A documentary that is only for a small, select audience…
The fact that I liked Seduced and Abandoned should be no surprise. After all, I write about films and love films, so of course I’ll like a documentary that talks about films and how they are financed. Additionally, it’s a great movie for film students and young actors, writers and directors to see. However, I really am not sure if it has an audience beyond that. Are more of the regular folks out there ready to watch a film like this? I assume the answer is no, but the film is informative and entertaining and probably won’t bore you.
This documentary from HBO Films stars Alec Baldwin and his partner in this venture, James Tobak (a writer and director who directed and wrote this film). Most won’t know who Tobak is, though he’s respected in the film industry and was quite enjoyable to watch in action at Cannes. As for Baldwin, I loved him in this film as he and Tobak interviewed so many interesting people. But, I am also afraid that while his presence in the film provides a ‘big name’, recently this unpredictable actor has alienated just about everyone (especially gays, flight attendants and the folks at MSNBC)! Still, he does know films and he is very personable in the documentary.
This film is about this team trying to convince a lot of rich financiers to invest in an upcoming project—one Baldwin jokingly refers to as Last Tango in Tikrit (Iraq)’! Much of the time, as they talk to the rich money-men, I felt surprised that these behind the scenes folks would allow themselves to be on camera. Less surprising were the interviews with filmmakers (such as Martin Scorsese and Bernardo Bertolucci) and actors (such as Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain). After all, exposure for these filmmakers and actors is usually a very good thing.
The setting for all this is the Cannes film festival. While it used to be all about the movies, this festival has come to mean FINANCING—and over the last few decades the financiers are the important folks here. So what does it take to get financing? Well, according to this film, the script is apparently NOT important! What is important are the marketable stars associated with the project. This, to me might explain the bizarre casting of such films as The Butler (where John Cusack played, of all people, Nixon and Robin Williams played Eisenhower!). An interesting observation is how today films are really financed by committees—and committees tend to make timid films because it’s practically impossible to reach consensus with risky ventures or strange ideas. It was also fascinating seeing the many, many countries that sent representatives to the festival to sell their country as a setting for the productions.
All in all, this is a wonderful little film. It’s also one that might best be enjoyed by total film snobs and folks in the know. So, if you don’t know what Cahiers du Cinema is, who Henri Langois was or what the French New Wave was, then try to watch this movie with a complete film snob like myself! It’s interesting viewing and a totally unique little film from start to finish.
By the way, some folk might blanch at a couple of the film clips (particularly the one from Last Tango in Paris). It IS very adult on a few occasions. Plus, I felt uncomfortable when Roman Polanski was being interviewed — as will many others due to his very famous conviction for raping a 13-year-old (and the victim’s testimony of what occurred was brutal). Because he was in the film, I scored it an A- instead of an A. Call me narrow-minded if you’d like.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin HaferShare: