PORTO (Dir. Gage Klinger)

Presenting his debut fiction feature at the London Film festival this week, Brazilian/American Director Gage Klinger talks about the film's central themes around the intense experience one can have with a stranger and getting Jim Jarmusch involved as executive producer
by: 
Corina J Poore

Originally called ‘Porto, Mon Amour’, as a gentle homage to ‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour’,  Porto is the debut fiction feature directed by Brazilian/American Director Gage Klinger and co-written with Larry Gross  (‘We don’t live here anymore’, and  Eastwood’s ‘True Crime).  An up- and- coming new director, Klinger is known for his award- winning short/ documentary Double Play: James Venning and Richard Linklater, considered by many to be the ultimate film about film.

In Porto, Jake Kleeman  (Anton Yelchin) and Mati Vargnier (Lucie Lucas) first set eyes on each other at one of Mati’s archaeological digs. When they meet again at a café they develop a spontaneous link that will affect them both deeply. It is a subject with a universal theme. Many people have experienced a moment when, because they do not know the other person that well, they are able to allow themselves to bond with what is, in effect, a total stranger, in a particularly intense way, imagining that there are no strings attached. But of course, this is not the case, there are always strings attached, and then there is the shock of the consequences.

At this week's screening hosted by the BFI London Film Festival, Gabe Klinger, explained:

“That is the dynamic we were trying to achieve with these two characters:  the momentary connections that can take on a really terrifying dimension as time goes on. We are all living in the moment because that is the most bearable way to live life, because if we think of all the consequences, we would not be able to live, right? We would not be able to cross the street.”

To create a deeper perspective, which adds to the intimacy and power of the film, Klinger chose to use three different film formats, shooting on 35mm, 16mm and Super 8.

“I thought that would be a beautiful solution to telling the story, to create a submersive experience with the audience, where the 35mm section of the movie, which is ‘the night’, that is, ‘THE event’, is in that format, 35mm, so that one can almost dive into it, in a way, to ‘telescope’ the night, and we felt that should be reflected in the visual texture of the film.

The story is retold three times from different aesthetic points of view, by shooting these sections in different formats, Klinger varies the texture of the film, creating a dream-like effect, or as in a memory,  in contrast to the high definition 35mm sections. So there is a real feeling of distance and space, as some scenes remain very close, while others seem to go out of reach.    

The Title ‘Porto’ is not incidental, in that the city of Porto brings a character of its own to the production, enveloping the lovers at every turn. Without over exploiting the beauty of the city, Klinger keeps it ever close and reverberating, with the impressive river Douro in the sunlight and the magnificent steel bridges framing some shots. Despite this, he had initially thought of making it Athens, Mon Amour but events overtook them:

“At the start we were still exploring and Porto came up as an option. Because sometimes the option is not open to you as there is a lot of resistance, but Porto was an inviting place for us. The city came in and supported us, (the Mayor of Porto and the Porto Film Foundation contributed funds) which was decisive. It gave us the confidence that we could shoot there on our tiny budget. We were welcomed and we were given the flexibility and time that we needed, and that is huge, You don’t find that in a lot of the bigger cities because you are competing with a lot of other productions.

Interestingly, the executive producer of the film is none other than the film maker Jim Jarmusch:

“Jim Jarmusch got involved because he gave us such a strong vote of confidence. I needed somebody. Nowadays it is so hard to get control of the final cut and to maintain your artistic autonomy and with Jim by my side, it did not solve the problem completely, but it really helped. I think he was attracted to the subject matter in the first place, I cannot read his mind. But  although there were no conscious influences, when I think about some of the love dynamics in his films, like “Only Lovers left alive” or even in something like “Down by Law” with Roberto Benigni, I can see it.   I like to watch a lot of movies, I have to admit I was late here today because I was watching one, but I do not see a lot of stories like this, films that are really sincere about this kind of experience. If you look at Hollywood movies about love nowadays they are awfully cynical and distanced and even sugary- they do not really give you anything. I do not think that they believe in love.” 

Made on a very modest budget, this sensitive film explores the psyche of the two lovers, both strangers in the city, with the shock of the contrast between the deep bond they find and the face of cruel reality. The film premiered in the UK at the London Film Festival and distribution negotiations are taking place, so watch this space.

Very sadly , Anton Yelchin, who played Jake in this film, (also seen as Chekhov in the new Star Trek film), was killed in a freak accident in LA in June 2016, shortly after the film was finished, when he got trapped against a wall and a gate by this own car,  which rolled backwards into him. He was found with the engine still running in neutral.  This is a great loss, this young actor had shown great potential, and he will be sorely missed.

Cast & Crew.

  • Director: Gabe Klinger
  • Writers: Gabe Klinger and Larry Gross
  • Cast: Anton Yelchin, Lucie Lucas, Françoise Lebrun, João Monteiro Oliveira & Paolo Calatre.
  • Executive Producer: Jim Jarmusch
  • Producer: Rodrigo Areias, Nicholas De la Mothe
  • Cinematography: Wyatt Garfield
  • Editing: Gabe Klinger / Géraldine Mangenot