Directors on Directors

Some players reveal more than others in "Directors on Directors," a Stateside follow-up to Milan pay web Telepiu's 1986 series "Director Portraits," in which young Italo helmers sat down with veterans and chewed the cud. Results are as hit-and-miss as before, judging by the first five previewed at the Locarno fest. Carlo Carlei's meeting with Michael Mann, the only one not done by an American director, is a generally polite affair, in which Mann runs through themes in his work and the real-life characters on whom the leads in "Heat" were based, before leaving his office and introducing Carlei to his secret passion, racing cars. Mann says he's preparing a project on Ferrari set in 1957, but gives few other details.

Jonathan Mostow’s encounter with Sydney Pollack largely deals in generalities about the latter’s work, with Pollack a smooth, practiced interviewee who admits his most personal movies have been among his biggest flops and some of his best work simply done as a job with a check attached.

Ditto Adam Simon and Roger Corman, with the latter basically using the former as a prompt to recount well-traveled anecdotes and stories. These include Corman’s grand theory that houses in his pics represent a woman’s body, and their corridors are a vagina through which one moves to something “wonderful.”

In Bob Balaban’s seg on Robert Altman, made during the filming of “The Gingerbread Man” in Savannah, Ga., there’s a familiar, jokey tone between the two that lightens the general run through Altman’s career and influences (Bergman, Lean, Bunuel, Fellini). Altman, who admits he can’t remember when he last took a vacation, recalls bringing in “MASH” for $3 million ($500,000 under budget) while Fox execs’ eyes were focused on the megabuck “Patton” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

Best of the lot, though initially the most annoying, is Jonathan Nossiter’s day with Arthur Penn. Though the veteran director begins by giving clearly articulated, down-to-earth replies to Nossiter’s arty, convoluted questioning, there’s little sense of the man behind the mask till the pair hit the streets of New York. Penn seems strangely reluctant to discuss his childhood and Jewish background, averring it has no special importance in his work, and there’s an unresolved tension between interviewer and subject that’s finally — fascinatingly — resolved in the docu’s final minutes.

Reclining in the back of a car on his way home, Penn suddenly opens up, admitting he wished he had a bigger talent (“I think I’m good — but not very good”) and the courage to be less inhibited and more theatrical. Some of the stuff he did earlier in TV was much braver than his movies, says Penn, and for a fleeting moment the viewer gets to look into the soul of a director who feels he never grasped the brass ring when he had the chance.

Directors on Directors

ITALIAN-U.S.

Production: A Telepiu presentation of an Orisa Films/Counterpoint Films production. (International sales: Orisa, Rome.) Produced by Cristiano Bortone, Paola Di Florio. Executive producer (for Telepiu), Carmen Acquati. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Cinema/Cinemas), Aug. 12, 1997.

Crew: IN THE HEAT: AN ENCOUNTER WITH MICHAEL MANN Directed by Carlo Carlei. Camera (color), I-Li Chen; editor, Cecilia Zanusso; music, Carlo Siliotto; sound, Gabriel Vidari; associate producer, Cindy Rosenberg. Running time: 21 MIN. IN SEARCH OF ARTHUR: A DAY WITH ARTHUR PENN Directed by Jonathan Nossiter. Camera (color), Gianni Maitan; editor, Madeleine Gavin; music, Robert Levin; sound, Muire Dougherty; associate producer, Rosenberg. Running time: 29 MIN. BOB BALABAN MEETS ROBERT ALTMAN Directed by Bob Balaban. Camera (color), Maitan; editor, Zanusso; music, Alessandro Molinari; sound, Jonathan Gainor; associate producer, Rosenberg. Running time: 18 MIN. AN INTERVIEW BY JONATHAN MOSTOW WITH SYDNEY POLLACK Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Camera (color), Goran Pavicevic; editor, Richard Gentner; music, Molinari; sound, Srdjan Popovic; associate producer, Rosenberg. Running time: 20 MIN. ADAM SIMON MEETS ROGER CORMAN Directed by Adam Simon. Camera (color), Pavicevic; editor, Gentner; music, Molinari; sound, Popovic; associate producer, Rosenberg. Running time: 22 MIN.

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