Archive for Harvey Weinstein

As You Know, I’m Your Father…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2020 by dcairns

“As you know, I’m your father…” What vistas of the strange those six simple words open up.

We were watching MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, a bunch of us (four being a bunch for the purposes of this discussion). The film begins with some scenes of an expository nature. The throng (four being a throng as well as a bunch) being composed entirely of people with at least a toe in the business, we soon bridled.

First thing we see — after three pieces of text — THREE! — to tell us it’s a true story — is Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in a recreation of the Having a Heatwave number from THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS which is totally unlike the original but I suppose not wildly anachronistic or inaccurate in terms of period style. It’s not madly overedited, for one thing.Cut to an audience, Our Young Hero front and centre. Marilyn herself liked to sit front and centre when she went to the movies as a kid, which is why this is the proper place to sit: think of whom you might meet. However, I immediately don’t want to meet this guy, based on his macabre smile.

Main title.

Cut to stately home. Voice over. “Everyone remembers their first job. This is the story of mine.” Well, could be worse. A bit blunt. It’s not only going to tell you a story (as opposed to showing you it), it’s going to tell you it’s telling you a story.Here comes Our Young Hero again, walking briskly across the lawn. “I was the youngest of a family of over-achievers.” Backstory, not interested.

As the VO tells us that OYH liked going to the pictures, we cut back to him at the pictures, even though we’ve just seen this. Well, if you must. OYH mentions film people he liked, and names Olivier, and the film obligingly shows us Kenneth Branagh playing the part in a clip from a movie premiere which we’re going to see in full moments later. This is a bit shit, I remember thinking.Back to OY Hero entering some rough-stone outbuilding. Turns out it’s a posh library, and here’s a man and some other people. “Ah, Colin, come in, have you met James and Anna, my two very brilliant pupils?”

Oh, good, he’s called Colin and this man knows him and has two very brilliant pupils, who are called James and Anna (must remember that, it’s obviously important). Wait, how does Colin not already know them?

“Hello, I’m off to London now, pa.”

Brilliant, right, this chap is Our Young Colin’s father, and what’s more Colin KNOWS he’s his father. It’s not going to be like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, all confusing twists. And OYC is off to London now, and he’s telling his father that. Good. Got you. Wait, how does his dad not already know today is the day his son, Colin, his son, leaves home? For London? His son?

“Ah, your silly job interview. Well, bonne chance, dear boy, I can always get you a research position at the V&A once you’ve grown up a bit and got this film idea out of your system.”

OK, let’s see if I’ve fully grasped the layers of subtext being poured over me like slow-motion nougat. OYC’s father (OYCF for short) disapproves of his son, Colin’s choice of career and hopes he will soon put away childish things and assume a more respectable occupation. Perhaps very soon, as this is only an interview.

The film continues, but our thoughts kept straying back to this scene and its supreme awkwardness.

“I’m off, Mother.” It’s a new scene, do keep up. OYC is telling his mother (OYCM) that he’s off. “My job interview, ‘member?” OYC is a mumbler. He means “remember?” But it hardly matters because we’ve just had this scene with his dad (OYCF).OYC crosses a London street. “Like every young man, I had to make my own way.” And indeed, OYC does manage to make it across the street without being flattened by an omnibus. Well done you. On the other hand, his rich parents and expensive education and school tie might be opening just a few studio doors for the entitled little prick (ELP).

The next scene, in the offices of Laurence Olivier Productions, is confusing, as it seems OYC doesn’t have a job interview at all, nobody’s expecting him and they’re not looking for anyone, which kind of casts doubt on ELP’s street-crossing prowess after all.

At this point in the film, we were getting a bit distracted, still talking about that weirdly expository chat with OYCF (the dad: do keep up). I ad-libbed a satirical example of the kind of dialogue we’d been forced to consume: “As you know, I’m your father…”OYC hangs about Laurence Olivier Prods in the best Rupert Pupkin manner until he somehow picks up some work. Cut to him crossing the road again, successfully staying out from under the wheels of another red bus.

Enter Branagh with a thing in his lip.

Monroe’s agent is called Mr. Jacobs. Here’s Toby Jones! “Hello, Mr. Jacobs.” He’s Mr. Jacobs. “Who built this place?” Mr. Jacobs is a brash agent.What’s actually happening is fine: we see OYC display tact and ingenuity in locating a house for MM to stay in. But we are continually being spoonfed. Meanwhile, by now we’ve practically convinced ourselves that “As you know, I’m your father…” is a genuine line of dialogue from the opening of the picture. I tactfully remind everyone that I made it up. Must be fair. Plus, I want credit.

