Dusan Makavejev

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Stepping outside the classical Hollywood cinema, at least for a moment, here’s a look at the three early features by Dusan Makavejev, the great Yugoslavian pre-post-modernist, that Criterion has kindly issued on the company’s budget Eclipse label.

The set includes “Man Is Not a Bird,” Makavejev’s first (1965) shot at fiction after a decade in documentary shorts; “Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator” (1967), a more sardonic take on the erotic comedies of the Czech New Wave; and “Innocence Unprotected” (1968), a hilarious and politically pointed appropriation of the first Serbian talkie — an absurd action film made during the German occupation.

149 comments to Dusan Makavejev

  • Kent Jones

    Joseph, I’m curious – do you think there is someone who would be capable of making these complex aesthetic decisions? I’m sure there are many of them to make. And I’m curious about your opposition to the documentary idea (this is with the proviso that it be the right kind of documentary). I don’t have my copy of your book handy, so forgive me if you’ve already addressed these questions.

  • dm494

    Kent, you beat me to a mention of CROSSING DELANCEY, which is a charming comedy; as you said, it does have a nice feel for the Upper West and Lower East Sides. And Peter Riegert–another actor given a career boost by THE SOPRANOS–is quite good in it. But George Martin, Jeroen Krabbe, and, in her best role, Amy Irving, also do good turns.

  • Alex Hicks

    “Joseph, I’m curious – do you think there is someone who would be capable of making these complex aesthetic decisions?”

    Good query, but doesn’t a documentary forsake from the outset what a “completion” of a feature film would gamble on — a Welles narrative feature film.

    Wouldn’t abandonment of the goal of a completed film by Bogdanovitch and company be as if Welles had given up on his opthello and only offered us “Filming Othello” — at least short of total recalitrance of from those now blocking progress.

    In literature these things are a crap shoot. For example “Juneteenth” is a botch (with good some great bits, but great bits like the 1964 “Cadallas Flambe” inexplicably missing) yet Scribner’s assembly of Hemingway’s “The Garden of Eden” yielded a masterpiece.

    I think Bogdanovitch is worth a gamble, plus any possible support to a settlement that might free his hands (yes to solve the riddle of the film within a film, and so on) that might be offered by others. (In France. I suspect, some Minister of Culture would have cut the Gordian knots tying creative hands.)

  • Joseph McBride

    I disagree with those who claim that OTHER WIND couldn’t and shouldn’t be finished, that it’s too hard to cut, etc. I don’t think that is true at all. And I’m not Walter Murch (who passed on the project, unfortunately). The film (of which I have seen 100 minutes plus some other scenes) makes perfect sense to me; the difficulty people have with it is that it’s an avant-garde work, a dramatic departure from Welles’s earlier work, and so requires a wise and bold aesthetic approach respecting his intentions.So I think it would be a shame if this major Welles work, which he shot for six years, a film in which he reflects on Hollywood and on the art and business of filmmaking, would be cut up and used as fodder for a making-of documentary. Since I was fired from the project after Gary and I made the deal, I am not involved or in a position to recommend anyone to work on it. Gary and I showed it to numerous people to try to get funding. He also showed it to Spielberg, Lucas, and Eastwood. No funding resulted. It turned out Eastwood just wanted to study Huston’s performance so he could copy him in WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART. By the way, I am told by someone who has read all of Hemingway’s ms. of THE GARDEN OF EDEN at the John F. Kennedy Library that Scribner’s seriously diminished it by removing a whole subplot and toning down the sexual kinkiness. It needs a “restoration,” influential as it has been in its cut version. That novel relates intriguingly to Welles’s deconstruction of the Hemingway macho myth in OTHER WIND.

  • Peter Henne

    1) “he shot virtually all the footage needed to complete OTHER WIND”

    2) “A lot of editing and sound work remains to be done, and there are some complex decisions to be made about the film-within-the-film and how it is seen. That material is barely sketched out in the script.”

    3) “The film (of which I have seen 100 minutes plus some other scenes) makes perfect sense to me”

    Joseph, I am finding it hard to pin down where you stand on the film’s completeness. 3) seems almost to contradict 2): you say a lot of editing and sound work remain to be done (presumably not only at your direction), but also that the film right now makes perfect sense to you. You go on to say that the problem people have in comprehending it is that it is an avant-garde work, which to me suggests the problem is not, after all, that it needs editing and sound work, but that it is elliptical and should be appreciated this way. You say in 1) Welles shot virtually all the footage needed, which means he did not shoot all the footage needed, but almost all. Even though some of what is needed does not exist, the film makes perfect sense to you.

