With ‘Sylvie’s Love,’ Eugene Ashe Returns With a Huge Hollywood Romance – Thebritishjournal

With ‘Sylvie’s Love,’ Eugene Ashe Returns With a Big Hollywood Romance

The sweeping romance returns. A staple of the Nineteen Fifties and ’60s, these motion pictures that took audiences on an epic love journey (usually starring Audrey Hepburn) have been a little much less frequent prior to now few many years. But the author and director Eugene Ashe is exploring the style anew with “Sylvie’s Love,” arriving on Amazon Prime on Dec. 25.

Set in ’50s and ’60s New York, the film is a callback to the Golden Age of Hollywood, however this time with Black characters taking middle stage. It follows the highs and lows of a relationship between Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), a rising jazz star, and Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), who’s working her method up in tv manufacturing. Ashe’s inspirations for the movie, very like his personal profession, cowl a number of inventive kinds. In addition to moviemaking, Ashe is a former recording artist, an structure scholar, a comedy membership proprietor and a restaurateur.

He spoke by way of Zoom about how “Sylvie’s Love” was born from that big selection of pursuits, and cites a handful of particular inspirations. These are edited excerpts from the dialog.

Nancy Wilson

From character to total cinematic temper, music had a main affect on the route “Sylvie’s Love” would go. Asomugha’s character, Robert, a part of a jazz quartet, stemmed from the dynamic Ashe had with the members of the ’90s R&B group he was in, Funky Poets. But it was the work of the singer Nancy Wilson that was extremely influential. Ashe was born and raised in New York, and two information that he grew up listening to had been “The Swingin’s Mutual” with the George Shearing Quintet and “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley.” He mentioned he would add sure songs into the screenplay, like “The Nearness of You,” and his writing can be guided by them.

“I looked at the cover of Nancy Wilson albums and they looked like how Sylvie looked in my mind,” he mentioned. One standout is the duvet for “Hollywood — My Way,” with Wilson standing on Hollywood Boulevard, bathed within the glow of metropolis lights. He confirmed it to his cinematographer, Declan Quinn, and his chief lighting technician, Christian Epps, and instructed them, “That’s the light we’re going for.”

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Images like that introduced a sense of nostalgia to Ashe, as a result of they showcased a type of “crispness to the night,” he mentioned. “There’s a crackle when people are dressed up to see a show and holding a clutch and have perfume on,” he added. “I remember my parents getting dressed up to do that and thinking, I want to go where they’re going because they smell great and look great.”

Gordon Parks

Photography was important to how Ashe wished to seize the film’s spirit. “I have a lot of old family photos of Black folks who look how Sylvie looks,” he mentioned, “but it was always interesting to me that I never saw them depicted in film like that.” Beyond his circle of relatives images, he was drawn to the pictures {of professional} photographers of the time like Saul Leiter and particularly Gordon Parks, whose work was most just lately paid respects on the HBO sequence “Lovecraft Country.” An picture that has stayed with Ashe is Parks’s 1956 {photograph} “Department Store, Mobile, Alabama,” depicting a girl and youngster below a signal that claims “Colored Entrance.”

“When I first met with Tessa,” he mentioned, “I had that picture on my iPad and showed it to her. It had the whole picture with the colored entrance sign. I said to her, ‘We’ve seen this movie. I want to make this movie,’ and I zoomed in to where the sign was gone and it only focused on the woman and her child. We talked about making a movie that wasn’t framed through our adversity, but that focused on our humanity.”

‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’

Sylvie, whose relationship with Robert is sophisticated by the truth that she has a husband, lives a home life punctuated by midcentury trendy model. Her household lives in New Rochelle, N.Y., and that alternative, in addition to the house design, was all impressed by “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” On that present, Rob and Laura Petrie additionally dwell in New Rochelle. “I grew up watching reruns of it and I thought that Mary Tyler Moore was so beautiful,” he mentioned. “When Tessa is vacuuming in Capri pants, she’s giving you all kinds of Laura Petrie.” Ashe discovered shade stills from the set of the present and shared them together with his manufacturing designer, Mayne Berke, to recreate the texture.

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‘Paris Blues’

Ashe mentioned that within the chemistry of his two leads, he was influenced by movies like “The Way We Were” (1973), in addition to the Diana Ross/Billy Dee Williams movies “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972) and “Mahogany” (1975). But his major influences had been each the novel and movie of “Paris Blues” (1961).

Harold Flender’s novel focuses on the connection that begins up in Paris between a Black musician and a visiting trainer. But the movie offers these characters, performed by Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll, the B plot, whereas including two white characters, performed by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, to ahead the A plot.

“I was wondering what would happen if that movie was made with the Black characters, closer to the original book,” he mentioned. One scene in his movie is a homage to “Paris Blues,” the place Sylvie sees Robert play for the primary time and falls in love with him on the spot. The earlier film has a scene the place Carroll and Woodward come to see the musicians play. Ashe arrange the pictures equally for his scene, however mentioned he pushed it a bit additional. “I drop out some of the other instruments and just focus on him playing,” he mentioned. “So it becomes like this hypnotic thing, where everyone disappears and it’s just the two of them.”


A sequence the place Sylvie is hanging out on the rooftop with Robert is a tribute to the 1976 movie “Sparkle,” about a Nineteen Fifties singing group of sisters. While that film additionally takes place in New York, each it and “Sylvie’s Love” had been shot on the identical Warner Bros. studio backlot in Los Angeles. Budget and scheduling constraints prevented Ashe from capturing in New York, however he mentioned the backlot shoot truly helped to extra firmly solidify the film’s model.

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“Because of the ghosts of all of the movies that were made there, you couldn’t help but make this big Hollywood love story,” he mentioned.

“I think I envisioned originally a more intimate film that was a little more gritty and independent-looking,” Ashe added. “And then when I got on those backlots, I was like, you know, I just want to make this sweeping romance. A lot of that was dictated by being in Hollywood. It made me feel like I was making a movie in 1962.”

With ‘Sylvie’s Love,’ Eugene Ashe Returns With a Big Hollywood Romance The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Pehal News.

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