WILL THE RECENT debut of Sacha Gervasi’s HITCHCOCK spawn similar films that deal with singular, cinematic efforts to create a single motion picture? The field seems ripe for exploitation. Sure, there are interviews and short documentaries with directors on many DVDs and Blu-Ray disks nowadays. But maybe someone, someday will mine the minefield that was Michael Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE, for instance, and turn it into a major motion picture in its own right.
Here we present eight-and-a-half films about films, by no means a definitive list, and in no particular order–directorial efforts in which a director had to struggle, take a personal journey, or by sheer force of will, will them into existence:
WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (1990; directed by Clint Eastwood) Ostensibly about an adventuring movie director named John Wilson, it’s quite obvious that the hunter with the black heart really is John Huston. The film is based upon Peter Viertel’s book about the storied filming of THE AFRICAN QUEEN, which Huston shot mainly on location, and which Huston/Wilson uses as an excuse to pursue the pleasures of life, pleasures that included ending the lives of African elephants–whether those pursuits have a negative effect on the movie production or not.
HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) By now, everyone knows that Francis Ford Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW was a troubled production, to say the least. All you need to do is add together Martin Sheen’s heart trouble, the Phillipine climate and the name Marlon Brando. This fascinating documentary follows the shooting of this terrific movie-one that captures the essence of the Vietnam war experience.
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989; directed by Woody Allen) This is a personal favorite of mine, among all of Allen’s films. Actually, several stories converge here, only one of which is really about Allen’s filming woes. His task is to create a documentary about his brother-in-law, the conceited character played by Alan Alda, who says to Allen, “You’re not my first choice”. During the course of the filming, Allen falls in love and grows to detest the obnoxious Alda, who delivers the classic line, “Comedy equals tragedy plus time.”