Stone and Lanthimos just reunited on “Poor Things,” a Frankenstein-esque black comedy that’s received some of the best reviews of the year. But the ongoing SAG strike has prevented Stone from talking about the movie, which is backed by Searchlight, during stops at Venice or New York film festivals.
Since “Bleat” has secured an interim agreement, Stone was permitted to talk about the short film following Wednesday night’s screening at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. “Go SAG!” she cheered as she took the stage with Lanthimos. The two were lively and self-deprecating as the conversation, moderated by NYFF artistic director Dennis Lim, dug deep into “Bleat,” and only “Bleat.”
“It’s a 30-minute short film with an equal-length Q&A,” Stone cracked, who was careful to not break SAG guidelines by discussing a struck project. At one point, she giggled anxiously, “I haven’t done this in a while. I’m sorry! I’m pretty nervous.”
The filmmaker designed “Bleat” to be only shown in theaters because the dialogue-free film is accompanied by a live music ensemble and full chorus performing compositions. As he took the stage to introduce “Bleat” before the screening, Lanthimos joked that he was nervous for the orchestra. He turned to the pit and teased, “I hope you do a good job.”
Lim admitted it was coincidental that Stone and Lanthimos have two films playing during the 61st edition of NYFF. “We tried to make this happen last year, but it was so complicated, it took a full year [to arrange].”
“Bleat,” set on a small Greek island, follows a young woman (Stone) who “lurches between devastation at the loss of her partner (Damien Bonnard) and an animal instinct for life.” The 30-minute film explores themes like loneliness and connection; death, love and desire and human and animal interaction.
Lanthimos, the director of dark thrillers and absurdist comedies like “The Lobster,” “Killing of a Sacred Deer,” and “Dogtooth,” first collaborated with Stone on 2018’s Oscar-winning “The Favourite.” They joked that his movies often return to themes of sex, death and goats, all of which make an appearance in “Bleat.”
Stone jabbed, “It’s, like, nonstop, every day. He calls me and he’s like, ‘Goats — what do you think? Death?’ I’m like, ‘OK, still? We shot this three years ago.'”
Stone says it was a “dream come true” to make a silent film. “If I never had to talk again, I’d be thrilled,” she said. “And so would a lot of other people…”
Later in the panel, she doubled down on her desire to not talk on screen. “I’m being serious. It’s my favorite thing to not have to speak. I wish often think we could cut many lines of dialogue because I think people can say a lot more without speaking,” Stone said. “I mean, sure, sometimes they can say it with words,” she conceded. “I like language…”
Lanthimos offered an idea. “Make a silent feature!”
“Clap if you like that idea,” Stone directed the crowd, who responded with enthusiastic applause. “I’ll do it… once the strike is over!”