There’s nothing particularly special about Hilla Medalia’s
documentary, "The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films,"
other than its subjects, Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus. The eponymous Israeli
cousins are well known to anyone over the age of — well, never mind. Arriving
on Hollywood shores in the early 80s, this filmmaking team — Golan was the
filmmaker, Globus the moneyman — had ambitions to make it big and despite lacking
certain obvious traits (such as taste) that is exactly what they did.
Getting their break in 1984 with a dance film fittingly
called "Breakin," only two years later their Cannon Films was making
40-plus films, paying Sylvester Stallone $10-plus million, and bankrolling not
only low-brow stars Charles Bronson ("Death Wish II"), Chuck Norris ("Delta
Force") and Jean-Claude Van Damme ("Bloodsport") but the likes
of John Cassavettes ("Love Streams"), Norman Mailer ("Tough Guys
Don’t Dance"), Franco Zefferelli ("Othello") and Jean-Luc Godard
("King Lear"). Cannon was, in other words, the biggest independent
film company in the world and the Cannes Film Festival, as Golan reminded folks
Friday night, was jokingly known as the Cannon Film Festival. But by the end of
the decade, after a series of bad investments and out-of-control, bad
filmmaking by the "unstoppable" Golan, it had all collapsed and the
cousins had "divorced."
Both would eventually return to Israel, where Golan
continued to make movies, or try to, while Globus, after a disastrous pairing
at MGM with Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti, created a movie studio. They
remained divorced, as becomes clear in the film, when Globus walks up to Golan
mid-interview. A moment clearly manipulated by Medalia, it works nevertheless,
leaving the emotional Golan, who had previously refused to discuss negative
aspects of their careers on camera, teary-eyed. They both express regrets on
screen, the irrepressible Golan wishing they had simply kept it going until
they made it really big (whatever that means), Globus wondering why Golan hadn’t
just stopped. Although the men appeared together at the initial Cannes
screening Friday night, it’s doubtful the relationship can be fully repaired,
given the nature of the film’s discussions.
The primary skill of this straightforward, unaggressive
documentary is in the editing of now-vintage Go-Go footage. Medalia managed to
interview former Universal chairman Tom Pollock, whose analysis, both pro and
con, is invaluable, as is that of a former Cannon Group lawyer. Others interviewees
include the directors Boaz Davidson and Andrey Konchalovskiy — the film would
have benefitted from a greater selection — but the heart of it is the Go-Go
boys, whose early success and brashness is balanced by their later failure and sadness.
They might not appreciate hearing it, but they are more interesting for their
epic fall. Maybe they could even sign Godard to make their story. In the meantime,
Medalia is here to tell it, and she deserves credit for realizing its value.