Monday, May 21, 2007

Roman Polanski Says It All On the Croisette

According to a report from the Associated Press, Roman Polanski abruptly exited a news conference at this year's Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, but not before giving a collection of movie journalists a long overdue lecture on how to do their job which, in the scheme of things would seem rather unnecessary, given that their job is wildly easy and pretty cushy.

When the moderator announced that there were only two minutes left of the interview session, Polanski, 73, took the microphone and said, "It's a shame to have such poor questions, such empty questions. And I think that it's really the computer which has brought you down to this level. You're no longer interested in what's going on in the cinema.” He then suggested that they all go have some lunch.

All that I can add to Polanski’s terse disapproval is, “Bravo!” However, I’m uncertain that it’s fair to blame computer technology for the near-willful stupidity that has taken place within movie journalism. Yes, computers have made movie writers lazy, what with the ease of the cut-and-paste function and the instant research, but the dumbing down process started years ago.

I personally declared a moratorium on group interviews and round robins about 20 years ago when I realized just how demoralizing and embarrassing it was to sit there and listen to one fawning, inane question after another.

Exacerbating matters was the fact that when someone dared to ask a serious, potentially compromising question, it was usually followed by panicky glares not just from the filmmaker being interviewed but also from their handlers and resident flaks and the other film writers.

This reaction from the latter group is emblematic of the fan mentality that has critics buying into studio frenzy about the latest summer blockbuster which, invariably, usually proves to be a dud.

During one of my last interviews, I was literally ostracized during the process by an actress who got upset when I asked why the original director of her film, the late John Berry, was fired. She promptly iced me out and went on to answer burning questions about her relationship with her then-boyfriend, who wrote the film in question, and about why she changed her trademark hairstyle. Instead of writing an interview, I reported on the whole situation. Sweet revenge.

Anyway, there are precious few places to read serious film interviews. Maybe only in Film Comment. Beyond that, I come up empty. Sad.

(Artwork: Portrait shot of a young Roman Polanski; it's reassuring to report that at age 73, he's still scrappy)

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com


Carrie said...

Honey, if the other journalists at the round table iced you for throwing a hardball, I say you got fragged!

Glenn said...

As a former journalist, I often encountered what you describe. The only way I could get a half-decent interview was in a one-on-one situation. Otherwise, it was a huge waste of time.

Timothy Jenks said...

No one does interviews anymore. They just report what the studios and stars want them to report. That's why the press has picked up bad habits.

Mary DeLong said...

Roman Polanski should not be lecture anyone. He's in no position to. I wish these people would just stick to making movies and keep their mouths shut. They can give opinions within the context of their work.

Bill Calloway said...

I'm sure that Polanski would have loved for the press to grill him about a serious issues - such as the alleged rape case. Not!