tue 29/09/2020

Seduced and Abandoned | reviews, news & interviews

Seduced and Abandoned

Seduced and Abandoned

Alec Baldwin and James Toback team up to take down Hollywood

The 65th Cannes film festival acts as the backdrop for this compelling, if somewhat misguided documentary from James Toback. Accompanied by Alec Baldwin, Toback sets out to shame Hollywood for its decision to continually churn out megabuck franchises and mediocrity rather than investing in risky, original cinema as the pair try to get funding for their own film project.

The 65th Cannes film festival acts as the backdrop for this compelling, if somewhat misguided documentary from James Toback. Accompanied by Alec Baldwin, Toback sets out to shame Hollywood for its decision to continually churn out megabuck franchises and mediocrity rather than investing in risky, original cinema as the pair try to get funding for their own film project.

From the outset their plan to reinterpret Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (set in Iraq starring Alec Baldwin and Neve Campbell) is questionable; is this a real project, or are they simply trying to provoke a predictable reaction? A film about a male secret agent hooking up with a woman 15-years younger than himself would not be high on my to-see list despite the fact that it may challenge sexual taboos.

Perhaps the two are trying to make a point about how older women are treated in Hollywood when it comes to casting decisions, or how women are side-lined in many mainstream films. Interviews with Bérénice Bejo and Jessica Chastain about their experience in the film industry, alongside meetings with Hollywood producers who rule out female actresses over a certain age as not bankable would seem to suggest this and these certainly make for interesting viewing. However their presence does also highlight the fact that Toback only interviews one female filmmaker, Diablo Cody, instead focusing on the male directors who made their mark in the 1970s with the emphasis being on how the industry has changed since Toback started making films.

Baldwin mostly laments over his CV whilst wandering across the Croisette in Cannes speaking with a defiant honesty about his career decisions, whereas Toback comes across as a man trying to recapture his glory days. However, what they do get right is speaking to those filmmakers who have experienced the shift in the Hollywood model. This includes Francis Ford Coppola who describes the personal significance behind his latest release Twixt (which went straight to DVD in the UK) as catharsis in dealing with the death of his son who passed away aged 22 in 1986. This highly emotive moment illustrates how many significant filmmakers have chosen to work around the Hollywood system rather than in it to create the art they feel compelled to make and how frustrating it can be to get funding.

Meetings with producers, financiers and the ill-informed super rich elite capture the shallow hive of activity that keeps the Hollywood machine running, with these discussions playing out as almost parody at times - at one point a request is made to set their proposed film, "Last Tango in Tikrit", on a submarine due to Baldwin’s role in The Hunt for Red October. You witness their original vision being moulded into the same generic, dumbed down film Hollywood has gotten so used to relying on.

The history of Cannes film festival, the anecdotes and articulate discussion with industry insiders (especially conversations with Martin Scorsese, pictured above, and Ryan Gosling) are revealing and informative but never really surprising. That the current Hollywood distribution model is geared towards marketability rather than exciting ideas or great storytelling is infuriating and should be called out, but this documentary sadly loses sight of the important issues in favour of something that plays out like a self-congratulatory schoolboy prank.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Seduced and Abandoned

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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