Jack Henry Robbins (New York, 1989) was a child when he did a test to play his own father’s son in a movie. I had to give the reply to Tim Robbins in a drama by Clint Eastwood. But they chose another candidate. “We had never talked about it until my father started joking about it a couple of years ago. Not pass the casting He didn’t hurt my pride, but it seems he doesn’t quite believe it, ”he tells EL PAÍS. The film was Mystic river (2003). “At that time, appearing in a story with children murdered and abused is not that it seemed like a flat, he admits.
Although his mother Susan Sarandon and his brother Miles Guthrie Robbins also work as actors, he says he only wanted to be for a moment, during his childhood. “He was very small and did not have much idea of life,” he releases with some evil. When he was 12 years old, he was already aware that he preferred to direct films, when he was playing with the VHS-C and Mini-DV cameras that his relatives were giving him. Something similar happens to the protagonist of his new feature film, VHYespremiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival.
Filmed in VHS format to set the scene in 1987 without tricks, the 72 minutes of the film are just that: scraps recorded on an old homemade tape. Ralph is given a Christmas camera and, eager to search the world around him, grabs the first tape he finds. It’s her parents’ wedding. What the viewer sees on screen is the chaotic visual diary that the young man builds on the old happy images of a marriage that is falling apart. That compendium of sequences intersperses the homemade recordings that Ralph makes with his best friend with scenes of the nightly television programs that he should not be watching and the few memories of the link that survive on the tape.
Although the premise may be Martian, it does not depart from a program of zapping of the eighties with vocation of generational portrait. The result is a stir-fry of television genres of the time that, seen with the perspective of time, are full of involuntary humor: aerobics programs, tutorials for housewives, teleshopping and low-budget porn. Robbins adds an extra dose of irony to the mix sketches starring comedians like Mark Proksch (seen in The Office Y Better Call Saul) and Thomas Lennon (Funny or die) and by his famous parents. Part of those premises already appeared in his two short films, Painting with Joan (Drawing with Joan) and Hot winter (Warm winter), also shot on VHS and that took him to the Sundance Festival in 2017 and 2018.
The American, who recognizes himself as an obsessive nostalgic, has fed on one of his hobbies to find inspiration in his feature film debut. He spends part of his free time searching in second-hand stores to find videotapes of unknown people, where he finds bizarre jewels similar to those that appear in his film. “Television is the subconscious memory of each era and analyzing it is a way of doing anthropology. At that time the society we know now was born. It was the first time we could register our day to day, as we now do on Instagram or YouTube. The VHS was the first iPhone of our life, ”he says from the Dutch city.
Sarandon shares on Instagram an image of the shooting of the film
Worthy son of his combative parents, Robbins also adds to this comedy retro A political reading close to today. Gun control, climate change, feminism and hatred abroad resonate in the sketches That make up your movie. They also seem to have inherited their cinematic taste. “I started to see the right cinema at the right time. The Coen Brothers or Paul Thomas Anderson… that’s my people, ”says the thirties, to whom independent comedy Rushmore Academy (1998), by Wes Anderson, and the films of Hal ashby They marked him for life. “I have to thank my parents for raising me in New York and not in Hollywood. I soaked in the best part of the film and social wildlife industry in a city where, unlike in Los Angeles, you cross people in the street. And they tell you their stories and their secrets. ”
That’s why he doesn’t see himself shooting a green screen movie. “The best parts of the last of Star Wars They are the ones that are shot in real scenarios. In the original movie, even in the first Jurassic Park, there were physical elements. That is what I like about the technological limitation of that time. You had to be very creative with what you shot. Cinema is made up of dreams and, if you think about it, we dream in analogue, not digital. ”