Filmmaker Rick Alverson’s Seven Cinematic Inspirations

Originally run for Sundance 2015

As the follow up to 2013’s The Comedy, filmmaker Rick Alverson’s latest foray into the nightmarish male psyche, Entertainment will finally have its theatrical release beginning this week. Centering on a dispirited and aging traveling comedian, known to us only as The Comedian, the film follows as he travels across the desolate California desert, performing at third-rate venues to unenthused audiences and leaving a series of strange voicemails for his estranged daughter. Starring the bizarre and hilarious Gregg Turkington, alongside fantastic up-and-coming actor Tye Sheridan as young clown touring with him, and small roles from John C. Reilly, Amy Seitmetz, Dean Stockwell, and Michael Cera, Entertainment is a far more tonally subdued and unnerving character portrait than his previous film, echoing the disquieting emotional isolation of its protagonist.

The Comedy was an experiment in violating that instinct one has as a filmmaker or artist to promote oneself, to have the work be an extension of one’s aesthetic and contours,” Alverson told me. “It felt like a real conversation with the world and a craft to divest myself of that and ask questions obliquely through the work.”

To get a closer look into Entertainment, we asked Alverson to curate a list of films that served as inspiration for the film as well as films that continually inspired him as a filmmaker.

BENNY’S VIDEO, Michael Haneke

A chiseled, unflinching look at indifference and civilization.

COME AND SEE, Elem Klimov

One of the most sustained, haunting considerations of fear and curiosity I’ve ever seen. 

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Mike Nichols

I usually have an aversion to dialog dependent narrative but love Albee and Nichols’ commits so strongly to this couples relentless stamina. 

TWO LANE BLACKTOP, Monte Hellman

The way this film unfolds and our slippery grasp on what it’s saying have stayed with me for decades. 

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, John Casavettes

One of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, but so full of the effort to live.

STROSZEK, Werner Herzog

A benchmark statement on the American dream. 

THE IDIOTS, Lars Von Trier

When I first saw The idiots I didn’t know what I was watching, and when it became apparent I couldn’t forget it. A perfect balance of form and content. 

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