[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final New York column from Charlie Olsky. He recently took a position with Susan Norget in publicity. We will miss him.]
This week in New York, the Brooklyn Academy of Music got uptight with Elliott Gould, Malcolm McDowell refused to apologize to Lindsay Anderson, and I started a new job which will conflict with writing this column in the future. So long!
Gould Tribute Launches With “Murders”
On Friday night, BAM launched its two week long tribute to Elliott Gould with a screening of Alan Arkin‘s “Little Murders” and a Q&A with the affable 1970s icon. Known throughout the 1960s mostly for his marriage to Barbara Streisand, Gould struck it big in back-to-back hits, first as a square swinger in Paul Mazursky‘s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” and then, most memorably, as dissident doctor Trapper John in Robert Altman‘s breakthrough “M*A*S*H,” which BAM ran for a week as a lead-up to the series. With his nebbishy good looks, deep baritone and characteristically sardonic expression, Gould became an unlikely poster boy for 1970s Hollywood, a persona decidedly anti-establishment and yet endlessly more cynical than previous eras would have allowed.
“I wasn’t smart enough or developed enough in this world to stop working for awhile,” explained Gould about that time period. “I had accomplished something – for someone like me, Elliott Goldstein, from Bay Parkway who couldn’t catch a ball… I had broken through. I didn’t know how to stop.”
After a difficult shoot with Ingmar Bergman on that director’s now-forgotten English language picture “The Touch” (for BAM’s extremely rare screening, they will be using Gould’s own print), Gould foundered for a few years before being rescued and given cinematic life once again by Robert Altman as a radically different Philip Marlowe in the masterpiece “The Long Goodbye“.
The actor was in terrific spirits after “Little Murders”, a sporadically hilarious madcap look at an apathetic loser who is ‘rescued’ by a sprightly woman and her zany family – though the film’s satiric bite often gets lost in Arkin’s wild, over-the-top direction (and nonstop gay baiting). Off the numerous histrionic monologues peppering the film’s duration, the only one that works is Gould’s long, serious ramble.
“When it came to that enormous monologue, I went out and smoked a joint, in order to make sure I could keep focus,” said Gould of his method. “My only problem with it was that my mouth was a little dry. Otherwise I thought, “That was good. That was as good as I could be.” Not to start rumors, but from the length of a few of his anecdotes and the randomness of a few thoughts, one could be forgiven for assuming Gould had taken the same measures to deal with Friday night’s Q&A.
When asked about his future plans, Gould said happily “I’ve had one hip replacement, and I’m going to do my other hip in September. I look forward to being back on stage, and doing more work, and adapting to being a much older person.”
“Elliot Gould: Star for an Uptight Age” runs at BAM through August 21.
Malcolm McDowell “Never” Apologizes
On Friday night, 8/15, Malcolm McDowell will be at the Film Society of Lincoln Center to mark the premiere engagement of his film “Never Apologize“, a cinematic treatment of his one-man show celebrating the life and work of the late director Lindsay Anderson. McDowell was a frequent collaborator with Anderson, after the director shot him to stardom in the film “If…“, a stingingly funny new-wave look at an English boarding school run on contempt, humiliation and S&M. The closing scenes of the outcast students taking the school with automatic weapons were embraced by the counterculture and became emblematic of the time.
The film is playing along with a retrospective of some of Anderson’s work, which has long been difficult to access (Criterion finally released the DVD of “If…” last summer). “I had heard Malcolm was making this, and I thought this would be a good chance to celebrate Lindsay,” says the Film Society’s Joanna Ney. “Lindsay wrote a lot of essays, academic work about film, and he very much loved John Ford, so we included two of his films in the series. It was all about showing people who he was, what his humor was, what his mind was like.”
McDowell, for his part, is also intent on showing people exactly that. In “Never Apologize”, besides just telling stories of his own friendship and collaboration with Lindsay (after “If…”, they went on to develop a ‘Mick Travis’ trilogy based on McDowell’s experiences), he delves deep into the filmmaker’s diaries, and spends a good deal of time impersonating such other Anderson collaborators as Bette Davis (from “The Whales of August“) or Sir John Gielgud. With his hooligan’s charm and storyteller’s voice, it’s always nice to see McDowell talk, particularly when he is clearly so thankful for having had the chance to collaborate with Anderson.
“Malcolm was really excited to do this series,” continued Ney, “to help make Lindsay more accessible to people – especially young people. Lindsay loved young people, and it seems like such a shame that only the people of his generation should know his films, because they have so much youthful verve and rebellion.”
“Never Apologize” and the Lindsay Anderson series continue through Thursday, August 21.
Goodbye, New York
This is going to be my last New York, New York column for indieWIRE, as I move on to greener pastures. It’s been a terrific year and a half of pretending that everything I enjoy doing is actually work, and I’m thrilled by the number of times I’ve gone to see something just to fit another event into a week’s column and discovered a wonderful film I would not have known about.
What follows is a list of film events in the city that I’m sad I will not be covering, although I will almost certainly attend all of them.
First off, I’m sorry I won’t get to discuss this year’s New York Film Festival at the Ziegfeld, running from 9/26- 10/12. I’m sure the loss of seat numbers will make tickets more competitive, but how exciting will it be to see the latest Jia Zhangke film or the “Ashes of Time Redux” in one of the last true movie palaces in the country?
I’m sorry I won’t be able to discuss Film Forum‘s 9/12- 9/25 David Lean retrospective. “Brief Encounter” is one of the loveliest of all romances, “Blythe Spirit” remains hysterically funny to this day, and films like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago” could never be even partially appreciated without being seen on the big screen.
I’m sure I’ll be at BAM’s tribute to Howard Hawks, running from 9/15- 9/30. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall remain the greatest screen couple of all time, particularly in “To Have and Have Not“, which I could watch a million times without getting sick of it. But then, Hawks had many spirited masterpieces, from “Monkey Business” to “His Girl Friday” to “Bringing up Baby“, every one an impeccably realized treasure.
Finally, I’m sorry that I’ll miss discussing MoMA’s week-long engagement of Carlos Reygadas‘ “Silent Light“, from 9/24- 9/29, a story of love and grief in Mexico’s Mennonite community which left me in awe when I saw it at last year’s New York Film Festival. I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release since then, and am happy I can finally force everybody I love to go see it.
Provided they’re in New York.