Being a teenager is about testing the boundaries, venturing into the darkness and seeing just how far you can go til something bad happens. Knowing that limit is part of what shapes us as adults, and I’ve never seen that process illustrated as well as in The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Considering the film is set in the counter-culture of San Francisco in the 1970s, there was ample darkness for a girl to get into.
The movie wades right in with 17-year-old Minnie (Benidorm star Bel Powley) starting a sexual relationship with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). It carries on far longer than it should, with him egging her on as she’s pushing her away. It’s not helped by her mother (Kristen Wiig) who parties alongside her daughter and tacitly condones her pot, alcohol, and cocaine use, but is simultaneously threatened by her daughter’s blossoming sexuality. Minnie gets into all sorts of trouble all over town, but she keeps coming back to Monroe, convinced that they can somehow make their obviously inappropriate relationship work.
First time writer/director Marielle Heller, adapting the novel by Phoebe Gloekner, does a bang up job with the story, but also offers a fair bit of visual ingenuity. Minnie wants to be a cartoonist and draws constantly, her pictures embellishing the footage in spectacular and subtle ways and her comic strips becoming full-on animation. It’s less whimsical than it seems, especially when used sparingly. The rest of the film has a sort of hazy glaze over it, like old Polaroid snapshots or the best Instagram filter for any Throwback Thursday photo you post from your youth.
But it’s Minnie’s story that is captivating, made even better by a naked performance, literally and figuratively, by Powley. Is it her ill-advised (and possibly abusive) first sexual experience that forms her, is it her mother who fancies herself a feminist but competes with women for men’s attention, is it the drugs, is it her sexually-progressive friend Kimmie (Madeline Waters), is it the 70s, is it underground comics, is it San Francisco, is it just hormones? No, it’s all of those things. And this is the rare movie that realises that individuals are the sum of formative experiences some good, some bad, and some productive in their devastation.
This new album by 30 Seconds To Mars is a big surprise!
J.L.: Oh yes! But before you surprise people, my goal was especially surprising myself. I hate complacency. Conversely, the unexpected is a feeling that I love and I think “love lust faith + dreams” surprise as people who have never listened to 30 seconds to mars than those who think they know who we are. I immediately imagine the fans reaction: “Wow, this is really 30 seconds to mars?” I like it in advance. This disc is a real trend, it is very dynamic and diverse, with powerful guitars, beautiful orchestrations, electro and more intimate times.
The electronic side may be the most surprising. This is the first time you go as far in the genre, on the single “Up in the Air” in particular.
J.L.: On our first album, we still experienced a lot of electronic music. “Hurricane” is also a very electro title, like “Stranger in a Strange Land.” This is something that has always appealed to us, but it was perhaps more buried under the surface. What is different today is that a title like “Up in the Air” is much more simple and minimalist, so the synthetic elements stand out more when the guitars are absent.
However, there are titles where the guitars are very aggressive, as the heavy almost vehement “Conquistador”.
J.L.: This is an intentional guitars 70’s return, this title is much like our first pieces, but far more nervous and saturated. This is the kind of song that causes us to lose control. I think it will wreak havoc on stage, it will be relentless.
Do you feel like conquistadors when you step on stage?
J.L.: Sometimes, yes, we seem to be warriors. We must be in this state of mind before stepping onto the arena, you have to be ready to fight a battle. It is also the rock'n'roll: a clash of every moment.
On “The Race,” we see the perfect fusion of electronic and rock. There is a feeling very Depeche Mode
J.L.: This is one of the groups most important of my life. They had a huge influence on me and Shannon. I have always been fascinated by the peculiar way the synthesizers merge with more rock elements. But more than anything, I’m crazy about their songs. I mean, it’s easy to make a dancing title with boxes to beats and synths. Except that in many cases it is hollow. With Depeche Mode, there are excellent songs, and just play the acoustic guitar to realize their potential. These are very great songwriters, and this is one of the few groups to have me adhere to electronic music. So obviously when we started working on the electro parts, we immediately worked with Depeche Mode in a corner of our minds. It was the gold standard, the way to go.
The album also contains a beautiful piano ballad, “End Of All Days.” In this song, you say “I’ll punish you with pleasure, I’ll pleasure you with pain.” It’s very sadomasochistic, right?
J.L.: Indeed, and on reflection, I have come to the conclusion that life itself is a matter of pleasure and pain, don’t you think? The album is called “Love Lust Faith + Dreams” and each song sticks to one or more of these words. “End Of All Days” develops the theme of faith and lust. “Up In The Air” evokes dreams and lust … The artwork will include a chart that will allow people to know the theme of each song. “End Of All Days” is a special piece, it is very important to me. I made up on acoustic guitar. Initially, there was this very dark bluesy approach really. Then I transposed the piano song into a gospel kind of dark, a mantra about faith and commitment. It’s a very passionate song, but also excessively sexual.
Is love, lust, faith and dreams are words that define you?
J.L.: Yes and I think they also define each of us. I think it is not possible to live a fulfilling life if it is devoid of love, lust, faith and dreams. But lust is not necessarily linked to sexual appetite, some people can see the attraction there for good food, for art or for life in general. I remain firmly convinced that these four themes are essential to the development of each. In this sense, we can say that “Love Lust Faith + Dreams” is a concept album.
