Home­town boy

Film­maker Matthew Stana­solovich

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Alexan­der McHar­ren is not the most lik­able char­ac­ter to grace the sil­ver screen. But in writer and di­rec­tor Matthew Stana­solovich’s com­edy fea­ture The Gen­eral Spe­cific, McHar­ren acts as a foil for so­ci­ety. He’s not a hero, but a rogu­ish anti-hero who be­longs to a par­tic­u­lar class of lit­er­ary char­ac­ter. “I read this book called A Con­fed­er­acy of Dunces, and it’s con­sid­ered a pi­caresque novel,” Stana­solovich told Pasatiempo. “A pi­caresque story is ba­si­cally like Don Quixote, but there’s a set of rules you have to fol­low. The char­ac­ter has to get by on their wit and charm. They can’t re­ally change by the end of the story, and there’s not re­ally a plot . ... The Gen­eral Spe­cific is very much an at­tempt to make a pi­caresque story with film . ... My ul­ti­mate goal was for peo­ple to un­der­stand [Alexan­der], even a lit­tle bit.”

The Gen­eral Spe­cific plays at the Jean Cocteau Cin­ema as part of the Santa Fe In­de­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val. The story fol­lows col­lege dropout McHar­ren (El­liot Gross) as he drifts from town to town in his home state of New Mex­ico, and it was filmed on lo­ca­tion in Al­bu­querque, Santa Rosa, Tu­cum­cari, Mo­ri­arty, and Santa Fe. “It’s about this one very dif­fi­cult young man’s life and ex­plores the thin line be­tween sin­cer­ity and irony,” Stana­solovich said. “He’s from New Mex­ico, and he spends two years away from it and has this love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the state. Clearly, he doesn’t like be­ing there, but he is there, and it’s by his choice.”

Stana­solovich is from New Mex­ico, too. “It’s a very au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal film in cer­tain ways,” he said. “Grow­ing up in Al­bu­querque, I knew a ton of peo­ple who had qual­i­ties of Alexan­der in them . ... There’s this great Philip Roth quote, from when peo­ple ask him if his books are about him, that goes some­thing like, ‘They’re all of me and none of me.’ There are things Alexan­der does that I would never do, but I un­der­stand his id to cer­tain ex­tent.”

There are mo­ments where The Gen­eral Spe­cific feels more like a doc­u­men­tary than a fic­tional story be­cause of the real-life char­ac­ters who live in the towns where it was made. “We went all over the eastern part of the state. I loved meet­ing peo­ple from those towns. Be­cause the movie is so styl­ized and so scripted, I thought it was im­por­tant that we get a sense of re­al­ity, that we get a sense of what New Mex­ico is like. I would have my cin­e­matog­ra­pher in­ter­view lo­cal peo­ple, and they would talk to me as if it was a doc­u­men­tary and we worked that footage into the movie. You get a sense of these peo­ple and their lives in these small towns in the mid­dle of the desert. I met this one guy in Mo­ri­arty who was a guard at this jail for pe­dophiles, and he made this hor­ri­bly racist com­ment. It was shock­ing to hear, but I wanted to present him in the movie as a per­son who lives there . ... The rea­son I like mak­ing movies is that it forces me to em­pathize with peo­ple.”

Stana­solovich lives in New Mex­ico dur­ing the sum­mers but is en­rolled in film school in North Carolina. “This state is very much a part of my iden­tity in a way that I want to rep­re­sent in the films I make. Di­rec­tors I look up to, like Richard Lin­klater, who’s very much an Austin guy, and Alexan­der Payne, who’s all about Ne­braska, they know life in those places in a very in­ter­est­ing way. I hope that with this film, and what­ever movies I make next in New Mex­ico, some­one from the state can be like, ‘I get that at­ti­tude or sen­si­bil­ity or men­tal­ity.’ ” — M.A.

“The Gen­eral Spe­cific” plays at 10 p.m. on Thurs­day, Oct. 20, and at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 at the Jean Cocteau Cin­ema (418 Mon­tezuma Ave., 505-466-5528). Tick­ets, $15, are avail­able at www.santafein­de­pen­dent film­fes­ti­val.com/Tick­ets and at the door.

The Gen­eral Spe­cific

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