    I’ve seen a presentation of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND which I believe is the same as what Junko saw, or nearly so. It was about 45 minutes and screened at the DGA in Hollywood. I can’t possibly comment on the additional footage you’ve seen which I haven’t, and I respect you have lived with the material for many years. But it sounds like you are saying the film is complete, and requires “cobbling together” and additional shooting at the same time.

  • Joseph McBride

    Peter, about a third of my book WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ORSON WELLES?: A PORTRAIT OF AN INDEPENDENT CAREER is devoted to the complex production history of OTHER WIND, so I will refer you to that source for details. But I will clarify by saying that the 100-minute version is a very rough rough cut put together by Gary Graver from the 41 minutes Welles edited and a bunch of other scenes. Some scenes were not included. Only a couple of shots needed for the ending were never shot by Welles. Gary added a final shot he filmed that didn’t match well with the rest. When I say the film makes perfect sense to me, I am referring to all I know about Welles’s intentions, the script, the footage I have seen, my close observation of the filming for six years as an actor and historian, and what I know about other material I haven’t seen. I am not saying it is a perfect film. But I could have figured out how to put this together with the help of a professional editor. People who throw up their hands at how impossible it would be to do so I think are just thrown by the film’s unconventional nature and avant-garde approach to storytelling, which includes a film-within-in-the-film (shot in 35mm, unlike the other footage) and two distinct filmmaking styles (neither Welles’s own, as Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, but both his parodies of other styles). Much editing and sound work was left undone by Welles. I wasn’t saying the film is complete — far from it. I estimate it would need about a year and a half of concentrated postproduction work, much of it involving complex and controversial decisions since Welles himself is no longer here. The rough cut is very battered. The first step I thought should be taken is to print all ten hours of negative and see what is there. I would expect some surprises. And footage that would make it easier to complete, even if some loose ends might persist.

  • Alex Hicks

    Can one be sure Welles shot only “virtually” all necessary footage if considerable footage (potentially available footage at that) remains unseen?

    The principal criticism of THE GARDEN OF EDEN, quite vehemently –indeed negatively– espoused by some, is that Scribner removing a lot of good and seemingly integral materials. The at least partial triumph of the work is that readers as adept and discriminating as Harold Bloom can regard the work as a masterpiece to merit the company of THE FIRST FORTY NINE STORIES’ (and a few more stories), THE SUN ALSO RISES AND RISES and A FAREWELL TO ARMS. (Personally, I find it more satisfying than the, for me sentimental, A FAREWELL TO ARMS.) It seems to me that the final assembler of a work never must steer a course between attempting to realize the full intentions of the author and crafting the most coherent product one can from what materials are available. If aspect of an original author’s work seems unrealizable within a coherent product, completing a product that excludes these aspects strikes me as a serious option. The omitted materials can always be published latter– though they revive controversy. (This is not to say that materials of an avant-garde Welles should not best be treated as such.)

    A film can., I think, make sense, yet lack aesthetically important, even “necessary,” elements. The 2000-ish Turner version of GREED makes “perfect” (and powerful) sense to me, though it is nonetheless seriously marred by all sorts of omissions. (It sounds like, legal obstructions to materials and their use resolved, we could still get an OTHER SIDE far more fully realized than anything we can ever hope for Re GREED.)

  • Brad Stevens

    Junko: “March 24, 2004 at Cinematheque in Los Angles I have seen more than 50 minutes of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND presented by Gary Graver. Shown was 1) Guests entering party (color) 2) Conversations at party and Jake (John Huston) with retainers interrogating man in garage, one scene between Jake and Peter Bogdanovich in bedroom, Lili Palmer in doorway talking to Jake (black and white) 3)Jake’s movie with Bob Random and Oja Kodar with scene in car at night, daytime scene in junk yard, scene in drive-in movie theater (color).”

    Oja Kodar presented a similar collection of scenes at London’s National Film Theatre in 2003. I don’t remember any scenes at a drive-in theater, but do recall a scene in which an offscreen John Huston directs Bob Random in a sex scene; Random becomes increasingly annoyed, and ends up walking off the set, completely naked. The sex in a car scene went on much longer than it does in THE ONE MAN BAND, with additional footage of the characters getting out of the car and running through a building where rain is pouring through the roof (which made me think of Tarkovsky). The following scene was also included:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOVOXhvdKD4

  • Kent Jones

    Joseph McBride, I see your point. I wish someone could get the job done, but the task seems incredibly daunting – a long, tough, complicated process and a very expensive one. And then there’s Beatrice Welles…

  • I haven’t seen any footage from Other Wind but it sounds very interesting. In fact, it’s interesting how almost all of Welles’ films are unfinished and “rough-cutted”. Isn’t that in a way part of why he’s so revered today? I wrote on my blog yesterday that I wanted to watch F for Fake again. This discussion has made me even more eager to do so. It might be my favourite among Welles’ films.

