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Seduced and Abandoned

8/10

Stars: Featuring: James Toback, Alec Baldwin, Scott Foundas, Neve Campbell, Maya Zaim, Bernardo Bertolucci, Thierry Fremaux, Todd McCarthy, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Berenice Bejo, Martin Scorsese, Michel Ciment, Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola, Mark Damon, Ari Lerner, James Caan, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Diablo Cody, Thorsten Schumaker, Ashok Amritraj, Jeremy Thomas, Jean “Johnny” Pigozzi, Brett Ratner, Taki Theodoracopulos, Arpad “Arki” Busson, Ben Schneider, Denise Rich, Graydon Carter, Mike Medavoy, Ron Meyer, Larry Herbert, Alan Helene, Neal Schneider

Director: James Toback

I’ll admit it.

James Toback’s documentary, which follows him and star Alec Baldwin’s mutual attempts to raise the finance to make their next movie, seduced me right away and I wouldn’t have abandoned the pleasure for a moment before the end. The duo’s oddball odyssey as they devotedly press the flesh of any and every financier or star at the Cannes Film Festival who might be able to get their movie off the ground should provide most devoted movie buffs with more genuine background to movies and their birth than reading ten years worth of such auteur-obsessed magazines as Cahiers Du Cinema or Sight and Sound.

Cruelly, perhaps, for reviewers and movie nerds alike, Seduced and Abandoned exposes the raw truth about the medium. Movies cost money to make and that cash has to be raised. And Toback and Baldwin make their attempts to raise the cash appear to be harder than all twelve labours of Hercules and, almost certainly, ultimately less successful.

Some critics who attend Cannes are there to rush from screening to screening (sometimes battling to stay awake?) in between conducting saleable interviews and enjoying the plentiful promotional hospitality on offer.

For Toback and Baldwin, however, who have commerce, not criticism, in mind, the Festival becomes one long chat-up after another as they try and sell their projected film to potential backers. Toback makes this single aspect of Seduced and Abandoned absolutely riveting, as the Daring Duo chat up everyone from Bertolucci – in a hat and wheelchair – to Scorsese, whose teeth shines as brightly as his comments, Coppola, overweight and largely out of the picture, former Roger Corman leading man (The Pit and the Pendulum) turned producer Mark Damon and Polanski (“Bob was my rabbi”, he states of Paramount production chief Robert Evans).

Actors, too, are quizzed. Ryan Gosling ends up without egg on his face and James Caan cannot understand why he is no longer working overtime and celebrated critic Todd McCarthy’s key contribution describing what an upset Robert Altman shouted at critical reviewer Pauline Kael could well bring a blush to the cheek of a Channel 4 commissioning editor.

Toback, using split screens to considerable creative advantage, punctuates reality footage with fascinating clips from the movies under discussion, notably an embarrassing Marlon Brando telling his Last Tango in Paris costar Maria Schneider to “Put your fingers up my ass” while Coppola reveals he threw his Oscars out of the window in a moment of rage, leaving his mother to claim the maid knocked them over when she approached the Academy to get them repaired.

The film combines a treasury of classy clips, quotes, good, bad and ludicrous and a parade of egos at full stretch and adds up to one of the best and most delightfully disparaging movies about moviemakers ever made.

What made Seduced and Abandoned so supremely entertaining to me was that it adds up entertainingly as an encyclopedia of cinematic affectation and pretentiousness. Perhaps writer, director, producer (does that qualify his as an auteur?) Toback took the contributors out of context. Maybe so.

But what ends up on screen could well have some of the quoted auteurs and actors wishing they hadn’t faced the cameras and microphones.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Soda Pictures. Colour.
98 minutes. not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 03 Nov 2013