The garden of delights

Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet on the red carpet for A Little Chaos.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gail Egan, Peter Gregson and Ellen Kuras
A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gail Egan, Peter Gregson and Ellen Kuras Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

From Julie Taymor's premiere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, attended by Helen Mirren and Anne Hathaway, who had just finished performing in Taymor's Grounded, to Livia Firth's fashion event, where Alan Rickman stopped by, we end our week in New York with A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, with Helen McCrory, Jennifer Ehle, Stanley Tucci, Paula Paul, and Rickman as Louis XIV.

A Little Chaos director Alan Rickman
A Little Chaos director Alan Rickman Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Kathleen Turner, Christian Slater, Cornelia Guest, William Ivey Long, Lilly Englert, David Siegel, Fred Schepisi, Gay Talese, Theodora Woolley, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Katrina Eugenia, John Buffalo Mailer, Ann Curry, Diane Sawyer, America Olivo, Christian Campbell, Lisa Falcon, Wendy Whelan. Thomas Matthews, Chuck Scarborough, Meredith Ostrom, Ashley McDermott, Jennifer Creel, and Oksana Jager were among those attending the New York premiere of Focus World’s A Little Chaos at the Museum of Modern Art.

"There is an outdoor ballroom at Versailles," so much is stated as fact at the start of Alan Rickman's period love-and-garden story. The year is 1682 in Paris. The opening scenes, a striking introduction to the world of King Louis XIV. A closed door and a clock. Then a child with wild hair in a nightgown and more children, and more, scramble into the King's room, sit on his bed and raise their arms in delight when he practices his speeches on them.

Then he gets dressed. His finely embroidered clothes in extreme closeup. His wig juxtaposed to the children's unruly locks. Next, we see a field at dusk, mostly grass. People are walking near the top of the frame. They are shadows, like a Lotte Reiniger silhouette. The comparison to the pioneer of animation is reinforced by what follows the people. Three horses transport an uprooted tree. The magical possibilities are endless.

Kate Winslet: "I love growing herbs in a small box on my window sill."
Kate Winslet: "I love growing herbs in a small box on my window sill." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Paul Valéry, in an essay on Sea Shells from 1936, marvels at the geometry and variety of shells. We first see Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) drawing such a shell when she receives a letter. Rickman imagines what a 17th century job interview for landscape contractors would look like and does not stray far from a 21st century one. Sabine, a woman in a man's world, on her way to the interview, offsets a potted plant to great effect.

I started out looking for a green thumb on the red carpet.

Anne-Katrin Titze: What is your relationship to gardening?

Alan Rickman: I love gardens. I love to be in them. I really admire people who…. It's a little chaos and a lot of order or the other way around. It's man and nature or woman and nature. I'm useless at it. But I'm very good at appreciating other people's skills.

AKT: Yesterday at Lincoln Center I was talking to Livia Firth when you came by to greet her before your event. We were talking about The Green Carpet Challenge and Livia said that everything you buy, you should at least wear 30 times. Is what you are wearing tonight going to be worn 30 times?

AR [pointing to his jacket]: This has already seen quite a few outings. The shoes have seen many outings. So has the shirt and I promise you, so has the underwear!

A Little Chaos on the red carpet - Alan Rickman, producer Gail Egan, composer Peter Gregson, cinematographer Ellen Kuras and Kate Winslet
A Little Chaos on the red carpet - Alan Rickman, producer Gail Egan, composer Peter Gregson, cinematographer Ellen Kuras and Kate Winslet Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Kate Winslet on the red carpet also admitted to not having a green thumb.

Kate Winslet: No, I'm terrible. But I love gardens, absolutely love them. I love growing herbs in a small box on my window sill. I'm really not good at gardening. I wish I were.

J.J. Caruth, the head of marketing for Focus World, introduced Alan Rickman who said a few words before the screening, as did Kate Winslet with producer Gail Egan, composer Peter Gregson and cinematographer Ellen Kuras at the Museum of Modern Art's Titus Theater Two.

Alan Rickman: It's the end of a long journey for this film. I think I've learned more about it as times go on than when we were shooting it. You kind of know that a film becomes itself in the editing room, as well as when you're fighting the weather or the budget or the time pressures. We do hopefully take you to 17th century France and I also hope that fairly quickly you just accept that. One of the things that film can do, I discovered, is to take fantasy and reality and put them together so that you see history through a slightly different prism. Some of it is true, some of it isn't. But at its absolute heart, for me anyway, is a love story between a man and a woman and the negotiations they have to make to come together.

A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet on her director: "Alan's commitment to this film and his support…"
A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet on her director: "Alan's commitment to this film and his support…" Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The other thing you kind of know as an actor, that you certainly know as a director, is that you are surrounded by phenomenal support. Some of that support team is here tonight and I'd just like to say hello to them: Our incredible producer, right at my side all the time, Gail Egan. The music is composed - believe it or not, it's his very first film score, I think it's a remarkable score and won't be his last, Peter Gregson. Finally somebody from America. I did a thing up at Lincoln Center yesterday and the interviewer there said "So you're working with one of the greatest cinematographers in the world." And it's true - Ellen Kuras.

And I can tell you absolutely without question that I was working with one of the greatest actresses in the world. As you see in the film, for her being given that accolade and deserving it, it's not what she does, it's also what she doesn't do. Her incredible generosity towards her fellow actors. The way she listens, the way her listening is so rich and informs the fellow actor to figure out who she is in the film at the same time she is doing it - Kate Winslet.

A Little Chaos US posters at MoMA
A Little Chaos US posters at MoMA Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Kate Winslet: We don't want to turn this into a luvvie-fest, but… I'll say one thing. Alan's commitment to this film and his support of it since we finished shooting has really been actually legendary. It was a long journey just shooting it but we were both attached to it, as they say in the biz, for quite a long time. For Alan even longer than myself. If Alison Deegan, our screenwriter, were here, she would just smother you [Rickman] with kisses…. [Winslet at this point does it in her stead] Thank you all for being here. We really do love the film and it's very important to us, so we just hope you enjoy it.

Coming up, the Monkey Bar reception for A Little Chaos, from flora to fauna and clearing up two animal questions with Alan Rickman, a chat with Ann Curry, a suggestion to one of the directors of What Maisie Knew, and a greeting to the director of The Eye Of The Storm.

A Little Chaos opens in the US on June 26 and was screened in the 2014 London Film Festival and this year's Glasgow Film Festival. It will be released on DVD in the UK in August.

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