I saw Titanic
and All About Eve on successive nights on cable.
I saw Titanic first. Then,
later that night, I awoke around 4 a.m. and turned on the TV and caught one
line of an old black and white movie that I instantly recognized as All
About Eve, although I hadnít seen it.
I heard that one line and I was caught.
Wide-awake now, I had turned on in the first ten minutes and was
As soon as it was
over, I was struck by the dichotomy between the two.
Titanic cost over $100 million to make and won the Academy
Award as best picture (one of 11 it received, none of which was for
writing). All About Eve
cost around $600,000 to make, was shot almost entirely on a sound stage in
Hollywood, and won the Academy Award as best picture (as well as five
others, including best screenplay). The
two couldnít be more different. Titanic
had no script worth talking about. The
story was sophomoric, the acting mediocre.
All it had was a huge ship built at exorbitant cost, and spectacular
special effects. For this it
received the Oscar as the best picture of the year.
All About Eve,
on the other hand, had no special effects, a moderately large budget for the
times (1950), but it had a brilliant script and direction by Herman L.
Mankiewicz, and spectacular acting. Thatís
what you needed in 1950 to win an Academy Award.
You needed a good story. You
needed a brilliant script. You
needed the script intelligently translated to the screen by a competent
director and a good cast. By
1997, all you needed was special effects.
My thesis here is
that Titanic ruined Hollywood. Nobody
cares about the script or the story or the acting anymore.
Itís all special effects. Look
at the movies Hollywood has released this year, Charleyís Angels,
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Matrix, Terminator etc., etc. All driven by special effects.
I admit to having not seen the last two, but doubt that anyone will
challenge that they are special effects-driven.
Can you name one Hollywood movie youíve seen this year that had a
good script? How about one with
a good story? How about one
with good acting?
I remember how I
felt after I saw All About Eve and Sweet Smell of Success the
first time. I felt that I had
seen something remarkable. I felt that everyone involved with each was a consummate
professional. I felt that each
came close to perfection. The
writing of each blew me away.
Thatís how I
feel today after seeing Swimming Pool, a film not made by Hollywood,
thank you. Sarah Morton
(Charlotte Rampling) is a dispirited, disagreeable successful writer of
mysteries. She is turned off by
people who recognize her and fawn all over her, telling her how much they
like her books and all. Iíll
stop here because the movie almost fell apart for me right there, at the
outset. I donít know any
writer, and I know a few (remember, Iím a writer!) who doesnít like to
be recognized and, yes, fawned over. Donít
believe me? Iím in the
process of reading William Goldmanís (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid, All the Presidentís Men, etc.) second volume of his
autobiography, More Adventures in the Screen Trade. One
constant theme is the under-appreciation of writers.
Writers generally welcome the plaudits of the crowd, because, for one
thing, they are so rare. If you see me and want to fawn over something
Iíve written, feel free.
But, despite this
flaw, I recognized it as a plot device so hung in there.
If youíre not a writer, it wonít bother you.
Sarah has the hots for her publisher, Charles Dance (John Bosford),
so she unloads on him and he suggests she visit his country house in France
as a locale from which to write her next mystery.
She accepts, on the proviso that he visit her there, which he agrees
She arrives and
starts writing. Shortly thereafter, Danceís sexy, mysterious daughter,
Julie (Ludivine Sangier) arrives unexpectedly.
Sarah rejects Julieís attempts at being friendly.
Julie cavorts half naked throughout most of the movie and brings in
odd men for one-night stands, all of which upset Sarahís equanimity.
Sarah canít make contact with Charles to tell him in person of her
complaints. From that point,
things go from strange to stranger. Julieís
weird. Sarah changes.
is a magnificent script by Emmanuele Bernheim and Francois Ozon, who also
directed. Ozon wrote and
directed 8 Women last year, which was one of the better movies I saw
in 2002. Heís topped himself
here. This is a recondite story thatís extremely well acted by everyone,
but especially Rampling and Sangier. The
story is enthralling and keeps you involved up to the ending, as you try to
figure out whatís going on. So
far, this is the best movie Iíve seen this year.
July 22, 2003