Starring: Alec Baldwin, James Toback, Martin Scorsese
Genre: Documentary/ Alec Baldwin
Actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback decide to join forces to make a loose remake of Last Tango in Paris, which will also star Neve Campbell. Of course films cost money to make, and this delightful duo do not have any, so decide to travel to the glamour and seemingly deep pockets of the Cannes film festival to promote their film and attract funding. There they speak to actors, directors and various studio bigwigs learning about the true nature of the highly scrutinised and often cynical process of film funding.
The main intention of film documentaries for me is to tell me things I don’t already know; unfortunately the supposedly ‘shocking’ revelations of Seduced and Abandoned never really did that. The fact is that those who watch this (and that probably will not be many) will not be surprised, more depressingly reminded by what is ‘revealed’ as Baldwin and Toback struggle to get funding for their ‘film’. Whether they actually ever genuinely intended to make it or not is never confirmed, part of me assumes not though.
“You want a lot of money to have your vision put on screen at our expense? Well then we are going to have to change this, this and this so it makes money!” Shocking!
There is a dominant element of hubristic smugness to proceedings, in which both Baldwin and Toback think they are revealing some dirty secrets of their business to us humble cinema going mortals. It does feel perhaps a little insulting at times as anyone who knows anything about what is the shallowest of businesses, that films are made with the potential profit that can be made in mind and how to ruthlessly do that.
Despite this, Seduced and Abandoned is still a thoroughly enjoyable watch. There is a dark humour to be found in what many potential financiers discuss. Neve Campbell was originally planned to be the female lead, but when so many of the suits with more money than we can ever imagine say “I love Neve Campbell, she is lovely, but not a bankable star anymore” and Baldwin and Toback agree to kill her character off to make way for a more ‘bankable’ star in the lead role like Jessica Chastain it is hard not to laugh with a degree of gallows’ humour. There is also comedy to seen in Baldwin marketing himself, when a producer calls him “Just a TV actor” it is hard not to laugh, and fair play to him for keeping it in.
As likeable as Alec Baldwin comes across, there is no denying that he just seems the same here being ‘Alec Baldwin’ as when he is apparently acting in his films. Though Of course, as we are reminded in Team America, he is the best actor in the world.
Though, as stated earlier, what we ‘learn’ is not exactly revealing to anyone who knows even a little about the nature of the film industry; the anecdotes the likes of Scorsese, Polanski, Coppola, Caan, Chastain and Gosling give make great viewing. These are not the scripted arse kissing interviews that they have to give to the media when promoting their latest film; these are honest and told with genuine enthusiasm. These interviews are both refreshing and a joy to watch, revealing a fascinating insight into their minds and experiences. We unfortunately get more interviews with funders, who only care for profit, and they really teach us nothing new, getting a little repetitive and boring. However, these raw and honest interviews with actors and directors not only reveal more about their own personalities (Gosling in particular shines with a laid back and chatty approach, a nice change from the characters he often plays) than most media interviews, but are genuinely interesting viewing. It is for these moments alone, that Seduced and Abandoned is worth watching.
Though perhaps more a case of darkly humorous confirmation than shocking revelation; Seduced and Abandoned is still an immensely enjoyable (if slightly smug) documentary that is well worth a watch if only for getting to know some famous faces that little bit better.