Ever look around the theater during one of those perfect-heist movies and feel like you're the only one who can't figure out the heist? Like they lost you somewhere between the double-con and triple-scam? You are not alone. But we are here with help. Director James Foley's latest film, Confidence, which opened Friday, is as streamlined and confident as his some of his best work, Glengarry Glen Ross and At Close Range. It's also one of those perfect-con movies, a conundrum wrapped in a puzzle hidden in a vegetable tortilla, or something like that.
We went to Foley, the acclaimed slick operator himself, with a few questions, and he didn't scam us, we think:
Q: Is clarity everything when making a heist picture?
A: The most important thing is being honest. You can't cheat just to get the effect of a surprise or a twist. It has to add up and be defensible. When you go back and see the truth of what's going on, every character's behavior has to be understandable and defensible.
Q: So you're saying people have to see Confidence twice?
A: I'd like them to. (He laughs.) No, I just hope that the film kind of brings up a question mark in different scenes. Maybe the audience is listening to what's going on, accepting it, but something is nagging at the back of their mind. [It's] an itch that gets scratched at the end.
Q: When are too many twists too many?
A: Audiences get one time through. So I have this method where I read the script one time and take note of my reaction. I was very satisfied reading it through the first time. I totally got it. I just thought that if I filmed the script, then people will have the same response.
Q: It seems with heist movies, style is more important, or just as important, as a clear story - and certainly more important than the heist itself.
A: In retrospect, I'd say moral relativity interests me: Who's the bad guy? Who's the good guys? What are primal instincts, and how do they collide with moral codes? This is something I've been interested in since Glengarry Glen Ross and At Close Range. But in this case, I was attracted to the playfulness of the whole enterprise. It had a kind of breeziness.
Q: Still, just as the salesmen closing a deal in Glengarry is an end unto itself, the scam in Confidence is an end unto itself.
A: That's a perfect analogy: I am well aware of the [mechanics of the] con in the film, but it's the least important aspect of what turns me on.
Q: Of course, The Big Sleep is probably the best example of a mystery thriller that makes no sense, in retrospect or the first time you see it. But it's great anyway.
A: I've never seen it. Who's in that?
A: I'm terribly cinema illiterate. It was always a shameful thing in film school. People were always making reference to things I hadn't seen. I just didn't see movies until I was in college really.
Q: Before making this, did you watch any newer heist films, like Ocean's Eleven?
A: I really hate this idea of referencing other movies before I start a movie. I don't want to be influenced. Being in a genre, the heist movie - that is totally invisible to me and never came up in my mind while I read the script. It was just a serio-comic drama with a group of guys and a girl. No one mentioned `heist' or `con film' until I looked at the advertising for it. Later I saw Ocean's Eleven, which was enjoyable, but to be honest, I couldn't totally follow it.