For most of this century, the average Joe and Janine fantasized about being a movie star. With the rise of the auteur theory in the 1960s, the spotlight shifted toward the director. The gossip-laden, starstruck fanzines of the studio era have given way to equally gushy catalogues of on-set “creative struggles” and off-set dealmaking intrigue. (The blatherings of Entertainment Weekly and Vanity Fair come immediately to mind.) For genuine insight into the art and craft of movies, lose yourself in a copy of Projections 4: Film-makers on Film-making (Faber and Faber, $14.95). An annual magazine in paperback form, Projections collects interviews, reminiscences, essays and screenplay excerpts in a superbly engaging volume of bristling intelligence. The centerpiece is always a lengthy diary by a director; in this edition James Toback delivers an amazingly revealing self-portrait of pathological procrastination, artistic insecurity and Hollywood bravura/timidity that matches the standard set by predecessors John Boorman, Francis Ford Coppola and Bertrand Tavernier. Martin Scorsese waxes optimistic about the future of widescreen TV, and what it bodes for shot composition. Oscar-winning Bay Area sound designer Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, among other Coppola triumphs) contributes a nontechnical view of movies' aural dimension, while Lindsay Anderson's passing and the centenary of John Ford's birth are acknowledged by Anderson's lovely record of their meeting in Dublin in 1950 on the set of The Quiet Man. (One of the wonderful things about Projections, by the way, is how references echo and resonate across different entries; for example, Warren Beatty comes off as a savvy and sensitive producer in Toback's diary, and as a shrewd, self-aware actor in an Arthur Penn interview.) Projections 4 was edited by two beacons of the Bay Area film scene, producer Tom Luddy and critic/novelist David Thomson; to mark the book's imminent appearance in bookstores, they'll moderate a San Francisco Film Festival-sponsored free symposium with Toback and Tavernier at noon Sat, April 22, at the Kabuki.
The Living End
Because the NEA gave a $4,100 grant in 1990 to Sex Is, Marc Huestis' unabashed (read: explicit) survey of queer sex, the American Family Assoc. sent clips of the film to congressional opponents of the NEA. “Gay people pay taxes, too,” counters Huestis. “I think the whole issue is boring.” Only if you live in the present — Huestis is deep into his next film, Life Begins at Forty/Waiting to Die, while exec-producing The Toilers and the Wayfarers for its S.F. Lesbian & Gay Film Festival premiere.
By Michael Fox