photos / Jena Cumbo
story / Tiffany Diane Tso
BUTTERCUP BILL is the psychosexual romance between characters Patrick and Pernilla. Buttercup Bill was also the “real” life imaginary friend of co-writer/director Émilie Richard-Froozan, who drew from real life experiences with her partner Rémy Bennett (who also plays Pernilla) to create their first feature film. The filmmakers and real life best friends have known each other since the tender age of 16, when they were both studying abroad in Dublin. Rémy became Émilie’s muse, and the two continued to work with one another creatively on and off throughout their diverse lives.
Years of collaborating have culminated into the premiere of Buttercup Bill at this year’s Marfa Film Festival, far west Texas’ ode to the art of cinema. (For those in attendance, the film will be screening at 9 p.m., July 3.)
Shot entirely in New Orleans, the self-proclaimed autobiographical film directly references “past lives” of Rémy and Émilie, who call the release of the film cathartic due to its personal nature. Not only did they pull from their life experiences to create the film, the duo also did everything from location scouting to costuming, keeping things on a low budget. All but one actor, lead Evan Louison who plays Patrick, were friends of the filmmakers, and the house they shot at belongs to a man Émilie once loved.
The conceptualization of Buttercup Bill began after Émilie traveled to New Orleans for the guy she was in love with. Another time and place, Émilie watched Bunny Lake is Missing with her mother, who ended up telling her she had her own imaginary friend, which she later discovered was named Buttercup Bill. During the brainstorming portion of writing the script, Émilie and Rémy found themselves revisiting stories from past relationships and lives for inspiration.
LADYGUNN got the girls to share some of their stories, to shed a little insight on the beautiful and haunting film they’ve created.
I remember the light from the vending machine reflecting off your face when I told you I knew you wrote the letter. I remember you saying it didn’t matter anymore. I walked into the darkroom, and we pretended like we’d just met. Limbs. Chemicals. And if anyone came in, we’d somehow always be on opposite sides of the room.
I remember when you lost your virginity in the dark rain in your house by the water, and you pretended we were characters in Kate Chopin’s “The Storm”.
I remember when the night bee got me.
I remember us walking home from school together and crawling onto the kitchen counter to open the liquor cabinet. I remember our hair getting wet in the sprinkler and your tongue tasting like rum. I remember the garage and crawling into my dad’s broken down MG-the smell of musk and the color of mustard. I remember stale cigarettes in the metal ashtray and torn black leather seats. I remember you unbuttoning my pants and taking my finger and tracing a heart in the dust on the windshield.
I remember on New Years in Key West, where we sat on the dock closest to Cuba, and we saw a flashing orange light slowly move across the sky, and you said “watch, now it’s gonna disappear,” and it did.
I remember when I flew across the country just to see you for a day. The smell of sugary rum radiating off of you, I wanted to play the radio, but it was on the wet kitchen floor. You sat down in the water and told me to sit on your lap and pick a station. I remember when you threw the television off the balcony into the courtyard, and I flew home.
I remember us all sleeping on your screened-in porch in the middle of summer. I remember the swimming pool that wasn’t used, ‘cause you never learned to swim. I remember you telling us about suburban voodoo and finding a slaughtered chicken in the middle of a circle of stones in the woods behind the house. I remember you pointing to the tallest tree and telling us that when your dad was young, he used to climb to the top of it and never come down. I remember you saying that when your dad was alive, he loved to whistle, fly planes and had the tattoo of an “H” on the inside of his wrist. I remember your mother’s name was Helen.
I remember sitting at the top of a spiral staircase inside an old church. You were asleep down the hall. It was just getting light out. Your brother told me to go open the door, that you would be there, that I could talk to you. I slowly opened the door and saw you asleep with some girl. I turned around, and your brother smiled at me and told me to come sit back down.
I remember your attic in Virginia and the mixtape you made when I was 10 that sampled Jane Fonda in “Klute”. I remember doing “something of substance.”
I remember basements, parking lots and video stores. I remember smoking pot in the porno section and stuffing movies into my backpack. I remember “Faces of Death” on VHS. I remember sitting in the back booth, drinking black coffee and playing Euchre, talking about the fourth dimension. I remember sneaking out late at night and meeting you on the corner near the lamppost, where you gave me a love letter. I remember we thought the members of the Elk’s Club were Satanists. I remember finding a dried organ with rope tied around it that we dragged along the train track for days. I remember hot pavement, cicada wings and arm wrestling in the dirt.
I remember the hurricane. The rose. The teacup. The telephone pole smashing into our heads. I remember when you wrote me, “on your birthday, I just want to remind you of the things I have thought during the while and still: what it means when you bring me a glass of water before I ask, or tell me to put on a jacket, or hug me to slow me, and put me in your way as I should be.” I remember Phaedra. I remember the bird bell. I remember that there was a difference.
I remember Rex.
I remember being six years old on the boardwalk in Atlantic City at dawn with you. I remember you holding my hand and making a promise you couldn’t keep. I remember you telling me that when you were a little girl, you never wore shoes, and your feet grew calluses. I remember you taking me to the cemetery to visit the grave of the girl we never knew whose name was Violet. I remember her gravestone was a statue of a teenaged woman with a curved back. I remember “the boy with no hands,” and how you were scared. I remember you told me that when you were little, you had a best friend, and how she was Snow White, and you were Rose Red.