Hamming it up #
In Leon The Pig Farmer, a nice Jewish boy ﬁnds that his ancestry has more than a whiff of Yorkshire bacon. Andrew Pulver talks to Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor.
Vadim Jean slams the phone down. ‘Want to know how we're plugging our soundtrack CD'?’ he asks. ‘We‘re sending it to DJs. covered in bacon wrappers.‘ ‘lt's great. isn‘t it‘?‘ adds his co—director Gary Sinyor. This particular wheeze may not sound an obvious candidate for the annals of Inspired Marketing Scams of our time; but when the movie in question is the brand new and highly kosher comedy lean The Pig Farmer. the meat content has become a significant issue.
Let's get things in perspective. The two boy geniUses (at least their mothers think so) are the directors of what they claim is the UK‘s first independent feature. Vadim Jean explains: ‘We mean independent in the American sense — you make a film with private finance. on a tiny budget. and you don’t give a toss about anybody else. No one gave us any help.’ Gary Sinyor takes up the tale: ‘lt was only when I met Vads that we realised there was a strong producing instinct in both of us. and we decided to go our own way.‘
Leon The Pig Farmer started life as a Sinyor script commissioned by Monty Python luminary Eric ldle after the latter spotted the National Film and
Television School graduate's short on TV; when ldle’s interest was distracted elsewhere. Vadim Jean came aboard and several re-writes later the partners got their film shot after the actors agreed to become shareholders.
The result of all this enterprise? A Jewish comedy. set in North West London. about. of all things. insemination in all its different forms. Mark Frankel plays Leon. an estate agent and Nice Jewish Boy. who discovers (0y my!) that he's not his parents' son after all. but the result of a mix-up in an Al lab. And. what's worse. his real father turns out to be Brian Glover in the guise of a lovable Yorkshire pig breeder. Gary. a guilt- tripping scripter if ever there was one. tells it like it is: ‘1 don‘t personally suffer from infertility. but i do worry about it on a regular basis. I haven't got anyone pregnant yet. so it could be a possibility. It's an obsession of mine. The film idea came from a news story i read about a woman in the US who was an adoptee in a Jewish family. i think her mother was a Roman Catholic who had been interfered with by her doctor.
I‘ A \ 1‘- ‘ Leon The Pig Farmer: ‘highly kosher comedy’ I also had this great title — Leon The Pig Farmer. Then the ideas somehow merged. and the sperm theme . . .just came. As it were.‘
Is this boy Manchester‘s answer to Woody Allen‘.’ With all the crucial indicators (glasses. machine-gun chatter. intimate knowledge ofJewish family life) shrieking ‘yes'. who can doubt his intense sincerity? But partner Vadim. who isn't Jewish. had to direct a film that took in Yiddish paranoia. property companies. the menace of unkosher shellfish and that centre of London Jewish culture — lidgware Tube Station on London‘s Northern Line. For those unfamiliar with the area. lidgware Tube has. since the late 70s. been a prime hang-out zone for Jewish teens. How did Vadim cope'.’ ‘Of course. I couldn‘t know all the details. My contribution was more to say — hey. that‘s inn Jewish. For me. it‘s a story about a character who comes face to face with an environment where everything is turned upside down. He‘s asking questions . . . like. what do i feel about tradition. or my family‘."
Gary breaks in excitedly: ‘lt‘s also
about the pressure to conform. in films like Something Wild you get someone who's very staid and who. by the end. is blasting off on a motorbike into the distance. As far as l‘m concerned. two hours later he’d be thinking. “I could do with a comfy chair and my slippers". The farm in the film is a city boy‘s idea of what the country might be like. lfl go to a place. for example. where there's no lock on the toilet door. l‘m llabbergasted. i think there should be a (‘hubb lock and a chain on the door of every loo.‘
Where Leon The Pig Farmer really breaks new ground is in its depiction of the modern Anglo-Jewish community. in the US. a ﬂood of films featuring the neuroses of the (‘hosen People has practically exhausted an admittedly rich vein. but there has been none in this country. There isn‘t even a British- Jewish film director of any substance (Michael Winner is as classy as it gets). Where are the Billy Wilders. Neil Simons or Woody Aliens? Sinyor reckons (by now he‘s doing all the talking) that it‘s a culture thing. ‘In America. immigrants are encouraged to shout out. to speak their minds. But in England. you‘ve got heritage. you‘ve got stiff upper lip. The Jewish community and being linglish — those two don't always go hand in hand. People in this country have got to re- express their Jewishness. i really love being Jewish. 1 don‘t go around shouting it from the rooftops. but if you want to know. l‘ll tell you.’
