Ragtag Cinema: Homebrewed/Princess Cyd

Back in June one Wednesday evening via Skype, Director Stephen Cone asserted that he isn't afraid of casting directors or professional actors, an obvious declaration when watching his work- especially his most recent character driven Princess Cyd. In his films, Cone's precise writing is made into flesh through a sublime collaboration with his actors to the point that sometimes one forgets the entire film is a fantasy and not just a dreamy drop into someone's reality.

The seed of the main character, Miranda, was the near 70 year old spiritual novelist Marilynne Robinson. Cone wondered about her, her sex life, her life in general and wondered what types of conflict would arise if she were forced to face her own opposite. In the film, this opposite takes the form of Miranda's sexually precocious niece, teenaged Cyd, left motherless after a tragic family incident. The story then flourishes outward from this conceit; a coming of age film- as a teen and also into middle age- exploring conflicts and holding space for possibility, understanding and love.

Cone's film explores, as one audience member put it, "the female psyche" as it deeply searches for self in the world one is forced to (or is it one chooses to?) navigate. Princess Cyd oddly reminded me of a Victorian novel as it used densely layered, pointed dialogue to unearth the origins of antiquated ideals, unravel societal/social expectations all while searching for a way towards a sense of self or towards "alternative" ways of being in the world, especially as women.

This classical feeling in the script translated visually too as slow motion, extremely measured zooms, gardens and silent zephyrs elevated the contemporary moments of life into near oil paintings of lush composition. Cyd's slow moving figure amongst roses as a harp whispered in the background allowed for the scene to become isolated in time, giving a pause that beckons calm contemplation but also to somehow show that these moments are found in everyday life if we choose. The world is chaotic but these scenes of pure beauty, breathe and contentment- almost transcendence- do exist if we let them.

At its heart, Princess Cyd is another film in Cone's career that extends the drama of character driven theater to the screen, but this time making a giant leap into a signature lexicon that explores the limits & possibilities of film anew. Cone uses the medium in all of its aspects- music, time, writing, acting etc.- to slow down life, to look deeply into the fleeting moments, relationships and decisions that occur throughout using film to crafts sentences- or even words- in the biography of his characters. One begins to wonder whether larger forces are at play in the universe or if each movement is a calculated choice; the film isn't a narrative, it is an unfolding of humanity.

Princess Cyd opens in NYC on November 3rd and in LA on December 1st, with more cities TBA. The Museum of the Moving Image will be hosting mid-career retrospective of Cone's films November 3-12th, more info can be found here!



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.