×

Something’s Gonna Live

Delightfully rambling and unexpectedly moving, Daniel Raim's fly-on-the-wall portrait of legendary production designer Robert Boyle and his illustrious friends stands as a bittersweet love letter to some of old Hollywood's least-heralded artisans.

With:
With: Robert Boyle, Henry Bumstead, Albert Nozaki, Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler, Harold Michelson.

Delightfully rambling and unexpectedly moving, Daniel Raim’s fly-on-the-wall portrait of legendary production designer Robert Boyle and his illustrious friends stands as a bittersweet love letter to some of old Hollywood’s least-heralded artisans. “Something’s Gonna Live” is neither history lesson nor traditional biography, and Raim makes little effort to dictate the flow of conversations, which often spin around in circles and repeat themselves, but this docu will surely be treasured by cinephiles and should do fine specialty business on DVD.

A former student of Boyle’s at the American Film Institute (where, amazingly, he continues to teach at age 100), Raim has been filming his mentor since he made him the subject of his Oscar-nominated short “The Man on Lincoln’s Nose” in 2001. Here he captures him in wide-ranging chats with fellow production designers Henry Bumstead and Albert Nozaki, as well as cinematographers Conrad Hall and Haskell Wexler (who shot some of the docu) and storyboard illustrator Harold Michelson. Of the six, only Wexler and Boyle are still alive, and the overtones of a great generation edging into extinction give the film a melancholy air.

Though they were largely seen — and largely saw themselves — as simple craftsmen at the time, these men helped create some of Hollywood’s most indelible imagery, and it’s incredible to hear such accomplished veterans discuss their work without the pomposity or self-regard one would expect of directors or actors of similar renown. They all seem to simply consider themselves lucky to have been able to work in film (though Nozaki was dealt a number of bad hands, imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp during WWII and later forced into early retirement due to failing eyesight) and seem to genuinely delight in one another’s company.

Film primarily centers around Boyle, Bumstead and Nozaki, who met as undergrads at USC before going on to work for Paramount. In footage shot in 2003, the three men take a minivan to the studio lot to revisit their old haunts. Later, Boyle and the endearingly acerbic Michelson take a trip up to Bodega Bay and reminisce about their work there on “The Birds.” (Here we see Boyle explain how he incorporated memories of his own first trip to a cinema as a child — to see D.W. Griffith’s “Rescued From an Eagle’s Nest,” which terrified him — as well as Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” to create the film’s aesthetic. One does wish there were more of this sort of insight in the docu.)

These guys are strictly old-school, but they aren’t necessarily traditionalists. At a coffee shop overlooking the bay, Boyle argues that Hitchcock would have loved to have been able to use CGI effects for “The Birds,” to which Michelson responds that the imperfections in the film are what make it so timeless — a one-two punch, puncturing both tech fetishism and knee-jerk nostalgia. This perspicacious view of the past pervades the film: As Wexler notes later on, the good old days of Hollywood “actually weren’t that great. What was great was us trying to make it great.”

The docu’s technical quality is occasionally a bit rough (which is ironic, considering the subject), though never to a distracting degree. Substantial archival footage and photos are incorporated well.

Something's Gonna Live

Docu

Production: An Adama Films production. Produced, directed, written by Daniel Raim.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Raim, Guido Verweyen, Haskell Wexler; editors, Daniel Raim, Jennifer Raim; music, Ori Barel; sound, Devin Golub. Reviewed at AFI Film Festival (Special Presentations), Los Angeles, Nov. 2, 2009. Running time: 78 MIN.

With: With: Robert Boyle, Henry Bumstead, Albert Nozaki, Conrad Hall, Haskell Wexler, Harold Michelson.

More Film

  • Rounds

    Stephan Komandarev and Catalin Mitulescu Films Among Sarajevo's 23 World Premieres

    The latest films from Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev and Romania’s Catalin Mitulescu are among 23 world premieres competing for the Heart of Sarajevo awards at the 25th Sarajevo Film Festival. Komandarev’s 2017 film “Directions” played in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard and his 2008 opus “The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner” was [...]

  • Tommy JamesCousin Brucie 3rd Annual Palisades

    Tommy James Biopic 'Me, the Mob and the Music' in Development (EXCLUSIVE)

    Pop music star Tommy James and film producer Barbara DeFina are developing the biopic “Me, the Mob and the Music,” based on James’ autobiography. DeFina, whose credits include Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” and “GoodFellas,” and James have tapped three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall to helm the film adaptation from a screenplay by Matthew Stone (“Intolerable [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate

    Comic-Con: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Cast Will Hit Reddit Live-Streamed AMA (EXCLUSIVE)

    Arnold is back — and he and other cast members of “Terminator: Dark Fate” are joining a first-of-its-kind live-streaming Reddit AMA on Thursday from Comic-Con International in San Diego. For the new installment in the “Terminator” franchise, Paramount Pictures is hosting a traditional Comic-Con panel Thursday 11 a.m.-12 noon in Hall H. Then, a few [...]

  • Pedestrians walk past a large screen

    Johnny Kitagawa: Power, Abuse, and the Japanese Media Omerta

    Will the death of Johnny Kitagawa lead to a change of attitude by the Japanese media to the powerful Johnny & Associates talent agency that he formed? Public broadcaster NHK and others this week reported a warning to the company from the Fair Trade Commission over alleged pressure on TV stations to keep members of [...]

  • Jahmil X.T. Qubeka on Durban Opening-Night

    Jahmil X.T. Qubeka on Durban Opening-Night Film ‘Knuckle City’

    DURBAN–Dudu Nyakama is an aging boxer whose best fighting days are behind him. But for a man whose only glory has come in the ring, a big prize fight offers the one shot at saving his family, dragging him into the criminal underbelly of the gritty township he’s spent his whole life trying to escape. [...]

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two'

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckels Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content