Archive for Menahem Golan

New York a Go-Go

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2015 by dcairns

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Since NATAN, the film Paul Duane and I made, is an unconventional length (not a short, but very short for a feature), the New York Jewish Film Festival wisely double-billed it with HOW TO BREAK INTO YIDDISH VAUDEVILLE, which is completely unlike it in every way but somehow complimented it sweetly. I don’t think you’d want another heavy subject to go with NATAN, so Jack Feldstein’s “neon animation” about a midwestern gentile who’s taught himself Yiddish and is carrying on the proud tradition of yiddisher vaudeville, was a perfect aperitif. It’s witty, quirky and poignant, since all the old stagers who taught Shane Baker their routines are now no longer with us.

Due to the predicted snowpocalypse, our flight the day before was cancelled so we flew into NYC on the day of the screening and were whisked to the venue only a couple of hours before the show started. Managed to stay awake for both screenings though I think my performance at the first q&a was probably a bit livelier/more coherent that at the second, which must have been around 3am UK time.

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Returned to the Walter Reade Theater the following evening to see Hilla Medalia’s THE GO-GO BOYS: THE INSIDE STORY OF CANNON FILMS, which was hilarious, insightful and educational. It also connected up with my life and work in surprising ways. Let me enumerate:

1) I was just becoming conscious of film as a business in my teens when Cannon had their heyday, ultimately buying up EMI’s film production arm and the ABC cinema chain (which owned half the mainstream cinemas in the UK). I saw several of the BBC documentaries and news reports quoted in the documentary when they first aired, regarding the ebullient producers with a certain horror at the time. Now, even their trashiest productions seems relatively benign and the films they made while seeking to class up their reputation form a rather startling array. Cassavetes’ LOVE STREAMS, Zefferelli’s OTELLO, Godard’s KING LEAR: FEAR AND LOATHING, Mailer’s TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, Ruiz’s TREASURE ISLAND, Polanski’s PIRATES… What were they thinking? But I’m glad those movies exist, and if the only production companies around were sane, they wouldn’t.

2) There’s a very weird connection with NATAN. When Golan & Globus overextended themselves, the white knight riding to their rescue and bailing them out was Giancarlo Parretti. This new alliance created a wedge between money-raising Globus and money-spending Golan, who left seeking independence. Parretti and Globus then tried to buy MGM, with money that turned out not to exist. Parretti had been laundering money for the Mafia, and went to jail. What boggled my mind was the film’s description of Parretti as the head of Pathe, which creates uncanny parallels with the story of Bernard Natan (also jailed for fraud). But what THE GO-GO BOYS doesn’t make quite clear is that Parretti never actually owned Pathe, although he planned to, and renamed Cannon “Pathe Communications” in anticipation of this.

3) Menahem Golan directed the one entry in the ’68 Cannes Film Festival (the festival that never happened) which Scout Tafoya and myself were unable to track down for our retrospective series The ’68 Comeback Special (here and here). TEVYE AND HIS SEVEN DAUGHTERS is based on the same stories that inspired FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Having failed to source a copy via legitimate means or by the Dark Internet, I suggested Scout try Golan himself, which he did. The veteran filmmaker did not have a copy of his own film. (He’s dead now.)

Well, in THE GO-GO BOYS there’s a few seconds from the film, proving that it does at least still exist, at least in the German version. Someday, we shall complete The ’68 Comeback Special. Shalom!

The Empty Space

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by dcairns

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This is the empty space where this week’s edition of The ’68 Comeback Special should be — a critical look at the films that should have screened in Cannes ’68 but couldn’t because there were film directors literally hanging from the curtains. Scout Tafoya and I aim to cover all the entries. Well, what with New Year and all, I’ve fallen a bit behind, so I thought I’d write about the one Cannes film we haven’t been able to track down. Much easier to review a film without the tiresome effort of watching it, as I’m sure some professionals in the business could attest (check out Andrew Pulver on CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING for The Guardian. Does it sound like he watched more than half an hour?)

