Director Rodrigo Garcia, Linking 'Nine Lives' Rodrigo Garcia's Nine Lives peeks into the lives of nine women... but only for about 10 minutes at a time. He's attracted an all-star cast to the project, which builds on his past exercises in minimalist filmmaking.
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Director Rodrigo Garcia, Linking 'Nine Lives'

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Director Rodrigo Garcia, Linking 'Nine Lives'

Director Rodrigo Garcia, Linking 'Nine Lives'

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The titles and films written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia have a certain ring to them: "Things You Can Tell By Just Looking At Her," "Ten Tiny Love Stories," and his latest, "Nine Lives," nine vignettes, each 10 to 12 minutes long, each one shot in one continuous take. Each story captures a moment in the lives of nine women. It features an all-star cast: Sissy Spacek...

(Soundbite of "Nine Lives")

Ms. SISSY SPACEK: Everything becomes today, not later. Not tomorrow. Today.

HANSEN: ...Holly Hunter...

(Soundbite of "Nine Lives")

(Soundbite of dish washing)

Ms. HOLLY HUNTER: We had this huge fight in the car on the way over here.

HANSEN: ...Robin Wright Penn...

(Soundbite of "Nine Lives")

Ms. ROBIN WRIGHT PENN: I think we should talk about something else if we're going to talk.

HANSEN: ...and many others. The movie leaves much to the imagination of the audience to fill in the blanks between the lines Rodrigo Garcia has written and the scenes he directed. But Garcia says the thread that holds the film together is the nature of the relationships his characters have.

Mr. RODRIGO GARCIA ("Nine Lives"): I think so many of us live with relationships that are both good and bad, simple and complicated. You know, you can live out your life loving your mother and fighting with her all along. You can live out your life with a problematic relationship with a sibling or with a spouse or an ex-spouse. These are the relationships that you live with and you can't live without, and yet they're full of daily friction. I think that's what these nine portraits have in common.

HANSEN: One of the characters says--I think it may be Camille, who is having a breast removed. And we meet her. She's played by Kathy Baker.

(Soundbite of "Nine Lives")

Ms. KATHY BAKER: God, I'm so angry with you.

Unidentified Man: Why?

Ms. BAKER: I don't know. Ever since I was diagnosed I've been hating your guts.

Unidentified Man: What did I do? Want to talk about it?

Ms. BAKER: No, now--no...

HANSEN: At one point she says, `We are all alone together. Dreams and bones are what holds us together.'

Mr. GARCIA: The line, `dreams and bones,' comes from a song called the "Garden Song" that my daughters were taught in preschool. It said something like `We are dreams and bones,' and I always thought that that was just a beautiful image. And there's two sisters in the movie, played by Lisa Gay Hamilton and Sydney Poitier, and they sing that song. And then I took the line and put it in the mouth of that character, Camille, played by Kathy Baker. I think it sums up beautiful, an aspect of what we are. You know, we're solid and we're fragile and strong, like bones, and then we dream, dream that we are something else, something better.

HANSEN: Aidan Quinn, I think at one point, has a line: `Regret is the ugliest feeling in the world.' And this is the vignette that features a character, Ruth, and she's played by Sissy Spacek. Give us just a brief bio of her and what's happening to her in this scene.

Mr. GARCIA: It's established in a different segment that is really her daughter's segment. The daughter is a girl of about 18 who is a senior in high school and lives with her parents. One of the parents is Sissy Spacek. The other one is played by Ian McShane, and he is a man in a wheelchair. And we spend a few minutes in their house one afternoon and see a situation that seems certainly a little claustrophobic.

(Soundbite of "Nine Lives")

Ms. SPACEK: Hear me out, OK? I want you to reconsider going away to school. We can afford it, Sammy.

AMANDA SEYFRIED: (As Sammy) No. I like it here.

Ms. SPACEK: I know it's a little scary, honey.

SEYFRIED: I'm not scared.

Ms. SPACEK: What's that counselor's name again? The handsome one?

SEYFRIED: Mr. Stanton(ph)?

Ms. SPACEK: He said you can get in just about anywhere.

SEYFRIED: He was wrong.

