Opinion | These Films Under 30 Minutes Are Worth Your Time

[printer printing] So this is my DNA test. Apparently, I have a low risk of Alzheimer’s, which is nice. Although I feel like I’ve got Alzheimer’s anyway. I’ve got a medium risk of having an aneurysm, low risk of bladder cancer, low risk of breast cancer — excellent. Colorectal — yeah. High risk of coronary heart disease — which seems odd, because I don’t have that in my family. Obesity — medium. So it seems like heart disease is the biggest one. [music] So I’m screwed. He’s a terrible worry wart. Hi. Hi, I’m Mary Lee. Thank you so much, Mary Lee. Have a seat. Yeah, he worries about all kinds of things. He worries about immediate, short-term things, imaginary things that could happen in the future. I connect with you by holding your hands. OK. I’m going to bless you with this oil if that’s OK with you. Sure. Every time he has an idea and he tells me about it, I say, oh, my god. Isn’t that terrible? That’s a horrible idea. And this new venture of his was, I thought, the worst idea, still, that he had ever had. I’m working on a project where I’m trying to envision all the possible ways my life might be in the 40 or 50 years. The problem with doing a thing about the future is, how do you research the future? Well, I talk to you. OK. Mr. Toledano, as he prefers to be known, is perhaps the most self-absorbed person I’ve ever met. Is that a bad thing? Not in his case. He wears it very well. I think first, we’re going to get your face and head completely prepared for the life cast. For the skinning? Yeah. So I’m going to need you to dampen your hair. OK. And then we’re going to apply a bald cap. I’m just going to prepare for the future. Yes, the future. Oh, this is good. Oh! [laughs] OK, so make the face. Yeah. Go ahead. That is cold. I’m still not exactly sure how he got my number. But he called me and he wanted a makeup designer to create many, many different characters to create a reality out of these things that were coming out of his mind. It’s just so strange to see yourself. And check out your profile. That’s what you never see. Right. Phil and I worked together at an advertising from. His first day of work, he was wearing black leather pants and a really tight white t-shirt. And I thought, wow, what a handsome gay man. [laughs] [laughs] It was funny. For the beginning of the relationship, I would always say to her, Carla, this is forever, just to freak her out. I’d sort of wake her up. She’d be under the sheets. And I’d just go — and it ended up being forever, at least so far. All right. Have a good day. What do you say to me? Thank you. No, no. You say, have a good work, Mom. [inaudible] work, Mom. [music] Thank you. Anybody who’s in our industry knows who Phil Toledano is. But he has no idea of the fact that basically everybody thinks he’s a genius in a weird way. His brain just never stops, and always goes in the direction that nobody else’s does. You can see it. You go through a magazine, you can see a Toledano picture right away. He’s an original thinker. And I don’t think he worries about particularly what came before him, what came after him, what would be expected. Phil does not fit in the photography world. That’s the whole deal. He’s an artist. The projects are all part of him. They’re real personal. He’s so curious about himself. That’s his paintbox. I’m sitting right here, and right over there are three statues of Phil as different dictators. You know, this is our home. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I’m surrounded by signifiers that we’re living in Phil’s world. I think this project fits into Phil’s work, because Phil is the main resource in his work. And he gets better at it each time. When he first talked to me about this project, he was starting with a DNA test. I was a little frightened of it. Because I thought, oh, god, what if he finds something and it eats away at him? [blow dryer blowing] Today, I’m having a stroke. According to my DNA test, I’ve got a very high likelihood of heart disease. Actually, I think one of my fortune tellers also mentioned that. So Adam is stroking me up. It’s all new. I don’t know how long it takes to become that person. I don’t know how long the pictures are going to take. In some ways, it’s a lot like being in a dark room looking for the door. You’re kind of fumbling around, trying to figure out what the thing is — what this idea is. I wonder if it will make me more or less neurotic — hopefully less. And then let’s get a black belt in those trousers, please. When he first said to me that he was doing this thing, I said, oh, my god, can’t you just see a therapist like a normal person? Immersing yourself in your fears, I think, is a destructive thing. I don’t know. Like, I can’t really explain why — it’s a visceral reaction to the whole thing. (LAUGHING) Oh, my god. I don’t know why I’m doing this. [music] I didn’t have specific fears. They were all intangible and nameless. So I needed someone to name them, which is why I spoke to all the fortune tellers. Because those people could name the fears. [doorbell rings] You look pretty healthy. But I think you’re a highly wound up individual. Does that make sense? (LAUGHING) Yes, it does. Are you crazy for ice cream? Yes. Mint chip. That is your downfall, Chubby — It is. [laughs] — in the future! Does this fat suit make me look fat? Can you pull this over here, please? Thanks. If these predictions are powerful and negative, do you start to believe them? I guess I believe that you manifest what you believe in. and So if somebody gives you that information, do you start to behave in that way. In terms of relationships, am I still married to the same person? I feel like you may stray. I feel like you’ll be playmates. Are you all right? Not too cold? No. I’m OK. I mean, I don’t think I ever tell him to stop any project. This is the one project I asked him not to pursue. And it’s the one that he’s kind of gone on full battalion, right? It takes a lot of courage to be with you. [laughs] Or