Bette Gordon might not be the most prolific filmmaker working today (only three produced features since the 1980s), but her work has been met with almost universal acclaim.
Variety and Luminous Motion established her as one of America’s most preeminent female filmmakers with a feminist bent. Which makes it surprising that her latest effort is Handsome Harry, a film about an aging Navy vet haunted by his past.
“At first glance it would seem to be the opposite of the work that I had done before,” Gordon told Metro. “Handsome Harry is a very male film, but made through a female lens. I ended up exploring similar material that I’ve done before, just coming at it form a different angle.”
As different as Handsome Harry is from Gordon’s previous films, it works remarkably well. Always known as a visual stylist, she kept things simple in her new film and discovered a new focus.
“Instead of leading with the camera, I led with the actors,” explained Gordon. “I was really interested in a character story, which is something I hadn’t quite done before.” The director used the film as an opportunity to work with a variety of character actors whom she’d befriended over the years like Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, and Campbell Scott.
“It was a character film, so it was very important to me how I cast and who I cast,” said Gordon. “Each actor brought so much to their part and really redefined the film while they were onscreen.”
Now that the five-year labour of Handsome Harry is over, Bette Gordon is looking for a new project. Though she hopes it isn’t another decade before her next movie, the full-time film professor at Columbia University has realistic expectations.
“I’m always working, but it’s just difficult to find support, especially in this environment. Filmmaking requires an enormous amount of passion and stamina because so many people say ‘no.’ Its tough, but I have to will it into being.”