Interview with film director Frank Vitale

Frank VitaleTwo weeks ago I reviewed an interesting Canadian film called Montreal Main” . Since the time I published the review more than 400 people have read it – which prompted me to attempt contacting the film`s director for an exclusive interview for theskykid.com. With the valuable help of Michel from CVMC.net I was able to get a hold of Mr.Frank Vitale who agreed to answer some questions about his film.

” Montreal Main ” is considered to be a Canadian independent classics and I am honored that I had the chance to present you an interview with its director :

Hello Mr. Vitale and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for TheSkyKid.com.

John SutherlandYour film ” Montreal Main ” focuses on the relationship between a 12 years old boy and an older photographer . The ending of the film is a rather sad one as they are forced to put an end of their friendship. During the years I have seen many films who deal with intergenerational relationships – to name a few : ” This Special Friendship ” , ” For a lost soldier ” , The fire that burns ” – and all of them end by disastrous separation – either forced of because of one of the characters dies. Do you think that those endings reflect the expectations of the society toward the relationship that is portrayed in them ?

FV: I haven’t seen any of those films but I suppose they encountered the same problem/question I had: where does this relationship go? One of the possibilities is a sexual relationship, which is taboo, illegal and scary. The other is an intergenerational buddy relationship. Based on the film it doesn’t appear that Frank wants to pursue either of those possibilities. But it also doesn’t appear that Frank knows what he wants.


I have read that the plot in ” Montreal main ” is based on evens in your life. Could you share with us the story that inspired you to write the script of your film ?

FV: Saying that it is based on events in my life is inaccurate. In fact it is more accurate to say that events in my life evolved from the film.

First, let me talk about the inspiration for the script. I wanted to make a movie and came up with this idea that a character, like me, becomes interested in a beautiful young boy. It seemed like an interesting idea. Was I interested in a beautiful young boy? Possibly. However, I think my motivation was more about working out my sexuality in a creative and unusually public way. It has taken me decades to see and accept that motivation for doing the film was an exploration of my sexual identity.

Second, my friends and I played ourselves in the film. In that way it is not based on real events but on real personalities and character. This adds a rich and novel layer to the film that was initially unintentional. Sometimes I describe that part of the film as the “style of necessity.” I decided that my friends and I would play ourselves and improvise the script because I had no money for actors. I felt that people playing themselves would give more authentic performances than the inexperienced actors, who may not even show up. That being said, I am sure a psychologist would find more to it than that.

Third, the only real incident was the break up of Bozo and Frank as friends. It became part of the story as it was actually happening at the time. Bozo (Allan Moyle) and I had a very close friendship for a number of years before the film. During the film we began drifting apart. It was a beautiful friendship and I loved him very much, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I eventually got married and raised two terrific children. Bozo went on to write and direct some high profile films. The most successful (a coming of age film, I believe) was Pump Up the Volume with Christian Slater. When I saw that film, I saw Bozo’s heart and mind on the screen. Bozo lives in LA and I in NY, and we had not seen each other in years, until recently. We had a great reunion a couple of years ago at the digital re-mastering of Montreal Main (available at montrealmain.com) and at a Canadian Legends screening in Calgary, Alberta of his film The Rubber Gun and of Montreal Main.

Montreal MainHow did you cast the boy (John Sutherland) for the role of Johnny ? What set him apart from the rest of kids that were auditioned for the film ?

FV: I conceived the film with a friend’s little brother in mind, another beautiful young boy with long black hair. When I approached his parents, they said no. I never had a real casting session. I put the word out and a friend of a friend suggested Johnny. Anne and Dave, Johnny’s parents, are very nice people and open. They said yes.

On the re-mastered DVD Johnny sat in with Bozo, Steve Lack and I on director’s commentary. It was great to be able to ask him as an adult what he was thinking while we were shooting the film. It was very interesting and gratifying in some ways. You’ll have to listen to him in the commentary to see what I mean.

Montreal Main is also about a very short lived unique time period in Montreal… this area is not like the 70’s anymore…What made the Main street so unique in the 70’s. And how has it changed since your made the film ?

FV: Like many marginal ghettos where artists move for cheap rent and interesting environments, The Main has gone upscale with boutiques, high end restaurants and long lines at places like Schwartz’s Delicatessen and Cookie’s Main Lunch, the greasy spoon below my loft, which has become a fashionable breakfast and lunch spot. (Leonard Cohen lived, and still does, across the street.)

In the 70’s the Main was populated with Greek and Portuguese immigrants. The shops were owned by former immigrants, the Jews, who had moved to the suburbs. To the East the predominate French culture insulated us from the real world. For a group of us Anglophone artists, who lived on practically no income, the Main was a timeless backwater of communal dinners, art openings and parties. It was a post 60s stagnation that I eventually found boring and moved on. As I look back I see how special it was.

Montreal Main SceneAs theskykid.com mainly focuses on coming of age films it would be interesting to know if you have a favorite coming of age film that you can recommend to the people reading this interview ?

FV: I love coming of age films. My favorite classic film is forgotten gem, Captians Couragous with Freddie Bartholomew. It was made by Victor Flemming the same year as The Wizard of OZ, which is also a coming of age film. There are scores of others and I won’t start making a list. I just took a look at the Wiki list and noticed that Whale Rider wasn’t on it. I liked that film. There they had people playing themselves and made a great commercial film. I am jealous.


I have heard that you are working on a voluntary basis on a project called “the March of Dimes” – can you share with us more details about it and the films you are currently working on ?

I have a long list of film and TV credits on IMDB.com under Vitale I and on my website: vitaleproductions.com. On my site you can see my recent documentary A Perfect Stranger (a documentary on a stranger I met in Starbucks) and some pieces I made for Shining Time Station (the PBS children’s series) and for The March of Dimes Foundation, where I am currently director of the Audio Visual division. The March of Dimes does research and education to make sure that all babies are born healthy. It is a large not for profit organization and I am on staff.

Currently I am looking for a publisher for my nonfiction manuscript, The Metropolis Organism (http://themetropolisorganism.blogspot.com/), an exploration of the idea that a city is a biological organism, and always looking to make another movie that is a beautiful as Montreal Main.

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I would want to Thank Mr.Vitale once again for taking time to participate in this interview and encourage all of you to express your opinion about it and /or the film Montreal Main in the comments section below.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Montreal Main has been in my VHS and now DVD collection since I found it in our attic some ten years now. Turns out, our uncle who previously owned this house, ran a video rental place and stashed some of the old titles as if he knew someone (me) would discover them years later. I have been a fan of Canadian films ever since.

    Since this site focuses on coming of age films, I´d like to recommend “Little Criminals” also a Canadian film. It is somewhat disturbing and even though it gives the right message, it has a unexpected ending. Makes you wish you were there to lend a hand to our decaying society.

    • Thank you for commenting Jake. There is actually a review of Little Criminals on the site : https://www.theskykid.com/movies/little-criminals/ . An excellent movie indeed – with some great acting , quite controversial and amazing soundtrack . I will join your recommendation of it – its a must see for anyone found of the coming of age genre and the Canadian cinema in particular .

  2. Hello again: This is one interesting interview! I am really puzzled though with the comment Vitale made: “FV: I haven’t seen any of those films but I suppose they encountered the same problem/question I had: where does this relationship go?” for Special Friendship alone is a classic piece! I new about this one in my college days back in '73. Actually, it's the first film I had ever read about concerning this subject and as yet, had not seen any! But, perhaps I was always wondering about myself so always searching.

    Great job, though! Thanks again for this site and information in it. Boy, if this was around back then I would have had a “hey day!”
    Fred

  3. I think I may very well be one of those who discover it. It is gems like this film that ought to be sought after.

  4. I think I may very well be one of those who discover it. It is gems like this film that ought to be sought after.

  5. You are surprised that 400 people have read your review of Montreal Main? I am surprised that 400,000 haven't looked at it yet. It's a fantastic film and I remember going to see it when it first came out. I'm delighted to learn there is fresh interest in it.

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