Editorials

MAY EDITORIAL 2005

By • May 1st, 2005 •

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It’s been a while, and I apologize for my absence, but I’ve been so overwhelmed completing three films that I’ve been unable to do more than attend to editing chores for the past few months. However, here I am, hoping you’ve all been enjoying the content on the site, served up by our new webmaster, Emre Emirgil.

Simone and her boyfriend, Alec

Soon I’ll get to a ‘Farewell to Film Greats’ update, but I must mention the passing of Simone Simon, who I considered a good friend. I visited her a number of times over the past twelve years in her Paris palace. She was a lively, extremely sharp nonagenarian, always one double-entendre ahead of me in our weekly phone calls. I offered access to hours of taped interviews
with Simone to WB DVD for their upcoming Val Lewton boxed set, but oddly enough, I never heard back from them.

Saw SIN CITY. And while it was a work of considerable artistry, and I totally agree with Victoria’s entreaty to Micky Rourke that it’s high time he got out of the car and took a hotel room, I have to make a comparison here that doesn’t give the Rourkester a free pass. What’s happening now in these CGI-candies is what happened in the sports field recently. Does a home-run hitter + steroids really equal a record-breaker? I think not. All those steroid-friendly homers should either be disqualified, or become part of a new category – ‘The Android Score Board’. And performances in film that are more-or-less CGI-sores, how are we to categorize them? I loved Rourke in SIN CITY…until I realized it wasn’t really Rourke: it was Rourke +. Then I still loved the hybrid performance, but how much was the +? 30% 50% 70%. No disqualification necessary; just a new category. There used to be an Academy Award category for Musicals. Then they went the way of the Westerns (or did the musicals go first?), and so did the award. So perhaps we need an award for Best Hybrid CGI/Performance?

Caught the very stylish, too convoluted, but ensemble-strong LAYER CAKE, and both debut director Matthew Vaugh and star Daniel Craig showed up. What hit me like a mallet was when Vaughn cited as his influences Brian De Palma, Michael Mann, and John Frankenheimer. Nothing wrong there…until someone asked him if Hitchcock had influenced him, and he replied that he really hadn’t seen much Hitchcock. Not only, therefore, wouldn’t he have known that De Palma was retreading Hitchcock’s style and that Vaughn might indeed have been influenced by Hitchcock, but more fascinating to me, his statements seemed to establish his awareness of film history dating from – at the most – the mid-60s. The film’s real good. It doesn’t appear to lack substance because his film-knowledge is only four decades deep. It may even have benefited from having no burdens from the distant cinematic past. But as a sometime film history teacher, this admission affected me as if I’d just been tasered. It’s one thing when 18-year-olds are unaware of Griffith, Hitchcock, Wilder and the rest. It’s another thing to rise to the top of your craft with an incomplete background in the art. I’ve got to keep thinking about that one. It’s obviously only going to become more pronounced, even with the deluge of DVDs which now include older studio classics (in an attempt to shut the indies out of the video stores).

Attended a screening of PORN KING, the documentary about Screw Magazine editor Al Goldstein’s recent years of financial and legal malaise. Though lacking in some final moral/entertainment thrust necessary to catapult the film into mainstream must-see-viewing status, it is nonetheless a compelling, fair-handed portrait of a complex individual who is intelligent, compulsively self-destructive and, most importantly, was in the center of the free-speech maelstrom of the 70s and 80s. His public life is unquestionably worthy of a documentary, and this one is far from frivolous. Goldstein, having – from his telling of it after the screening that night – come out the other side of his slide into destitution and homelessness, touted his recent phoenix-like bounce back up the road to fame and fortune. I sidled up to him and thanked him for giving THE PROJECTIONIST, a film I’d co-produced in 1971, a rave (it got a 90% on the peter-meter, the lost 10% due to the fact that there was no sex in the movie), and he replied enthusiastically “I loved that film.” The review actually meant more to us than the equally good reviews we got from the mainstream papers, because Goldstein was such a subversive counter-cultural icon, and also because it felt good to be seriously and favorably reviewed in what was ordinarily a satiric sex tabloid. It is as yet undecided whether there will be a theatrical release for PORN KING, or if it will go straight to DVD. Either way, for FIR’s readers, it’s a worthy item to catch. The distributor is Blue Underground, and that company’s Bill Lustig and David Gregory were in attendance, as were kindly cult film figure Sam Sherman, Eddie Samuelson and his lovely wife Saeko, Ryko’s Matt Kiernon, and other luminaries from the off-worlds of exploitation and indie filmdom.

An update on Gregory Lamberson’s book, PERSONAL DEMONS, which I reviewed several months ago. It is now available as a signed trade paperback from Shocklines (www.shocklines.com) for $16.99, a non-signed trade paperback from Amazon (www.amazon.com), and as a limited edition, signed and numbered hardcover from the publisher, Broken Umbrella Press (www.brokenumbrellapress.com). And while you’re at it, visit Greg’s website – www.slimeguy.com. You will find there, among the goodies for your perusal, pix from my visit to Buffalo recently for a midnight showing of STREET TRASH, which went over better (as I recall…) then it did twenty years ago.

In FIR’s next editorial I’ll be discussing the ‘PSV Rating System’, a new, alternative film rating internet site which not only presents a far more in-depth, unbiased way of evaluating films for yourself and your children than such organizations as the MPAA, but also is a true child of modern technology, the next evolutionary step in media dissemination, and an idea whose time has come. You will very much want to learn about this site, if you aren’t familiar with it already. Check it out at www.currentattractions.com. And you’ll be fascinated, as I was, to see how they rated my movie THE SWEET LIFE. Made me look differently at my own work… Kinda wished I’d submitted it to them before I shot it…

And finally, I must relate a little revelation to you. Not long ago I was strolling up Amsterdam Avenue and I passed a newspaper store where Lotto tickets were being sold. A red display announced that the jackpot was up to thirteen million dollars. That figure suddenly jolted me into a flabbergasting comparison: fifty years ago, $13,000,000 was what it cost to produce Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, a film whose burgeoning budget threatened to drive Paramount Pictures into bankruptcy. Now it’s a kind of medium amount for what state lotteries can pay out. Amazing, where the world’s gone in the last five decades.

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