Monday, 14 July 2014



I don't mind the occasional documentary, though it does really have to be on a subject I've already got some interest in and/or fronted by people I like. I wouldn't watch a documentary about baggage carousels or the genesis of the Verdana typeface, or The World's Most Exciting Golf Courses, but I'm generally all in favour of movie documentaries. (Having said that, I'm still not likely to voluntarily sit through the behind-the-scenes featurettes on the DVD of a movie I didn't care for.) Any peek behind the red velvet curtains of the film industry is usually pretty rewarding, to better understand the financing and pitching processes that, at least in this instance, seems more to determine what doesn't get made than what does.

James Toback's Seduced And Abandoned is really two documentaries shuffled together. One of them details the efforts by Toback and Alec Baldwin head for the Cannes Film Festival to raise the money for a sexually explicit political drama provisionally entitled Last Tango In Tikrit, in which gung-ho soldier Baldwin and liberal journo Neve Campbell would repeatedly bang each other in a hotel room during the first Gulf War. Perhaps unsurprisingly, financiers and potential investors don't seem to impressed with the concept, offering up only a fraction of the budget required on the grounds that neither of the attached stars have enough marquee value to make the production financially viable, and suggesting other, bigger names to make it a better box-office attraction.

Personally, if I was a multibillionaire with the required cash at my disposal, I'd have called their bluff and given them the money, because then they'd have to go off and spend a year making a film which sounds like an impossible sell, if not an impossible shoot. Sure, the mainstream circuits probably wouldn't touch the finished movie (even if it avoided the dreaded NC17 rating), so it would be relegated to arthouses and festivals anyway, and that's assuming that Neve Campbell would lift the no-nudity clause she's had in her contracts since at least 1999 when she made Wild Things (although according to her IMDb page she did lift it for When Will I Be Loved?, also for Toback, back in 2004).

All this is amusing enough, although it would have perhaps been more interesting if they were pitch a less absurd project that would ultimately get made, and you could eventually see how the end result deviated from the original idea. In between meetings, various Top Directors including Scorsese, Bertolucci and Polanski turn up and burble on about Cannes, acting, directing, the industry and so on. Which again is all fine, but that gets in the way of the fundraising stuff: either a look at the business of pre-production or general reminiscences about the Cannes Film Festival would have made a perfectly decent doc on its own, but mixing the two up together diffuses both. Interesting enough, though, and it has made me wonder whether to have another stab at Last Tango In Paris, which I switched off in boredom a few years ago.


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