Make no mistake about it — these boys are here to stay. What road they'll take is anybody’s guess. Gary in particular seems destined to play a big role in the future of film (if he eats enough chicken soup). There‘s not a more effervescent. likeable team around in British cinema and. if Hollywood fails to beckon attractively enough. there's a lot to look forward to.
Leon The Pig Farmer opens a! the Glasgow and Edinburgh ()denns on
Friday 26 March.
Andthe winner is . . .
Meryl Streep was so excited, she left hers In the loo. Kurt Russell used the occasion to propose to Goldie Hawn before TV billions. Liz Taylor won one following a life-saving tracheotomy. Peter Finch went one better, and emerged triumphant after he died. The glamour, the drama, the tears, the spun-out suspense . . '. and all for thirteen-and-a-half inches and eight- and-a-half pounds of golden statuette. The annual awards doled out by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences - the Oscars, as they’re known world-wide - began life in 1926 as a cynical means by which the studio system could stroke the egos of its stars and keep the unions in line. Sixty-seven years later, they’re more despised, more rldlculed, more desirable than ever. Slap ‘Oscar nomination’ on a poster, and dwindling
14 The List 26 March—8 April I993
box office figures will rise; blazon “Oscar winner’ on your product and watch the dollars pour in.
The history of the Oscars has been the history of American mainstream cinema. The best-known film prize on the planet is awarded by a select few with Hollywood stamped on their hearts and whose whims, guilty consciences and malleabllity play a vital role. Talent sometimes comes into it, but it isn’t compulsory. How else could Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielberg and Richard Burton fall to win one? How else could Edward C. Robinson, Donald Sutherland and Lon Chaney never even be nominated?
flow, however, the backstage shenanigans have been laid bare in Anthony Holden’s vastly entertaining book, The Oscars: The Secret History of Hollywood’s Academy Awards. The voting process, the aggressive marketing by studios and stars, and the on-going trends that beggar the bookles’ predictions are exposed as he travels down the decades, throwing in some Insightful comments and amusing anecdotes en route.
So what about the 1993 Academy Awards? Last year, Silence Of The
Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins
victorious in 1992 Lambs joined It Happened One Night and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as one of only three films in history to take all four of the biggies — Best Film, Director, Actor and Actress. The current backlash against cinema violence means that the Academy voters are likely to over-react and pretend that they never gave Oscar respectability to Hannibal the Cannibal. And so here are a few predictions, ludged by circumstances as much as merit:
Best Actor: Al Pacino (Scent Of A Woman) because if he failed this year, that would make eight nominations and no wins, an Oscar record.
Best Actress: Susan Sarandon (Lorenzo’s Oil) because she missed out last year with Thelma & Louise, and she’s American, unlike Emma Thompson.
Best Director: Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven) because he’s Clint Eastwood.
Best Film: Howards End because it’s definitely not Silence Of The Lambs. (However, Unforgiven is statistically more likely because the Director and Film awards usually go hand in hand).
Personally, I wouldn’t argue with the thespian awards, but would have favoured Robert Altman’s handling of The Player for Best Director, and Reservoir Dogs for Best Film because it is. On a more patriotic note, The Crying Came should win Best Film for daring alone (although it will probably have its best chance as Best Original Screenplay). (Alan Morrison)
The Oscars by Anthony Holden ls published by Little, Brown at £20. The . 1993 Oscar ceremony is live on Sky at l Sam on Tuesday 30 March.