James Lapine talks about “In the Company of Rose” and a life well lived

Some documentaries inform you about a topic. Others will enlighten you. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll be informed and enlightened. And if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll be informed and enlightened on a topic you never knew existed. Director James Lapine’s latest gem, In the company of Rose, falls heavily into the latter category. Tony Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning Lapine spoke to him news week about the film and what makes the eponymous rose so special.

Lapine had directed several films when he first showed up with a camera at Rose Styron’s home on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s something he almost never does. When asked how well he knew Rose, the now 94-year-old widow of author William Styron, Lapine said news week“I didn’t know her when I came up with this camera. I had only met her in passing. I knew her from her because she’s kind of an icon where I live on Martha’s Vineyard. But when we met, she invited me to lunch and I brought the camera with me.

“I had no intention of doing one Movie Movie. And then after spending a year getting to know her a little bit and doing the filming, I went to HBO and they gave me some seed money to do a short film about Rose. Thing was, I couldn’t stop walking. I went five or six years. At the end of the day I had 22 hours of footage. So I told HBO I didn’t know how to make this short and just raised the money myself.”

James Lapine Rose Styrondoc 2022
James Lapine and Rose Styron share a moment in new documentary In the Company of Rose.

Lapine, who is probably best known for his theatrical collaborations with Stephen Sondheim, including the critically acclaimed HBO documentary Six from SondheimAt first he didn’t want to make films. He said news week“I didn’t want to do films because I hated the process. Because I started when it was film [as opposed to video] and you couldn’t see anything you shot until the next night. I thought: This is not for me. When digital came along, I liked it a lot more because it was less valuable. It was just so much easier. You never have to yell “Cut”. You can just keep directing like you do in the theater and just keep shooting.”

That rose was done digitally, but Lapine said, “It wasn’t easy. I had a fantastic editor [Miky Wolf]. And it took us a long time to figure out how to do that. We wanted to go chronologically since I started talking to her, but it didn’t work. And then we started going by topic, but that didn’t quite work. However, little by little we figured out how to make it flow and not jump.”

Rose gets very personal in revelations about herself and her marriage, some of which may seem shocking in their intimacy to even modern audiences. said Lapine news week“That only works when you have built trust. That’s why it took so many years before she was ready to go further and further. [The Styrons] were way ahead of their time in their relationship.

She also treads rough ground when she discusses William Styron’s battle with depression. His perspective was well documented in the book darkness visible, and Rose shares her point of view here. The casualness with which Rose shares some of these details is disturbing, to say the least. When asked how to get people to open up, Lapine explained, “After a while they forget the camera is there and they trust you too. another friend.”

Another story she tells is about a suggestion she made to her husband about a scene from his novel Sophie’s choice and in the same breath practically dismisses the importance of this proposal. Lapine said, “It’s so casual, and yet it’s really what made this book. It was very valuable advice that really saved the book; otherwise it might not have worked.

“But that’s the interesting thing about Rose: she didn’t think like that. She really loves helping people. That’s why she joined Amnesty International,” which is another important aspect of her life that is explored in the film.

On one level, Lapine said, and did rose “Honestly, it was kind of an excuse to hang out with someone. A lot didn’t make it into the finished film. I mean, we went to Carly Simon’s house, we explored the island. And Rose had so many stories that I couldn’t fit into the film: She was there when Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow got married. She was with the Kennedys when they came by.”

And with all that footage came the problem of how to structure the film.

“I just felt like, oh my god, this is too much for people to shake their heads at. was [the film] is it about the island? Should it be about rose? Would it be about Rose’s friends?

“And the other thing is that everything was shot by me, so I don’t have to cut anything. It was also a real challenge figuring out how to edit when there was never a camera pointed at me. It wasn’t until we started final filming in the sixth year that we could kind of figure out a way to put it all together.”

Making documentaries runs in the family, but it’s not an obsession. “My wife [Sarah Kernochan] has made two documentaries and she has won Oscars for both and she has never made another. And I said, ‘Why aren’t you making more of this?’ And she said, ‘I only want to do it if I’m really, really interested in the subject.’

“We are not documentary filmmakers. We are people who have made documentaries. Maybe someone else will come along if they want to do a third one, but it really has to be about the theme.”

And that shows in every frame of In the company of Rose. Lapine said: “She’s a huge influence on people who know her. She’s also kind of a feminist icon. She is very independent and also led an independent life from her husband.”

Like the memoirs of Mary Rodgers Shyone goes rose feeling like you’ve met someone special but haven’t spent enough time with them. It is refreshingly honest, flattering and balanced. She is so alert and perceptive that it is important to remember that in the film she is in her late 80s to early 90s and shows no signs of slowing down. In short, she is a delight. rose sheds light on her life, the life of someone special, a life well lived, a life that most people probably knew little or nothing about. It also makes us curious to know more about Rose. But ultimately, Rose’s greatest gift and rose that together they give us reason to reflect on our own lives and how we have lived them.

In the company of Rose debuted on November 11th as part of the DocNYC Festival in New York.

https://www.newsweek.com/james-lapine-interview-documentary-company-rose-1759520 James Lapine talks about “In the Company of Rose” and a life well lived

Rick Schindler

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