Five Fun Facts About Her Smell
Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell is our favorite film so far this year. Not only does Elizabeth Moss give a career-defining, Oscar-worthy performance, but the film is impeccably crafted in every single way; the sum of its part working in unison for one specific purpose. We just couldn’t wash Her Smell’s aroma off ourselves, and we don’t think you will either. If you haven’t checked our review out already, you can do so here, and if you haven’t seen the film yet, you can buy or rent it on iTunes/Amazon.
We’re so crazy for this film that we actually listened to the director’s commentary, which is something we very rarely do. We found Alex Ross Perry’s information thoroughly interesting; it really provides a lot of nice, supplementary details about the hard work and care that was taken on this production. While we could go on and on about all the cool things we learned, we thought we’d pull out our favorite five for y’all to enjoy!
The interludes between the film’s five acts weren’t originally in the script and were shot with Alex Ross Perry’s childhood Hi8 camera.
“[The five interludes] were not always in the movie, but [it was something] people in the reading of the script always mentioned. I knew that there needed to be something in between each of the five acts of the movie, and in watching a lot of the rock documentaries I was studying, like the L7 documentary Pretend We’re Dead and the Patty Schemel documentary Hit So Hard. This kinda video footage is so much a part of what I think of when I think of bands of this era (1994 - 1998). Adding these interludes before each of the five acts became an exciting way of showing the pre-history of the band. And I just love that Sony Hi8 footage. That was my camcorder when I was in middle school and high school. I had my dad send it to the set.”
The neon sign film titles were inspired by PTA.
“I remember hearing on the Boogie Nights commentary that after producers had changed the title of Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movie [Sydney/The Hard Eight], he put the name Boogie Nights on a sign at the beginning of the movie as a way of ensuring, because of his final cut, that they couldn’t change the title. Not that I was afraid of that, but I was very inspired by that protectiveness, and also, I always felt like the movie needed that electric-neon hum feel, which I didn’t know how to achieve until Teddy Blanks, the designer of the film’s graphics and titles and album covers, suggested that we actually make a neon sign, which is now in my basement.”
The streaking effect in the live performances was a camera malfunction.
“We wanted these concert scenes to feel slightly more stretched and epic in that classic movie way, so we shot them anamorphic. The result of which, switching the camera three and half weeks into the shoot, is that one of the two cameras we were using created this streaking effect by accident, which was a huge catastrophe because we shot this the first of two days at [Gramercy ballroom]. There was this whole hullabaloo when we got word from the lab that one of the cameras appeared to be malfunctioning. It wasn’t until later that we saw the footage and found it was astonishingly exciting looking. The guys at Panavision said that this exact technical error had only occurred once, 25 years earlier — I could explain exactly what it was, but it’s not particularly interesting. The point is, it was a mistake that became a kind of a blessing in that magical, photo-chemical, 35-millimeter sorta way. If this had been a mistake on a digital camera, you’d be looking at a lot of pixels, but instead, we have this beautiful hazy streaking effect. So we were really encouraged by that, and what we did with this so-called “mistake” was we shot more with it later. I thought it was appropriate to keep as much of this in.”
Becky’s mystic advisor was inspired by Axl Rose’s mystic guru, “Yoda.”
“Eka Darville plays Ya-ema, a sort of spiritual fraudulent advisor who was inspired by a similar character in Axl Rose’s life named Yoda (Sharon Maynard) that he supposedly came back from Sedona with. In order to get to Axl, you had to go through this tiny Asian woman named Yoda — or who the band called Yoda — and I was very inspired by that. It’s kind of important that Becky believe in something. It doesn’t have to be clear what, but the journey into addiction and sobriety, her later grappling with admitting there’s a higher power, you have to understand right away that she does believe in some sort of forces in the universe. Eka is a fascinating guy; he’s traveled all over the world and seen and witnessed things in cultures and religions that I can’t even imagine. He really was excited about putting some of his experiences into this. He was very clear; he didn’t want to put anything on this character that was remotely honest or genuine to what you’d think it is. [When you see him in the opening act], he has Sanskrit on him, and he’s wearing things that are sorta South American and things that are sorta Native American. What he wanted was to combine a bunch of fraudulent nonsense into this character as a way of signaling that the character of Ya-ema has sorta picked up these believes himself and created something of his own that he’s selling to desperate people. A lot of these little tricks and objects and items and rituals that [Ya-ema] does were Eka’s ideas, and I was really free with him doing that. Ya-ema’s assistance, Dymoke, in the script, was written as a very young guy, but Eka said that, typically, this sorta shaman types, fraudulent or honest, their assistant is actually much older, so we went to our friend Yusef Bulos, who is in Listen Up Philip and who we all think is hilarious, and brought him in here.”
About Becky’s connection to The Phantom of the Opera and The Mask.
“In the wind up of this movie in the development of it, I saw Phantom of the Opera for the first time. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life, and I consider it to be one of the most breathtakingly perfect pieces of entertainment that has ever been created. I find it very moving, this story of this tragic monster and his love and need to make music; his underworld redemption and the caverns that he lives in I thought were so spot on for this movie, and I tried to find ways to… find little things from Phantom to put in there. Amanda Ford, the costume designer of this movie (and my previous three films), showed me this Phantom shirt for Becky. Generally, I would shy away from something quite so bold, and [she had] also found a photo of Kim Deal (Pixies, The Breeders) wearing this exact same shirt. So now there are two reasons why I normally wouldn’t want to do that, but it felt like such fate that I absolutely had to include Phantom. Amanda did not know how important Phantom was to me, and she kinda came to it on her own, which I think felt very organic.”
“Being as this movie roughly takes place from 94-98, I had no doubt that Becky has a tape of The Mask on the tour bus and really likes it. There’s a couple other quotes and references to it throughout the movie. Not only is it one of the finest films of my lifetime, but, to sorta go back to The Phantom of the Opera idea and this motif of dual identities, I think it’s something that Becky would really relate to. I think that she would feel a lot like Stanley Ipkiss, and she would feel like the mask.”
Well, that’s our list! Did you learn anything cool? How do you feel about the film? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!