A24 spent $35 million to bring “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” director Ari Aster’s third feature, “Beau Is Afraid,” to life on the big screen. The film flopped at the box office with a global gross just over $10 million and became one of the most divisive releases of the year. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Aster spoke bluntly about the film’s disappointing reception. While he always knew he was making a polarizing movie, he is still saddened by the public’s refusal to engage with it.
“The film ends on a theater just very gradually emptying out over the credits, with a very indifferent audience. I wasn’t quite ready for just how prophetic that ending was going to be,” Aster said.
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“One thing that excites me about ‘Beau’ is that there are certain things that I buried in that film that still haven’t been talked about, and I was kind of disappointed by the way people were maybe engaging with the film on first release because it was very verdict based like, ‘Well, it doesn’t all work.’ It’s like, ‘Well, wait, what doesn’t work?’” he continued. “The film is an experiment in so many ways. Even what he finds up in that attic is a very specific provocation. I’m deliberately blowing up the whole film. People talked about it as a letdown when clearly — yeah, that’s the joke! Interpret this, right?”
“Beau Is Afraid” stars Joaquin Phoenix as an anxiety-raddled loner who sets out on a bizarre odyssey home to see his mother (Patti Lupone). Aster said many clues were put into the background of the film that “tell a whole other story that nobody has brought to me yet,” which somewhat reinforces the film’s inability to register with an audience.
“That’s frustrating because you take the time to put them there and you wonder who’s going to catch them,” Aster told Vanity Fair. “When you make a film like this, it feels in some ways like you’re just pulling yourself inside out. With this film especially as it came out, I felt very protective of it. I’ve said this before, but it’s absolutely my favorite of my own films and I think the furthest I’ve been able to go.”
“I always knew the film was going to be polarizing and it’s designed to be divisive,” Aster continued, commending A24 for letting him make the film he wanted to make at the runtime he needed.
Aster added, “I fantasize about there having been a time during which a film like this might’ve come out and divided audiences, and it would’ve made people excited to go to the theater in order to determine how they felt themselves, as opposed to just people hearing, ‘Oh, the response is all over the board, so I’m not going to bother.’ I knew this film was going to have people hating it or hopefully loving it, and I was hoping that the draw of a debate would be greater, as opposed to the response being something that would ultimately push people away from giving it a shot. So, the film will always be polarizing, but I just hope that people keep finding it.”
Despite the financial disappointment, A24 is sticking with Aster for his next movie, reportedly a Western once again starring Joaquin Phoenix.
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