Todd Haynes is the filmmaker “alive right now who is the most connected to the aesthetic and language of melodrama,” according to his longtime fan Ari Aster.

The day after the New York Film Festival’s September 29 opening night premiere of “May December,” Netflix hosted an Academy tastemaker screening of Haynes’ latest spell-casting melodrama starring Julianne Moore. Haynes couldn’t be joined by his cast, including Moore as a lispy suburban Mary Kay Letourneau type and Natalie Portman as a famous actress tasked with playing her in a movie, due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. But the Oscar-nominated “Carol” and “Far From Heaven” director was joined by “Hereditary” and “Beau Is Afraid” director Aster at the Crosby Hotel in Manhattan for a post-screening Q&A. IndieWire shares the exclusive full Q&A video below.

“I love this film, and when I first saw it earlier this week, it really bothered me,” Aster said. “It took kind of a day to parse through my feelings, and it’s something that happens for me with a lot of your films, like in ‘Mildred Pierce’ near the end when Veda [Evan Rachel Wood] gets strangled, right? Or the scene near the end of ‘Safe’ where she [Julianne Moore] gives her birthday speech, which is this snarling together of all these kinds of half-digested platitudes. But she clearly doesn’t understand herself, and that’s something that’s never left me.”

“There are so many scenes in [‘May December‘] that have been lingering with me,” Aster said, calling to moments featuring “Riverdale” breakout Charles Melton as Joe Yoo, whom Moore’s Gracie Atherton-Yoo met and seduced when he was an adolescent, and then later married. Aster called Melton’s performance “really beautiful” and “devastating.”

“The film kind of puts you in this position where you’re very quickly judging the characters and they’ve been kind of sized up really early on, and over the course of the film, those judgments become confused and the film expands, and at the same time, it alienates further and further,” Aster said, nodding to how Haynes juggles comedy, melodrama, pathos, and sex soap opera in directing the film from Samy Burch’s ripped-from-the-headlines screenplay.

Aster called Haynes “famously film-literate, but by film-literate, I mean your films are film-literate. It’s very obvious in something like ‘Far From Heaven,’ which is self-consciously [Douglas] Sirkian, but your films are always looking to other films, to other traditions.”

Haynes and Aster bonded over “May December” reference points like Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” and “Winter Light” — especially in a three-minute, unbroken-take monologue delivered by Natalie Portman’s Elizabeth Berry as she finally, fully “becomes” Gracie after weeks of studying her closely.

“You think of Elizabeth being this reliable proxy who’s coming in from the world outside, and that she’s going to chip away at this sort of fortress that’s been erected around this family,” Haynes said, as Portman’s character is now unpeeling the Yoos’ marriage 20 years after the now-couple first met. “As it unfolds, that trust in Elizabeth starts to get destabilized […] The way people bring such a sense of certainty and expectation for their opinions and their identity politics to be confirmed in the movies that we see, this movie, this story, the script pushed in all of these places of discomfiture for me, and this is exactly what excited Natalie about it.”

Watch the Q&A with Haynes and Aster in the video above. “May December” opens in theaters from Netflix on November 17 before streaming December 1.

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