Reel World

Budd Boetticher; Film awards; Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within preview

Ride LonesomeHe's got two new hips and a rasp in his voice, but Budd Boetticher's memory is flawless. The director is recalling a 1956 meeting with John Wayne, one of his producers on the western Seven Men From Now. "[Writer] Burt [Kennedy] and I walked into the office one day and Duke was having his morning coffee -- and a beer -- and I asked him, "Who do you want to play the lead?' He already knew he had cancer, though we didn't know it, and he wasn't going to do it. "Why don't we use Randolph Scott?' Duke said. "He's through.'" Boetticher, 84, chuckles. "We stuck Randolph Scott up his ass."

Indeed. Seven Men From Now began a string of seven low-budget Scott-Boetticher westerns (most scripted by Kennedy, who recently passed away) that are now accepted as primal masterpieces. Boetticher was a boxer, a horseman, a bullfighter, and a storyteller; he essentially sacrificed his Hollywood career by spending the '60s in Mexico making a documentary about a legendary bullfighter. "I turned down Bruce Lee's first picture because I didn't know a damn thing about karate," Boetticher declares. ""Call me back in a year after I go to the trouble of getting a black belt. I'll be happy to do it.' I don't do anything I'm not an authority on."

Reached at his home outside San Diego (where his stable of 24 horses has dwindled to three), Boetticher has accepted his numerous Hollywood disappointments. He recalls how Wayne produced his drama The Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951, then asked John Ford to screen it. ""I saw your picture,'" Boetticher quotes Ford, ""and it's great. But it's got about 42 minutes of real shit that's got to go.' He cut everything it took me years to learn -- the real Mexico." Fortunately, the UCLA Film and Television Archive has restored The Bullfighter and the Lady and Seven Men From Now, and Boetticher will be in attendance when the PFA screens the double bill on March 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Wind From the EastOur sources in Paris (yes, we do have sources in Paris) tell us that the S.F. Cinematheque, marking its 40th anniversary this summer, and the venerable French journal Cahiers du Cinema are this year's co-recipients of the S.F. International Film Festival's Mel Novikoff Award, honoring their work encouraging moviegoers' appreciation of world cinema. Meanwhile, our local pals report that the Bay Area documentaries that scooped up Golden Gate Awards and will screen in the fest are Sophia Constantinou's Divided Loyalties (about Cypriot expatriates), Justine Shapiro and B.Z. Goldberg's Promises (a look at Israeli and Palestinian children), Micha Peled's Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town (Reel World, Dec. 27), and Lawrence Andrews' We Just Telling Stories (inside the Medea Project at S.F. County Jail).

WarGamesLast week Columbia Pictures previewed a 20-minute segment of its CGI summer adventure flick Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within for local critics. I can say with certainty that all the 12-year-old boys reading this column are gonna love it. Based on the Final Fantasy interactive game series, the photo-realistic, post-apocalyptic flick has an aesthetic that's best described as Leni Riefenstahl meets Hugh Hefner: The guys have impossibly square jaws while the lust object is a lithe scientist who looks a lot like the baby sitter next door. Stand back, Sen. Lieberman -- Hollywood is giving us exactly what we want.

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