CANY – When the Cannes Film Festival audience stood up to applaud James Gray’s rich autobiographical drama The Time of Armageddon about the director’s childhood in the 1980s in Queens, Gray’s voice trembled as he addressed the crowd.

“It’s kind of my story,” Gray said. “And you guys shared it with me.”

“It took a lot of control to keep from crying,” Gray said, still recovering the next day in Cannes. “It was a really amazing journey and my father died two months ago from COVID. The whole process was full and full of emotions.”

“Armageddon Time” starring Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong shocked Cannes like no other American film at this year’s festival. Gray’s film, which Focus Features will distribute in the US later this year, was seen as a tender triumph for New York director Immigrants and Ad Astra not only for his detailed excavations of his childhood, but also for the way the film is viewed his own privileges of whites growing up – both race and money can tip the scales in the years of becoming young.


Paul Graf (Banks Repeta) is a sixth-grader modeled on 53-year-old Gray in a middle-class Jewish family. At school, Paul’s friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb) is a black child with fewer preferences who is treated differently than Paul. If Paul’s family decides to send him to a private school, the gap only widens. The connection with today’s inequalities is not difficult to decipher. At a private school, Jessica Chastain plays a cameo role as Mariana Trump, Donald’s sister and assistant U.S. attorney.

For Gray, “Time of Armageddon” is a periodical about the current date and return home after two distant films in the Amazon “Lost City Z” and the space adventure “Ad Astra”.


AP: When did the “Time of Armageddon” begin to form in your head?

GRAY: I was at an art show in Los Angeles five years ago. On the wall is written: “History and myth begin in the microcosm of the personal.” I made this film before that, where I went into space. It was a very difficult film to make and very difficult to compile. The end result was not entirely mine. It was a very sad experience for me. I wanted to try to discover my love for the carrier and why I wanted him to do it in the first place. I said, “Damn, I’ll make the most personal film I can.”


AP: You called 1980 one of the most pivotal years in American history. Is it because of Reagan’s election?

GRAY: People don’t remember him leading a campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney were killed by a clan. And he started talking about state rights. He knew exactly what he was doing. I understand he didn’t come out and say the N-word. He did not come out and did not become Trump completely. But that was his goal. I feel it has sown the seeds for a kind of corporatist, I first, top-down, open-rooted idea of ​​American capitalism that has not left us completely since. If you offer a system in which all the money, it has a built-in basis of oppression. It didn’t start with slavery. It started with the indigenous population, which has mostly evaporated. We are very good at genocide.

AP: These are not the usual themes of memoirs.


GRAY: It’s all about the real economic structure of the country. I felt it would have power in a very small context, namely: transferring a child from a public school to a private one and the way we all do our part (loyalty). In other words, “I will now make this ethical compromise. I’m going to contribute to ethical compromises just a little bit. “

AP: Did you think about it when you experienced it as a child?

GRAY: When I was a kid, I never thought about the levels of capitalism, that if someone’s up there, then someone has to be downstairs. I knew 48 kids in the class, something was wrong. But here’s what: why in our country does not cause complete anger that public education in our country is funded by local property taxes? Because of this, they have to burn the state legislature. The system makes itself very happy by saying: let’s make a movie about superheroes, but include a trans person in it. That’s good. It’s great, whatever. But that doesn’t solve the problem. You have to look at the system itself and understand that it is based on the brutal oppression of one group to survive.


AP: Your film was received with enthusiasm here in Cannes. Have you thought about how it will be accepted in the state?

GRAY: I’m sure there will be people who hate the movie. But as an American, I feel a special sense of loss that we, as directors, are not so eager to confront class ideas. One of the most amazing things that Francis Ford Coppola did in this film is how he presents such a vivid picture of the decay of capitalism. Look at “Jaws”. This mayor will keep the beaches open no matter what.

AP: Was Trump really involved in your private school experience?

GRAY: They certainly were. If I had a school yearbook, I would show you the Board of Trustees, pictured by Frederick Christ Trump. He walked the halls of the school. His daughter (Mariana) gave a speech at school, which I gave to my brother as best I could, and then I remembered everything I could and we compared the notes. They were very similar.


AP: You are a director who is considered a classicist, devoted to personal filmmaking for the big screen. Have you ever felt like one of the endangered breed?

GRAY: I have to keep trying to do the job I do. Not because of ego or any sense of “I’m the best” or anything else, but because of the type of movie I like, I’d like to think there’s at least someone who likes it too. And who speaks for them? Q: Are you going to be passionate about what you dream of, what you hope for? Or are you going to give up? I would like to be richer, more powerful or still. But if that doesn’t happen, I agree with it. I prefer to just pursue my dream.


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