If Cleopatra signalled the demise of Hollywood epics, Heaven's Gate ended the reign of the all-powerful director. Should these films' reputations be rescued? And has the film industry lost its kamikaze tendency?
Sexual intercourse must have been invented earlier in New York than in Yorkshire because all that Robert Benton could think about in 1963 was movies. One movie in particular. But it was not Hollywood's current grandest offering, Cleopatra, which Joseph L Mankiewicz directed for 20th Century Fox, with Elizabeth Taylor in the leading role. Benton was thinking about another love story – another portrayal of a woman loved by two very different men. The director was François Truffaut. The star was Jeanne Moreau. Benton saw Jules et Jim 12 times after it was released in the Us, and his obsession was crucial to what happened next.
"You cannot see a movie that often without beginning to notice certain things about structure and form and character, »
- Leo Robson
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