Perry stars opposite Carlen Altman (center) in The Color Wheel.

  • Perry stars opposite Carlen Altman (center) in The Color Wheel.

To begin with a disclosure: even if Alex Ross Perry weren’t the friend of a friend, I’d still have trouble maintaining critical distance from his work. We both come from middle-class Jewish backgrounds, spent our college and postcollege years voraciously taking in movies, gravitated towards obscurantist video stores (he worked at the now-defunct Kim’s Video in New York City; I at Bucktown’s Odd Obsession), and, crucially, we both revere the novels of Philip Roth. Perry has described his second feature, The Color Wheel (playing through Thursday at Facets), as a tribute to Roth’s fiction, and one can sense the connection in the movie’s central themes—frustrated family relationships, sexual humiliation, middle-class angst—as well as its vitriolic humor, which is so unrelenting as to be a deal breaker for some viewers. I spoke with Perry a couple weeks ago about translating Roth to film, making the transition from moviegoer to moviemaker, and the challenges of producing an independent film. The first part of our lengthy conversation follows the jump; I’ll post the second part tomorrow.