Tuesday, December 29, 2015
I BLAME DENNIS HOPPER and it’s only one of the many stories she has to tell. She writes about the challenge of working with Robert De Niro on the remake of CAPE FEAR, going days without eating while filming ALIVE and the freedom Gus Van Sant gave her during the making of TO DIE FOR. But she also talks about her childhood, the background of which explains the book’s title, along with her early days of discovering movies at the drive-in as well as deeply affecting recollections of her relationship with grandfather Melvyn Douglas including her formative experience visiting him on the set of his late-career triumph in Hal Ashby’s BEING THERE, the film that won him his second Oscar, where she also had a memorable encounter with the film's star Peter Sellers. This turned about to be one of only several meaningful and often fortuitous brushes with legendary figures in her life that she details including an unfortunate phone call with Billy Wilder (who at another point she correctly refers to as God), a lasting friendship with Roddy McDowall and an unexpected run-in with a presumably hungover Lee Marvin on a New York sidewalk early one morning. She also discusses her own passion for movies and why they mean so much to her, how that connection helped transform her into who she ultimately became and it’s a beautiful, funny, inspiring read, one of the best such books in a very long time. It’s a must for anyone who loves films and a reminder of why they can mean so much as we watch them so obsessively. Her book is a connection to GRACE OF MY HEART as well, it deepens how much the film clearly meant to those who made it, a film in which you can feel the undeniable yearning of its lead character just as you can feel the yearning of Illeana Douglas in the stories she tells about her own life. “I don’t have a song in me,” declares the lead character she plays in the film at a crucial stage, just before writing the ultimate song within her. Sometimes the very thought that we don’t have any songs left in us is the most frightening thing of all. I BLAME DENNIS HOPPER, Illeana Douglas writes about how GRACE OF MY HEART has endured in some unexplainable way, that people have taken it to heart no doubt because they see something of themselves in her journey. It’s a reminder of the things you need to strive for, that you can’t let them just fade away as the years go on no matter what happens. You need to hang onto that as much as possible if it’s what you feel deep down. And you still need to find out who you are, what your life is and whether or not you can find the strength, as well as the grace, to move on in this world.
Monday, December 14, 2015
“The Road to ISHAR” by David Blum) about the bad word of mouth surrounding that upcoming summer release—it didn’t help matters and the film never really recovered from what got out there. As background the article discusses the production of the earlier film during which May apparently shot 1.4 million feet of film, three times the amount for GONE WITH THE WIND (when Judd Apatow’s THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN hit the 1 million mark during shooting champagne was reportedly sent to the set; the approach presumably turns out better for some than others) and one story about May continuing to photograph a blank wall after the two stars have wandered off that has been retold a million times by now. There’s not much to be found from whatever press the film got during its belated (and miniscule) release in 1976—Vincent Canby’s review in The New York Times makes no mention of any troubles, praising Elaine May but concluding, “It took guts for her to make a film like this, but she failed.” Whatever the reality of the production—and it feels like not much official has been said by anybody since that article aside from some comments May herself made during a talk with Mike Nichols that ran in Film Comment—the final result is seemingly long and rambling but actually tightly plotted, always focused on what it should be even if it’s the minutiae of any given moment (the version shown at the New Beverly was around 106 minutes; maybe because a May-sanctioned cut didn’t surface until the 80s there are several different running times listed). Very little of what happens can qualify as ‘plot’ anyway, with Nicky continually pulling Mikey away from what’s supposed to happen--an interesting comparison in terms of the mob world might be Cassavetes’ own GLORIA which is messy and idiosyncratic in ways of its own.