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Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Seduced and Abandoned' DVD: Jim and Alec's Excellent Cannes Adventure

Seduced and Abandoned (HBO)
The fairly recent Warner Archive  DVD release of "Seduced and Abandoned" from the uber-awesome HBO Documentary Films series is based on the fascinating premises of providing related behind-the-scenes looks at the Cannes Film Festival and the process of obtaining financing for big-budget Hollywood films.

Former film and "30 Rock" star (and current chronic ill-advised tweeter/airplane passenger) Alec Baldwin and producer James Toback conduct this through their efforts at the 2012 festival to obtain funding for a film project that Toback would produce and in which Baldwin would star.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Seduced" expertly communicates the themes of the film and provides a glimpse of the best scenes in it. The gorgeous images of Cannes are a nice bonus.

Additionally, the timing of the DVD release of "Seduced" is interesting on a couple of levels. Most directly, it roughly coincides with HBO announcing that it is reviving the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon reality series "Project Greenlight." This rare awesome reality show initially centers around the competition for funding for an independent film and subsequently the making of said indie.

Less directly, "Seduced" is coming out on DVD in the wake of an uber-fantabulous first-run theatrical documentary by regular "30 Rock" guest star Elaine Stritch. ""Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" both answers the question "what becomes a legend most?" and minimally triggers a desire to try uber-tasty  Bay's english muffins (which can be found in many grocers' refrigerated sections.)

The HBO film is further notable for having a title with an unintentional double meaning. The intended meaning refers to potential backers promising to various degrees of sincerity to invest in a film only to back out. The unintentional meaning refers to Toback and Baldwin creating an expectation of either a detailed look at their fund-raising campaign or at the insights of some of the greatest directors of the second half of the 20th century. Instead, we get an unduly free-flowing mixture of the two.

A scene in which Francis Ford Coppola or James Caan is discussing an aspect of making "The Godfather" may follow a completely unrelated segment on Toback and Baldwin discussing incorporating casting preferences or other changes that a potential backer requests. The logical transitions that exist are less numerous than hoped for.

Segments with dreamy Ryan Gosling are among the most entertaining and relevant in the film. He contributes some comments that relate both to the art and commerce of making films. One story about a director having Gosling and another actor simple wander the city streets is particularly interesting.

Other intersections of art and commerce relate to discussions both of the blurred genres in modern film making and the decreased importance of even labeling a film as belonging to a genre.

The directors who join Coppola in offering their thoughts on their craft include Martin Scorsese and Bernardo Bertolucci.

As indicated above, the sad truth is that Toback and Baldwin set out to make two potentially great films and end up with one that is less artistically successful. Despite this, this rare opportunity to hear the thoughts of truly great filmmakers make the seduction worthwhile even with the subsequent abandonment.

Anyone with questions regarding "Seduced" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.