The vanished film from Cannes is — and you should prepare yourselves for a mild shock — TUVIA VESHEVA BENOTAV / TEVYE AND HIS SEVEN DAUGHTERS, which I take to derive from the same story as FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, a West German/Israeli co-production directed by none other than Menahem Golan. When no copy of the film materialized from any of the usual sources, Scout actually got in touch with the director himself, but he didn’t know where we could find it either.

Of all the filmmakers whose careers were, arguably, harmed or derailed or curtailed by the non-occurrence of Cannes ’68, Golan’s could be the most extreme — he certainly never had a shot at that kind of critical acclaim again. His very next film was WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GANDER, a mid-life crisis sex comedy starring Norman Wisdom, featuring Judy Geeson (a fellow Cannes 68 veteran fresh from HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH) and summed up by a friend in the pithy phrase “Makes NOT NOW DARLING look like the fuckin’ MAHABHARATA.”

Then Golan, truly became the man Billy Wilder called “Menahem Golem,” directing THE DELTA FORCE and becoming a real movie mogul, heading Cannon Productions and briefly giving the Hollywood majors a run for their money, capitalizing on the boom in video pre-sales as a way to make films that were in profit before they even opened. At Cannes, Golan could work the marketplace like Ricky Jay works a pack of playing cards. To bolster his fledgling studio’s artistic reputation, he signed a deal on a napkin for Jean-Luc Godard (one of the ringleaders who shut down Cannes in ’68) to make KING LEAR with Orson Welles, which didn’t quite work out but the movie was made, with Godard reputedly insisting on flying the Atlantic on Concorde every week to collect his cheque (but that CAN’T be true, right?). We also got TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE and OTELLO, showing that Golan’s idea of class was wide-ranging and eccentric.

Now, by writing about this before we’re done, I run the risk of the film actually turning up, but I figure that’ll be all the more exciting for this build-up. And if it never shows up, we avoid ending with a sense of let-down by talking about it now. And in any case, I haven’t done my homework and watched Marcello Fondato’s I PROTAGONISTI, which I just obtained a nice copy of. Look forward to that in a fortnight. And look forward — maybe — to TEVYE AND HIS SEVEN DAUGHTERS… someday.

(Obviously, if you have a copy, let us know!)

The ’68 Comeback Special

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2013 by dcairns

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Well, I said I’d eventually come up with something interesting to do on those alternating weeks when The Forgotten isn’t running…

Dave “Scout” Tafoya recently staged the Totally Illegal Film Festival, in which he brought together the movies programmed at the abortive 1968 Cannes Film Festival — all excepting two, which appear to be lost for the time being. Even Menahem Golan doesn’t know where to find a copy of his entry, TUVIA VESHEVA BENOTAV (DST looked him up and asked him), and Michel Cournot’s only film, LES GAULOISES BLEUES, seems likewise vanished in the mists of time. If anyone out there can locate a copy, we’d be very grateful (and so might Mr. Golan).

I helped Scout scout out copies of some of the remaining films, and we live in hope that the project will be taken up by someone with the resources to really do it on a grand scale — possibly the Cannes Film Festival. Apparently they were making noises about this back at their fiftieth anniversary, and in a few years it’ll be the fiftieth anniversary of Cannes ’68, which would seem a good time to do it…

Since then, Scout has created a series of Cannes video essays, revisiting the ’68 debacle in this one.

And now, Scout and I are coming together to present a series of posts, each Thursday, authored by each of us in turn (with The Forgotten appearing on the Thursday’s when I don’t post — I’ll link to that as usual and to Scout’s posts at the same time). We’re going to blog about all the films that were supposed to screen that fateful year, starting this week…

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Meanwhile, over at LimerWrecks the Surly Hack and I continue to work our way through Universal’s Frankenstein saga in doggerel form. Latest efforts authored or co-authored by me are here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, and here. And we’ve still only reached FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN.

As usual, ace editing and imagery by horror host Hilary Barta.

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