Sunday, June 26

Jessica Chastain: “Everything is based on making women desirable … enough of commodifying women”


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The actress transforms into telepreacher Tammy Faye in an interpretive extravaganza that already places her at the top of the list for the Oscars. In passing, he offers his particular and devastating vision of “sexist culture”

Actress Jessica Chastain poses this Friday at the 69th edition
Actress Jessica Chastain poses this Friday at the 69th edition of the San Sebastian Film Festival, where she presents her work “The eyes of Tammy Faye”.Juan HerreroEFE

Tammy Faye Bakker was one of America’s best-known figures in the 1970s and 1980s. And it was for inventing, in his own way, reality television. From his evangelical religion program, he turned his house, his life and his eyelashes into an emblem and, incidentally, into the perfect image of an entire country. And so on until she fell from grace, mainly because of the financial plundering and sexual havoc of her husband. For almost a decade the character has been obsessing over Jessica Chastain (Sacramento, 1977). Up to now. Tammy Faye’s eyes, directed by Michael Showalter and recently presented in San Sebastian, they turn the work of the actress who has just premiered in Venice the series Secrets of a marriage at the same time into an event and a firm declaration of principles against what is called sexism. After two Oscar nominations, he is already playing.

What attracted you so much to a character with whom you have been living for almost seven years?
The feeling of guilt. I have grown up thinking that Tammy was a villain, a clown behind that huge amount of makeup … And suddenly, looking at the documents of the time, you discover that I was completely wrong. I feel like I owe you something. I remember when I saw his conversation with Steve Pieters (an HIV positive gay man) in 1985 everything changed. We are talking about a time when the government did not even want to talk about an epidemic and that people were dying. I mean AIDS. She looked at the camera, and, against all the televangelists who despised homosexuals, told millions of Christians that they had an obligation to love … also homosexuals. And a woman did it. Let’s not lose sight of him…
The movie is a confession of a sin …
S. I want to believe that I choose projects that have political importance or relevance. I think it is important to rehabilitate this woman who is a victim of sexist culture.
But to what extent is she a victim of sexist culture or an accomplice of that great company that was and is evangelical television?
One of the first endeavors of any religion is to get hold of your wallet. Think that the Vatican even has its own country. Money is always very close to religion whatever it is. In the case of televangelists it is very clear. It was then and it is now in the United States. In fact, a televangelist woman is the top advisor to Donald Trump himself. If you mix television and religion, the possibility of raising money is multiplied exponentially. And yes, there she was.
In the film, the most radical of the evangelists already appear declaring a culture war on what they call the gay agenda and the liberal agenda … It does not seem that we have changed much since the 80s. They are the same arguments as the extreme right, alternative or not right now.
I don’t understand where the hate comes from. You could understand that someone who has been hurt feels the need to take revenge, but where does the resentment come from who only asks to love? Steve Pieters said: Jess loves me the way I am, Jess loves me for the way I love. It’s beautiful. Who can go against this? I think we live in a too cynical and negative society that doesn’t celebrate love as it should. Tom Cruise, for example, yells at love by jumping on a couch and people get on their nerves. And yet it is a beautiful gesture. Tammy Faye did something similar and everyone laughed at her. I sincerely believe that this hatred that we all profess for ourselves is a social disease. It is something as simple as accepting that we are social creatures.
Jessica Chastain unrecognizable in 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye'.
Jessica Chastain unrecognizable in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’.

I imagine that the pandemic has only accentuated the trend …
So it is. We have been apart and that has only increased the fear. That is why I believe that the cinema fulfills a social function by bringing many together in a room for the same purpose. You have to give value to love, to be together, without cynicism.
You mentioned the word fear as a cause of hatred … Fear of what?
There is a scene in the movie where Tammy walks down the street and a group of young people laugh at her and call her geek. She approaches, greets each one of them, introduces herself and, as a neighbor, offers herself for whatever they need. He even invites them to eat. And everything changes radically. The moment you meet someone, it is very difficult for you to attack them with impunity.
I think, for example, of social networks where it is easy to hate completely anonymously …
Yes, many times I have been insulted for some statement I have made about women’s rights and when I have taken the trouble to see who these people were, I have discovered that, in reality, they are going through some problem in their lives and it they do is turn their pain into hatred. If you approach and help them, as in the movie, everything changes. Love heals and, moreover, it is contagious.
Recently, he appeared in Venice Secrets of a marriage, the new version of Bergman’s classic series in which the roles of man and woman are interchanged from the original. The woman is vindicated. This movie does something similar.
It is true that for a long time we have only heard one version of the story. Now we are adding different points of view and that enriches us all. For me, of course, it is an exciting moment from the point of view of the storytellers. Just look at how many female directors are succeeding at festivals in Cannes, in Venice …
Never before have there been so many films directed by women here in San Sebastian …
We are not aware perhaps of how everything has changed in such a short time. Ten years ago, how long I worked with Kathryn Bigelow [en La noche ms oscura], she was the only one allowed to work in the United States. The inequality was evident.
In the movie, you appear virtually unrecognizable. I wonder if there is also a protest against the obsession with the image of Hollywood there. His is a Hollywood movie in which his star is unrecognizable.
For a long time I was unrecognizable not because of my makeup but because no one knew me. They asked me: But do you really go out there? And he had to convince them. I try to make the characters that least resemble me. I don’t want to be a celebrity satisfied with her only public image. I think I have the right to have the more images the better. I am not fed by vanity.
But Hollywood lives on vanity precisely.
Yes, everything is based on making women desirable. In Venice, a thing was set up by a movement of the arm next to Oscar Isaac … Enough of commodifying women. Definitely, a woman is more than just her appearance.

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