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Friday, July 15, 2016

Director Peter iengo: The Passion of the "C Street" Auteur

A delightful telephone conversation with director Peter James iengo in the wake of reviewing the new theatrical comedy "C Street,"  which opens theatrically on July 15 2016, is an awesome dividend regarding covering that movie about members (pun intended) of Congress using the apartment of a low-level campaign worker as a lust nest.

The enthusiasm of iengo for his art, and his love of quality comedy adds a terrific dimension to "C." A key element of this is iengo getting his cast, which features Dylan Walsh of "nip/tuck" and "Family Ties" veteran Michael Gross, to make their characters real rather than roles that they are playing. This particularly comes through regarding the portrayal by Walsh of the lascivious Senator Fallon.

Regarding the current emphasis of commerce over art at big studio these days, iengo showed further integrity in stating that "art must win." He added that "art" included the film itself and the message in that medium.

Student Emmy

The early success of iengo included a national student Emmy for technical achievement for a film on which he worked as a senior at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. iengo shared that that "comedic parody" depicted the new principal at Murrow creating more of a college atmosphere than his predecessor. These changes included granting students more freedom regarding choosing courses and increased unstructured time during the school day.

Wilder Influence

The blatant similarities between "C" and the classic 1960 Billy Wilder film "The Apartment" starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine required asking iengo about the extent to which the latter influenced him while directing the former.

iengo stated that he immediately noticed the similarities between the  films on reading the "C" script. He added that "what I liked about "The Apartment" was it talked about a lot of issues (such as sexism) people weren't talking about" in 1960.

iengo further noted that (like "The Apartment") the (successful) goal of "C" was to make an entertaining movie that included messages. In this case, these lessons were that the power brokers who engaged in what the general public considered to be misconduct did not believe that they were doing anything wrong. He added that that group felt that they were just having fun.

iengo expressed the related thought that "your fear as a director is I don't want to bore the audience."

Turning to an even more highly regarded source, iengo shared memories of a film school professor teaching that Ingmar Bergman noted that great films had to have messages.

iengo volunteered (subtle pun intended) that '80s comedies were a huge influence on him. He noted the adult-oriented films, such as "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" and "Uncle Buck," of John Hughes as examples. He expressed equal love for the Chevy Chase "Fletch" films and noted that going to the movies used to be a much more immersive experience.

Location, Location, Location

A comment in the "C" review regarding the movie being a true indie film and receiving Kickstarter funding prompted asking iengo whether the scenes in the apartment were filmed in the abode of either someone associated with the production or a friend of a member of the production staff.

iengo first revealing that the film was shot in Brooklyn, rather than on Capitol Hill, was a large surprise. He then noted that the location manager understood the importance of finding a Brooklyn neighborhood and apartment that looked like it was on Capitol Hill.

Finding a vacant apartment that met the aforementioned criteria was a great success in itself. Said abode further being railroad (a.k.a. shotgun) style in that each room led into the other was real bonus. iengo explained that that layout helped him film in a manner that supported his goal of not boring the audience.

Grossly Successful

Asking whether a line in "C" was a reference to an awesome (soon to come out on DVD) '70s sitcom related to a scene in which Gross' Governor Appalachia expressed his love for his deaf-mute girlfriend has Appalachia state "love is patient; love is kind." This phrase is a DIRECT quote from the lyrics of the theme song of the sitcom "Angie," which stars Donna Pescow and Robert Hays.

iengo replied that the line is Biblical quote but added that "Michael Gross is such a wonderfully talented comedic genius; I cannot praise his comedic talent more."

He Also Produces

iengo further discussed his role as producer on the award-laden "Cassanova Was A Woman" and the Brooklyn-based drama "Where Hearts Lie." Both films clearly have the same indie flair as "C."

Train to Clarksville

iengo next praised the present and future plethora of superhero films, noting that "comic books and 'Star Wars' got my creative mind going" during the wonder years of this auteur.

When asked about which superhero would be the basis of a dream project, iengo enthusiastically responded "100 percent Superman." He explained that that character provided a great deal of opportunity "to do a lot of interesting stuff" because of the layers of substance associated with the man of steel.

Final Thoughts

iengo (and the other indie filmmakers who kindly grant Unreal TV their truly valuable time) show that hope for good comedy (and drama) still exists in Hollywood. We just need to support them fighting the good fight.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding Lengo or "C" is encouraged to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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