    It’s great to hear that A Brighter Summer Day is about to be released. I’ve seen only Yi yi of Yang’s films, and it’s one of the most memorable cinema experiences of my life. I’ve been discussing with some friends from Taiwan, who are here in St Andrews, of doing some kind of retrospective or celebration. But it’s probably just a dream…

  • Brian Dauth

    Speaking of late, unfinished Welles projects: can FILMING THE TRIAL ever be released on dvd or theatrically? I loved FILMING OTHELLO so I a similar movie about THE TRIAL (my favorite Welles film) would be fabulous (at least to me).

  • alex hicks

    “the task seems incredibly daunting – a long, tough, complicated process and a very expensive one. And then there’s Beatrice Welles…”

    Or rather first there’s Batrice Welles, then the process. As for this being “a long, tough, complicated process and a very expensive one,” maybe, but there are some indication the creative side of a release is not that daunting.

    Bogdanovitch has indicated that it’s one Bogdanovitch apprently thinks could be completed in about year once underway free of legal obstructions. In PB’s words of February, 2009, on the resolution of legal obstacles,“It’s going to happen in the next month or so.” On completion, “We’re aiming for Cannes (in 2010).”
    (See .)

    Of course, Bogdanovitch might be mistaken on the time needed for creative completion as well as on the time to a legal unfettering of the creative process. However, it’s the latter that keep going over schedule. The former has never gotten sufficiently off the ground for Bogdanovitch’s view of its viability in relatively short period of a year or two to have been put to the test.

  • MICHAEL KASTNER

    Speaking of late Welles….F for Fake is indeed one of his masterworks but I love his 12 minute promo just as much. I have it on Graver’s Working With Orson Welles & consider it one of Welles most joyful works. Not really a coming attraction it’s like a mini reworking of the film itself.More proof (if we needed any) of the man’s constantly evolving style.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘I don’t remember any scenes at a drive-in theater, but do recall a scene in which an offscreen John Huston directs Bob Random in a sex scene; Random becomes increasingly annoyed, and ends up walking off the set, completely naked. The sex in a car scene went on much longer than it does in THE ONE MAN BAND, with additional footage of the characters getting out of the car and running through a building where rain is pouring through the roof (which made me think of Tarkovsky). The following scene was also included’

    I have looked at notes I made from that time. Footage was shown in order that I described above. Drive-in theater scene was at end, last sequence. Gray Graver was explaining that this scene needed ‘lab work’ because Jake’s movie was to be projected (screen is blank in existing footage.) But everything else you have described is similar to what I saw, included YouTube excerpt from party. Also was conversation with Dennis Hopper in that sequence of YouTube exceerpt.

  • What’s bewildering about Beatrice is that her perceived power is treated as real power — isn’t it true she controls only OTHELLO, and no other properties, yet her formidable “nuisance footprint” touches everything with Orson’s name on it?

    Persons of authority, please adjust or correct me on the above, as necessary.

    Michael K, I share your enthusiasm for the F FOR FAKE TRAILER, which demonstrates that Welles could not *not* make a film without doing *something* with it. One of the loveliest of his “minor,” late works is THE SPIRIT OF CHARLES LINDBERGH.

  • Brian Dauth

    I am also a fan of both F FOR FAKE and the F FOR FAKE TRAILER. Welles’ late films have a feeling of precise freedom and play that I find intoxicating when I watch them.

  • Joseph McBride

    I base my statement that Welles shot virtually all the footage
    that was needed to finish OTHER WIND on many talks I had with Gary Graver. As Junko also notes, the ending at the drive-in needs some new material and lab work. I’ve seen some of that drive-in sequence, including a shot of myself in the rushes that isn’t in the rough cut (Welles, watching me looking up at the screen reverently in the fog with my tape recorder pressed to my chest, exclaimed, “The high priest of the cinema!”), and I was present at the filming of other shots for that sequence, so I know there is more of it in the negative. How the film-within-the-film is deployed in OTHER WIND is the biggest challenge in the editing, since the script barely indicates those scenes, and there is debate about how long they should run on screen. Peter Bogdanovich had a cutting room in Santa Monica to work on the film for a while not long ago, along with Sasha Welles, who works in sound and film editing (he is Oja Kodar’s nephew, who can be seen as the little boy in the opening of F FOR FAKE) and a more experienced editor, but then the work was stopped. For those wanting to know more about the perennial problems that occur with Beatrice on most Welles projects, I wrote about her in detail in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ORSON WELLES?.

