2paragraphs: You’re the founder of Under the Influence: Writers on Film. What influences will a perceptive viewer recognize in A Short History of Decay? And can you make a film like this–with a patriarch in decline–without considering King Lear?
Michael Maren: John Cassavetes and Henry Jaglom with a huge nod to Milos Forman, especially his earlier films. These are filmmakers who embrace ambivalence, and who find their meaning in the everyday; no tricks or pyrotechnics. Their films reveal their meanings over time and improve with multiple viewings. This is what I was aiming for in A Short History of Decay, and have heard from many people that the film bears repeated viewings. I also admire the way they use humor, find humor in otherwise painful moments. Short History had its genesis in precisely a moment when I found myself laughing at a tragedy, my mother’s Alzheimer’s. These are also directors who have no desire to wrap things up with a bow or provide a happy ending. Short History appears to have a happy ending, a shimmer of optimism at the end, but begs the question of whether or not that is illusory.
As for Lear–in a word, no. I was not thinking of Lear when I started writing, and I made no attempt at all to weave any of its elements into the script. But it kept rearing its head. I’ve made a film that includes a failing patriarch and two sons who are failing him. And — if two parents can share the role of Lear — we have a mother, whose grasp of reality is shaky and whose pronouncements are suspect.
— Michael Maren is a journalist and filmmaker. He wrote, directed and produced the recently released film A Short History of Decay–a “dark comedy about stepping up when your parents are going downhill,” starring Bryan Greenberg and Linda Lavin. He is the founder of Under the Influence: Writers on Film, a film series at the Crosby Street Hotel in Manhattan, and the annual Sireland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy.