Riley Stearns on ‘The Art of Self-Defense,’ Yorgos Lanthimos, and Small Business Realities

With only two films notched in his belt, Riley Stearns has proven to be one of the more distinctive voices in American independent filmmaking. Delivering both laughs and shocks with a considered precision–and often at the same time–Faults and his new film, The Art of Self-Defense, explore power structures and a twisted sense of community in inspired ways.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg as Casey, a lonely auditor who desires to prove his masculinity, he meets a mentor of sorts at the local dojo, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and things only get more intense and darkly humorous from there. John Fink said in our review from SXSW, “The Art of Self-Defense proves to be a twisted comedy with hidden depths that gravitates at times between tenderness and restrained silliness.”

Ahead of the release, I spoke with Stearns about his precise pacing, how he feels being compared to Yorgos Lanthimos, the realities
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