socially and politically it‘s important to understand Latin culture. No other book was able to just illustrate the culture itselfand their beliefin magic and fantasy and mystical elements that are very real to them. That fascinated me. You find it also in the writing of Isaac Bashevis Singer or Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s One Hundred Years Of Solitude; the way they write about their cultures is what I wanted in the film.‘
Redford first expressed an interest in Nicholls‘ novel in 1980. after producer Moctezuma Esparza had drafted in the author himself to draft a screenplay that would succeed where previous attempts had failed. Redford explains the difficulties they faced: ‘It was a difficult screenplay to crack because the book is 630 pages and a screenplay is about 120. The book can afford to meander and cover centuries of history, explore the lives ofcharacters and so on. The problem ofthe film was the difficulty of keeping the life ofthe book without it going ﬂat: telling a focused story without losing the colour and eccentricity in the book.‘
After further work on the screenplay by Academy Award winning writer David The Sting Ward. the project was ready to roll. but the politicised nature of the material did mean a good deal of Hollywood resistance. even despite the high regard in which Redford is held. ‘It wasn‘t easy to get this film made; people said Ah, who cares about Mexicans in the mountains ﬁghting about water? Well. of course that‘s not what it‘s about. It‘s about human beings. it‘s about the human spirit against development — against the large mechanical forces that come up against human values. Because I‘m fairly political. a lot of people might think ‘Aww. here comes a polemic about the land.‘
Polemic or not though. the film lies in the solid tradition of American liberal cinema. the line of moviemaking that extends from Frank Capra‘s Mr Smirth Goes To Washington through to. say. Alan J. Pakula‘s A11 The President’s Men (starring. as well as produced by. Redford). Yet. he feels that the current film makes a statement that needed to be made. ‘A lot ofvalucs in this country are being threatened right now; values ofthe land. farming. family enterprise. The whole concept of land in America is in a state of ﬂux. But if you take a position that has any political overtones to it. people usually respond against it.‘ The film‘s reception so far however. would tend to suggest otherwise. with audiences apparently relishing the film‘s entertaining blend of humour and social committment.
For Eastwood. on the other hand. Bird is more an act ofcultural than political expression. but an act of faith nonetheless. ‘As far as I‘m concerned. Americans don‘t have any original art except Western movies and jazz. They tend to overlook their only true artforms because they‘re familiar and it‘s easy to overlook what‘s in your front yard. When you travel abroad. you
realize how much influence Westerns and jazz have had. Now Bird was really one of the giants of jazz. He brought music to a completely new level ofexpression. He is interesting as a man. and he is interesting as a representative of something very special creatively. something uniquely American.‘
While Eastwood has undoubtedly made his own contribution to the development of the Western form as star and director. particularly in The Outlawlosey Wales which for many ranks as the last classic of the genre, Bird must go down as a milestone in the cinematic treatment ofjazz. The movie‘s two hour plus running time gives the music time to breathe. allowing even non jazz fans to develop an appreciation of the man‘s exciting and moving saxophone artistry. As it happens, it‘s also a skilled and confident piece of filmic craftsmanship. effortlessly weaving through Parker‘s thirty-four years of musical achievement, marital turmoil. and narcotics problems, and evocatively capturing the smoky ambience of the after hours lifestyle.
It‘s a performance as director that looks set to considerably enhance Eastwood‘s critical reputation. but
with another Dirty Harry movie The Dead P001 set for release later this year. it looks as ifhe is going to contine to divide his time between duties in front ofthe lens and those behind it. ‘I never know what I‘m going to do next. but I think it‘s the public who decide whether a character should be retired or not. I‘ve enjoyed the offshoots during my career. like Bird. when I‘m doing something that‘s not obviously connected with my image. I find no problem going back and forth in my career; each film demands a different approach regardless of whether I‘m directing or acting in it.‘
Yet. such talk of ‘my image‘
suggests that Eastwood feels a good deal less constricted by the demands of superstardom then Redford, who has talked frankly about the cost of the movie mythologising process: ‘I think The Great Gatsby was the turning point. There was so much propaganda about that film: it was like a bar ofsoap the advertising agency thought it had to sell the shit out of. And as a result any kind of work suffered.‘ But with his involvement in the Sundance Institute. a development body for young artists and film-makers, and his fulsome progress as actor-director, Redford is now none too anxious to return to roles that merely replay the romantic stereOtype. ‘I was beginning to get frustrated as an actor and rather than complain about it I decided to make my own films, where the statement expressed would be more completely mine. It was a question of being able to broaden my experience.‘
The Milagro Beanfield War receives its Film Festival screening at Filmhouse. Lothian Road, on Wed 17 Aug at 9pm. Bird screens at the Cannon. Lothian Road on Sat 21 Aug at 8pm. For ticket information see the Film Festival day by day diary in this issue.
Another exciting season from the versatile American group that has been termed 'the true sensation of the Festival Fringe’ and 'the foremost company from the States to grace the stages of the Fringe'. Fringe First Award wrnner for ‘The Grapes
of Wrath’ (1987) and Arthur Miller’s 'Playing For Time’ (1986).
VENUE 30—The Netherbow Arts Centre, 43 High Street. Tickets 556 9579
* UNDERTOW by Shimon Wincelberg. George Takei stars as a fanatical Japanese soldier who must confront a bewildered American G.l. on a lonely Pacific Island
during World War II. My 15-847! 3 In! Sears) 2309!!! (4.30)
VENUE 57—le Royal Scots Chili, 30 Abercromhy Place. Tickets 557 5091.
OUR TOWN by Thornton \Mlder. Life, love and death in a New Hampshire village: a fiftieth anniversary production of the most beloved American play of all time.
A” 15, f7. 19, 22, 24. 25, 29. 31, Sept 2
SCENES FROM AMERICAN LIFE
SCENES FROM AMERICAN LIFE by A.R. Gurney. One. of the brightest contemporary American playwrights dissects our Upper Class wuth wt and msrght. 5
Ag I5. 17. 19. 12. 24. 2‘. 29. 31. Sept 2
BUS STOP by William Inge Cherie, the would-be chanteuse, and 80, the champion rodeo rider, meet head-on in this classic American romantic comedy. Ag II. II. 20. 23. 25. 27, 30, Seat 1. 3 7.30pm (9.30)
THE EARLY GIRL
* THE EARLY GIRL by Caroline Kava. An all-female cast provides a funny and |
devastating peek behind the scenes in an American brothel. All ll, ’8. N. 23. 25. 27, 30. Sen 1, 3 10.00”. "1.30)
VENUE ITS-Manes. 60 The Pleasance Tickets 556 6550.
PAN-ASIA ° EPERTORY
* PAN ASIAN REPERTORV THEATRE presents YELLOW FEVER by HA. I Shiomi. Critically acclaimed Off-Broadway hit. 'A delightful spoof’ New York Post. ,
A. 16-27 M SUI) 3.3” (5.40) £5.00 (£4.00)
The List 12— 18 August 1988 9‘