lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 24 07:17:41 MST 2005
>Please explain your characterization:
>"ex-leftist documentarian Barbara Kopple".
>What did she do to merit this description?
Kopple got the reputation as a leftist documentarian for "Harlan County"
but that was 29 years ago. The last leftist documentary she made after that
was the 1991 "American Dream", which was about the defeat of P9 and hardly
the stuff to rouse workers into action. The subtext was that the trade
union overreached. As I recall, the CP opposed that strike and perhaps
Kopple's editorial viewpoint reflected that.
From 1991 onwards, her attention turned to matters such as Woody Allen's
clarinet-playing tour in Europe ("Wild Man Blues") and the 2002 miniseries
on the Hamptons. She's currently working on a project called "The Edge of
Madness", which IMDB.Com describes as exploring "the experiences of a
female war journalist Gaby Grebo, against the backdrop of a bloody war of
ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo." Somehow I doubt that she will be using Diana
Johnstone as a consultant.
Recently I have run into Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn near 5th Avenue and
91st street, only 4 blocks from my building on 3rd Avenue and 91st. I do
not say hello. Allen, the ultimate recluse, appears to be circulating in
public more often nowadays. This was nearly impossible during the public
relations debacle that followed word of his romance with Soon-Yi.
As a major part of his attempt to refurbish his image, Allen agreed to
participate in a documentary based on a tour of more than a dozen European
cities with his Dixieland revival band. Titled "Wild Man Blues", it either
shows him and Soon-Yi at leisure in palatial hotels, or him playing
clarinet with the band on various concert stages before adoring fans. As
everybody knows, including Allen who admits as much on camera, nobody would
pay a nickel to hear him if he hadn't become so successful as an actor,
director and screenwriter.
What the documentary also reveals, however, is his growing malaise as he
tries to come to grips with the fact that his recent films have been deemed
critical failures as well as box-office flops. It is only in Europe where
Allen--like Jerry Lewis--still has a hallowed reputation. Even Soon-Yi
seems underwhelmed by his more recent films. Over breakfast she tells him
that she found "Interiors" tedious. This is another meaning for the "blues"
in the film's title. We are witnessing the fall to earth of a major artist.
What's remarkable is that the film's director, Barbara Kopple, had been
best known for politically engaged films like the Academy Award winning
documentary "Harlan County USA" (about miners striking in Kentucky) and
"The American Dream" (meat packers striking in Minnesota). Since Woody
Allen is relentlessly anti-political, this seems like an odd choice at first.
Perhaps not so odd considering that prior to making the Allen documentary,
she made "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson" in 1992 for NBC.
Tyson was in jail, on charges of rape, when she started making the film.
Allen's reputation around that time was about as tarnished and for similar
reasons: preying on women.
Maybe plain old-fashioned pecuniary considerations influenced her decision
to make a film about Allen, since these are not plush times for leftwing
documentarians. Kopple has responded to the market by turning to other
kinds of filmmaking. She's directed two episodes of the ABC series
"Homicide," and even made some commercials, most notably the Reebok ad
featuring female basketball star Saudia Roundtree.
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