"I've mashed up other genres in other works, but never so many at the same time," screenwriter David Kajganich says of Bones and All, his latest collaboration with Luca Guadagnino. (Kajganich previously scripted the 2015 erotic psychological drama A Bigger Splash and the 2018 supernatural horror film Suspiria.)
Adapted from author Camille DeAngelis' 2015 novel of the same name, Bones and All is — as you must already know — about cannibals. Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet star as a couple of teenage vagabonds who hit the road in an attempt to outrun their insatiable appetites. If you can see past all the carnage, it's also a tender love story. Which is to say, genre-wise, it is a coming-of-age romantic horror road movie. ("A love story about a young woman coming into her identity, wearing the clothes of a horror movie.")
"I knew it would be intellectually and technically a great challenge," explains the writer. "There was just no way around the fact that, if we didn't do this perfectly, it was going to be ridiculous. I love that kind of high-wire act."
Below, Kajganich shares with A.frame five films he referenced for Bones and All. The scope of the list, which spans multiple genres and decades, is a testament to the ambition of the film that he and Guadagnino have made. "They have never appeared on a list [together] before, I promise."
Where to Watch: The Criterion Collection
Directed by: Monte Hellman | Written by: Rudy Wurlitzer and Will Corry
Two-Lane Blacktop is by far the most convincing road film I've ever seen. And the way that it handles its sense of reality is that it is entirely naturalistic. There is not a line in the film that doesn't feel like you are simply observing it. And none of it feels like it's for you in the audience. It's delicate, and intimate, and fragile, and funny in ways that aren't really for us in the audience. It feels so intimate to me. That's one I watched a lot to try to understand how to build a road movie in a way that was naturalistic, and not archetypal or mythological.
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt | Written by: Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt
It's a film - and a filmmaker - I love dearly. Michelle Williams plays a woman who's trying to head up to Alaska, where economic opportunities might be more plentiful. And she ends up waylaid in this town because she has to steal food to feed her dog. She's separated from her dog. And it's a very emotionally precise, very observant, tonally very rich film about a few days in the life of this woman who is on her own in America. For obvious reasons, I thought it would be useful as a touchstone to my work while I was writing the script.
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich | Written by: Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich
The Last Picture Show is a film I've always loved, because there aren't many films that I've seen that have so many desperate characters and builds a world that, on its surface, is so discouraging. It's about a town in Texas that's economically collapsed but is filled with so much warmth, in spite of the amount of chaos and conflict in the film. I wanted to go back and watch that film to understand how it stayed so generous and how it stayed so warm in terms of your relationships with the characters, in spite of how much awful truth it is telling. That film was a great reference for me for this.
Directed by: Jerry Schatzberg | Written by: Garry Michael White
This is a film that I didn't see until after I was finished with the script, but wished that I had seen before. It's not a film a lot of people know about anymore, but it's this incredible film with Gene Hackman and Al Pacino playing guys on the road who team up together. It's essentially a film about male friendship, at a time when I don't know that that subject appeared in films a lot. I don't know why it is not an American classic, because it hit me very hard when I watched it, and I thought, 'Oh, I so wish I had had this in my head while I was writing Bones and All.'
There is a line you can cross with, let's call it, sincerity. When if you cross it, things become a little too earnest and too sentimental. I would rather make the mistake of being too many steps away from that line rather than risk crossing it. But a film like Scarecrow could have taught me that I could maybe take another step more than I was naturally inclined to take toward that line, but still not cross it, to make the film even more sort of human and warmer. I think the performances in the film did a lot of that work anyway, so it happened whether it was in the script or not, but I like to play close to those lines without crossing them. And that film taught me something about that.
Written and Directed by: Harmony Korine
Trash Humpers is a bit of a wild card, but it is a film I deeply love, would defend to anyone, and helped me build a bit of the chaos of the world of Bones and All. If you haven't seen it, I don't know that I'm even recommending that you should, but it is singular. I've never felt the way that I feel watching Trash Humpers in a movie theater before. I bought it so I could have it close at hand at home. It is a film that scares me so deeply, but, by the end of it, there is some weird bridge of, if not empathy, then sympathy that is built impossibly with the main characters of the film.
It's an adult horror movie. It doesn't have jump scares. It's not terribly gory, but I promise it pries open the door to your id, throws a bunch of gasoline in there, lights it on fire, and then, slams it shut. But, if I ever meet Harmony Korine, I have the weirdest tight hug for him to thank him for bringing this bizarre film into the world.