At the beginning of the XX century, the main city in the world was Paris, then it was New York and now it's Berlin, but its time will also pass sooner or later. Where do you think the spirit of the era will be concentrated next and?
I think it might be Los Angeles, but I've just moved there after living in Berlin for five years and so can't be objective. I've got a friend from London who is quite sensitive to such things. He lives in New York and claims that all the activity is now in Mexico. Everyone has got a different point of view.
What is the most important memory from your childhood? You can name a few.
, summer, train station Jaundubulti, perron, jasmine, the smell of creosote from the railroad. I stand and wait for the train. This image doesn't mean much, but it's the key to my self-awareness. Feeling like a human being in time and space. I keep coming back to this feeling in different ways. As a person who has grown up in at least two cultures, you have some advantages, but is there a downside to that kind of upbringing?
There is a lack of the concept of home itself, perhaps, and this partly explains my answer to the previous question. You have lived in many places, but it was always countries of Western civilization. Have you ever seriously thought about living in Asia? If so, which country would be the most interesting for you?
At the beginning of 2015, we almost stayed in Thailand for a long time. We went for a month, then extended our stay for so long that we somehow almost got fully involved in the local life. And all that time we were sitting there writing for TV. At first «Londongrad»
, then «The Opitmists». My next Russian-language film project, by the way, is partly based on memories of this strange period.
Your book «Ground Up», of course, is not about coffee. But the question arises: what kind of coffee do you drink, what kind of coffee do you make at home, and where do you prefer to drink it?
None! I haven't had any coffee since 2006, my body can't stand it. But Lily drinks five cups a day. So I'm the poor bastard who walks into a third-wave coffee shop and timidly asks for tea. In Russia tea in coffee shops is good, by the way. In Berlin is so-so. In Los Angeles, it's a catastrophe. In your works, a certain type of woman appears. Men look somewhat specific next to them. Is it done on purpose?
At first, I didn't even understand what you are asking about, but over the course of our correspondence, I figured it out: Nina in the «Ground up», Sandra in «Ches», and Elvira in «The Humorist». While not necessarily smarter, they are much calmer and more mature than their partners. Even Alice in Londongrad too, if you think about it. I guess it just corresponds to what I notice in life. As a viewer and reader, I see a single theme in each of your stories. At first, it appeared on the level of sensation, but was fully formed only in the «The Humorist» when I heard «I do not deserve this love and I begin to despise people who love me, just because they so easily believe this cheap deception». Was the topic formulated at the time of working on «Ground Up»? How and when did it occur? Is this feeling related to the personal qualities of the characters or some circumstances?
Interestingly, I do not see this topic anywhere else except for the «The Humorist». If only you knew how hard it was to write that particular line. I can't stand direct declarations of characters' states of mind. But in this case, I realized that I had to force myself to write it because Arkadiev needed to make this statement at least once. Otherwise, too many viewers would misunderstand the idea of the film by thinking of it as «artist and power». How difficult is it to get out of the story, to let the main character go? And what brings you more pleasure: working on the text or the euphoria of its completion? Why?
Like all other normal writers, I can't stand writing. The main pleasure in my author's life is to send the text you've just finished writing. In my opinion, this moment lasts an hour and a half. Then the self-criticism starts all over again. Speaking about the film «Holiday» (2019), you said that you can't speak about art without context. Could you tell us more about this?
Well, that's pretty obvious, in my opinion. When a work of art is censored or banned or, conversely, has some kind of giant success, its fate becomes part of it. «Satanic verses» will always live in combination with the fatwa against Rushdie. So «Holiday» now says much more about the current historical moment in Russia, about its phobias and paranoia, than about its content. Your book «Dressed Up for a Riot: Misadventures in Putin's Moscow» was written in English and there is no Russian translation yet. In this book among other things, you describe events that greatly influenced the course of modern Russian history. However, it is still not easy for a Russian-speaking person to find a chronicle of those years. Is the lack of translation a consequence of your division of the audience into English and Russian, and if so, why do you divide them?
It's simple. I don't think this book will be interesting to the Russian reader since it describes events that are quite well-known for us. Besides, I don't have the time or energy to translate it. And, finally, there was no particular interest from Russian publishers either. I think they came to the same conclusion as I did about the lack of an audience. I wasn't specifically trying to decline the offers. The same thing, by the way, happened to «Ches», only in the opposite direction. If I published a novel in English with an Asian protagonist, I would have to try to avoid questions about cultural appropriation for a year. So let him live in Russian. Do you have an association between cities that are important to you and music? Which songs are associated with which city?
There are some self-developed personal things. Well, for example, last year in Portugal I wrote a script for a movie and listened to «Beach House»
in the background the entire time. Now for me, «Beach House» is a very cryptoportugal band. Or, for example, I don't associate the songs of the band «2Raumwohnung»
with Berlin, although one would think I would, but with Los Angeles. And, let's say, the second mixtape of Oxxxymiron
for me is specifically Moscow 2012-13, because these tracks saved me from the nightmare that surrounded me. And so on.
What other professions would you like to try?
I always thought I could be a decent carpenter. Every once in a while I even install some shelves, but not as often as I would like.
Who would you like to record a track with?
With Emily Haines from «Metric». Or with girls from «Kaleida». Name any three events over the past year that have pleased you. Why?
Probably the worldwide success of «Parasite», my membership in the American screenwriters Guild, and Trump's impeachment.
What are the three most controversial topics that are bothering you right now?
Top three music albums of the year? (and why).
Billie Eilish, Lana del Rey and «Purple Mountains»
. I have (thank God) learned not to answer the question «why» when talking about the music. What a question that you would like to answer, but that you never get asked in an interview?
I am always ready to talk for hours about the music for any of my projects because for each project, I try really hard to get a good soundtrack. I worked on the music for «The Optimists», for example, for almost longer than on the series itself. Surprisingly, there are not many questions on this topic, except for «How was it working with Face?»