  • Kent Jones

    Perhaps Mr. McBride can comment on the distinctions to be made between Beatrice Welles’ real and perceived power. My understanding jibes with Jaime’s – she and her lawyer throw up a legal smokescreen whenever anyone makes a move of any kind, and possible funders/producers/etc. don’t want to bother with the potential for trouble. It’s very sad.

  • Kent Jones

    Joseph – Sorry – I posted this last comment before reading yours.

  • Joseph McBride

    Speaking of Hemingway, I found the new edition of A MOVEABLE FEAST a travesty. Even though it’s good to have some previously unpublished material, some of it fine indeed, they shouldn’t have tampered with one of his best books, especially to placate one side of his complicated family. This is a bad precedent. Families of dead artists often cause problems with the legacy. But THE GARDEN OF EDEN was apparently botched in the editing. Hemingway scholar Philip Young wrote an attack on it at the time. However, the book has had a profound effect on Hemingway’s reputation, since feminist scholars and others have realized that his study of gender and of male insecurities was much deeper than many had previously realized. I always admired him, partly because of his acute insights into male weaknesses and anxieties, but that aspect of his work seemed to elude many who were focused too much on his chest-thumping (compensatory) public persona. As D. H. Lawrence put it, “Never trust the teller; trust the tale.”

    I’d prefer to let what I wrote on Beatrice in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ORSON WELLES? stand at present. I go into the situation thoroughly there. It is very sad. She’s become
    the William Randolph Hearst of his later life.

  • MICHAEL KASTNER

    Welles & Hemingway: now we’ve got two of our great artists in one thread. Both have been often misunderstood (even by each other) but have outlived their critics.THE GARDEN OF EDEN stunned me in 1986 & never fails to do so upon rereading.Like Welles, Hemingway was still searching late in his life. Unlike Welles he seemed much more concerned with the public’s acceptance of himself & his work.
    The freedom of late Welles, films of any length with no real hope of distribution or even finishing, reminds me somewhat of late Godard. How many great filmmakers make a 1 minute film after years of silence?

  • Joseph McBride

    Hemingway left numerous unfinished works, like Welles, but for different reasons, as Michael notes. To paraphrase Renoir in THE RULES OF THE GAME, the terrible thing about Welles’s unfinished film is that each one has its reasons for being unfinished. However, many artists have left unfinished work without being stigmatized as Welles was in the American media. Kafka left novels unfinished and wanted them burned after his death (fortunately, that didn’t happen). Fitzgerald didn’t finish THE LAST TYCOON. Schubert wrote THE UNFINISHED SYMPHONY. And perhaps the most famous unfinished work of all, Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan,” is prominently quoted in CITIZEN KANE, ironically enough. That film points out that Xanadu is the “still-unfinished” pleasure dome of “America’s Kubla Khan,” Charles Foster Kane. So incompletion was always a motif with Welles. Jonathan Rosenbaum discusses how Welles was always tinkering with his films and refusing to consider them “finished.”

  • Didn’t Welles get in a fistfight with Hemingway? Or was that Hemingway and Huston? Or Ford and Fonda?

  • No, exactly. But then, what is a finished film? Especially in this day and age with deleted scenes and outtakes and other forms of extra material, as well as re-releases and new prints, digitally enhanced.

    That the trailer for F for Fake has material which was shot after the film was “finished” only adds to that.

    And to add to the list, Henry James made alterations for the second or third printing of his novels.

  • Blake Lucas

    “Fitzgerald didn’t finish THE LAST TYCOON.”

    Didn’t he, uh…die? That seems like a pretty good reason not to finish it.

  • Joseph McBride

    Welles and Hemingway got into a fistfight during a screening of Joris’s Ivens’s war documentary THE SPANISH EARTH after Wellles, who had recorded narration written by Hemingway, suggested eliminating some lines and letting the pictures speak for themselves. Hemingway snarled, “Some damn faggot who runs an art theater thinks he can tell me how to write narration.”

    Welles put on a mocking swish act and said, “Oh, Mr. Hemingway, you think because you’re so big and strong and have hair on your chest . . .” After their brawl in front of images of people fighting and dying onscreen, they wound up becoming friends over a bottle of whiskey (even though Hemingway later replaced Welles’s narration himself), but the incident seems to have inspired THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, which Welles described as “an attack on machoism.”

