Works in Progress - Autumn 2012

Beware the Squeezebox

By Darcy Courteau | March 18, 2013

Nightmares, magic, subconscious desire, and mothers reluctant to accede sexual potency to their daughters are the stuff of Western fairy tales. To these, Brooklyn-based filmmaker Josephine Decker adds, yes, the accordion. Her movie Squeezebox will tell the story of an 11-year-old girl whose mother harbors a fatal secret. The two live above an accordion shop in New York City, where one of the instruments provides a magical passage away from their shabby surroundings. But this access to nature comes at a cost—the accordion unleashes wickedness in those who play it.

Decker’s fairy-tale movie germinated when Walter Kühr, the owner of an accordion store, taught her to play an accordion her mother had given her. Later, he recruited her for the all-female accordion orchestra he conducts. Her encounters with Kühr, the group of “dynamic, powerful, sensual women,” and their loud, sometimes frightening instruments all had what she calls a “magical realist quality.”

The script is ready, Decker says, and she’s scouting locations in Washington State. The Olympic Peninsula’s rainforest, with its dense tree canopy and mosses that she describes as neon-hued, seems ripe for her tale of fantasy. “It feels appropriate that fairy tales happen in the woods,” she says. “Nature has all this power.”

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