Thursday, June 20, 2024

Michael Douglas, Debra Winger Celebrate Legendary UK Film Producer Jeremy Thomas at Opening of New Documentary

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The glorious conceit of Mark Cousins’ documentary about British producer Jeremy Thomas is filming him from the passenger seat of a posh BMW on the way from London to Cannes, for the yearly film festival of festivals. (Thomas loves fast cars, we learn.)

A man of routines, Thomas followed the family business of filmmaking, always having a movie to promote, but more, to schmooze with directors and distributors from a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. The festival is after all, a work place. This is his 45th year, seeing beautiful countryside as it whizzes by on the highway, and discussing life and filmmaker along the route.

Some of his films, “The Last Emperor,” — which won 9 Oscars including Best Picture of 1987 — plus “Only Lover Left Alive,” :Sexy Beast” among them, are screening at Greenwich Village’s Quad Cinema for a retrospective, as is Cousins’ riveting new documentary, “The Storms of Jeremy Thomas,” a glimpse of the man behind the wheel.

“We won 9 Oscars,” Thomas bemoaned at the Q&A after the screening on Thursday night, “including Best Picture but had no actor nominations. It wasn’t right. It would be different now.”

This week, a special viewing of Cousins’ documentary drew many guests from his distinctive career including old friend Michael Douglas, and Debra Winger, who starred as Kit in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Sheltering Sky.” Interviewed in the documentary, Winger speaks about Thomas’ humor and taste.(Tilda Swinton is also on camera.) A clip from the film shows Winger emerging in North Africa with John Malkovich and dozens of suitcases as they are travelers, not tourists, taking everything with them as if they will never return, in author Paul Bowles’ defining distinction.

Interviewed in person by Sony Picture Classics’ astute Michael Barker, Thomas spoke about filming in the desert, taking liberties in the vast expanse of sand that makes this film so unique. Another clip shows Winger as Kit returning to a crowded café, just short of the author’s cameo, as he asks, ‘How many times do we return to the same place in one’s life?’

It’s a question that works well pondering Thomas’ career as production auteur.David Cronenberg in his movie of William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” invented a mechanical “talking anus,” which leads to a discussion of Thomas’ attraction to the freaky of human experience. (He also produced Cronenberg’s controversial classic, “Crash.”) How far is he willing to go? On that subject, he says, with a twinkling eye, “My nature is to go further, to see what I can get away with.”

“The Storms of Jeremy Thomas,” a must see for all cinephiles, is released by Cohen Media Group this week in New York, next week in Los Angeles, and other cities through September and October.

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