James Gray on Armageddon Time and being “a complete shithead”

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After exploring the Amazonian jungle of The Lost City of Z and cruising the lunar surface of Ad Astra, writer-director James Gray heads to his most unnerving location yet: a private school in Reagan-era Manhattan. 

As James Gray’s deeply personal coming-of-age drama Armageddon Time opens in more cinemas, Letterboxd Show hosts Gemma and Slim sat down with the man himself to chat about good movies, bad kids, and why all schools should show classic and obscure movies. (“The spirit is filled with cinema; our dreams rendered tangible,” says Gray, in one of many quotable moments). 

A cinephile in the extreme, Gray peppers the conversation with film recommendations. After recommending the works of Sengalese director Ousmane Sembène, he highlights some of his favorite films by Black filmmakers, including Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep: “If your Letterboxd listeners don’t know it, they gotta see it,” raved Gray. “How do you even describe it? Talk about the window into another consciousness! He’s able to conjure a complete and almost epic sense of soul in it. It’s a masterpiece… It conveys a vision of the world that feels totally complete.” 

Read Mia Vicino’s report on the episode, and to hear the rest of Gray’s encyclopedic knowledge of film and his abundance of eloquent recommendations, stream the entire episode here, where he and Gemma and Slim also dig into how his Four Faves (The 400 BlowsZero for ConductAmarcord and A Woman Under the Influence) both consciously and unconsciously shaped Armageddon Time