s e d u c e d a n d a b a n d o n e d
8th November 2013
Alec Baldwin - Legend
20th November 2013
Alec Baldwin is a legend. This is a simple fact. Beatlejuice, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Hunt for the Red October, State and Main. And then it kind of goes a bit quiet. Until Tina Fey appears and we get Jack Donaghy. Possibly the greatest ever TV comedy character, played to absolute perfection by Baldwin. The point of this hagiographic introduction is that Alec is no longer quite the cinema box office draw that he once was. This makes us sad, and since the genius that is 30 Rock has now finished, makes Alec much less employed than he used to be.
Enter Seduced and Abandoned. A documentary put together by Baldwin and long time friend James Toback (a respected writer and director who has also been a bit quiet recently) that takes us into the terrible underbelly of the Cannes Film Festival. And by that I mean the marketing tents. Alec and James are here to secure funding for a mostly fictitious movie project, pitched with the hilarious working title of Last Tango in Tikrit. With such big names on board as Alec and, er, Neve Campbell, they wonder out into the sunlight after seeking advice from such veterans as Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola.
The movie begins with a quote from Orson Welles - ‘I look back on my life and it’s 95% running around trying to raise money to make movies and 5% actually making them…’ and spins off from there. The central thesis being that movie makers can no longer (if they ever could) concentrate on creating their artistic vision, they spend far more of their time attempting to deal with marketing reports from the money men in order to get their visions made. Of course, we all know what happens when auteurs are left alone with their artistic visions - 95% of the time you get a bankruptcy, 5% of the time you get Taxi Driver. But that’s not really the focus of this documentary, in fact focus may be a word that’s not particularly applicable to this movie.
Although it seemingly sets out to examine the pitfalls of raising money for a risky project with less than bankable stars, the movie tends to wander here and there, chatting away to an admittedly impressive roll call of filmmakers. In addition to those mentioned above, we also get insights from Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain and Berenice Bejo (on the upwards swing), James Caan and Bernardo Bertolucci (been around but no longer quite as bankable as they once were) all on the creative side of the fence along with a raft of recognisable only to people in the know rich producers / benefactors (including celebratory agitator Taki), one by one admitting that the most they could commit to 'TV man' Alec Baldwin's film is $5 million ($15 million short of target).
Baldwin and Toback are endlessly charming to spend time with and amongst the Cannes footage the movie pops back to the pair chatting around the business. Baldwin is particularly amusing when ruminating on the world he has been in since 1963. Indeed, the main benefit of having these pair loafing around Cannes is the ease at which they extract easy, chatty interviews out of such a range of people. Having been there, seen it and done it, conversations with Scorsese and Coppola feel like hanging out with old friends, chewing the fat. Which is pretty much what they are doing.
Seduced and Abandoned, is an entertaining, hugely amusing look into the world of modern movie financing. It's as focussed as a five year old in a room full of different coloured balloons and it’s not deep enough to leave you spending a massive amount of time pondering art vs capitalism but it’s probably not intended to be. Like an elderly uncle who starts off telling you one tale, then brings in some friends as he disappears off on a tangent, you’ll enjoy the stories as you vaguely ponder just what it is exactly that the movie is driving at. If you’re not particularly interested in movie making and aren't a fan of Baldwin, there probably won’t be a lot here to keep your interest. For the rest of us though, just sit back and enjoy your time with Alec. And Ryan Gosling's near death aeroplane anecdote, which is properly hilarious.
Check out the trailer here.