  • Joseph McBride

    Fitzgerald could have hurried up with it, Blake!

  • Barry Putterman

    Actually D.K, I think it was Abbott and Costello.

    But seriously folks, was it necessary for Blake to have to point out something THAT obvious? Yes, all artists have works at various stages of development throughout their lives. And when they die, some are left unfinished. And yes, every artist is unsatisfied with various aspects of their completed works and would love to be able to improve on them. But there was only one Orson Welles.

    And as Joseph points out, that seems almost inevitable with an artist so attracted to the tragedy of characters who must eventually destroy everything that they created. Like the scorpion in the story, that is their nature and they are doomed to follow it.

  • Blake Lucas

    Hey, I know it was obvious. That was just meant to be a snappy line meant kind of lightly. But it was also because a lot of unfinished works just go with the territory and don’t show any special tendency on the part of the artist. It’s different with Orson Welles, and maybe with some others too, and I think we all acknowledge that.

    I’m fine with artists who have trouble finishing works, or want to back and revise them later (other people finishing them after the artists are dead can be a little more dubious though, and I think we need to put such works in a different category).

    Mainly, I just chimed in with that because Fitzgerald was on my mind, after just getting back to TENDER IS THE NIGHT, which is perhaps my favorite American novel of the twentieth century, not only for moving story and characters, but as much for the beauty of his use of language and amazing structure with subtle shifts of point of view that have telling effects on the whole. I guess most here have read this–I just find it haunting.

    And would add that Fitzgerald comes over as neither macho nor a wimp. And although he seemed to have as many personal problems and challenges in his life as anyone, he seemed to see his stories and novels through to the end and then let them go.

    Except for THE LAST TYCOON of course.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Blake, I have also read TENDER IS THE NIGHT a couple of times, and I’m puzzled by the way you use it as an example here. At the time of his death Fitzgerald was still revising the manuscript, putting the chapters in chronological order, and this version was then finished and published by the critic Malcolm Cowley. The version I have read is the Penguin edition from the early 80s, where they tried to get as close to the first US edition as possible. But they still have to point out that “In the late stages of composition and proof-reading, Fitzgerald was hard-pressed for deadlines and his health was poor. His attention to textual accuracy was subordinated to other matters.”

    I agree with you that it’s a great novel, but I don’t think Fitzgerald ever finished it to his own satisfaction.

  • Robert Chatain

    I’ve read both versions of “Tender is the Night” and greatly prefer the original U.S. edition, but Fitzgerald was disappointed by the poor sales of the novel and returned to it thinking that a chronological re-ordering would make the story more accessible and, in his words, “the improvement in appeal would be enormous.” He was working on this revision when he died. Malcolm Cowley’s intro to the 1955 Penguin Modern Classics edition recounts the history of Fitzgerald’s revision.

    But the original version seems deeper to me. We begin in the middle of things, always a good idea, and are given information when we need it — just as in “Gatsby,” where we only get the back-story of Jay Gatz halfway through the novel when we already care about him.

    Anyway there are good arguments for finishing and pubishing (or editing and releasing) a clear-headed original vision and then moving on. It’s a tragedy that Welles couldn’t do this for all the usual reasons plus some that were unique to him. But a different standard applies to works that were heavily cut, edited or censored at initial release — then we want an uncut “Apocalypse Now Redux” or “Once Upon a Time in America” in its original opium-dream narrative order.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Scott Fitzgerald once said that there are no second acts in American lives. To somewhat connect to this thread I think when you’re in your early twenties there’s nothing better than Orson Welles, Fitzgerald and the French New Wave. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a second act the filmmaker for middle age to me would be John Ford and the novelist Anthony Trollope. As for a third act Kurt Vonnegut (it I remember it correctly) suggested painting (or maybe it just was that painters lived longer than authors), but I’ll see when, or if, I get there.

  • Barry Putterman

    Blake, what was obvious was the need for that fact to be acknowledged in the discussion. If you hadn’t said it, I would have. And I’d never suppose that you’d have any trouble with artists who couldn’t finish their work. After all, Elaine May

    Indeed, Fitzgerald did not come off as either macho or wimp. His problems were more with wealth and celebrity. Had “Tender is the Night” sold well on initial release, I don’t think we would be discussing revised editions now.

