CITY OF GHOSTS

(aka Beneath the Banyan Trees)

USA, 2002, 116 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)Matt Dillon

CAST

Matt Dillon - Jimmie
James Caan - Marvin
Stellan Skarsgård - Kaspar
Gerard Depardieu - Emile
Natascha McElhone -  
Bjorn Granath - Flyckt
Kem Sereyvuth - Sok

WRITTEN BY

Matt Dillon and Barry Gifford

THEATRE RELEASE

23 April 2003 (Limited in NY & LA)

FILM FESTIVALS

Toronto Film Festival - 10 September 2002

Sundance Film Festival - January 2003


SYNOPSIS

Jimmy Cremmins (Dillon) has been working as a front man for a bogus insurance company set up by his longtime mentor, Marvin (Caan). In the aftermath of a hurricane, claims against their fabricated coverage come pouring in. With Marvin living as an expatriate in Southeast Asia, Jimmy is forced to face the subsequent chaos and investigation on his own. He decides instead to flee and re-group with Marvin in Asia, against Marvin's wishes.

During his pursuit he finds himself a stranger in the often hostile environs of  Cambodia. With the aid of the duplicitous Kaspar (Skarsgård), another of Marvin's business associates, Jimmy eventually finds Marvin, who attempts to convince Jimmy to join him in his latest venture, the development of a large scale casino with an ex-general. But Cambodia is another world - one in which the rules are different, a world where violence isn't merely a threat but a reality. As Jimmy finds himself drawn further down a darkening path of deception, it also becomes his path of self-discovery.

 

PRAISE:

"Along with cinematographer Jim Denault, Dillon comes equipped with some heavyweight support, notably in the formidable form of Gerard Depardieu, as a barroom owner, and Stellan Skarsgård, as Marvin's cagey aide-de-camp. A consummate secondary player, Skarsgård stealthily worms into his role."  ...LA Times

"Skarsgård is smarmily effective as the double-dealing Kaspar." ...Reel.com

"The movie fairly oozes with atmosphere, and its cast contains enough colorful characters to make Casablanca blush.Stellan Skarsgård is Kaspar (shades of The Maltese Falcon), a supposed associate of Marvin's, but really friend or foe?"   ...DVDtown.com

"Stellan Skarsgård is convincing as Marvin's devious associate."  ...Exclaim!

"There is Kaspar (Stellan Skarsgård), also working for Marvin, underutilized but always a pleasure to watch."   ...San Diego Metro

"Skarsgård is suitably bipolar in his strengths and allegiances. He defines the environment when he says, 'The whole country needs a paint job.'"  ..Filmcritic.com

"Skarsgård plays the shifty partner perfectly, while McElhone is great as the love interest for Dillon." ...Dvdfuture.com

"Phnom Penh is a far more compelling presence than any of the characters, though Skarsgård's sullen, sweaty Kaspar gives it a run for its money."   ...TV Guide

"Dillon has put together a superior supporting cast: Gerard Depardieu as a Frenchman who's gone native with a vengeance and now runs a seedy hotel and saloon; Stellan Skarsgård as Jimmy's wimpy-yet-dangerous criminal confederate."  ...Kansas City Star

"Stellan Skarsgård as Kaspar, Marvin's obsequious associate, gives the one great performance. He is so perfectly nuanced that we feel Kaspar's pangs of conscience much more soundly than Jimmy's."   ...Boxoffice Magazine

"Dillon, surprisingly, has a good eye. He gets some excellent performances from his talented cast, which includes Stellan Skarsgård and Gérard Depardieu."  ...Fox News

"The superb supporting cast includes Stellan Skarsgård as a slimy interloper and, in the role of Dillon's ambiguous mentor, James Caan, who acts with a lightly sinister panache that reminds you of why he was once a star." ...Entertainment Weekly

"Stellan Skarsgård is perfectly unsavory as Marvin's overseas henchman Kaspar."  ...neumu.net

"With Stellan Skarsgård oozing unsavoriness playing Caan’s right hand man and Gerard Depardieu giving a demonstrative turn as the proprietor of a run-down bar and hotel."   ...efilmcritic.com

"Dillon does an admirable job as actor, flanked by the unwavering talents of Caan, Skarsgård and Depardieu."   ...Palo Alto Online

"Stellan Skarsgård pulls off yet another gem as Kaspar, one of Caan's henchmen."   ...DVD Clinic

"Stellan Skarsgård is remarkable as the slippery Kaspar. His natural 'business man abroad' looks twist towards the plot until, by the end of the film, he's positively under your skin - and you feel like you need some antibacterial scrubbing."  ...Blunt Review

"Mr. Dillon as director has assembled a top-of-the-line cast: James Caan, Gérard Depardieu, Stellan Skarsgård and Natascha McElhone."  ...NY Times

"Kaspar – one of Marvin’s henchmen (well played by Stellan Skarsgård)."  ...Upcoming Discs

"The likes of Stellan Skarsgärd (The Glass House, Timecode), Gerard Depardieu (The Closet, 102 Dalmatians) and Sereyvuth Kem (making his debut) are all good in their respective parts." ...Screen it!

"Simmering cinematography by Jim Denault and performances that rise above the stock characters (the cast also includes Stellan Skarsgård as Marvin's right-hand creep, and one very industrious monkey." ...Detroit Free Press

Stellan Skarsgård is a convincing double-crossing associate."  ...About.com

"The grouping of Skarsgård, Dillon, Caan and McElhone results in good chemistry and performances that connect well."    ...Current Film

"In choosing Caan, Depardieu and Skarsgard to play the film’s trio of shifty expatriates, Dillon has fashioned a group of supporting players whose storytelling abilities tie in beautifully with his hallucinatory tale."  ...Film Stew

IMAGES
 

POSTERS
 

PRODUCTION NOTES:

It took five years to get the project off the ground. Dillon says he almost shot it in 1998 but financing fell through. Finally, in 2001, it was green lighted for $10 million. The first-rate cast came together despite the low budget and the onerous locations. One that Dillon wanted to use but couldn't was a brothel outside of the capital, Phnom Penh, because it was run by the Malaysian mafia. He did get his way with another difficult location, Bokor Hill Station, which required the production to rebuild a road and the crew to be mindful of venomous snakes, tigers, wild elephants, and land mines. Shooting was as gruelling as anticipated. There were several cases of dysentery, and some of the crew passed out from heat exhaustion.
 


COMMENTS FROM STELLAN:


Working conditions: "It was very hard work. Long days in terrible heat and in a country almost without infrastructure. We had a lot of people just falling over from heat stroke and driven to hospital. Great fun though and very interesting. We had tigers on the set one morning....

Cambodia: It is definitely the poorest country I ever visited. They have had constant war since the US invasion and the toppling of prince Sihanouk, which later led to the victory of the red Khymers and the horrible slaughtering of a big part of the population and total obliteration of all intellectuals. There was some shooting going on in Phnom Penh just months before we arrived and the producers had different evacuation plans for us in case the fighting would brake out again. People were very friendly but you could understand that there was an experience of violence that easily could lead to dangerous situations.

Family on location: In the beginning of the shoot we lived in a brand new luxury hotel in Phnom Penh which was absurd and felt almost sickening considering the enormous poverty on the street outside our walls. My children also felt very bad about it and also a little scared by the attention they got as nobody was used to seeing such small blond people. Later we moved to a small town near the sea, Kampot, and there we lived in a house and mixed with the people. My children found friends and suddenly the poverty got a human face and became less scary to them even if the unfairness in our unequal conditions still upset them.

The cast: Matt was fun to work with and he actually managed to create a very personal flavor in the film. Natasha I knew from Ronin and it was nice to see her again even if we didn’t play against each other. Jimmy Caan, or The Dream as we called him- and he himself- was a fun new acquaintance and great to watch when he worked. Later I met him again in Dogville and still liked him. Depardieu is just as you think he is  - fun and a very living presence on the set.

On his character: I just tried to give him some helplessness and innocence in his amoral life..
 

"It was chaos, but in the best sense. The noise level was phenomenal - car horns, motorbikes, general street noise. When you were shooting, you were battling with all this other noise. It was like being in a firing line. We worked on the run. Hordes of people were watching every scene." ...Natascha McElhone

"The mosquitoes were as big as Buicks... Once I got there (referring to Bokor Hill Station), I wanted to strangle Matt. They had to sweep for land mines three times before you stepped out of the car." (Caan's accommodations in nearby Kom Pot featured a bare lightbulb and a malfunctioning air conditioner). ...James Caan

 "Inherently I have an advantage being an actor, but that said, I have a hard time gauging for me, figuring out how much I should convey to them and how much they know. I don't want to be a director who over-communicates with actors because I know I don't like it. At the same time, I want to be clear. So when Stellan Skarsgård was doing an interview he said, 'Usually I don't like it when directors say too much. I usually like a director to shut up. Well, Matt didn't shut up. But I liked what he had to say.' I thought that's good. That's all you can hope for... Stellan is wonderful. So inventive. There's a scene where he and James Caan and another character are getting massages in a bar, and Stellan said to me between takes, 'I think my character enjoys getting massaged. But I take no pleasure in it.'"  ...Matt Dillon