TV Review - Seduced and Abandoned

Filmmaker James Toback directs this documentary about himself and actor Alec Baldwin going to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and trying to raise money to make a new movie starring Alec Baldwin and Neve Campbell that's essentially a remake of Last Tango in Paris (1972) but set in Iraq. The movie opens with a quote from Orson Welles where he said that 95 percent of his career was spent raising money and only 5 percent was spent actually making movies. Toback's film is then a series of meetings between him and Baldwin talking with financiers attempting to get the millions of dollars they want to make the new movie. They also meet with other filmmakers and actors to talk about the business and craft in the early days of the Cannes festival as opposed to now.

Earlier this year, Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg with George Lucas spoke out at separate public events about the state of Hollywood and the type of financial issues and economics that Toback explores here. Anyone who already knows about these events or have read about Soderbergh's speech or Spielberg and Lucas' comments know more than what we get here. You can watch HBO's Entourage and learn more about the financial issues and economics of Hollywood than here.

What's more interesting is listening to the war stories from Toback's interviews with icons like Bernardo Bertolucci, Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Hearing them voice their opinions and convey experiences about bringing their films to Cannes are compelling. Each is personable and engaging. Yet, they all distract from the point of the movie.

When Toback gets back on point and he starts talking to financial people, the point is hammered that the sexual drama that he wants to make is not something he will get a lot of money to produce and direct. One of the reasons is because it won't star young, hot, big-name actors right now or movie stars in the traditional sense. Some young, hot actors right now include Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain. One of the other reasons is because there aren't explosions or action, which is again appealing to the same movie-going demographic as those who would know or want to see young, hot, big-name actors. This is not a new argument. The dichotomy between the two movies Hollywood studios will fund has gotten more extreme where the studios now only purchase cheap, genre films or they go all out for the mega blockbuster, leaving really no in-between.

Toback keeps referring back to this image of a carousel, a two-story merry-go-round that might symbolize Toback and Baldwin's feelings about the industry and their attempts to get funding and make the movies that aren't about banking profit but that are close to art. It's bright and colorful and attractive, but if you get on it, ultimately you're spinning in circles, not really going anywhere.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.
Available on HBO on Demand.


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