  • Blake Lucas

    I appreciate the information about TENDER IS THE NIGHT which was more than I knew about it. I had heard that Malcolm Cowley had put together the chronological order version but thought this was all his own idea. I never knew Fitzgerald had anything to do with this.

    That doesn’t take away for me from the novel as it was first published, and I’m guessing, as has already been suggested here, that if it had sold well and been the success he hoped for, no one including Fitzgeral would have second guessed it.
    I would never dream of reading any other version. The time frame used for the original novel is just too essential to what it is.

    I’ll point out one thing that I think is most important. Starting “In medias res” as he does, Fitzgerald is able to take us into the story through Rosemary and part one is mostly from her point of view. It’s not first person narration and it’s subtle, but it is. She is the way in to the story. Of course, this changes when part one ends with the powerful revelation that we have there and part two goes back in time.

    I won’t go through all the brilliant things Fitzgerald does with point of view as adjustments continue to be made with the time scheme but getting back to the first point, what is the last thing we hear of Rosemary? It is in fact quite cruel and unsentimental. Dick, who is now on the verge of losing Nicole, says simply that “Rosemary never grew up.”

    And there may actually be some truth in that, from a certain point of view, but given Rosemary’s investment in Dick in part one, and his own willingness to romanticize her in return, and how this played a part in what happened to all of them, it’s a judgement that maybe should be turned back on him, though he doesn’t do so. Maybe if she had not been made a pawn in Dick’s escape from the complexities of his relationship
    with Nicole and been really taken seriously, she would have “grown up” or at least been somewhat different now than she is.

    It is a subtle point, and I believe could never have come over as expressively as it does had she not been introduced as the novel’s first point of empathy. Those final words about her take us back through a labyrinthine weave of behavior and evolving relationships and show just how much even a highly intelligent and sympathetic man like Dick Diver conducts his life in a subjective way, never seeing the whole picture as much as he thinks he does.

    I really do believe it his quality of being at the same time intensely sensitive but also unsparing in his writing that makes me respond so deeply to Fitzgerald, especially in this book. It is true of Hemingway too at this best (THE SUN ALSO RISES, most of the short stories).

  • Johan Andreasson

    Blake, I agree with you completely about the novel. Maybe it was just my experience as an editor working with authors (mostly childern’s books authors, but they can still be very difficult – even when, or especially when, they are good) that troubled me about the description of Fitzgerald as an author who saw his stories and novels through to the end and then let them go. I have the greatest respect for Fitzgerald as a novelist, but at this point in his life his working methods were chaotic. I believe there are something like seventeen or eighteen different drafts of the manuscript for TENDER IS THE NIGHT. The sensible thing seems to be the current one, to let the first US edition stand, but it was a long hard road coming to this conclusion, and not with much help from Fitzgerald himself.

  • Barry Putterman

    The tragedy of “never growing up” is to Fitzgerald what the tragedy of destroying what you’ve created was to Welles. So Welles was always reconstructing his works and Fitzgerald didn’t believe in second acts. I understand that Fitzgerald was also a terrible speller. It gives one hope.

  • Blake Lucas

    Johan, I hope it was clear that I wanted to acknowledge my error about Fitzgerald, and he plainly isn’t the best case for finishing one’s work and letting it go as you say. I very much appreciated you sharing what you knew about those revisions that I didn’t know. At the same time, as we agree, letting the first U.S. edition as stand as THE novel was clearly the best course, and I don’t know why anyone would have ever doubted that.

    Barry, it occurred to me reading your last reply that in a more profound sense it is really Dick who never grows up, and he is surely the character who most reflects the author. But this was an especially good example of the transmutation of autobiographical material, so that characters emerge who are not really you or your mentally ill wife but you still understand everything about them. And the male protagonist, though he does get a share of hard-won sympathy, is never romanticized or sentimentalized. That’s a trap that in some of his lesser works Hemingway does fall into.

    Maybe “never growing up” is Fitzgerald’s tragedy–and it is reflected again and again in his works as I believe you suggest. But in one way, he did grow up–good speller or no, his understanding of and practice of literature is commanding. His impulse to work with time and point of view in the way he does, and gift for doing so, is one of the things that makes him a true modernist. And his language couldn’t be more commanding nor more piercingly expressive.

    Because it’s a different situation that TENDER IS THE NIGHT and there may be a more legitimate argument on the other side, I will resist saying again that TOUCH OF EVIL should have been left as it was on initial release. Well, let’s just say I wish it had been. But I know others disagree.

