Daily Archives: February 24, 1998

An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn

An incoherent title for a less than coherent satire originally known as just An Alan Smithee FilmAlan Smithee being the pseudonymous directing credit conferred when a real director has his name taken off a film, usually due to interference from the producer. Ironically, this labored send-up of Hollywood greed and foolishnessscripted by Joe Eszterhas in what appears to have been uncontrolled rage rather than recollected tranquillitywas apparently directed by Arthur Hiller, who had his own name removed from the credits, yielding a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. The premise of this muddled, hit-or-miss comedy, done in pseudodocumentary form, is that an Englishman (Eric Idle) whose name actually is Alan Smithee becomes the director of an action-adventure blockbuster starring Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jackie Chan, then flips out and steals the negative. I laughed a couple of times but can no longer remember at what; mostly I was simply amazed that the aforementioned actors, Ryan O’Neal, Coolio, Chuck D, Sandra Bernhard, and a good two dozen industry insiders ranging from Harvey Weinstein to Larry King to Eszterhas himself, could disgrace themselves with such submoronic material as if it were the height of hipness. If you harbor an interest in watching so-called industry smarts autodestruct, this carries a certain morbid appeal, but that’s about the extent of it.… Read more »

Dangerous Beauty

I haven’t read Margaret Rosenthal’s biography, The Honest Courtesan, which formed the basis of Jeannine Dominy’s script, but I found this a much more enjoyable, enlightening, and intelligent treatment of Venice and sex than the specious movie version of Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove. Set in the 16th century, it’s about a beautiful and brilliant woman (Catherine McCormack) who’s unable to marry the aristocrat she loves (Rufus Sewell) because of her family background. Trained as a courtesan by her mother (Jacqueline Bisset), she becomes a formidable political figure through her liaisons with the most powerful men in Venice as well as visiting royalty, until the Inquisition threatens to brand her as a witch. (The title’s something of a misnomer, by the way, since she’s much more a feminist heroine than a bitch goddess.) Though the dialogue is predictably anachronistic in flavor, producer-director Marshall Herskovitz, best known for his work on Thirtysomething, gives this a narrative sweep and polish that makes it consistently entertaining. The city is used beautifully, and so, for the most part, is the cast (though Fred Ward seems a bit uncomfortable with his part). With Oliver Platt and Moira Kelly. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »