Overview: “The movie business is the worst lover you’ve ever had in the sense that you are seduced and abandoned over and over again.” — Alec Baldwin
For ten days in May 2012, director James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin worked their way through the Cannes Film Festival in an attempt to secure financing for a proposed film project, a political-erotic Middle Eastern adventure inspired by Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic “Last Tango in Paris.” As they dashed around – hopeful against all odds – Toback filmed the hilarious and revealing proceedings, from pitches to billionaires, studio moguls, producers and international sales financiers, to intimate encounters with major movie stars and iconic directors whose passion for movies proves it’s still possible to transcend the madness. The cinematic romp SEDUCED AND ABANDONED captures the tug-of-war between the eternal dream of creating pure art and the bracing reality of modern movie commerce.
Expectations: To be truthful right from the start this documentary doesn’t interest me; consider this review just a part of my job. Now I don’t want to give off the impression it is because I see the lighter & funnier topics of discussion to be lesser fare than the dramatic, emotional documentaries that HBO airs. Hat is not the case as I am looking forward to the other entertainment documentaries the Fall Series offers.
I’ll watch and review this week’s entry with trepidation for two reasons. One is, I don’t like Alec Baldwin. I never have; oh, there may be a stint from his long list of SNL appearances I might have liked, but that is it. He just rubs me the wrong way. The other reason is simply the subject matter. I enjoy the process of filmmaking, but I don’t like celebrity, or the notion of the rich & famous (who in my opinion don’t deserve to be in the 1% just because they act) who go around awarding themselves great honors for just acting. Double whammy on Alec Baldwin for even thinking he falls in that category. So, I am going into this film at a disadvantage, which means it has an uphill climb to prove interesting to me.
I didn’t even like the work’s title – “Seduced & Abandoned” – good thing the documentary’s overview came with a quote explaining the reference. Also, to comment on that trailer, it is so vague and stupid that I couldn’t stand it. Catch this – “Cinema is a gift from the gods.” Well, I am going in so wish me luck. Who knows, I might be surprised.
Gut Reaction: Well, what do you know it wasn’t a horrible experience. The scenes with Baldwin and Toback talking I hated the most, but there was plenty of talk with the likes of famed directors Bertolucci, Polanski, Coppola and Scorsese to make it interesting. I found their films and the financing woes they had more entertaining and informative than I did our protagonists in their quest.
I couldn’t get past Alec Baldwin. About three minutes into this film, sitting across from James Toback, he made a three sentence statement that clinched it for me. He said, “People think this is about money. People think this is about fame. They think it is about ego.” Yes, some of us do and in Baldwin’s business the perception one has of people of his profession is crucial. The perception I have of Mr. B. is not a good one, thus he taints this documentary for me. I never really got the sense that they were sincerely making a movie loosely based on Last Tango In Paris or not. Are they really or was this the gimmick used to smooze and make famous.
I also ended up hating the title. His quote for which he lifted the documentary’s title from just fell flat for me. I would have loved a title somehow based of Orson Welles quote in the beginning instead. Despite those grumbles there were good moments about cinematic history that I enjoyed. I still hate celebrity and fame but the classic historical lessons of filmmaking held me captive. It also does give a sense of what goes into financing a movie that was insightful.
In Conclusion: So I disliked the title and the main ’character’; there is a strong chance that others taking in SEDUCED AND ABANDONED don’t share my opinion. Maybe, they will see a slightly different film than I did. If that is the case, please weigh in the comments below. I welcome your thoughts. If you haven’t seen the film as of yet here are some dates: 10.31 at 6:45pm; 11.03 at 5:15pm, 11.06 at 3:30pm; 11.07 at 1:00am; 11.09 at 12:45pm and 11.12 at 9:45am and also on HBOGO.