Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Cannes Review of Seduced and Abandoned

Odd couple James Toback and Alec Baldwin deliver an amusingly slippery study of cinema’s current discontents

Sun, May 19, 2013, 15:19




Directed by James Toback

Starring Alec Baldwin, James Toback, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Martin Scorsese, Janes Caan, Francis Ford Coppola

Cannes Classics, 100 min

What exactly is the latest project from James Toback? Is it one big elaborate gag? (Not entirely) Is it a monstrous ego trip? (Almost certainly.) Does it have anything to tell us about the film industry? (Now and then.) Whatever we call it, the film will appeal to all committed  cineastes.

Screening in the Cannes Classics sidebar, Seduced and Abandoned (also the title of a 1964 film that competed at Cannes) finds the confident Mr Toback, director of Fingers, writer of Bugsy, embarking on Odyssey with his old pal Alec Baldwin. The two men have (or pretend to have) a notion to make an updating of Last Tango In Paris involving two Americans adrift in war-torn Iraq. Mr Baldwin will take on the Brando role. Neve Campbell tentatively agrees to step into Maria Schneider’s shoes. Their pitch primed and ready, they set off for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

The exercise is really just an excuse to ponder the current state of the film industry. Along the way, they rustle up an impressive array of talking heads. For the 1000th time, the always agreeable Martin Scorsese discusses his decision to abandon the priesthood for film-making. Francis Ford Coppola is as energetic as ever. One particularly money-happy producer, lurking within the bunker that is the Cannes market, denounces the festival itself as high-brow nonsense and suggest that what the team needs is a proper star like “Gerry Butler”.

As events progress, the fate of the largely imaginary project seems less and less important. We laugh as a realistic producer breaks it to Alec that, though popular, he’s not really the fellow to launch a blockbuster. The notorious┬áTaki Theodoracopulos, the Greek-born socialite and journalist, entertains the guys to a fine lunch, but seems wary of producing his wallet.

The final conclusions fail to astonish: studios are only interested in really expensive films and really cheap ones; financiers take fewer risks than they used to; you need a “name” to drag in the big bucks. But the constant conflict between ego and artistic ambition that characterises the two men’s relationship makes for hugely entertaining viewing.

Now it’s back to the nonsense that is the world’s greatest film festival.