Seduced and Abandoned (2013)
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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! Interesting viewing and a totally unique little film.
By the way, some folks 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 9 instead of a 10. Call me narrow-minded if you'd like.
While watching this I couldn't help but wonder if it was all just a bit of an elaborate expense claim scam being perpetrated on the viewer.
Alec & James go on holidays to the Cannes film festival stay in nice hotels and have a bunch of lunches and smoke cigars with industry luminaries, interspersed with a few strange segments where they pitch a vague artistic movie premise to some rather confused looking film distribution and finance types only (despite both having been in the industry for decades) to be strangely disappointed when they discover nobody wants to put up a few million to fund their rather loose artistic movie endeavor.
However, not all was lost they had a great vacation while getting you to pay it. Although, this documentary itself is a laughable contradiction of the very premise it tries to argue.
The directors offer some interesting points about the industry and movies they've made, the stars are just the stars: take away a script and they have no more insight into things than you or I. Still, if you like to see your fave folk relaxing round a table in Cannes give it a look. Plenty of short clips are included too but it's essentially a lot of talking heads.
They meet with distributors, billionaires, heads of movie studios, and film stars such as Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Berenice Bejo, Diane Kruger, and James Caan. They also talk to some of the real greats in filmmaking, such as Coppola, Polanski, Scorcese, and Bertolucci. I thought almost all these meetings and interviews were remarkably candid and enjoyable.
I might mention one story told by Francis Ford Coppola. After winning 6 Oscars from the "Godfather" movies, he couldn't get financing for his next movie, so in frustration he threw his Oscars out the window and they smashed into smithereens. However, his mother came along, picked up the shattered pieces and took them to the Academy to get replacements, telling them the maid accidentally broke them.
We get to see how the movie industry has changed over the past decades, and it can be quite the sad portrait. Now, it seems unless you're trying to finance a high budget franchise film, your chances of receiving funding for a mid-range movie, even with known stars, is extremely difficult. A lot of the distributors and investors admit that they don't even care about the quality of the script, just in the profit projections from their money people.
Just to mention as the interviews are progressing, photos or film clips of the subjects or persons they're discussing appear briefly on a split screen. My biggest objection to this style was that the clips were not left on screen long enough so I had to use my pause button quite a bit. Also, there are some scenes where strong sexual connotations or language are explicitly used, for those sensitive to that.
All in all, as mentioned this documentary may appeal mostly to film aficionados, I found it quite humorous and interesting from start to finish.
This man is not able to truly direct anything. He's just looking for a party and money for his latest gamble, and those who hang with him are tarnishing their own image, IMHO.
The entire premise of this film is sketchy at least. They truly conned all of the actresses and actors involved in this thing.
Round-Up: I don't really watch movies from other countries so I didn't know quite a few of the directors in this film, but it was still interesting to hear another point of view about the world of making movies. Your name really needs to carry some weight for the producers to take you seriously, which is a shame for the people who want to make it in the business. I enjoyed watching Alec Baldwin work his charms with the various producers and movie moguls but after watching it for an hour and a half, it just seems like one big conversation without seeing any outcome. I think the film would have been much better if it was about a film that had already hit the cinemas.
I recommend this film to people who are into there documentaries about 2 people trying to get a budget for a movie. 4/10