“Bright Lights,” one of the tracks on the album, is very effective. It feels like the second single …
J.L.: Indeed, there is a good chance that it becomes … I love this song, it inaugurated a new era for us. The synthesizer, in general, reminds me of my childhood. My first instrument was the piano, but the second was a synth. I bought it when I was twelve years old used synth spotted in the classifieds. I loved the sound of this thing, it was so different from other instruments. Everyone played the guitar, while the synth sounds were unique to my young ears. I thought it was cool.
Does that mean you play all synthesizers on the album?
J.L.: Yes, almost all. Shannon also plays a bit.
The song “City Of Angels” is one on which we recognize as the contemplative key 30 Seconds To Mars. Is it an ode to Los Angeles?
J.L.: Yes, totally. I wrote this song years ago, but I had never finished. I was not ready, I needed to grow as a musician. It has long been at my side, it was comforting somehow. “City Of Angels” is about my home, a place where I feel safe and allows me to use my creativity. It’s a song that evokes the influence of the environment on self and art. It turns out that my house is in Los Angeles, but for others, it could be Paris, London or New York.
Los Angeles is also a city that fits perfectly with the themes of this album …
J.L: It’s true, I had thought of it. Los Angeles is the epitome of California, a place where all dreams are possible, especially with the film industry. There is a certain magic in this city, something romantic, mysterious and dark at once. It is a universal city. Even if you’ve never been to Los Angeles, you imagine yourself exactly how it can be exhilarating to race down Sunset Boulevard in a nice car board, listening to loud music and watching the hills above you. Or at the edge of the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway. Yes, this record offers Los Angeles.
There are also particularly epic titles like “Pyres Of Varanasi” that evokes the sacred city of Varanasi, India.
J.L.: Well done! It’s a beautiful place, it’s where the song was composed. It is where they burn the bodies of the dead, on the Ganges, for over five thousand years. They say that if your body burns in Varanasi, then it means that the cycle of reincarnation is broken and your mind will go straight to Nirvana. This is a very important place in Hinduism.
Have you bathed in the Ganges?
J.L.: Yes, but be careful and keep your mouth shut.
How long did you stay in India?
J.L.: A few weeks. It was a great trip, a collision of sounds, colors and thoughts. I miss the country. It inspired me a lot, it was a catalyst for creativity. I also took lots of pictures, I think I’ll release a book of photographs on the subject … Going to India is one that changes your perception of life experience, you come back transformed.
For this album, it seems that you have been wanting to take control of the production …
J.L.: Indeed, Steve Lillywhite coproduced four titles, and I am responsible for the rest. I have always held the position of co-producer, but this time I really wanted to oversee all stages. Anyway, it does not change much because at the end the producers who worked on our previous albums were only following my instructions. It’s just that before, I do not necessarily had the experience to take care of it myself. Today, I feel comfortable in the chair manufacturer, much like when I realize our videos, I do not have to answer for and I can give life to all my desires. I always had the habit to manage all the group: the clips, songs, aesthetics and even our press photos! It was natural that I come one day to take care of the production.
Does that mean you have trouble trusting people when it comes to your baby?
J.L.: No, I trust. I have a great team around me, I can not do everything alone. I, Shannon, Tomo … Everyone contributes in their own way, but because I am the sole songwriter for 30 Seconds To Mars, I bear the responsibility for the project on my shoulders alone. I am the only one to have an overall vision of the project, so it’s my job to manage up to things. I wish I could take care of everything, but I am not superman. I am therefore obliged to trust people … but not just anyone. I can be strong at times, but for the quality of the project. One must understand that shooting a video, it’s total chaos. You have to control it all with an iron fist, otherwise you risk losing all substance. You being just the captain of the ship in a storm.
You can imagine the chaos during the filming of the video for “Up In The Air,” with many extras and a multitude of visual ingenuity.
J.L.: This is a very ambitious video. Not in terms of location, since there is no ice or Wall of China, but rather in terms of visual impact. There were lots of cameras that turned into different formats, it was quite a challenge for me in terms of production. The cast was pretty incredible, classic. I wanted to use visual metaphors to cause a feeling in the viewer
What is the meaning for example the zebra, which also appears on the cover of the single?
J.L.: For me, it symbolizes the dream. We also see a lion, love, a snake, lust, and a wolf that evokes faith. Each animal that can be seen in the video refers to the title of the album
Dita Von Teese appears in the video. Is the embodiment of lust?
J.L.: It would be hard to say otherwise … She is the personification of lust, that’s probably why I chose her. Also because we are friends, we know each other for a while. It was really fun to work with her.
If “This Is War” sounded like a declaration of war, you seem calmer on “Love Lust Faith + Dreams.”
J.L.: “This Is War” deals with conflict, survival and the fight against the corporations, the millions of dollars thrown through the windows of this dying industry record. There was rabid and rage every moment in this record. But we survived it all, we got out alive from the ruins and we exult on every song “Love Lust Faith + Dreams.” We have hope, this record symbolizes our rebirth. I think many people will be surprised by the optimism that emerges. The final song, “Depuis Le Debut” transcribed out this impression.
With the sound of this music box to complete the record …
J.L.: A symbol, since this music box is the one that is used from our mother we fell asleep Shannon and I when we were little. Good night… (in french, Ndr).