The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Jeffrey St. Jules's surreal sci-fi musical 'Bang Bang Baby' to premiere at TIFF

  • Print

TORONTO - The original inspiration for "Bang Bang Baby," a surreal sci-fi musical about a 1960s small town that suffers mass mutations, came from "Viva Las Vegas."

About a decade ago, Jeffrey St. Jules was watching the classic Elvis movie and found himself captivated by the young starlet in the film.

"I just found Ann-Margret's performance in that movie was so weirdly intense. I almost felt like she was kind of secretly going mad in the film. Her dance sequences and stuff were so intense," the 36-year-old writer and director said in a recent interview.

"I just kind of imagined this movie of this woman who is trying to live inside of the world of a musical and it's kind of driving her insane. That was the original genesis of it, and then it's evolved from there."

St. Jules spent 10 years working on the script before finally starting filming in February 2014. "Bang Bang Baby" is his first feature-length movie and it's set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival with screenings on Sept. 8, 10 and 12.

Set in the fictional Canadian town of Lonely Arms in 1963, the film stars Jane Levy as a Stepphy, a sweet teenager who dreams of becoming a famous singer. When her alcoholic father (Peter Stormare) forbids her from attending a singing competition in New York, it seems she'll never escape her repressive town — until Bobby Shore himself (Justin Chatwick) shows up with a broken-down car.

Meanwhile, the local chemical plant has sprung a mysterious and menacing leak. Described as "part parody of 1950s sci-fi films and musicals" and "part fever dream," the film also features a score of pastiche songs with titles like "I Love You Baby Doll."

"It's a mix of influences for me," said St. Jules. "It's a melodrama, it's a musical, but ultimately what I feel like grounds it is the lead performance and the lead character of Stepphy, who is played by Jane Levy. I think she really nailed it and I think people are really going to like her.

"But it was important for me that the fantasy elements and the sci-fi elements and the musical elements are all extensions of her emotional journey in the film. So it's an expressionistic film in that way."

It's already picking up buzz. Festival programmer Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo called it a "sly, genre-twisting movie," while describing St. Jules on the festival's website as "one of the most brazenly original cinematic voices to emerge from Canada in the last decade."

Originally from Fall River, N.S., St. Jules now lives in Toronto. The young director is known for his original, stylish short films and his penchant for experimenting with genre and form.

Asked about the surreal elements of "Bang Bang Baby," St. Jules said that he likes to play with artifice.

"I like to create worlds. That's what excites me about filmmaking. I generally don't do very realistic films. My last film I had here was a 3D documentary, though, which did have some realistic aspects to it, but it was also very stylized as well," he said.

St. Jules began working on the film in 2004 and finished the first draft of the script the next year while doing the Cannes Film Festival residency. He said there were many incarnations of the script over the next decade.

"It wasn't an easy film to get made, because there are so many different things and you can't really slot it into one category and say, 'This is how we'll sell this film,'" he said.

He said it was a matter of finding the right people to be involved, including producer Dan Bekerman, who didn't come on board until three years ago. St. Jules said he realized that he needed "somebody who really was going to push to make this crazy film."

"But I really think if I had made this movie five years ago, it probably wouldn't have been as good. I think the right circumstances came together, the right people, and my experience as a filmmaker evolved since I started writing it," he said.

"I don't believe in fate, but I believe that this was the best incarnation to make this movie."

— With files from Victoria Ahearn

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Jets Bogosian-Little-Ladd

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should the Canadian Museum for Human Rights use the word 'genocide' in exhibits on Indian residential schools?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google