    To some extent, works exist in their own time and place. When they are somehow manipulated later into other versions or “finished” works for works that had been unfinished–this isn’t true any longer. To me, there is too much rethinking of movies now, especially because so much of it is suspicious–as in saying that a DVD is “the director’s cut” or “the director’s original version.” This may mean many things, but so often it at least partly means that someone felt there was a sales tool there to sell more copies.

    I dearly would love to see the footage of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND put together in some coherent order. But in all fairness, it sounds like it should be called THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND: FOOTAGE FROM AN UNFINISHED FILM BY ORSON WELLES and not THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND: ORSON WELLES’ FINAL MASTERPIECE.

  • Blake Lucas

    I should add that films that are effectively finished and then tampered with by someone are indeed in a different group. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA really only existed only briefly in that heavily cut version which straightened the time scheme (and of course this flopped–which is what often happens when something like this is done). The long opium den reverie version was finished and intact and back out by the end of the year. I don’t believe anyone doesn’t consider that the actual original version and the other a temporary aberration of the Ladd Company as it was in the process of folding.

  • Barry Putterman

    Blake, I don’t have to tell you (or anybody else here) that tragedy is more than just things working out badly in the end. It has more to do with good-hearted, well-intentioned people creating the conditions for things to inevitably turn out badly due to imbalances in their own characters.

    Neither Welles nor Fitzgerald were what you could describe as “mature human beings” in their personal lives, but they were both great artists. They were able to understand within themselves and had the talent to convey to us the human failings that cause tragedy.

    By the way, I also like the original cut of TOUCH OF EVIL best. Unlike METROPOLIS, which gained power for me as the narrative gaps were filled in, TOUCH OF EVIL seemed to work best with the gaps intact. I also like the Mancini music at the beginning (although not the opening credits). Still, I’m glad I saw the other versions as well.

    As for THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, I’ll just accept what I’m given (if I’m ever given anything) and let it go at that. You can’t really explain any of these things in any definitive way. William Alland at the end of KANE and Dietrich at the end of TOUCH OF EVIL said that better than I could.

  • Alex Hicks

    I wouldn’t put much stock in the “no second acts” bit. “Moby Dick” was Melville’s SECOND act (after the Typee and the like), Faulkner gave us a decade of masterpieces (and Bellow gave us two), Mailer kept bouncing back, and Henry James and Philip Roth (as one might say did Updike) just kept going on and on and on like Hawks and Ford and Hitchcock. As for Welles, Kane and Amebersons to Touch of Evil to Falstaff is a long high run — which might not have ended in 1967.

  • Joseph McBride

    Yes, many filmmakers do their best work in their old age, even though some of those works are mocked in their time (e.g., GERTRUD, 7 WOMEN, EL DORADO) or treated as if they do not exist (much of Welles’s late work).

    “What kind of absurd discrimination has decided that filmmakers alone are victims of a senility that other artists are protected from? There do remain the exceptional cases of dotage, but they are much rarer than is sometimes supposed. . . . A great talent matures but does not grow old. . . . The drama does not reside in the growing old of men but in that of the cinema. Those who do not know how to grow old *with* it will be overtaken by its evolution.’

    – André Bazin

  • Tony Wiliams

    Also, Melville followed MOBY DICK with the underrated PIERRE, THE CONFIDENCE MAN, as well as the poetic epic CLAREL to say nothing about his final work BILLY BUDD. All these were diverse works that did not confine Melville to the designation of South Seas chronicler and maritime narrative. MARDI is a fascinating prelude to MOBY DICK.
    Diversity in writers as well as directors is not always welcome by those eager to attach labels to any creative personality and this certainly applies to the post-CITIZEN KANE Welles.

  • Blake Lucas

    “Diversity in writers as well as directors is not always welcome by those eager to attach labels to any creative personality…”

    Sadly, it is all too true. The rallying cry often seems to be “Be the artist we want you to be and create what we expect from you” or, more simply, “Live up to your auteurist profile.”

    It’s this kind of thinking that leads people to a view like “MOGAMBO is not a typical John Ford movie so let’s dismiss it as minor.” Or “What in hell is Alain Resnais, who explored serious themes or time and memory, doing making an antique operetta like PAS SUR LA BOUCHE?”

    Melville is not alone in being typecast to maritime and exotica. This happened with Joseph Conrad too, who was extra burdened with it because it reflected his first career as a seamen and first hand experience in the Far East (not to mention, of course, the Belgian Congo). But although I yield to no one in my admiration for those earlier stories and novels, his body of work becomes much richer and even more magisterial when he first created a mythical South American country in the throes of political upheaval in NOSTROMO and then went into the urban English and European intrigues of THE SECRET AGENT and UNDER WESTERN EYES. And that’s just the part of his evolving body of work that most readily jumps out as different. Really, it’s those who just stand still and do what’s expected who are the more limited artists.

