Seduced and Abandoned

Seduced and Abandoned

Postby CAP » Mon May 12, 2014 12:10 pm

This is not the noted 1964 Italian feature directed by Pietro Germi, about the irresistible little village virgin, Agnese (Stefania Sandrelli) and her impulsive suitor Peppino (Aldo Puglisi) – a delirious Italian comedy, in the guise of late Neo-Realism perhaps, although maybe I’ll do a review of that some time. :lol: Anyway this time the title is used for an amusing little documentary following maverick director James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin around the 2012 Cannes Film Festival as they visit the financing sector and pitch for an improbable feature called Last Tango in Tikret. The two are clearly good friends and at ease in front of the camera and mostly it’s a kind of self-indulgent charm offensive. But it does have a few good jokes, so I give it 6.

Toback is a notorious arthouse wannabe and sleaze – I bracket him with Paul Schrader. But here Toback assembles his material efficiently enough, paces it well, there’s probably a few too many inter-titles or chapters, but the thing doesn’t outstay its welcome at 90 minutes.

Baldwin is nowadays best known for his role in 30 Rock as NBC executive Jack Donaghy, the chubby, Ivy League insider and there’s not that much difference between the Alec we see here and Donaghy, except a slightly more casual wardrobe. Toback and Baldwin are both getting on (50s-60s) and are not so much motivated by commercial success or ‘making it’ as realising their dream of making ‘great’ cinema or art – work they will be remembered for. But it clearly is just that: a dream. Just as Last Tango in Tikret is not really a project so much as a hypothetical exercise in seeding finance through the Cannes Film festival network. We are just going through the motions here. But the two have a lot of fun schmoozing all the parties and receptions or launches, and Toback an astute networker while Baldwin is shrewd and at heart an acting tragic, looking for that perfect role. Unfortunately that role has been shaped by his television career and is pretty much as himself and cinema opportunities for that are unlikely to arise in the top end spectaculars they target at Cannes.

The main interest lies in interviews with other directors (again of a certain age) and their experience of Cannes and of raising finance outside of the studio or Hollywood system. Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese are all generous with their time, candid in their opinions. But a lot of it is harking back to the days when Hollywood studios were run by a head of production, like Robert Evans, whereas by the 90s decisions over productions were assessed by auditors and accountants, looking to minimise risk and maximise returns. Needless to say, it hasn’t really resulted in better movies or more hits, only bigger budgets that allow bigger flops. The whole vexing question of distribution and monopolised promotion and exhibition is never really broached nor the kind of rethinks that might see their dreams realised by other technology, more modest vehicles. But the sense is that Toback and Baldwin are happy to cruise the scene, shoot the shit with old hands and enjoy the party.

Along the way they buttonhole stars and ask their opinions on the project and aspects to the movie industry in general. Being actors, they mainly talk about acting. Ryan Gosling is particularly illuminating – and amusing – but there’s not really anything new here as far as structuring the budget for a mainstream feature. It’s all about the ‘marquee names’ or stars, either actors, directors or writers. They interview Jessica Chastain, who was in Tree of Life (and other stuff I haven’t bothered with) and who definitely doesn’t look as good as she does in dramas and Diane Kruger, a German actress who I don’t really know at all but who is drop-dead gorgeous, even in a documentary. I must check out some of her work! There are also interviews or just snippets really with famous producers and investors but mostly these are boring businessmen looking to invest prudently, protect the bottom line. You can pick this one up as a DVD, I think it probably made its money back as a HBO presentation - meaning it doesn't really gain much from a bigger screen.
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