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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Seduced and Abandoned

Alec Baldwin and James Toback take on Hollywood in a film that, much like Baldwin himself, is equal parts entertaining and smug.
By Tom Clift
May 08, 2014
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Seduced and Abandoned

Alec Baldwin and James Toback take on Hollywood in a film that, much like Baldwin himself, is equal parts entertaining and smug.
By Tom Clift
May 08, 2014
  shares

Seduced and Abandoned opens with a quote by the late great Orson Welles: "I look back on my life and it’s 95 percent running around trying to raise money to make movies and 5 percent actually making them. It's no way to live." It doesn't matter if you're a Hollywood heartthrob or have an Oscar on the mantlepiece. When it comes to movie business, everybody answers to the accountants.

Enter Alec Baldwin and writer-director James Toback (Bugsy). Both veterans of the Hollywood meatgrinder, the pair decide to join forces in order to expose what makes the industry tick. Their plan: fly to the glamorous Cannes Film Festival and pitch a screenplay to cinema's elite. The result of their collaboration is an amusing and, at times, genuinely revealing doco — albeit one with distinctively niche appeal, and cloaked in an air of unmistakable self-satisfaction.

Baldwin leverages his celebrity status into some seriously impressive interviews, from A-list actors like Jessica Chastain and Ryan Gosling, to celebrated directors including Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola. The latter group proves especially interesting — or at least will to the movies buffs at whom the film is squarely aimed. To think that no one wanted to fund Apocalypse Now despite Coppala having just completed the Godfather movies' is nothing short of staggering.

The conversations with filmmakers are actually a lot more satisfying than Baldwin and Toback's phoney business meetings. The 'film' they're pitching is a reimagining of Bernado Bertolluci's sexually explicit drama Last Tango in Paris, summarised by Baldwin thusly: "a government operative and a lefty journalist meet in Iraq during the war… It’s like, 'the world is ending, let’s fuck'. We'll call the movie Last Tango in Tikrit."

Of course, there is no movie. The pitch is designed to fail, thus proving Baldwin and Toback's conceit that it's virtually impossible to get a 'worthy' film project off the ground. While the deception is intended as tongue-in-check, the delivery still comes across as disingenuous — and more than a little on the smug side. The same descriptors could be applied to Baldwin himself, whose charm slips into pomposity on more than one occasion. Not to mention that, at the end of the day, being unable to raise $25 million to roll around in the nude with a beautiful actress kind of seems like a first-world problem.

Then again, that's the shallow world in which the film takes place. Sure, we probably didn't need Toback and Baldwin to tell us the biz is a fickle mistress. But the way they relay the message is certainly entertaining.

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