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Affonso Gonçalves: Editing Carol

Gordon sits down with film editor Affonso Gonçalves to discuss his recent work on the film Carol. Affonso's work includes True Detective, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Winter's Bone, among many other amazing shows and films. You can see the full transcript for this interview on Aotg.com.


The Cutting Room: I'm wondering if you can tell me first how you got involved with this film cause from what I've researched it was a huge undertaking to get it out of development and into pre-production so I was wondering how did you get involved with this project.

Affonso Gonçalves: I had worked with Todd on Mildred Pierce, on the HBO mini series so I was already hoping to work with him again and we really got along. It was a great experience, so he called me one day and says that he got this job and I think by the time he contacted me the thing was, I think it was at the tail end of everything then it just went very fast for him to start directing, shooting, and start cutting. So it was pretty fast. I think I want to say that he got in touch with me in November and by March I was cutting so...

The Cutting Room: Oh Wow...

Affonso Gonçalves: For, my end it actually came about very fast.

The Cutting Room: You said you worked with Todd before on on Mildred Pierce and I'm wondering how your relationship evolved from that experience to help you in this project?

Affonso Gonçalves: Well quiet a lot because on Mildred Pierce there were two editors, myself and a another editor Camila and it was a five episode mini series. I did three episodes and Camila did two but I stayed till the very end. I stayed through the mix and the whole process so on this one it was just me and Todd and you know in an odd way it was almost the same amount of time we had on Mildred Pierce we had on this. Mildred Pierce was quiet a fast turn around. It's just a a such a great pleasure working with him. It's so amazing just to interact and to see... I knew some of the things that he liked because of our previous experience together so it just deepened the relationship and there's something about editing that's not just... the collaboration is not just the creative thing but there is a social aspect that we became closer as friends too which is quite great, you know.

The Cutting Room: One of the things I noticed when I was watching this film and I hope I sort of explain this properly. It it might sound a little confusing but there's a lot of tracking movements or a lot of panning and following characters with the camera. Shots like that in and of themselves have their own pacing or timing and I'm wondering how you you use the pacing and timing from the movement of the camera or the following the actors ... How did you work with that to create the pacing in the overall scenes or even the overall film?

Affonso Gonçalves: A lot of it is the way Todd is directing the actors and directing the way they move and moving the camera with Eddy (Edward Lachman), the DP, how Eddy is setting the camera it kind of informs me how the the pace is gonna work. But so much of it too, is the way the actors are moving within the frame, so in the beginning of the film where it's more about the falling in love part, the tentative part, the sort of tension of not knowing what the other person feels and you use and try to build tension and try to create a different pace and rhythm from the second act when finally their love is consummated but then it breaks because of everything that happens. The sizes change, the rhythm changes, the pace changes, so I'm just trying to ... I do follow movements and movements of actors and movements of the camera but in this case and in case of Carol specifically I was trying to follow how detailed and how rich the performance of both Cate and Rooney were giving me. A lot of times things happen and the lines are delivered and things are done but then there's an extra walk or an extra move or an extra look and stuff like that I wanted to play with.

So I was trying to kind of create a little bit of contrast between the beginning and the end, between the changes and how much they evolve in the story by way of when I cut or did not cut.

The Cutting Room: You mentioned the looks and that seems to be such a powerful part of this film is the subtlety in some of the looks that they give each other, it's really phenomenal so what was the rushes like and what were you looking for in them to pull out these characters more with the small things like the the looks?

Affonso Gonçalves: That was it because when I, I mean you don't really know what to expect when you get the rushes but I get the rushes and you start cutting and you start paying close attention. It's like, wow the the looks and the way they're moving their hands and the way they're touch and not touching each other are just... like the way that that Carol just brushes past Therese's back or just have a little bit of movement... So, as I'm watching I'm taking notes of of specific things and really it's tiny little moves, she just cocks the head to the left or to to the right or she moves or the way she sits down, and the way she carries herself. As I'm watching I'm taking notes and I'm saying okay this is it, you know. This is where I have to play. This is how I have to play this film. I didn't want to just waste all my heavy artillery and use too many close ups in the beginning but then I felt like I almost had no choice.

The Cutting Room: You see it really come out in the lunch scene... the close ups and delicate moves really are impactful.

Affonso Gonçalves: It's so strong if I play on the closer stuff because it's so incredible the way they smoke, the way they eat their green spinach. One barely swallowed, the other is just so classy so you get there and hopefully you kind of direct the audience, say okay just pay close attention because in the details it's almost like the way Ed and Todd were shooting it, it was sort of the subtext of what was happening so I was doing it. I was following suit and holding the looks, playing with with gestures, playing with just tiny little movements and and this kind of stuff.

