From the sublime to the ridiculous, Canon Films at Lincoln Center

Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke in Barfly

What you're looking at is a screen grab taken with my iPhone, of the first scene between Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke, in the movie Barfly, the great film from 1987 directed by Barbet Schroeder, and written by Charles Bukowski, which screened Friday night at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.  A film that is, remarkably, still not available on DVD.  

The Canon Brigade - Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus

What is even more remarkable is the series of Canon Films being shown this week up at Lincoln Center, of which Barfly is just one of the standouts. Canon Films in the 1980's was run by the producers Menachem Golan (self-named after the Golan heights) and Yoram Globus, who made their big money on a variety of exploitation films with Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, and even Sylvester Stallone, as well as Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. They did a lot of sequels to movies of which they did not make the originals. They were the first producers to presell a film internationallly before it was made. And they were very successful.  But oddly enough, these Israeli cousins, funded a whole series art films by top directors. And those are some of the great films that the Walter Reade Theater is showing this week - films by Jean-Luc Godard, John Cassevetes, John Frankenheimer, Nicolas Roeg, Barbet Schroeder, Jerry Schatzberg, Norman Mailer, and Raul Ruiz (see the schedule here).

Rourke in Barfly

Faye Dunaway,  NY Film Festival press conference for Barfly, 1987

But let's get back to Barfly for a minute. I took this picture of Faye Dunaway at the New York Film Festival press conference for Barfly in 1987, one of the first years I photographed the festival, so it was a bit strange to be seeing it here at Lincoln Center for the first time since then. I was talking with director Josh Safdie at the popcorn stand before the film started, and was surprised he'd never seen it (he was born 1984, according to IMDB) - that's when I first realized it wasn't out on DVD. I'm guessing a lot of people have never seen this film.   Barfly came out after a run of phenomenal film appearances for Mickey Rourke - Diner  (1982), Rumblefish (1983), Pope of Grenwich Village (1984), Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986), and Angel Heart (1987).  For Faye Dunaway this was her best part since Mommie Dearest

Menachem Golan telling "the finger" story

So it was a treat to be at Lincoln Center on Friday night, and hear the producer Menachem Golan get onstage to tell some tremendous stories about the making of Barfly. While director Barbet Schroeder smiled onstage beside him, he described how Schroeder  had threatened to cut off his finger if Menachem Golan didn't fund this picture. Sounding like some Borscht Belt comedian, Golan said "They told me at the Essex Hotel front desk here in New York, there is a man downstairs with a knife and a finger. I said what are you meshuginah - all right we'll fund your picture." A story about Mickey Rourke and Cannes was told in the same manner. "He told me he won't come to the Cannes premiere of Barfly unless we buy him a Rolls Royce. And what - do you think we didn't buy him a car? We bought him a car - Mickey is a talented meshuginah." 

Yoram Globus, Barbet Schroeder, Menachem Golan in the Walter Reade lobby

Talking about his other films, Golan was just as outrageously humorous and brazenly honest. About Charles Bronson - "He was a cold fish". About Jean Claude Van Damme - "I discovered the bastard."  About Sly Stallone - "He wanted $7 million, so I offered him $10 mlllion.  Why? Because we made plenty of money." The associate producer Tom Luddy was on hand, and reminded everyone about how Jean-Luc Godard, (whose film Every Man for Himself which is playing downtown at the Film Forum this week) had so liberally borrowed/stolen dialogue from Bukowski for Every Man without permission,  that he had to call Barbet Schroeder, and offer to pay him and Bukowski for subtitle credit.

What a night. We got to see a reunion of the Canon Film production team, Golan and Globus, who had not spoken in many years up until this event. The film itself was as good as I remembered it. I had totally forgotten that the cinematography was done by the great Robby Muller (please excuse the missing umlaut).  The performances by both Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway were  a phenomenal one-two punch. The directing by Barbet Schroeder spot on. 

Mickey Rourke and Sylvia Myles at the NY Film Festival 2008

As far as this Canon Films survey and the producing Israeli cousins go - there were more fireworks on hand Saturday night at a rare screening of the 1980 Rocky Horror-ish film The Apple - well the Rocky Horror Picture Show if it was directed by your Rabbi and Cantor on acid.  More tomorrow...

"keep your finger Barbet. we'll fund you're movie!"


current events - where you been Godlis?

Two legends in one night:  Mike Nichols and Stanley Donen

So a couple of weeks ago, I was way uptown shooting at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. It was opening night of a full week tribute to the films of Stanley Donen. Yes the director of Singin' in the Rain,  Funny Face, Charade,  On the Town and Damn Yankees. Still alive and sharp, in person doing an interview onstage with Mike Nichols after a screening of his film Funny Face. Talking about how he tried to make the film look like his friend Richard Avedon's photographs (Fred Astaire's 'Dick Avery' character in the film is based on Avedon - going to Paris from Grenwich Village for the fashion shows with Audrey Hepburn). Donen said the film which was made in VistaVision didn't lend itself to Avedon's minimal depth of field techniques, and the producers were annoyed at him for not showing off VistaVision to its fullest. Funny how things never change between business and art. Mike Nichols and Donen bonded over hating people who are full of themselves, amongst other things. Then after all that I got to take a picture of these two legends. Well almost as big a deal as shooting Joey and Dee Dee Ramone on the Bowery in the day. Ha!

