Novelist and journalist Michael Grothaus was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1977. He spent his twenties in Chicago where he earned his degree in filmmaking from Columbia and got his start in journalism writing for Screen. After working for institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox, and Apple he moved to the United Kingdom where he earned his postgraduate degree in creative writing. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Litro Magazine, Fast Company, VICE, The Irish Times, Screen, Quartz, and others. His debut novel is Epiphany Jones, a story about sex trafficking among the Hollywood elite, based on his experiences at the Cannes Film Festival.
In Epiphany Jones, Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.
A complex, page-turning psychological thriller, riddled with twists and turns, Epiphany Jones is also a superb dark comedy with a powerful emotional core. You’ll laugh when you know you shouldn’t, be moved when you least expect it and, most importantly, never look at Hollywood, celebrity or sex in the same way again. This is an extraordinary debut from a fresh, exceptional new talent.
The Dreamers (UK, France, Italy, and US, 2003)
I remember seeing this in an arthouse theater in Chicago in 2004 and thinking “Americans aren’t ready for this kind of film.” And they weren’t. Though Bernardo Bertolucci’s (Last Tango In Paris) adaptation of Gilbert Adair’s excellent novel The Holy Innocents received high critical praise, its topics, including incest and isolationism, didn’t find a large audience among Americans. However, this film is a masterclass in creating a realistic coming of age story. American foreign exchange student Matthew moves in with twins Théo and Isabelle and the trio quickly become entrapped in their own world of film admiration and psycho-sexual gameplay. Self-absorbed with their relationship, they don’t realize the social upheaval of the 1968 Paris student riots happening right outside their door.
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors ( UK, 1965 )
They don’t make horror movies like this anymore. I first saw Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as a kid during an October scary movie fest on television and it captivated (and scared!) me from the get go. Starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee the plot sees five men board an overnight train carriage. Then enters a tarot card reader. The five men all agree (some reluctantly) to have their cards read. Each reading of their future is played out as a mini-movie within this film (their future horrors include everything from werewolves to intelligent homicidal plants). Each tale has a clever twist and by the end of the train journey all the men are so scared, they ask if there is any way their futures can be avoided. There is–but only by one means…
L’Auberge Espagnole ( France and Spain, 2002)
One of my all-time favorite films, in English-language territories this movie was called Pot Luck or The Spanish Apartment. It follows a year in the life of French Erasmus student Xavier and his journey to Barcelona for university where he finds an eclectic group of other foreign exchange students to live with. You’ll end up falling in love with all of the characters, but what really struck me about this humorous little film is that it perfectly captures the way it feels to be thrown into a completely foreign city you’ve never been to before. At first everything seems overwhelmingly large and incomprehensible, but as time passes you come to not only known those little silent side streets, alien transit systems, and odd cafes, but come to love them–indeed, become as much a part of the city as its local residents; moving, sleeping, and living in sync with them, as if you are now an essential part of the lifeblood of a metropolis that could feel like nothing other than home.
Thanks to Michael Grothaus, Karen Sullivan, and Iceland Noir.