|Index||5 reviews in total|
From Bugsy to Two Girls and a Guy, you know his movies, but may not
know the man behind them. This documentary about James Toback is very
entertaining and informative. With only a partial script and 12 days to
shoot a feature film, we learn a lot about what it takes to be a
director who "makes things happen".
The best scenes show Toback actually directing the actors, demonstrating the difference between directing and micro-managing. There are some great anecdotes from "celebrity guests", and a lot of great insight from Toback's good friend Robert Downey, Jr., who has been in quite a few Toback pictures. (The Pick-up Artist, Two Girls and a Guy, Black & White to name a few). Don't miss the story of how Toback's agent first met him.
Criticism: It's essentially a long commercial for When Will I Be Loved, Toback's latest. It doesn't go too far into how seedy Tobeck's life became when he was younger, and focuses too much on how uncompromising he is as a filmmaker and not enough on what continues to drive him, some 30 years later.
It's not that James Toback has never ventured into Hollywood. He
wouldn't claim that he has all ill-will against the industry - he's got
the script for Bugsy and Warren Beatty's friendship to speak to that -
but he's got that "independent spirit" if you will. He's made some
movies that, frankly, some of us just haven't seen or aren't available
(Exposed and The Big Band come to mind). And in 2003 he got the
opportunity to make any movie he wanted, as long as it was for two
million, and came up with When Will I Be Loved, a quickly-baked
romantic drama starring Neve Campbell. It was shot in eleven days, and
it took a while to find a distributor. Toback is told at one point,
"people still look for the new Quentin Tarantino." He ain't it.
The Outsider has the potential to look at Toback a little *too* favorably or with a little too much reverence to his pretensions. But thankfully the interviews and clips and Toback himself are quite candid about the man-myth-legend himself. He's a compulsive gambler and has never quit (although he has quit cigarettes cold turkey), and is described by Robert Downey Jr as "a genius and a retard", as someone who is quite brilliant but can be pushy on the sets of his movies. And yet one sees how dedicated Toback is to his craft, of exploring the themes in his movies (sexuality, obsession, madness, excess) and it's great to see him still working even if not all of his films are successes or if he gets it all out to audiences (Harvard Man, for example, was a true flop).
And entertaining are hearing the anecdotes and stories Toback has to tell, or those around him. There's a rapper, for example, who helped produce his film Black and White who talks at length about the use of the "N" word and how Toback actually *is* one to him, but in the friendly sense of the word (i.e. not "you white man" but "Hey, my N***a!). We also hear about his use of LSD, his friendship with Jim Brown, his idol Norman Mailer, and just see the rigorous and very on-the-fly process of When Will I Be Loved. It actually made me appreciate the film he made a little more (when I saw it I found heavy flaws among its virtues). For what it's worth, The Outsider shows Toback as an artist with something to say, even if his "brand" is not what Hollywood always, or rarely, wants. It's entertaining and informative.
The Outsider (2005)
*** (out of 4)
Good documentary on director James Toback and the 12-day shoot of his movie WHEN WILL I BE LOVED. The documentary covers the production, post-production and eventual search for a distributor and it really gives one a great look at filming an independent movie in today's culture. The documentary also takes a look at Toback's sometimes troubled life as well as what makes him an outsider in Hollywood. This is where we hear about some of his earlier pictures including FINGERS, TWO GIRLS AND A GUY and BLACK AND WHITE. Overall I thought this was a pretty good look at both the director and his attempt to make a personal picture. I saw WHEN WILL I BE LOVED several years ago and thought it was a bad movie but it's interesting to see what all it took to try and get it made and eventually seen by the public. In fact, I thought the most interesting aspect of the documentary was when Toback was trying to get someone to buy the movie and he realizes that it's going to be a hard sell. Toback is interviewed throughout the film but we also hear from Neve Campbell, Mike Tyson, Woody Allen, Robert Downey, Jr., Harvey Keitel, Jim Brown, Roger Ebert and several others as they discuss Toback and his work. THE OUTSIDER certainly isn't ground-breaking but it's a nice look at someone trying to make personal movies even if not very many want to watch them.
I admit I know nothing about James Toback or his movies. I am a Neve
Campbell fan, though. Since "When Will I Be Loved," there was always a
buzz about this director I didn't know anything about. Well, okay, I'd
heard of a few of his movies. Then there was a documentary called "The
Outsider." So, I stumbled upon "The Outsider". What I saw was a man
fascinated with his own obsessions. Brilliant or not, I could not
decide. Nevertheless, as some of the guests said, he is a "character"
and I would have to agree with that assessment. The documentary was a
revealing behind the scenes look a indie film-making, with a director
who, by necessity, left his actors to improv dialog and simply blocked
out scenes for them, who gave up soda if his leading lady gave up
There was much standing or sitting around the sets, in between takes, a "just hangin'" spontaneous air. It looked like Woody Allen was on his way to the deli on the corner; Norman Mailer relaxed in his study; Robert Downey Jr. in what looked like a hotel room. The pace of the documentary got bogged in a few areas, but Toback himself, if somewhat long-winded and intellectual, is a likable enough rogue to move things along.
But what I found even more interesting than Toback himself is the reality of indies and art films. The budget for "When Will I Be Loved" was $2 million. For the privilege of being in a Toback film, I wonder if Neve got lunch and parking money. I thought Woody Allen's comments particularly thoughtful, musing about the narrow demographic for art films.
"The Outsider" is more interesting as a documentary as "When Will I Be Loved" was as an indie, art film.
I would be interested in see all of the impossible to see music list
and performers' credits. For the most part all that music was so
brilliantly melded into the film that it was unnoticed. The title
content and performances, and the music insertions were subtle and
superbly appropriate. 'Loved this film and cannot find it replayed on
Sundance anytime soon.
This is more of a request to publish the music titles and performance artists' names and descriptions.
Most excellent in in the content of the film is the fact that this is an almost to teaching tool for young film, TV, and stage directors. The effect of non-objective direction is the sense for the actors that they are in a relaxed and trusting process with a director who is more of a coach and certainly not a bit of a dictator providing the actors with a thorough sense of self-assurance and confidence. What a sense of relief and release for an actor to feel very certain that he or she is relieved of the pressure of pleasing the director and that what really happens is that he lets them discover what satisfies them and where the best place is for them to be in in the context of the total production. Mailer's comment to this point is the thesis, them, and center of the film, quite improvisational and almost unintentionally. And this director embodies what Mailer "writes."
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