“The short had me from the first frame all the way to the last,” Perlman told TheWrap last weekend at South by Southwest, where “Before I Disappear,” Christensen’s feature based on the short, premiered. “It was as perfect a film as I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen a few dozen films. It went from being ‘will you do this?’ to ‘What do I gotta do to work with this guy?”
Perlman’s praise didn’t stop there, as the former star of “Sons of Anarchy” launched into a soliloquy about his new favorite director. He told TheWrap he “needed to be around the guy who made that film” because Christensen exhibited such vulnerability as an actor while also being ruthless enough to produce a movie.
“I’m a junkie for being around filmmakers who are at the beginning before Hollywood has a chance to turn them into monsters and cynics,” Perlman said.
Audiences shared Perlman’s enthusiasm, voting “Before I Disappear” the best narrative feature of the festival.
Christensen smiled after listening to Perlman’s praise, admitting he is not good at taking compliments. Moments before, he let his co-star Fatima Ptacek, an energetic 14-year-old, answer questions on his behalf. She teased him, which seemed to put him at ease.
Before pursuing a career in the film business, Christensen the frontman of a band called Stellastar, a New York-based rock group formed just as “The Strokes” were ushering in a new wave of quasi-punk.
While on tour with The Killers — the now famous group was Stellastar’s opening act at the time — Christensen came to a realization.
“I could see this band was going to be huge, and I could see that we weren’t,” Christensen told TheWrap.
A film buff who previously took acting classes with his “Before I Disappear” castmates Emmy Rossum and Paul Wesley, Christensen started writing scripts. That led to a series of shorts, and Christensen decided to turn “Curfew” into a feature after it received acclaim on the festival circuit and earned an Oscar for Best Live Action Short.
Both the short and feature are about a guy who is about to kill himself when he gets a call from his sister, played by Rossum in the movie. The sister asks her brother (Christensen) to take care of her 11-year-old daughter.
“He cancels his plans to end his life to babysit this precocious young niece of his,” Christensen told TheWrap, “It’s about them growing over the course of the night.”
That summation belies the movie’s tone, which Christensen described as darkly comedic. Maintaining levity was very important to him. Perlman, verbose moments before, was less interested in explaining the premise.
“It’s not a high-concept film,” Perlman said. “There is no plot to it.
“It’s like trying to describe chocolate mousse to someone; you just gotta pick up the spoon and eat it.”