Archive for Peter Biskind

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.

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A Star is Burned

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2018 by dcairns

Inside Daisy Clover from David Cairns on Vimeo.

I’m extremely glad I never watched the pan-and-scan copy of INSIDE DAISY CLOVER I used to own, so I could appreciate the proper super-wide-screen version I have now acquired. That said, there’s only really one scene in it that really comes alive, but BOY does it come alive.

Producer Alan Pakula and director Robert Mulligan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) tackle Gavin Lambert’s novel (with the author himself adapting the screenplay), effectively a Judy Garland roman a clef, with a perfectly cast Natalie Wood as the waif-starlet abused by the system. There’s good, creepy work from Christopher Plummer as her studio boss (though no thirties studio boss was remotely as handsome — you were lucky if you got Darryl Zanuck, “he of the air-conditioned teeth,” as Orson Welles unkindly but accurately remarked) and Katharine Bard as his sinister sister wife. Ruth Gordon plays the crazy mama, a more benign figure than the monstrous stage mother in Natalie’s own life, and Roddy McDowell is rather wasted as a studio factotum.

Robert Redford is intriguingly cast as a dashing drunk, a Flynn/Barrymore composite who also turns out to be gay, something one can’t imagine Redford playing later. Since reading Peter Biskind’s gossip-fest book Down and Dirty Pictures, which characterises RR as, essentially, a passive-aggressive jerk, I can’t help see his characters as passive-aggressive, and it’s definitely a suitable filter for this one. Weird how an actor who’s been criticised for being bland and always playing sympathetic golden boys can be realigned as the movies’ biggest and best portrayer of arrogant jerks.

But the movie fails to catch fire. Wood is energetic and effecting as she always was, but the story’s progress is full of mysterious lacunae. Is it a problem that, in charting this aspirant screen goddess’s rise to fame and heartbreak, we never see her first day on set, meet her co-stars or directors, or see her actually notice her fame or meet her public? It might not have to be, if the lacunae were bridged by consistent narrative development. But Daisy is introduced as a girl who wants to sing, and then her singing drops out of the picture altogether. Sure, there are a couple of musical numbers staged by Herbert Ross, who, as his later PENNIES FROM HEAVEN shows, could certainly pastiche 30s style, but here seems to have been ordered to keep it vague as to period. Edith Head and team’s costumes likewise eschew anything smacking too strongly of the depression, and try to touch lightly on sixties styles. The movie’s planting its feet three decades apart makes for an uncomfortable pose.

It’ a strangely underpopulated film — giant studio barns, inside and out, a deserted boardwalk, a motel in a literal desert, a yacht at sea (always uncomfortable to see Natalie in such a setting, but Redford is there and he’s Mr. Boat) — scene after scene is stripped of extras and period detail, perhaps making a point about the loneliness of stardom, but not as vividly as showing the uncaring mob would.

Then comes the scene quoted above. Outstandingly edited by Aaron Stell, with a really creepy drone from André Previn on the soundtrack, and striking choices with sound editing that make the whole thing modernistically unsettling. There just weren’t Hollywood films evoking this kind of European unease at the time, or damn few: how many American directors really gave the impression they’d seen Godard, Fellini and Antonioni? Mulligan sure has.

I guess this is the pay-off to the character’s initial love of singing, the thing that makes her feel the world isn’t as crappy as it seems. Even that’s been taken from her. But there’s no real middle to that journey. Still, it gets a powerful ending.

The movie ends happily — either a cop-out or an act of mercy. Give Daisy the triumphant escape so few of her real-life counterparts achieved, why not? We also get perhaps cinema’s first instance of what is now a tiresome cliché, the Walking Away From An Explosion moment. Astonishing. Without Natalie Wood, no Wolverine.

Warren Beatty’s Quest For A Comedy Partner Begins

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2014 by dcairns

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It’s a quest which would culminate in ISHTAR, which I still haven’t seen. I expect to maybe like ISHTAR.

But I did not care for THE FORTUNE, directed by the other half of the Nichols-May team, Mike Nichols, which pairs Beatty with Jack Nicholson. This thirties farce feels like an attempt to do a PAPER MOON, and Beatty’s comic stuffiness seems very Ryan O’Neal. Nicholson is dipping his toe in the waters of overacting for the first time. As is Stockard Channing, and the results are loud, shrill, and protracted. I’m sure there are people for whom the movie is hilarious, but they seem to be in a minority. We spent our time wondering what caused these people to choose to do this film. It’s hard to imagine it being funnier on paper, and in fact the pleasure we got was entirely from John Alonzo’s cinematography and Dick and Anthea Sylbert’s design, both of which recall CHINATOWN. Which is a somewhat better movie.

Screenwriter Carole Eastman was a friend of Jack Nicholson and wrote FIVE EASY PIECES, so I guess that explains him. And I imagine he would have Nichols and Beatty’s phone numbers on his rolodex. And so, a disaster is born. But a handsome one. We particularly enjoyed Warren’s 3D necktie.

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Turning to Biskind for the gossip, as usual, we find a story that Beatty used THE FORTUNE, regarded as a safe investment by its studio, to get the more tricky SHAMPOO made — with ironic results when the former flopped and the latter was a breakout hit. (I don’t really like either, but should give SHAMPOO another chance.) He claims Beatty bought the script for some vast sum, which Beatty denies… and he mentions Nicholson’s friendship with Eastman but doesn’t suggest that may have been a deciding factor in getting the thing made. He also says the script was too long and had no third act (all too apparent in the finished movie) — Nichols, concerned about his budget overages on CATCH 22 and DAY OF THE DOLPHIN took a machete to it and “cut out all the funny stuff” according to Polly Platt, at one point scheduled to design the movie. Doesn’t sound like something the talented Nichols would do, but the movie certainly has very little funny stuff, so if it was present to begin with, somebody must have cut it.

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This shot may explain where Beatty got the idea that he should play DICK TRACY.

Maybe if the film had been made in some other era, the theme of two men plotting to murder an innocent heiress for her money might have been acceptable, if unsympathetic — in the forties or fifties we’d know everything would turn out OK. In the seventies, all bets are off, which is part of what makes that decade’s cinema so exciting, but it means we can’t trust the filmmakers to end this film in a non-misogynistic, socially acceptable way. I mean, we’ve seen MASH and THE GETAWAY and STRAW DOGS and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER at this point so anything is possible. The ending isn’t horrible like that, but it’s certainly peculiar, unresolved and kind of disturbing: a big shrug to rank alongside another seventies take on Old Hollywood, Elia Kazan a,nd Harold Pinter’s adaptation of Fitzgerald’s THE LAST TYCOON, which solves the source novel’s unfinished structure by just… stopping in mid-air.

vlcsnap-2014-05-01-00h46m06s136“There’s a man on the wing of this plane!”