Stanley Donen

Mike Nichols

Then this week I got to see a new/old Jim Carrey film - I Love You Phillip Morris - in an advance screening up at the Walter Reade again. The directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa were on hand (they also wrote Bad Santa). On my way uptown, I wasn't sure if I was going to see a new or old film. I'd heard of the title last year, and noticed it was dated 2009. Well, turns out it was shown at Sundance in 2009 and has never had a real distributor - or the distributor dropped out after a year, and now the film is finally coming out. Or rather Jim Carrey is finally coming out . This is the gay Jim Carrey comedy. Or more precisely the gay Jim Carrey - gay Ewan McGregor comedy! It's a wild story of a con man who swindles people to pay for his "expensive gay lifestyle". And the kicker is, that it is a true story. REALLY!

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

I told you the directors wrote Bad Santa right? This is the Jim Carrey movie you almost never saw. I'm not sure who their target audience is, but it's a miracle that this film was made and is about to be released.
You've really got to see this to believe it. Your girlfriend's gonna love it. You might too.

Grace Dunham, Lena Dunham (Director of Tiny Furniture), and Laurie Simmons

Which brings me to the other new film you have to see - Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture.  It first came onto my radar last spring when it won an award at the SXSWest Film Festival. Dunham (twenty-four) who is the daughter of photographer Laurie Simmons, has made a small self-deprecating masterpiece about returning home (to Tribeca) after completing college (Oberlin) only to feel like a loser living amongst her successful mother and beautiful younger sister (played by her real mother and sister and her slightly rounded self). I won't give away any more of the plot. You can read all about it in the NY Times review, or the great New Yorker piece last week. 

Lena Dunham (center) with Laurie Simmons and Grace Dunham (left) and friend/actress Jemima Kirke

I saw Tiny Furniture last summer when it was featured at the BAM Cinemafest at the BAM Cinematein Brooklyn (plug plug - actually I was the official BAM Cinemeafest photographer). As it turns out I had this weird connection to Dunham that she didn't know about, and so I had a personal interest in seeing the film. After shooting the picture above, I hinted at it to her, but wasn't going to reveal until after I saw the film myself. I wanted to see how much of a sense of humor she had. Dunham asked me after the film, what the connection was. And as the film passed my humor test, I told her - "Your grandfather put my braces in backwards when I was a kid" (her grandfather was my dentist - for one week). And without skipping a beat, Dunham said - "That's so funny! We've got to go tell my Mom right now. Mom - Poppy put his braces in backwards!" I thought that was very cool of her. 

right yeah - Lena Dunham

So go down to the IFC theater and catch this film. Check out her hilarious blog here. Watch the preview below. Tell your friends, tell your relatives, tell your dentist. 

Grace Dunham with BAM program showcasing Tiny Furniture

the sisters - Lena & Grace Dunham

Watch the preview now!!


Lee Friedlander: Keeping His Eyes on the Road

I went up to the Whitney Museum last Friday night to see the new Lee Friedlander show. Whoa - it's knockout time! All these photos, shot from the inside of his car looking out, were taken by Friedlander on the slightly strange Hasselblad Superwide camera. Superwide indeed! In these photographs you'll find yourself looking at the dashboard, the rear view mirror, and across the street all at the same time. Well actually Friedlander is showing you how to look at all these things at the same time. No actually Friedlander is showing you how to take pictures from inside the car, and still look at all these things at the same time.  This article in the New York Times amusingly explains the technique better than I ever could.

The "subjects" of these photos, aside from the highly detailed dashboards, "plush interiors", and random car parts (vents, sound systems, door handles. locks), include buildings, stop signs, civil war memorials, national parks, Walker Evans-like churches, Lee Friedlander-like shrubbery, Christmas decorations, cemeteries, roadside signs, ice cream stands, gas stations, other photographers, friends, and park rangers, Lee Friedlander-like western desert scenes - well actually everything here is Friedlander-like. You will find yourself knee deep in his world. Humorous, detailed, in your face photographs that are a stunning combination of Atget, Pop Art, and Picasso.

Lee Friedlander delights in seeing how many eyeballs he can juggle at the same time. And the exhibition at the Whitney includes 192 photographs (edited down from how many??) hung in such a way that it dares you to try to look at them all on the same day. Packed in tightly on each of two facing walls of one room are 50 photographs in 2 horizontal rows of 25 photographs each. I got dizzy just counting them. And there is a third wall with 14 more photos in that same room. And still yet another room with 64 more photographs similarly hung.  According to the intro notes on the Museum's wall,  "the photographer specified that the photographs be densely hung in order to maximize the impact of multiple angles and points of view evoking the sensory overload commonly experienced by American drivers ."

That being said, the book that is the catalog of the exhibition (available here) is it's own pleasurable experience to view. All 192 photos are included, but they are much more digestible in book form,where there are only two photographs intelligently juxtaposed per page spread. And included only in the book are some choice quotes - one by Mose Allison, as well as  "one two three, look at Mr.Lee" ("written and sung by the Bobbettes") justaposed with a self-portrait photograph of "Mr. Lee" wearing a 'Lee' jeans t-shirt.

Meanwhile, the Whitney exhibition is up only until November 28, so you'll have to plan quickly. There is also an astonishing Edward Hopper show at the Whitney as well - want to see what the real colors of his familiar paintings look like? And don't miss the cool short film Shadow by the great cinematographer Ed Lachman, based on an unfinished film by River Phoenix. Lots of great stuff. Friday's are free after 6pm, so you can save on the high end admission at the Whitney. Then buy the book with the money you saved, and take your eyes for a drive.

all photographs © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco