Auld Lang Syne (PDF) >
A portrait of two American brothers who start out being close and very similar, but end up on opposite ends of the social spectrum.
Filmmaker Cindy Jansen met John Lawson in Paris shortly before he died in 2009. The story of the love for his brother Alan, a life of partying, and ultimately alcoholism and lies convinced her to look up his brother, who made a career for himself as a professor at Brown University in Boston.
The thread of the film lies in the audio recordings of John that were made in Paris in 2008. His voice-over alternates with images of Alan in his daily surroundings, films from the family’s archive and images and places John spoke about.
The calm, loving film subtly makes you ponder life's choices and the accompanying expectations.
In 2008, I met an American in Paris named John Lawson (76). He told me all about his years of alcohol addiction, his family and the special bond he had with his brother Alan in Boston, with whom he maintained contact through letters. The story of this man inspired me to create a cinematic portrait of him.
Due to throat cancer John spoke through a ‘Provox’, a prosthetic voice, and his speech came out raw and monotone. I saved the recorded discussions with John with the intention of inserting visual material at a later date. The direction I focused on was the personification of his relationship with alcohol and with his brother. In the film John speaks in monologues to Alan as if they were in the same room together, and projects himself as a kind of 'seductive woman' when he slips into the role of the alcohol. However, the project took a different turn in 2009 as John again became ill and died.
At this point only sound recordings were made. I asked John’s brother Alan whether he would send me some footage of John, so that I could finish the film. During our discussions, major differences came to light about their separate characters and their intense relationship. It was at that point that the subject of the film shifted. It was no longer only about John but about both brothers, their shared past and their varying perspectives.
The brothers grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, in the 1940s. Their family had Swedish/Canadian roots. Besides the parents, the family was made up of John, Alan and their youngest brother Bob. All three studied at Brown University. But where Alan spent his free time studying and doing sports, John focussed on ballroom dancing, drinking champagne and attending social gatherings.
Alan’s career and personal life – he was a successful professor/writer and is married with two children – stands in stark contrast to that of John, whose aspirations as a professor were frequently undermined by alcohol addiction. John had long periods of abstinence after his first stint in rehab at the age of 43. During this time, he was mainly engaged in working with substance abuse care facilities, studying and publishing articles.
John lived clean in Paris, ‘the place to be’, for the last 10 years of his life. He spent his time studying French songs from the 1920s, the music of Alan’s choir, and the Impressionists in the Louvre. He was an obliging host to his visitors and wrote letters to friends and family every day.
Director Cindy Jansen knows how to arouse a viewer’s past experiences. Even though her themes may be a little rough around the edges from time to time, Jansen’s imagery is very precise.
As in her previous productions, documentary elements form the thematic basis of Auld Lang Syne, often as an extension of social conventions and expectations. A strong balance is maintained between what is abstract and what is real, between the dramatic elements of people's lives and how those elements are reflected in the big picture. Major themes are approached with respect for the characters and without judgment. Language and imagery are interwoven: from the absurd and full on irony (Alice, 2004) to the oppressive (Don’t hit me I love you, 2009) and the dramatic (Come Spring, 2009).
Cindy Jansen (1976, Veghel, NL) graduated from the Academy of Visual Arts in Arnhem (NL), Milan (I) and the International script development and directors programme of the Binger Filmlab in Amsterdam. Since 2000, she has her own studio in Rotterdam. Jansen's films and videos vary from non-linear narrations to more fragmented art works that find their audience in both the international art scene and at film festivals.
Her videos and photo works have been presented in multiple group and solo exhibitions, such as Loop '05 Barcelona, the Empire Project Gallery Istanbul and Gerhard Hofland Gallery Amsterdam, whereas her films have reached international audiences at film festivals, among which Hamburg International Short Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Alice (2004), Useless is Blood (2004), Don’t hit me I love you (2008), Come Spring (2009), With Love (2010), Belgrade Forest (2012), Crows of the Sunday Pond (2013), Auld Lang Syne (2015)
Mary Beth Tabacco
Director/producer /Director of photography/editor Cindy Jansen
Supervising editor Katharina Wartena
Music Metropole Chorale of Brookline
Colour Grading Laurent Fluttert
Sound Design and Mixage Bart Jilesen
Graphic Design Yvo Zijlstra
Original format HD
Screening Format DCP
Sound Dolby SR