    Great artists may repeat themselves too but it won’t be what will distinguish their works. Three repetitions of the line “I’m hard to get, all you have to do is ask me” (the last varying this with “you’re going to have to say you want me…”) don’t make Howard Hawks great, but the individual character of the three movies in which it appears definitely does.

  • Kent Jones

    Isn’t the whole idea of “second acts” dependent on public celebrity, or at the very least recognition? And isn’t every career different? Some start with a bang like Melville’s (TYPEE) and Welles’, others build slowly (Hawks); some go in straight lines and some go on jagged paths; some go smoothly and others are strictly stop/go. And then there’s the whole question of context – movie directors are out there in the public eye, poets are not, so the idea of John Clare or Rae Armantrout having a second act, let alone a first act, seems kind of silly. Painters and jazz musicians can release a fairly steady stream of work while filmmakers and novelists are only as good as their last novels or films, as the saying goes. When a filmmaker operating at a certain level wants to make another film, he or she has to go out and find somebody to pay for it; on the other hand, a novelist or a poet can write anytime or anywhere but has to find someone to publish the finished pieces after the fact. It’s always different and always shifting.

    And then there’s the dreaded and vulgar subject of money. Melville was a horrible businessman, and he tried and failed miserably at supporting his family with his writing. By the time he wrote CLAREL, he had pretty much given up the ghost – if ever there was a labor of love, it’s CLAREL. If he had a “second act,” it came over 30 years after his death when people started reading MOBY-DICK in the 20s.

    Blake, when I met Alain Resnais he spoke rhapsodically and at great length about his visits to New York in the 50s, when he spent many joyous hours watching Broadway musicals like GYPSY. When he was here a few weeks ago, he went to see SOUTH PACIFIC.

  • Tony Wiliams

    “I’m hard to get, all you have to do is ask me” is an identical line but distinguished by the different circumstances of each film (as Blake notes) as well as the unique character interplay going on between the actors appearing in these scenes.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Kent, I’m sure you are right about the public celebrity. The early fame certainly shaped Fitzgeralds life, and I’m sure it was himself he was thinking about when he wrote those lines in The Last Tycoon. The secretary who worked with Fitzgerald at the time of his death had this to say about him in an interview many years later: ” … you couldn’t be with him and not know how desperately he wanted to write another good book. He was out of it, and he was just too good to be out of it.”

  • There are many recurring lines, scenes, characters and incidents in Hawks’ films, from beginning to end. As he himself was the first to acknowledge he “stole from himself” frequently. It’s a kind of foundation on which his films stand. The key question being “How good are you?” and the greatest compliment you can give someone is “He’s so good he doesn’t feel he has to prove it.” But although important, it’s not what makes him a great director, it’s merely the icing on the cake. And as someone who has studied Hawks a lot, and written about him, I can testify to the joy of finding the links and recurrences (especially when preparing a talk at the university). And this is my favourite scene. It’s got everything! http://fredrikonfilm.blogspot.com/2009/08/howard-hawks-scene-1.html

  • By the way, Kent, to go back to our discussion of Henry Fonda’s legs. I read some of Graham Greene’s film criticism today, and he used Fonda’s legs as an example of Ford’s skills as a director.

  • Blake Lucas

    Blake, when I met Alain Resnais he spoke rhapsodically and at great length about his visits to New York in the 50s, when he spent many joyous hours watching Broadway musicals like GYPSY. When he was here a few weeks ago, he went to see SOUTH PACIFIC.

    ***
    Yes, in truth his love of musicals has been pretty well known for a long time, and the choice of Stephen Sondheim to do a (superb) score for STAVISKY might even have been a tipoff.

    But even if we didn’t know it, wouldn’t it make sense to look for the deeper connections between the musical, the operetta and so on, to his earlier great work, going with him, so to speak, rather than against him, and letting his universe expand.

    Of course, that’s just a rhetorical question because my guess is that Kent and most other people here feel the same way about it.

    Speaking of musical sequences and songs, I have to go along with Fredrik–that’s a great scene in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. The hands down best?–well, it does have a lot of competition. I also agree that I too enjoy the repetitions from one Hawks film to another; they are a pleasure and he did them consciously. But to see him as great, we need to beyond easy auteurist-type identification, and of course, it’s not had to do. The scenes and films all have their own inflections.