The Cutting Room: That's the thing that sort of evolves from these tiny looks and these true emotions are these sort of moments is this, I guess what I'm trying to say, and I don't know how best to say it but... it's sort of like when you're a kid and you're starting to get crushes on people or you're going on your first date so you have that inner nervousness but you're also really excited...It felt like I was sitting on a first date!

Affonso Gonçalves: Yeah, no, that's exactly it and there's this little thing like in the very beginning when Therese sits down and she has to move and you hear this sound of the chairs, like this little squeak and I remember in the mix, I was sitting there in the mix and they had cleaned it up and I had to be like, no no no you have to put it back because that's the key here. You have to, you want to be observing. You want the person to notice you but at the same time you do not want to be noticed. You don't want to be, like do anything wrong... Here's Therese sitting with this incredibly beautiful regal human being that knows what to order for lunch and drink and she, Therese, barely knows exactly how to sit down and that little noise and that little move just says a lot and I was just going with that. It's like that, if I take the scene is phenomenal but if I take it out then I just have to play as if this is a silent first date how would I do it and that's basically the way I was doing it, was okay, if they can't say anything then how about the [subtle] looks.

Okay, let's let me do this and when is Carol going to choose to invite her in or when is she going to light the cigarette or when she's going to say, "Therese Belivet" and so it became just like that. You build to a silent confrontation there or a silent kind of tension in the most beautiful, loving way but an intense first date.

The Cutting Room: The subtleties can also be seen in the morality clause scene. When Carol finds out about the morality clause, but the reactions seem key, how did you approach this scene?

Affonso Gonçalves: Again, it was a lot like the way Cate moves around and the way Todd was choreographing her. She moves around and how close she gets to the guy and the sizes and the pauses that were playing there. It's a very tense thing because she gets surprised in the middle when she loses everything. It's like maybe I can do this and the guys... So it's one of those scenes where there's overlap and there's one thing on top of each other because it's a rare moment where we see Carol just losing her cool and being completely thrown and be like, What the fuck do I do now? What is happening here? So in an odd way we actually refocus on how we can do that interaction in the beginning. She keeps trying to find ideas, maybe I can do that, maybe I can see her and I go, you can you can and it stops so it's the frenzy of the middle had to be built like that explosion had to be built from the beginning and then had to release in a way in the end and the way that sort of the music on the very last shot carries her, like the music is taking a very dark dark theme and transitions her to the street.

So in an interesting way that you mentioned that scene because that scene I actually cut the middle before I cut the beginning and the end. I wanted that middle confrontation to be when something really seriously shifts and shifts in the cutting and shifts in the overlap and shifting when we're seeing who and how, so that's kind of how we thought about that scene and it builds builds builds, explodes and it quiets down and then there's this kind of dark release when she walks down the street when she finds the camera to give to Rooney.

The Cutting Room: The other relationship that I found really interesting was between Cate and Kyle, or Kyle Chandler and Cate Blanchett and I found it really interesting because it's... from his perspective he's lost his wife and the sense I got was he almost took offence to how he lost his wife or a sense of losing his manhood and so I was wondering how did you approach editing these scenes between Cate and Kyle?

Affonso Gonçalves: Todd and I, when we chose the performance from Kyle we always chose something that was hurt but not overtly angry. Even in the beginning, the very first interaction they have, it's in the kitchen when you see, you've been seeing a lot of Aunt Abby. It's very angry but it's not accusing. When he loses a little bit outside the house but he's drunk and he's kind of, really he's drunk and when he falls down and he's cruel and he's a little harsher but we wanted to keep that kind of... like he's very tense. He's very frustrated but he loves this woman. He still loves this woman. He says so himself so we want to have something that is less of a release and again he does get angry with Abby but it's out of complete frustration and confusion and loss of control of what happens and he says to Carol, "it shouldn't be this way. Please stay with me, you're beautiful". He's pleading as much as he can and doing as much as he can and in the scene of the lawyer it's the same thing.

We wanted him to start in a place that there is an explosion and then he always has to catch himself because he's so taken by Carol so Kyle is pretty fantastic because he gives you choices. He can be just angry or just frustrated or just sad. Because his performance is so strong we can just navigate when we wanted to use what and how but we wanted it always to be true to the moment how he would react.

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