“I’ve lived in New York for 25 years, and it has become the place that I know best,” says Ira Sachs. “I can make films that are very personal to me, and somehow, I feel like what I have to offer is the intimacy I have with the place.”
There’s no better example of this than the filmmaker’s latest work, this week’s Love Is Strange. The film follows a New York couple, played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, as they encounter unexpected adversity and attempt to find a place for themselves in an almost unrecognizable Manhattan. And while the film doesn’t sugarcoat the New York experience, it does make the case that despite the struggles a big city can present, staying in one can be worth fighting for.
“We wanted to make a very romantic film about the city, and a collective image of a group of friends who are also family to each other,” Sachs explains. “That’s the kind of New York I know.”
He goes on: “A lot of the film is based in the West Village. I have a sense that’s where you see a lot of the conflict of the city take place in terms of who is allowed to stay and who is being pushed out. The film is also kind of concerned with this sort of disappearance of a generation. There’s a romantic melancholy to that that I think the film participates in.”
Still, this particular shot comes from the East Side of Manhattan, where Sachs and his cast filmed the wedding between Lithgow and Molina’s characters.
“It was taken the day we shot the wedding scene for the two of them and we were on the roof of a building on East 9thstreet between avenues B and C, next to a community garden,” he says. “It was the end of the day, and we had been working since sunrise, so there was a feeling of relief and pleasure like we had just thrown a really good party. It’s the opening scene of the movie, and I think that joy we felt carried us through the rest of the shoot. It wasn’t just joy like we’d done something; we liked each other. We developed relationships between us through this movie that I think will last a long time.”