On Our Interview with Ann Romney

15Oct07

Today, as part of our continuing series of garden interviews in Washington Heights, we spoke with Ann Romney — wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt — about some of her favorite films and “the focus” they have brought to her husband’s campaign.

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The Gay Recluse: Ann, we noticed in the press materials that you prefer to start off every interview with a few words about the French filmmaker Jean Renoir — why?

Ann Romney: Renoir is such a huge inspiration to both of us, and he represents a turning point in our decision to run. One night around the time we were first considering it, we watched The Golden Coach, which against all expectation turned out to be our all-time favorite Renoir film. Until then, I had only seen La Regle Du Jeu and La Grande Illusion, which — OK — are cocktail-party masterpieces but had always left me feeling a little unconvinced–there’s just something a bit plodding about them, you know? (But don’t tell anyone I said so!) Laughs. But seriously, there’s a pervasive sensuality to The Golden Coach I find intoxicating on so many levels; the politically subversive manner in which Camilla goes from suitor to suitor, the fantastic colors, the constant acrobatics of the performers — I could go on and on! The point it, all of it moved us more than words can say. It was one of those moments when you cast logic to the side and say “life, I’m here — take me!”

TGR: Would it be wrong to say that your campaign is really a form of commedia dell’arte?

Ann: No, that’s exactly it! And you know, politicians are actors, too. I’ll never forget the scene at the end of the movie when the stage manger says to Camilla [Ann later provided us with the exact language]:

“You were not made for what is called life. Your place is among us, the actors, acrobats, mimes, clowns, jugglers. You will find your happiness only on stage each night for the two hours in which you ply your craft as an actress, that is, when you forget yourself. Through the characters that you will incarnate, you will perhaps find the real Camilla.”

When we saw that, Mitt and I looked at each other — we both had tears in our eyes — and I didn’t even have to say it; we both knew that we were going to run! We’re really only happy up on the “American stage,” forgetting and finding ourselves at the same time.

TGR: You’re obviously a big fan of Anna Magnani.

Ann: “Big fan” does not begin to express the depths of my admiration for Anna Magnani and her work! Laughs. When my sons were growing up, I always told them not to fall for superficial beauties — and sadly there are so many — but to search for someone with soul, which may sound trite but which I think encapsulates Anna. When I’m First Lady, you can be sure I’ll be promoting her legacy in all of the schools.

TGR: Talk a little bit more about your five sons. Is it true that the idea for their Five Brothers blog was inspired by Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties?

AR: Did I say that? Laughs. It’s funny, I give a lot of speeches and interviews these days, and that’s probably the number-one question people ask me.

TGR: And the answer is…?

AR: Well, yes, of course! I know it’s become almost a cliche for campaign spouses to mention Lina Wertmüller as an inspiration — remember how overplayed Virginia Woolf was in 2004? — but I don’t care. These are precarious times in the U.S., and the tone that Wertmüller struck in her harrowing treatment of fascism — the ridiculous, grotesque quality that sometimes leaves you no choice but to laugh through the tears — is exactly what Mitt and I want to strike on the campaign trail, and ultimately in office. It’s not one of hope, exactly, but an understanding of the human condition and a sort of artistic revelation that springs out of it at our most dire moments.

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