Ms. SPACEK: You make this house make sense.

Unidentified Man: Sammy?

SEYFRIED: I'll be right there.

Ms. SPACEK: Spread your wings, Sammy. Everything passes so quickly. Opportunities, good looks, that way of thinking about your life like it's something that's going to happen later.

Mr. GARCIA: Clearly, you know, the father's illness weighs on everyone, and the parents both encourage the daughter to leave them and never to leave them. The segment that you're referring to is sometime later where Sissy--Sissy's character, Ruth, finds herself spending an evening in a motel with a man played by Aidan Quinn with, we presume, romantic intentions. Whether she will be able to pull this off without regret remains to be seen.

HANSEN: These are definitely key moments in people's lives where decisions are made. Certainly, in Sissy Spacek's case, whether--if she's going to carry on with this affair or not. She goes out of her motel room because the police have come to another one of the motel rooms and it turns out it's the first character that we meet, who's being arrested. And we meet her in prison. So there tends to be this overlap of connection and times when decisions are being made. How much of a back story did you give your actors? Or did you let them develop something of what happened to them before the scene that you shoot and possibly what might happen after that?

Mr. GARCIA: I think, you know, actors, like all artists, they draw from their imagination. And I think that the biggest piece of direction you can give an actor is the screenplay. You know, I think when they sign on to the screenplay--and usually you have a couple of conversations up front and you both agree that you see this screenplay largely in the same way. After that, I'm really always reluctant to get into it, get into the text, get into the past and the why of it, with the actors because I'm scared that they're going to be working with my voice in their head. When I've done that, it hasn't paid off that well for me.

I know, of course, many directors work differently and certainly those that have experience in theater, you know, are very comfortable getting into text and asking all the questions and every nook and cranny of a person's past, and then rebuilding it together and then rebuilding it in front of an audience. But I don't come from theater and I don't have that confidence. I was a cameraman before, so I feel that if they understand or feel like they understand the screenplay and can clue into it a certain way, then I'm very reluctant to tell them anything about the past of the characters. Really, I almost did nothing in this case as far as that.

HANSEN: As a former cameraman and cinematographer, was this a dream of being able to do a scene in like one continuous take--was this something that you have been holding on for and just looking for the opportunity to do?

Mr. GARCIA: You know, actually, I wasn't at all because I've always been very much enamored of the cut. I think there are many things, you know, some--you know, literature, music, film, radio; I mean, they can all share things. But there's something that is particular only to film, and that is a direct cut from one image to another. But while working on the script the idea was always to show just a few minutes in the life of each one of these women, and in really a few continuous minutes, contain one place, one time, and it seemed like a logical progression to show it in real time. I thought, `Well, if I'm only going to spend 10 minutes of her life, let me see them in real time.'

HANSEN: Because I'm a great believer in people who swim in gene pools, do you mind if I ask you about your father? Because I'm not sure a lot of people know who your father is.

Mr. GARCIA: No. Sure.

HANSEN: He's the noted writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And for those who have read his work, he has this elaborate style of writing; became part of what was known as the `magic realism school' from Mexico, Central America, South America in his writing. Where do you think you get your taste for minimalism?

Mr. GARCIA: I don't know. I mean, you know, certainly, you know, I'm a great fan of short stories, and I did grow up in a world that was, obviously, literary. So many of my father's friends were writers and journalists and poets and painters and screenwriters. And my father, himself, wrote screenplays. So you know, that was the gene pool that I swam in. But, yes, I've always had a love for short stories and, you know, I'm a fan of Chekhov and Joyce and Carver and Cortazar and Borges. And I just like that feeling that you're left with after reading a good short story, where you really feel you've been submerged in a world that you know well and yet so many things were not answered. And you come away with it with this feeling of extreme satisfaction, and yet something was left unsaid.

HANSEN: Rodrigo Garcia wrote and directed the new film "Nine Lives."

Thanks a lot for coming in to our New York bureau. Good luck with this.

Mr. GARCIA: Thank you very much.

HANSEN: You can catch a glimpse of all those stars by watching a preview of "Nine Lives" at our Web site,

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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