- Mary Buss descends a staircase in Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart, screening 8 p.m. Oct. 18 at Rodeo Cinema.
Online movie database IMDB credits Mickey Reece as writer and director on 30 films. The Oklahoma-based filmmaker — whose Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart screens at Rodeo Cinema, 2221 Exchange Ave., on Oct. 18 after debuting at Austin’s Fantastic Fest last month — said he doesn’t keep count that way.
“Of all the movies I’ve made, there’s really only like five good ones,” Reece said. “So I say this is number five. All the other ones, I just made. That was my film school, making a million movies. … People look at movies as commerce or an industry, but it was just me having fun with my friends. I didn’t mean to get here.”
Reece said he originally wanted to be an actor after watching Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire, but he soon realized the limitations of having no budget or crew.
“It turns out that if I’m not holding the camera, then I’m out of focus,” Reece said. “I’ll make movies and have my friends act like Marlon Brando instead.”
Strike, Dear Mistress is inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Autumn Sonata, which Reece decided to remake in his own way after he was confused by the audience reaction to Mickey Reece’s Alien. Despite its title, Alien, which debuted at deadCenter last year, isn’t a remake but a period piece about Elvis Presley.
“I guess I perceived my last movie differently than a lot of people did,” Reece said. “I don’t think that movie was that weird at all. It’s really just a bunch of people talking in a room about Elvis stuff. … The only thing that drives me crazy about this reputation I’m getting of me being this weird director is that primarily my films just consist of dialogue, of people sitting in rooms talking.”
By using a similar plot to Autumn Sonata (1978), in which an aging concert pianist tries to reconnect with one of her estranged daughters only to be confronted by the other, a disabled daughter she thought was still institutionalized, Reece hoped to give viewers an obvious framework for processing Strike, Dear Mistress.
“I wanted to do something that there was absolutely no denying,” Reece said. “You would have to compare it to Bergman because it’s a Bergman film, and I knew going into it that trying to make a Bergman film, it would end up completely different.”
Reece reimagined the film as a surreal horror movie with comedic elements.
“I also always thought that Bergman movies would work really well as horror films,” Reece said, “and I knew I wanted to do something that was along the lines of a horror film because with horror, anything goes. Everybody’s looking to put your movie in some kind of box — ‘That’s a drama, that’s a sci-fi, that’s a comedy’ — and horror is really one of those genres where you can do whatever you want. As long as you have some blood or some gore, people are still watching it as a horror film.”
In reviewing Strike, Dear Mistress, film site Birth. Movies. Death. critic Leigh Monson wrote that its “oblique symbolism” is “assuredly going to frustrate and anger many a viewing audience. … Reece, at best, doesn’t care what you think of his film, and at worst, is actively hostile to outside interpretation of his personal vision. Your tolerance for such egotism is likely the measuring stick by which you will enjoy it.”
Reece said he feels compelled to create films that overcome their low budgets by offering viewers novel experiences, even if he confuses them in the process.
“Because I don’t have that much money, I have to figure out ways to put something on the screen that no one has ever seen before,” Reece said. “That way they’re not going to relate it to a movie they’ve seen for $100 million. So I do have to be smarter in that way. … I guess I am a dick and I’m egotistical in the way that I most definitely want to alienate the audience a little bit, but that’s what I like. I like to be alienated in a movie too. I like to walk out of a movie and be like, ‘Hmm … I don’t know about that one.’”
- Writer-director Mickey Reece will be present for a Q&A following the screening.
Mary Buss, who plays pianist Dianne Herbert in Reece’s film, said she immediately understood what Reece was doing after watching his 2014 film T-Rex.
“I told him, ‘That was the first thing in Oklahoma that’s made sense to me,’” Buss said. “Clearly he has a vision and a voice and a very raw potential talent. … He’s continuing to find his own unique voice. That is so rare.”
Reece has since cast Buss in three movies.
“She’s amazing,” Reece said. “We’re pretty much like De Niro and Scorsese at this point. She just trusts me for some reason, and I don’t know why. She has insane talent.”
Buss was thrilled when Reece said he wanted her to star in a film inspired by Autumn Sonata.
“He said he was writing me a movie, and he mentioned Bergman,” Buss said. “I got excited. I’m not afraid of taking on characters that are messy, ugly, dark. In my mind, those are the most interesting types of characters.”
To play the part of Dianne, Buss cut her long blonde hair and dyed it black. Filming took place over a week at the Pollard Bed and Breakfast, which Buss said “really might be haunted itself.”
“It was a wild and strange experience,” Buss said. “It’s hard to put to words. … Mickey has a way of inspiring you to take artistic risks that you might not otherwise take.”
The result, which critics have called an “unclassifiable thing” (Crooked Marquee), “certainly something” (Birth. Movies. Death.) and “at its best when most unhinged (Syfy),” is hard for even Reece to fully describe.
“It’s a mess,” Reece said. “It’s kind of all over the place. … I feel like all of my movies are a mishmash of stuff because I didn’t study film. I don’t know anything but making films based on films that I’ve seen, so obviously it’s going to be a big mishmash of other movies all combined into one.”
But he still doesn’t see what’s so strange about his work.
“If I had heard the stuff that’s being said about this movie,” Reece said, “I would be dying to see it, and then I think I would be disappointed. I would be like, ‘It’s not that weird.’”
The screening starts at 8 p.m., and the film will be preceded by a trailer for Reece’s upcoming Arrows of Outrageous Fortune and followed by a Q&A with the director and cast. Visit rodeocinema.org.