EXCLUSIVE: Good news. Last year at Cannes, filmmaker James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin roamed around with a film crew. They were making a documentary called “Seduced and Abandoned.” On May 20th, the extremely engaging and entertaining “S&A” will unspool in Cannes to some fanfare. How did it turn out? Rather well, I’d say. The doc, which uses mostly classical music to underscore its sweep of Cannes, tells a couple of stories — and very pungently. Toback has made an honest, engrossing film.
To wit: Toback and Baldwin were being straight with everyone when they said they were making a documentary. But they also told foreign buyers in Cannes they were trying to raise money for a film starring Baldwin and Neve Campbell as hot lovers in Iraq. Toback would direct. They wanted $25 million. Of course, the film was fictitious. At one point Baldwin wonders aloud why Iraq has no Film Commission. It’s hilarious because no one around him gets the joke.
In the course of making “Seduced and Abandoned,” the pair interview a lot of A listers. Rarely interviewed directors Roman Polanski and Bernardo Bertolucci are absolutely fascinating in their recollections of how their careers began, and what Cannes was like in the old days. Many Hollywood luminaries are deposed including Ron Meyer and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
But the most interesting of all the actors who float in and out is Ryan Gosling. He is so completely charming and disarming that he’ll get new drooling fans from this movie. Jessica Chastain is also extremely literate on the subject of filmmaking.
The meat of the film, though, is the chasing of possible financiers for the Baldwin-Campbell Iraq love story. We meet Avi Lerner and several less savory characters. Toback even asks Denise Rich for the money. Everyone turns them down. Some say such a movie might get a $4-$5 million budget. Baldwin and Campbell, they all say, are simply not bankable.
“Why not get Jessica Chastain?” someone asks. So Toback starts telling potential investors that Chastain could play the lead, and Campbell could be the wife of Baldwin. “I don’t want to throw her under the bus,” he says of Neve, and yet he does. Even though there is no bus. But only he and Baldwin know that.
One financier tells Toback, with Alec not in the room: “He’s a TV actor.” Ouch! This, after Baldwin announces at the start of the doc that he’s revving up his film career again. But he’s approved this, which takes guts. Baldwin is nothing if not clear headed about the business after 30 years in it.
One crazy scene brings the pair and crew to the Antibes estate of Johnny Pigozzi, the Italian auto heir who owes his life and fortune to his late father. He readily admits it. (I don’t think Pigozzi knows what “work” is.) He nearly does a spit take when Toback asks him for the money.
“Seduced and Abandoned” is going to be hot stuff for anyone interested in the movie business, Hollywood, or cinema. Toback and Baldwin have an excellent rapport, and their enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity are contagious. You do get to see enough of the nuttiness of Cannes, and lots of smart, interesting people including esteemed critic Todd McCarthy. There’s no lack of background glamor from the Croisette.
You also get a very Tobackian take on things. As in some other films of his, there’s a constant question of religion and God, believe it or not. A lot of the people are asked if they know what happens whey they die, what it will be like, etc. This lends some gravitas to a discussion of things that are otherwise less weighty. It’s very smart of Toback.
If you’re in Cannes, circle the 20th. “S&A” premieres the same night as James Franco’s “As I Lay Dying.” Should be quite the night on red carpets and on screens!