A real-life ex inspires Ira Sachs' wrenching drama 'Keep the Lights On'
In some ways, "this film is less about addiction than obsession, which is a very comfortable place for many of us to be — it cuts out the rest of the world and narrows the challenges. It's very addicting to engage in this kind of relationship." Some nonexploitative but explicit sexual content made Lights hard to cast (one major agency told him not a single one of their actors were "available"), but wound up with bilingual rising star Lindhardt. It's an extraordinary performance that carries the whole film; by contrast Booth, to the frustration of some reviewers, plays a character deliberately kept somewhat furtive and unknowable.
While making Keep the Lights On afforded Sachs a cathartic way to "free myself from inhibitions around the story itself," the consequence has been that "in the aftermath of these events I chose to live an honest life, and the result is that the dishonest and illicit is less interesting to me. So having made four films about deceit within a romantic relationship, that is no longer how I live or a story I'm interested in telling."
He says his next project will be "about a 30-year relationship based on love and complexity between two men who decide to get married at ages 60 and 70." Lights also pays homage to gay elders: Erik is working on a documentary about real-life photographer and filmmaker Avery Willard (whose still little-known work comprises "a visual anthropology of gay life in New York from the '40s to the '90s"), and the score consists of slippery songs by Arthur Russell, the enigmatic cult cellist-composer who died of AIDS 20 years ago. *
KEEP THE LIGHTS ON opens Fri/14 in Bay Area theaters.