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LAFF 2010: Laurel Nakadate's risky 'The Wolf Knife'

June 23, 2010 |  3:12 pm

The_wolf_knife_director_headshotOne of the buzziest films at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival is a coming-of-age drama  called "The Wolf Knife." Laurel Nakadate's film had its world premiere as part of the narrative competition Sunday and screens again Wednesday night.

The storyline, such as it is, concerns two teenage female friends in Florida. One persuades the other to take a road trip together to Nashville under dodgy pretenses. What the film proves to be more concerned with than straight-ahead narrative, however, is the woozy uncertainty of the moments when adolescence gives way to adulthood.

Nakadate's previous feature, "Stay The Same, Never Change," premiered at the 2009 Sundance film festival. She is best known, however, as a maker of photographs and video works. Her art pieces are provocative, using an odd combination of passivity and confrontation to unnerve and disorient viewers. (In a notorious turn, she created a series of videos in which she goes back to the apartments of older men she has just met and undresses.)

That same sense of danger and predatory creepiness infuses "The Wolf Knife."

"I think I'm still speaking about similar things," Nakadate, 34, said during an interview Friday in Los Angeles. "I'm always speaking about desire, lies, disconnection and the hope that things will go right even when no one can connect. I like to believe the photographs I make, the videos I make and the films I make are all trying to tell some sort of truth in that way."

She added, "In my video work sometimes I'm in the middle of nowhere in my swimsuit teetering on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and I spent 10 years of my life on the floor of the Unabomber's single-occupancy hotel room in Nebraska. I risk myself in that way so much, to just write, shoot, edit, direct and produce is somehow easy."

For "The Wolf Knife," Nakadate had a crew that consisted solely of two student interns. She said that she thought it essential that the two lead actresses and her crew be able to all fit into the borrowed car that they drove from Florida to Nashville.

Nakadate, with her photographer's eye, creates some of the shots in "The Wolf Knife" as a kind of highly composed tableau, while others seem purposefully artless and almost arbitrary, as if someone had accidentally bumped the camera just before the scene began. For Nakadate, the distinction is deliberate.

"I like to push the audience off-balance at times," she said. "There's nothing worse than when an entire film is so composed it becomes like an interior decorating ad."

Nakadate has already written another script, one that this time she hopes to make in a more conventional manner, with a bigger budget and proper crew. And it's even about adults. "I feel all set with adolescent drama," she said.

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Laurel Nakadate. Credit: The Los Angeles Film Festival


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The buzz did not carry into Wednesday night. The theater was mostly empty and people were leaving during the first thirty minutes and not returning.



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