patience. Yeah. One or the other. Do you see me having plastic surgery? I don’t think you would turn it away. I’m trying to give Phil a nice chiseled chin, some cheek pillows. All the things I don’t have. Yeah, exactly. It’s funny, though. Because you can suggest things to him and he’s not interested, unless it came from the fortune teller or the DNA, which I don’t believe for a minute. It’s his stuff. Wherever it’s coming from, it’s very personal. So I’ve always wanted to be an artist. And my father was an artist. And it occurred to me, to be an artist, I need two things. I need to be totally delusional. So I need to believe that not only am I having these fantastic, amazing ideas that no one’s ever done before, but also, I have to be narcissistic and imagine the world cannot wait to hear what Phillip Toledano is going to say next, which is, of course, bonkers, because no one gives a [muted]. But 2006. my life changed very radically. And I found myself suddenly taking care of my father. And it’s an unusual thing to find yourself assuming someone else’s life so suddenly. I remember it very clearly. I saw my parents’ number come up, and it was my father. And he said, something’s wrong. Your mom is asleep and she won’t wake up. And right away, I drove up there as fast as I could get there. And there was my mom stretched out on the bed, and she’d had a huge aneurysm. And it was too late. Phil discovered that his father had been suffering from dementia. And she’d been kind of keeping him away from it. He literally went, holy [muted],, now I have to take care of my dad, and he’s really sick. The first year was incredibly hard, figuring out how to manage him with his dementia, trying to make him happy, also living with the idea that he was going to die. That is really when I started thinking about mortality all the time. Phil has always kind of lived a charmed life. Although in that charmed life, there is a shadow there. Because his older sister died at eight in a fire accident. So there must always have been, while he was growing up, that darkness, that particular tragedy. I was not an only child for the first six years of my life, and then, thereafter, an incredibly protected and nurtured only child. He was almost like the 12-year-old son that his mom took care of until she died. And then I just saw Phil awaken to things that he never thought he’d ever have to deal with. It was such an unhappy life for him. And as much as I tried to make him happy, it was just miserable for him. I wanted him to be there for me. But at the same time, I realized that he didn’t want to be there. So it’s a very strange thing being a son and wanting your dad to die. I remember distinctly him feeling better once he could take pictures of his dad when he visited him. Cheers. That’s fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. It was almost like they had the language that they shared. If he was sad or upset or gloomy, one of the ways I would lift him out of that was, I would just say, I’ve just shot for “The New Yorker.” And his face just — I always get — it just filled with joy. And when he did that, I took a picture. When his father eventually died, that was it. With his mother gone and his father gone, he was alone. He said, if there was one moment in my life where I wanted a sister, it’s right now. I guess then I started thinking a lot about the thing that I’m working on now — the idea of the way in which life is so full of right angles. There are so many possibilities ahead of you and you just have no sense of what they’re like. We’d walk down the street, and it would be, look at that poor person. They probably never knew that they would have that kind of life. Or, god, I don’t want to be that old man shuffling in the snow and the sleet. I was worried about Phil, because Phil seemed, at that point, to be retreating more into himself. And the birth of Lulu coming after his father died was also difficult. You know, here’s this new life. And instead of rejoicing in the new life, I think he kept seeing sort of the possibility of the end of life. I don’t know. I’ve come to see the fortune teller. In the back? Thanks. Thank you. OK. Really, you have fantastic life. It looks really colorful, and you’re obviously full of life. But you see, there’s some things that I can’t avoid to talk about. Sure. These don’t look very good. Yeah, they’re not very good. There’s some aspects about — you have self-sabotage. I understand you’re on this quest, and seeing a lot of different people. But make sure you find at least five minutes a day to go within and just connect with yourself and connect with your spouse. Because she’s a good anchor. She’s a good egg, they say. And I don’t think you appreciate her as much as you should. Do work on this, though. What was that one again? That’s self-sabotage — self-defeating thoughts. Can I ask you, physically, or from a health standpoint, what kind of things do you see? No! What is the matter with you? No, because — You need an injection of positivity. No, no. Well, that stuff is useful in terms of making photos. For instance, I did a DNA test. And I can have this makeup done so I look like a certain way because of something that may happen to me according to my DNA. Do you understand how crazy that is? I know. [laughs] I understand for entertainment value, that’s great. It’s not for entertainment value. Well, that’s exactly the opposite of what I believe. Which is? And I believe we create our own reality. And you have self-healing abilities. And your thoughts just tend to get in the way. [music] I’ll tell you what was really fascinating was that whole thing where I’m my own worst enemy, right? I mean, what’s interesting about all of fortune tellers is that everyone has consistently said that my life is really going to be great. And all the pictures I’ve taken are of, my life’s really dismal. So I wonder what that means. I mean, I’m not in any of the photos. You know, it kind of hurts being the one that’s not part of it. We did talk about it. It