Richard Ledes

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Template:Use mdy dates Richard Ledes is an American filmmaker and writer based in New York City.

Richard Ledes
File:9 FRED ledes.jpg
Richard Ledes on the set of "Fred Won't Move Out"
Born Richard Ledes
November 11th, 1956
Baltimore, Maryland
Occupation writer, director
Awards “Made in New York” Tribeca Film Festival 2008


Richard Ledes began making Super 8 films at the age of twelve.

He studied Ancient Greek, English Literature and Theatre at Amherst College, graduating magna cum laude in 1979. He formed a theater group to perform plays in Ancient Greek and created a play from the last book of Iliad that was performed in the original Greek by Ledes at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.

He moved to Paris where he wrote and direct plays such as “Midtown Stabber” and “The Gift of Walking”, a seven-minute play accompanied by Prokofiev’s “Seventh Sonata” and performed at Atelier Mahdavi on Rue de la Roquette. He also turned his then-apartment at 242 Rue Saint Martin into a theater where the play “Shade” was performed. He also directed and wrote a number of short films, among which, “Animals” a 5 minute 16mm film based on the grandmother’s tale in Buchner’s Woyzeck.

During this time he also began to write on art for a number of magazines, notably Artforum and Artscribe in London. As a result, he did a few performances himself. "Taste" was based on the records of Richard's uncle who had been a World War II veteran, had suffered a psychotic break after the war and died in a Veteran's Hospital when he fled the facility and was hit by a train. He had been recommended for a lobotomy but ultimately did not receive one.

He returned to New York at the end of the 1980s where he worked on his doctorate in Comparative Literature at the New York University. His dissertation was finished in 1996 and named “The Pure Products of America Go Crazy: The Language of Schizophrenia in the United States During the Early Cold War”. It subsequently served as research material for his first feature film A Hole in One starring award-winning actress Michelle Williams. He staged a series of pieces of performance art at various locations around New York City. At the American Fine Arts Gallery, curated by Colin De Land, he staged and acted in a performance based on the hospital records of a World War II veteran who had suffered a psychotic break in the early '50s. Ledes spent the following years doing further research on the subject of lobotomy and mental illness.[1][2]

As part of his research for A Hole in One, he volunteered at an out-patient center for severely mentally ill patients. There he assistant-directed a series of plays created and performed by the patients, one of which, "Room 13A" was about a drug that cured all mental illness but had one side-effect: it brought back the dead. Richard played a small came role as Antonin Artaud working as a waiter. "Room 13A" was reviewed by "The Village Voice".


A Hole in One (2004)

A Hole in One stars Michelle Williams as a young woman who seeks out a lobotomy during the rise of the procedure in the 1950s. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003[3] and is distributed by "Chapeau Films". It was produced by Alexa L. Fogel and Joseph Infantolino. It was written and directed by Richard Ledes.

Richard Ledes and cinematographer Steve Kazmierski in Hailfax, Canada - on the set of "A Hole in One"

The film is about a young woman Anna (played by Michelle Williams) in an American suburbs of the 1950s. Her brother comes home devastated after Word War II and her father rejects him. The girl is lured into a relationship with Billy, a local mob boss. When her brother dies and she witnesses Billy murder a local nightclub owner, she is driven to the edge of insanity. She develops a fixation with mental health that drives her to seek out a transorbital lobotomy. Anna learns about the procedure through sensational newspapers and Life magazine. which advertises the operation as the new vogue in American medicine. When Dr. Harold Ashton, the foremost practitioner of this brand of lobotomy, comes to town, the entire community is buzzing. He starts performing the icepick lobotomy on alcoholics, veterans and other troubled outsiders.

Billy is concerned with his girlfriend’s obsession so he takes her to a fake clinic fronted by Tom, a Korean War veteran on Billy’s payroll who masquerades as a neurologist. Tom convinces Anna to delay the procedure. Tom and Anna share their traumas with one another and grow closer. Billy finds them together and sets off a final conflict that draws the film to a close.

The idea for "A Hole in One" was born out of a performance piece Ledes had staged at the American Fine Arts Gallery in SoHo in the early 1990s. The performance was based on the records of a WWII veteran who had experienced a psychotic break and for whom it had been recommended that he receive a lobotomy. Ledes conducted extensive research for the film over many years, including volunteering at an outpatient center for severely mentally ill. Additionally, he visited George Washington University, which holds the archives of Dr Walter Freeman.[4] Rather than doing a documentary on Freeman or case studies on mental illness, Ledes opted for fiction.

Ledes’ screenplay draws heavily on documents such as the New York Departmental of Mental Hygiene Annual Report of 1953.[5] Other sources are: "Great and Desperate Cures: The Rise and Decline of Psychosurgery" and "Last Resort: Psychosurgery and Other Radical Treatments for Mental Illness" by Jack David Pressman. He also cites "The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness" by Jack El-Hai, which came out after "A Hole in One", as a reliable reference point.[6]

The film contains a shot-by-shot remake of a real life lobotomy.

Ledes has compared the character of Dr. Ashton to Dr. Strangelove. While he isn’t modeled on one historical person, he is derived from real-life figures.[7] The film depicts both a fantastic and nightmarish image of the 50s.

The film starts with Michelle Williams saying “My memories of the time leading up to my decision to get a lobotomy are fragmented.” [8] Michelle insists that a lobotomy is the only way to feel normal again. The style of the film has been compared with David Lynch and the Coen Brothers. Ledes creates a mood of constant narrative dissonance, a sensation heightened by the strange comings, goings, and seemingly ad-libbed sayings of his characters, countless jumps in time, scientific and historical information thrown about with reckless abandon, and dreamy cinematographic moves (in one shot, the camera takes on the point of view of an oncoming wave) [9] David Rooner from Variety has compared the film to Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind [10] Stephen Trask (known for his soundtrack for Hedwig and the Angry Inch ) is the original score composer of the film. The cinematographer was Stephen Kazmierski.

Michelle Williams' performance in "A Hole in One" was critically noted: "she delivers the proper mix of innocence, quirkiness, comedic timing and dramatic awareness." [11]

The Caller (2008)

In 2008 Richard Ledes directed and co-wrote the noir thriller, The Caller, starring Frank Langella as Jimmy Stevens and Elliott Gould as Frank Turlotte. A contemplative thriller about an executive whistleblower who exposes a corrupt energy corporation's abuses, the film is a departure from the high stylization of A Hole in One.[12] The screenplay was co-written by Lacanian psychoanalyst Alain Didier-Weill.

The film won the Made in New York award at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.[13] It was produced by Linda Moran and René Bastian.

Elliot Gould plays bird watcher and private eye Frank Turlette, who's hired—despite his initial reluctance—by an anonymous but apparently high-placed whistleblower (Frank Langella) at an international energy firm, E.N. Corporation, based in New York. He wants the detective to tail a man whom the company suspects is about to expose the company's corrupt practices in Latin America. But it turns out that the man Frank's been hired to tail and the man who hired him are one and the same. And as the two men's lives continue to intertwine, the puzzle pieces fall together, it's revealed that the man fully expects to be assassinated at any moment—and that he's haunted by a childhood incident that occurred way back during World War II. Less a mystery or even a corporate thriller, "The Caller" is more of an existential meditation on the meaning of life, guilt, memory and fear.[14] The film also involves a interwoven narrative of Jimmy's childhood in France during World War II when he and another boy found themselves alone in the Normandy woods ministering to a dying soldier. Back in the present Jimmy visits his ailing mother at an assisted-living center. Midway through the movie we are suddenly introduced to Jimmy’s girlfriend Eileen (Laura Harring), a morose nightclub singer with a precociously curious young daughter (Anabel Sosa).

The film has received mixed reviews and was mainly criticized for its heavy symbolism in a New York Times review due to its multiple literary allusions and references to other works of art.[15]

Fred Won't Move Out (2012)

In Fred Won't Move Out, Elliott Gould plays Fred, who stands at the chasm between living alone with decreasing mobility in the house where he has lived for fifty years or leaving to live closer to his wife Susan (played by Judith Roberts), who has moderate Alzheimer’s and whom the children (the son played by Fred Melamed and the daughter played by Stephanie Roth Haberle) are preparing to move to a care facility closer to them. The emotional precipice on which Fred teeters at first seems most shaken by the shifting condition of his wife Susan; her own dementia and ailing health has rendered her physicality a mere shadow of her former self and, to Fred, a stark preview of that which is coming his way, too. Susan – his Susan, anyway – is on the verge of no longer being there.[16]

Shot in the house where Richard Ledes' parents lived for close to fifty years shortly after they moved out, the film's story is semi-autobiographical. The film was shot in sequence in three weeks and it features improvisational work by the ensemble cast. The style contains jittery, close-in camera, capturing quiet vignettes around the house, focusing on details, objects and minutia.[17] Richard Ledes has a short cameo with Fred Melamed's character.[18]

"Fred Won't Move Out" was critically praised by the New York Times: "The movie gets almost everything right about the uncomfortable moment when grown children are forced to be their parents’ parents. Its poignancy is distilled in a scene in which a music therapist leads three generations of the family in singing “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag,” “Ain’t We Got Fun?” and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” As long as she is singing, Susan is radiantly happy." [19] Other critics have called the story "so up-close and personal it can be discomfiting", like "spending time with a real family".[20]

The film was shot by Valentina Caniglia; edited by Pete Street with music composition by Robert Miller, production design by Brian Rzepka and costume design by Tere Duncan. It was produced by Ged Dickersin.

Foreclosure (2012)

"Foreclosure" is a horror film that stars Michael Imperioli, best known for his work in mob sagas The Sopranos and Goodfellas. The film was advertised with the tagline "Ghosts Don't Move Out" - a nod to the director's previous work "Fred Won't Move Out".

Imperioli plays a man who takes his father-in-law and son to Queens to to the house of a recently deceased relative. The neighborhood has been decimated by foreclosures, but they try to get a fresh start in the house. Then stuff starts happening. Spencer List, Bill Raymond, Wendell Peirce, Meital Dohan, Matt Servitto and David Costabile also are part of the ensemble cast.[21]

The film explores the psychological response of the living to ghosts. It was inspired by the real estate market and the idea of isolation which is intrinsic to the sense of horror in the film. The isolation felt by the characters in the film is created through the effect of foreclosures on the neighborhood in which they live. "Foreclosure" references Caravaggio's "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (which was also featured in the first released trailer), Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and the character of Huckleberry Finn.[22]

Virgil Films acquired the U.S. rights for this film. The film was produced by Ged Dickersin and executive produced by Joseph Infantolino.

The Dark Side (2014)

"The Dark Side" is an upcoming documentary/fiction hybrid film written and directed by Richard Ledes. It is set under the faux parameters of a romantic comedy that takes place in the Upper West Side and collapses with real life interviews with fire fighters from Breezy Point and Far Rockaway beach who lost their homes to fire and water during the Hurricane Sandy.

The film stars Edoardo Ballerini, Fred Melamed, Bill Raymond, Emily Tremaine and Laura Caparotti. Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein has worked on the score.[23]

Golden Dawn, NYC (2014)

File:GDNYC Omaha Beach.jpg
A still from the upcoming short documentary "Golden Dawn, NYC"

"Golden Dawn NYC" is a film about the neo-Nazi party of Greece, Golden Dawn, and its impact on the NYC Greek Community. The film offers an in-depth look at one of the most virulent neo-Nazi parties in Europe: Golden Dawn from Greece. Polls indicate that this far right party has grown into Greece’s third largest political party since the 2008 economic crisis. Ledes wanted to find out what the Greeks of New York City thought about the extraordinary rise of the party. Placing Golden Dawn in the context of the price America has paid previously for complacency in the face of the rise of Nazism in Europe, Ledes starts by conducting interviews at the Greek Independence Day Parade on Fifth Avenue. The film combines man-on-the-street interviews at the parade with conversations with religious leaders, activists, heads of national organizations, the judiciary, intellectuals and members of the media.

The film was shot by Valentina Caniglia and produced by Richard Ledes.

Style and Themes

Some of the themes that feature prominently in Ledes' films are mental illness, the NYC Greek Community, racial identity, the economic crisis, neo-Nazism, Alzheimer disease, lobotomy, politics. The concepts of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan figure in the texts of Ledes' films which also underscore a post-Marxist form of ideology.

His films are noted for the multitude of literary and cultural allusions, references to other films and/or literature works, often being characterized as intellectual. He uses techniques such as genre subversion, close ups, narrative rhizome, intertextuality, montage, deconstruction. His works often require a subverted reading where conventions are changed and the reader/viewer is required to perform a re-writing of the visual text and a reevaluation of cinematic conventions.

Ledes' interest in Ancient Greek is another characteristic that is apparent in his work.

His style has been compared to that of David Lynch, The Coen Brothers and Michel Gondry. He has himself stated that he is interested in the directorial techniques based on improvisation of Mike Leigh and Robert Altman.

His narratives are concerned with the tension between seeing and witnessing [24]


Date Title Length Notes
2014 The Darkside 51 mins Just as Hurricane Sandy breached the boundaries of New York City, interviews with fire fighters who lost their homes breach the romantic comedy. Eventually, the fictional characters and the real people meet—or do they?
2014 Golden Dawn, NYC Template:Hs31 mins. A documentary about the NYC Greek community's thoughts and reactions to the rise of a neo-Nazi party in Greece and its attempts to ingratiate itself into New York.
2012 Fred Won't Move Out Template:Hs74 mins. With levity and sadness, two grown children and their aging parents struggle with the decision whether the older generation should stay in the house where they have lived for fifty years.
2012 Foreclosure N/A The story of a broken family striving to stay together while a curse and the ghosts of a haunted house try to tear them apart.
2008 The Caller" 92 mins. An energy business exec is assisted by a private investigator in his effort to expose his corporation's corrupt practices.
2004 Template:HsA Hole in One 97 mins. When her brother Bobby returns from World War II mentally damaged, Anna has to deal with her parents who don't aknowledge her brother's existence, who is now brought to a mental hospital. After his sudden death Anna begins to question her own sanity. Her gangster boyfriend Billy's action pushes her further, she's now convinced the only way she can be "cured" is to have a lobotomy.


  • "Outsider" with Rafael Mahdavi, Orleans Press: Paris 1982
  • "AIDS and the Ninjas" with the assistance of Martin G. Koloski Copyright 1 (Fall 1987)
  • "Interview with Paul Virilio", "Specific Object: ZG Magazine" 1988
  • "Sam Samore in Review", Artforum, April, pp. 166–167 1989
  • "Dennis Adams, Alfredo Jaar, Jeff Wall: Tomoko Liguori Gallery." Artforum, January. 1989, pp. 113–14. 1989
  • "From a Screenplay Entitled Anti (Going, Going) Gone (Based on Antigone by Sophocles)." Talisman 6 1991
  • "Ground of Cyberspace" "Intelligent Agent" (co-founder) 1996
  • "Let There Be Light: John Huston's Film and the concept of Trauma in the United States after WWi" Apres-Coup Psychoanalytic Association 1998
  • "Bitten by a Monkey Satie's Sports & Divertissements" April 1999


  6. Richard Ledes. Audio commentary. A Hole in One. Dir. Ledes. Perf.Michelle Williams. Meat Loaf Aday. 2003. DVD.Fox Lorber. 2004.
  7. Richard Ledes. Audio commentary. A Hole in One. Dir. Ledes. Perf.Michelle Williams. Meat Loaf Aday. 2003. DVD.Fox Lorber. 2004.