both aspects perfectly. My favorite scenes with him are the ones where he is saying everything without saying a word.

Nigrin:  I read that you shot the film in Louisiana. Why did you decide to shoot the film there?



 
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Klaja:  I was on a road trip through the American south about two years ago, and when I was driving through the corner of Louisiana where it meets Mississippi, I was absolutely struck by the scenery. The oak trees with the Spanish moss look like they’re swallowing the homes, the highway, the civilization. It’s striking in an almost suffocating way. And it was there that the seed of the idea hit me. After I began writing the story, there was no other place that I could imagine setting the film. The people down there are incredible as well. There’s a flourishing film industry in Louisiana down there, one that I was very happy to be a part of and hope to be a part of again.

Nigrin:  Is the scene with the hand sticking out of the water one of Leon’s dreams?

Klaja:  Without saying too much, yes. The sequence you’re referring to is another aspect of the film that I like to hear what different audience members bring to it. It should be experienced as a piece of the film.

Nigrin:  Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can relay to our readers?

Klaja:  There are a few stories that jump to mind, but for brevity’s sake, I’d like to also mention to the readers that we shot this on 16mm film. It’s something that was important for me and was something we accomplished through a successful Kickstarter campaign. To me, shooting on film gives not only a unique aspect to the viewing of the film, but an all too valuable aspect to the making of it. The discipline of film is important to me. The process is important to me. The burning of the images on to the film emulsion gives a permanence to the project that is not present, to me, when shooting digital. I love these facets of filmmaking, and it also gives me joy, in a more masochistic way, fighting to be able to continue to work in the medium as each new project begins. So there’s a lot of sweat and a few tears that went into this film because of that, and I know, for me, it comes across on the screen. And I hope that you feel it when you see it as well.

Here is a video interview I did with Jordan Klaja on EBTV:

 

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David McCracken’s’s psychological thriller feature will follow Headless Swans. Here is more info on this screening:

Headless Swans - Jordan Klaja (McMurray, Pennsylvania) A neo-noir short film that follows Leon Latour, a private detective who works to expose extra-marital affairs. The one aspect of his job--and of his life--that Latour has grown to love is to watch the destruction of the relationships he investigates. 2018; 25 min. With a Q+A Session by Director Jordan Klaja!



 
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Bullitt County - David McCracken (Los Angeles, California)  Four drinking buddies with a dark secret reunite after ten years for a bachelor party on the Bluegrass Bourbon Trail.  When the friends discover that their favorite distillery has been turned into a winery, the newly sober groom, Gordie, seizes on an even better adventure:  a search for a stash of buried Prohibition money deep in the woods of Bullitt County, KY. The others reluctantly join him on his quest, only to discover there's something much more dangerous than cursed treasure. 2018; 96 min. With a Q+A Session by Producer Josh Riedford!

Friday, June 1, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.


Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University


71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey


$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends


Information: (848) 932-8482; 
www.njfilmfest.com

Al Nigrin is a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University.  In addition, he is the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc., which presents the Bi-Annual New Jersey Film Festival, the New Jersey International Film Festival and the United States Super 8mm Film + Digital Video Festival.




Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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