was just like, is there not going to be one where we’re a happy family? I mean, can you just do that just so that I see in the mix? So in this particular one, you guys are my family. So this is my wife, and you’re my daughter. It’s because all the pictures have been kind of gloomy. So I’m trying to do something that’s kind of not so sad. We’re going to stand on the steps of the Met with the banners in the background. And in post, I’m going to change the banners to read, “For the Toledano retrospective, 2015-2040.” So it’s like we’re there for my retrospective. How’s that looking? [bell ringing] Is that good? Yeah. It’s nice when it’s cheesy, I think. Because that’s when it works. It just felt intrinsically wrong. It just felt like this is not the direction I should be going in. That’s when I realized that’s not what this project was about. It’s not about how I want my life to be. I’m not interested in the good ones at all. I’m just interested in the bad ones, because those are the ones that hold the fear for me. I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t to think about those possibilities. And I don’t want to deny that they might exist either. Perfect. I’m just charging at them. I’m just running at them headfirst. I guess I’m in my late 60’s. I work at some sort of miserable little company somewhere. It’s exhausting, because I want to give them the space that he requires right now. But it’s difficult to live with. It’s me on the streets in the city somewhere, kind of drunk, and I’ve lost everything. When I started it, I didn’t really know what I was doing. All right. And as I reasoned through the ideas, the idea revealed itself to me. Oh, that’s bad — like vodka-y water. I want to kind of be honest to the unpredictability of life. When people look at those pictures and they say, these things are unlikely — nothing’s unlikely. You waste time! You’re tiring! I don’t even know whether it’s going to ever be finished. Every day there’s more possibilities that kind of unearth themselves. Well, the project’s — what — been two years or so? Longer? Three? Really? Wow, OK. The four, five-hour makeup process is really unbearable. Even though Adam’s doing an amazing job, and it’s very painstaking, part of me wants to kill him with my bare hands. I hate doing it. I find them incredibly painful to do. But I’m doing them for me. I’m doing them because I feel like I have to do them to get better. I’m reenacting a lot of what I did with my dad over the last few years before he died. It’s less fantasy in some ways — this one — than some of the other ones. Every time he forgets something, it’s drizzled with a little bit of anxiety. He doesn’t want what happened to his father to happen to him. For this to be true for me, I have to be as exposed as possible. I have to be as raw as possible. I have to be unflinching as consciously as I can be unflinching. It’s not going to work if I’m vain in any way, if I’m frightened in any way. I’ve got to do the things that frighten me the most for this project to work the best. Can I reference this in? Yeah, this is, I think — That’s the way. Yeah, I think so. I think that nothing scares him more than losing people. I’m not in it. Lulu’s not in it. I mean, is this whole project about us vanishing? I don’t know. Maybe. The idea of the future was very bleak for me. So by acting out all these bleak situations, maybe I’m expunging them from myself. I’m trying to get rid of all the dark stuff so that everything else will be beautiful and unknown. But it’s OK that it’s unknown. But the chair has no step, so it can — my daddy “taked” it. So these are the prints — well, some of them so far — of your favorite project I’ve ever done. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, that’s sadder to me than that one — Well, yeah, for sure. — in a strange way, yeah. Although this might be the saddest one of them all. [laughs] Oh, no. It gets much sadder. This one just is horribly upsetting. Because you don’t want to be this guy. No! Certainly not. Do you feel betrayed when your body fails you? Sure. I’m terrified of losing my ability to [muted].. [laughs] What, like just incontinence? I do think that that would be the last pleasure. [laughs] You know, he describes this project as dark. That part’s very dark. I didn’t see this one. It’s amazing. This one right here is my favorite. She’s kind of giving me this look. I’m looking at not just Phil’s future, but my potential future as well. I am 70. I think about these things. I actually imagine myself old. I imagine myself sick. And every time I see myself in the mirror now, I am quite surprised at how I look. And we all do this. We don’t talk about it, but we all do this. Ugh, it’s awful. Look, I know it’s just been a very unusual route to take — to take that journey by looking at the darkest possible things. But that made me rediscover in part the value of what’s in front of me and the beauty of what’s in front of me, and to appreciate those things more. Well, thanks for looking, sweets. $100. [laughs] No, it’s good, sweets. I like it. I like it now. I’m glad that he did it. And now that I look at it, I just can’t believe that I was so fearful of it. He’s changed, you know, in a good way. There’s still the Phil that sees the disaster that might be around the corner, but can make light of it now, you know? And so we can laugh about it now. Thank god it worked out. Because otherwise, can you imagine? I mean, if my fear had come true — It’d be all “Harold and Maude.” Yeah, I really don’t know where we would be right now. It’s funny. I kept thinking I want to do a couple more images. But then I was looking at the pictures. I realized I’m done with the project. I don’t have any more words. That’s kind of an emotional thing to realize. Because it’s been such a part of me for so long. And I’ve really just sort of struggled with doing it for so long. And to know that that’s done with, that makes me very happy for so many reasons. [music]


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