OYC arrives at Pinewood. They’ve taken the trouble to engage and costume a Norman Wisdom lookalike, which impresses me because they’re showing a heedlessness about whether anybody recognizes NW. Not typical of this film, which is so anxious that we understand everything. Then this guy glides past, and I get the impression I’m meant to recognize him, too, but I haven’t a clue. Well, I suppose that should impress me even more.

We glimpse the Romantic Interest (not Monroe: the other one) and OYC is immediately warned about love affairs in the workplace, so we know she’s going to be a Romantic Interest, especially because we recognize the girl from HARRY POTTER. And come on, Pinewood may not be Hollywood, but the British film industry was a veritable hotbed of, well, hot beds.A bodyguard, an ex-copper, is engaged for Monroe, whose habits are described as “Erratic.” “She drinks?” “Among other things.” “Pills?” GOOD GUESS!

Here’s the thing. Screenplays and movies are meant to be clear, except when they’re being mysterious on purpose. Look at the care with which Chaplin shows us that the Blind Flower Girl is blind. Also, a flower girl. But belabouring points is ugly.

Billy Wilder said it much better and quicker: as storyteller, your job is to put across your points clearly. The more elegantly you manage it, the better you are.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is a Harvey Weinstein Production. Weinstein was (I hope we can safely use the paste tense now) a true auteur. You can spot the clumsy, overanxious storytelling in ever film he touched. Usually in the form of overdubs on people’s backs, stuffing dialogue into their mouths to make sure we understand. “Master Shakespeare!” expostulates the back of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head when the front of her head sees Master Shakespeare in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. “The King!” murmurs the back of Mina Sorvino’s head when the front of her head sees the king insect in MIMIC (the company was apparently so patriarchal the insects weren’t allowed a queen).

But I think it’s even worse when the lines come out of the front of people’s heads, having been planted in their mouths by a long development process. (I don’t blame the screenwriter.)

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is also a BBC production, and seems to use all the same locations as STAN & OLLIE. I could be wrong, but it certainly has the same feel. A certain limited degree of plushness. Solidity. Craft. Zero excitement.

I would sort of like the BBC to be prosecuted for sexual offences (this more or less happened a few years ago) so that this kind of filmmaking could end. But the BBC didn’t have a hand in JUDY so I suppose it’d carry on, zombie-fashion.

It’s not even BAD, compared to lots of things, but it’s the reverse of imaginative or daring.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN stars Charity Barnum; Balem Abrasax; Sabrina Fairchild; Gilderoy Lockhart; Lily Potter; Christopher Foyle; Lavrenti Beria; Dr. Arnim Zola; Jennifer the Viking – another rapist; Sir Thomas Fairfax; Uday Hussein; Queen Victoria; Madame Hooch; Hermione Granger; I, Claudius;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quixotic/Chaotic

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2020 by dcairns

What’s wrong with Terry Gilliam? Just as he’s supposed to be promoting THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE, his decade-in-the-making dream project as it finally comes to home video — and after its merciless critical thrashing, it NEEDS some promotion — he comes down with a kind of ideational Tourettes, trashing his reputation with a cascade of ill-considered jibes and blurtings aimed at pc culture and the #MeToo movement.

A central plank of the sunken sloop that is Gilliam’s “argument” reminds me of an awkward moment in Bologna when Kathryn Sermak, Bette Davis’s former PA, made a similar embarrassing statement confusing rape and assault by producers with the old-fashioned casting couch. Everybody had turned up prepared to adore this woman who was the Great Bette’s confidante, and then we kind of didn’t know where to look or what to say. Nobody picked a fight over it, because we still wanted to hear about her recollections, and we now wanted to hear as little about her opinions as possible.

I don’t know what it is — are people schooled in the workings of Hollywood so inured to the casting couch concept that when they hear about producers taking unfair advantage of actors, they can only process it in terms of a transactional sex-for-stardom arrangement? So, when they hear the word “rape” they assume what we really mean is “woman sleeps with producer for role and then feels bad about it”? But I think the accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged behavior are fairly unambiguous.

Gilliam says he could tells stories about actresses who got ahead by bedding the engorged mogul, and I have no doubt he could — he was forbidden to cast Samantha Morton, perhaps because she hadn’t shown Harvey the proper obeisance. But just because sometimes Harvey slept with women and gave them roles, or failed to sleep with women and denied them roles, doesn’t mean all of his activity was consensual. (And even here he took things beyond the usual limits, trash-talking women who had rejected him to sabotage their careers even at other companies.) Insiders like Ben Affleck and Quentin Tarantino apparently knew he was an abuser. (Hey, one might observe that the scene in GRINDHOUSE/PLANET TERROR where Tarantino and Rodriguez joke about raping Rose McGowan hasn’t aged well, but it was horrible THEN.) People generally in the industry but not tied to Miramax or the Weinstein Company knew Harvey was a bully, but not the depths of his viciousness.

