In 1991 iconic photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber set out to make a portrait of legendary actor and original Hollywood ‘bad boy’ Robert Mitchum. Twenty-six years later the filmmaker Bruce Weber had made a musical, featuring Robert Mitchum singing jazz standards along with Rickie Lee Jones, Marianne Faithfull and Doctor John, among a few other adventures with a great cast of characters and admirers like Polly Bergen and Johnny Depp. The film is a rare and intimate glimpse into the world of one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. Replete with stories of another time, plenty of duets, a lot of laughter – and some tears – it is a madcap and loving tribute to the actor.
A famous actor once told me that one of the best performances he’d ever seen was Bob Mitchum during a dinner party. In making a portrait of Bob, I tried to show the man who made over 130 movies and still wanted us to believe that he just didn’t care. Bob was very well-read and wrote poetry, which comes as a surprise to most people, who can only see him as the original tough guy who made war movies and Westerns.
This is how the project began – our film was initially inspired by a book Bob wrote with his brother John called Them Ornery Mitchum Boys. Then, with the help of Dr. John, Marianne Faithfull and Rickie Lee Jones, it became a musical. But as we continued filming, I realized that my film was really about an aging sex symbol, who happened to be a man – instead of the usual Marilyn Monroe story that we’re so used to reading about in books and magazines.
Bob didn’t like to talk about the early days because he had run away from home ten times before he was fifteen, had been in prison, and was on a chain gang in Georgia. Like most male actors who had come of age at that time, he had a problem communicating when he wasn’t in wardrobe and makeup. I think that my film tries to show through interviews, music and archival footage of Bob’s old films, the struggle that one has when you spend your entire life still trying to run away from home.
Cast and Credits
Int.: Robert Mitchum, Johnny Depp, Benicio del Toro, Polly Bergen, Brenda Vaccaro, Marianne Faithfull, Rickie Lee Jones, Doctor John, Carrie Mitchum, Cindy Azbill, Jack O’Halloran. DCP. D.: 68’. Bn e Col.
Red, red!… Red of the burning night, red of bloody war
Gaumont Palace program, February 16, 1923
In the second half of 1919, glowing with the success of J’accuse, Abel Gance started work on La Roue, “une tragédie des temps modernes”, which would become the longest, most expensive and last of his projects for Pathé. Filming began in November at the Saint-Roch train station where the crew could use a Pacific locomotive and build a set with a house among train tracks. The troupe then moved to Chamonix and Arcachon.
The prologue, the accident, is one of the few chapters of Pierre Hamp’s novel Le Rail (1912) that Gance kept. Gance gave the train a starring role, and its world takes shape with visual effects and surprisingly rich and fast-paced editing, creating a lyricism that would make a deep impact on his contemporaries.
On February 16, 1923 the film was released in ten theaters in Paris, with over ten thousand meters of footage (about eight hours) divided in a prologue and four acts. At Gaumont Palace it was accompanied by the score written by Arthur Honegger and Paul Fosse, who was the conductor at the Palace at that time. Choosing contemporary composers was a considerably bold decision. The originality of this complex restoration is using the music to reconstruct what was most likely the original 1923 version. In the absence of editing notes, the music can help explain the order of the scenes and identify which ones were cut. For example, the score composed by Honegger for the opening credits includes precise indications about the order of the shots.
Gance reworked La Roue until the end of the 1920s, thus some of his edits only exist in one print. As a result, different versions came one after another (four acts, six acts, the shortened version of 1924, etc.), but none ever established itself as the definitive version.
François Ede, Stéphanie Salmon
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo Le Rail di Pierre Hamp. Scen.: Abel Gance. F.: Léonce Henry Burel, Marc Bujard, Maurice Duverger. Mus.: Arthur Honegger. Int.: Séverin-Mars (Sisif), Gabriel de Gravone (Élie), Ivy Close (Norma), Georges Térof (Machefer), Gil Clary (Dalilmah), Maxudian (il mineralogista), Louis Monfils (Papahan), Géo Dugast (il ferroviere Jacobin). Prod.: Films Abel Gance. DCP 4K. D.: 25’. Bn., B&W, stencil, tinted and toned. Original music by Arthur Honegger performed by Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna directed by Timothy Brock
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