Tuesday, December 7, 2010

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

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Back With A Vengeance - version 12.2010


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. 
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...
Mickey Rourke and Sylvia Myles at the NY Film Festival 2008
"keep your finger Barbet. we'll fund you're movie!"

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1 comment:

Andy 7 said...

"Barfly" was released on DVD via Warner Bros. in 2002 and has tons of extras, like a Barbet Scroeder commentary and tons of filmed footage behind the scenes and interviews with Buk. I treasure my DVD.