It’s possible Gilliam doesn’t really believe in rape as a thing. Which would make him very reactionary indeed. Is he nervous about his own past behaviour? I’ve never heard anything against him so I don’t see why he should be taking the part of sex pests. He seems certainly to be arguing that the #MeToo movement is worse than the crimes it’s sought to expose and prevent, which is an odd one. Perhaps there are some men who have been unjustly accused and had their careers damaged? Perhaps, but not that many. The doubtful Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still making films. I don’t know about James Toback, but he’s escaped legal consequences for the multiple offenses he was accused of. Geoffrey Rush has certainly suffered some distress, but if you read the Wikipedia account of his trial, he seems to have been cut every possible form of slack, and anything further from a witch hunt is hard to imagine.

I would like to be able to argue that Gilliam is being true to the contrarian spirit of Monty Python by alienating his own constituency (aging liberals who like films and comedy and care about humanity) but it feels more like he’s made that sharp turn to the right that crepuscular revolutionaries are always performing.

Does this matter? I have the Blu-ray of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE in my Amazon shopping basket. I haven’t bought it yet because I’m annoyed with Gilliam, and because I wonder if someone so seemingly incapable of coherent thought, so mindlessly contrarian, can make a good film?

Rainbow Connection

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2018 by dcairns

Conspiracy theory time. Fiona keeps in touch with the great Mike Hodges (GET CARTER, FLASH GORDON), and recently received the following:

“This morning on Radio 4 Jane Fonda was talking about Rosanna Arquette and her run-in with Weinstein in the earl 90s.

She says her career suffered when she refused to comply with his advances – just like Gloria Minette in GRIST.

[Gloria Minette is a star that imploded..…The gravitational forces inside the system tore her apart.  She would never work again.]”

Grist is one of Mike’ recent novels. You can buy them here.

“I made BLACK RAINBOW with Rosanna in 1990 and fought to have Miramax (Weinstein’s company) distribute it.

They were brilliant at marketing.

For over twelve months their people would enthusiastically contact me – but suddenly they stopped.

Then, out of the blue, a tacky US cable company rang to say they’d acquired the movie and would fly me to LA on a promotional visit.

I never heard from Miramax again!  Now I know why!!!”

Or at least can speculate why. I asked Fiona to ask Mike if I could publish his comments.

“By all means run with the RA story as long we make clear that it is conjecture.

Sadly I haven’t seen R since the ghastly (& hysterically funny) press conference held by the cable company.

At the time she was as dumbfounded by Miramax as I was.

The same form of (costly) revenge was perpetrated by Sam Goldwyn on A PRAYER FOR THE DYING.

The film was dumped in the US because Micky R had called him (correctly) a “douche bag.”

Here’s to resilience, you two,”

 

A little later, Mike added:

“Maybe David could pitch it as a mystery?

The film had great reviews (I’m sure to have then somewhere!) won several festival awards.

So why did Miramax dump it?

Could it be because etc etc”

Well, could it be? Miramax under the Weinsteins certainly had some unusual practices, according to Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures. The movie THE YOUNG POISONER’S HANDBOOK was derailed under similar circumstances, but with no suggestion that Harvey was avenging himself on any of the actors. It was suggested that the strategy was to draw in a project that was getting a lot of interest, wait until the interest went away, and then drop it. The purpose being to reduce the value of a project you never actually wanted but that could have made money for a competitor. You can delay it until its currency has faded, or you can make everyone wonder, “Why did Miramax drop it? What’s wrong with it?”

I didn’t like THE YOUNG POISONER’S HANDBOOK, personally — though it was made and performed with great skill, — but that’s a mean trick. It could be that Weinstein’s apparently inconsistent enthusiasm for BLACK RAINBOW — which I like a lot — was nothing more sinister than that — which is still pretty sinister. Or there could be some other reason.

I think Mike imagined me doing a bit more work, a bit more writing, than I’ve done here. But I figure he’s more interesting to listen to than me.

BLACK RAINBOW is a very fine film. And always relevant, alas. It’s a supernatural thriller, a political thriller, and I guess you could also say it’s about the exploitation of talent and what showbiz can do to people, which means Arquette’s revelations give it a whole new way of being relevant to this particular moment.