My colleague Ray Greene had some unflattering, one might even say damning, things to say about the late Sydney Pollack yesterday. The short version: He was a lousy director whose success actually killed off a much more interesting approach to “serious” moviemaking that hit its stride right around the same time as Pollack’s career did.
I don't completely agree with everything in Ray's piece (I think Tootsie actually is the equal of screwball masterpieces from the 1930s and 1940s) but what he said is both food for thought and undeniably troubling. Especially since I've discovered that Pollack was not just, in Ray's phrase, a comforting figure of reaction in a time of dice-throwers -- he was something even worse: A cheap son of a bitch.
Seriously, I hadn't noticed until now, but the source material for Three Days of the Condor (the Robert Redford CIA thriller that Ray and I both consider one of Pollack's better films) is actually a 1974 novel called -- hold on to your hats -- Six Days of the Condor. That's right -- apparently Pollack, along with fellow reactionary figures executive producer Dino De Laurentiis (the obvious villain who let Stephen King write and direct the impossibly awful Maximum Overdrive) and producer Stanley Schneider (I can't find anything disreputable about him on Google, but I'm sure he must have been an awful person) had so little respect for their audience that they failed to get the rights to film a full three days of the book's plot.
Okay, I'm kidding, obviously, but still, this might be a fruitful subject for future research, or even a whole new genre -- le cinéma avare!
Coming tomorrow: Michael Bay -- hack director, lousy tipper!