This week, David Cronenberg’s MAPS TO THE STARS is released in Irish cinemas, and tells the story of when the Hollywood dream goes badly wrong. With this in mind, we decided to take a look back at some of the best movies about makin’ movies. There’s no business like show business…
Michel Hazanavicius’s 2012 film was not only a surprise hit at Cannes, the Oscars and at the box office, but it was also a celebration of the Golden Age of Hollywood, before talkies came in and ruined the whole thing. No mean feat for a French film! The idea of producing a silent film in this era of high technology is an interesting one. As James Cameron pushes the envelope with cutting edge 3D technology, director Michel Hazanavicius strips back his film making style, leaving the audience with the bare minimum, shooting in black and white, and creating a strong nostalgia for days gone by. This nostalgic air is helped by the broad romantic story and the clips from both Valentin and Miller’s work – scenes from films that could easily have been produced in the early days of Hollywood. Of course, the transition from silent movies to talkies has been covered on screen before, but to do it as a silent movie is a new and endearing twist on and old tale.
Before he went completely meta Hollywood on us with SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK, Charlie Kaufman had a knack for examining the world in a slightly offbeat and engaging manner. Nic Cage plays twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman and, as Charlie struggles to adapt Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief, for the big screen, Donald is out living it up, charming everyone he meets and deciding to follow his brother’s footsteps into screenwriting. Kaufman’s screenplay is the result of the writer himself struggling to adapt The Orchid Thief, and his troubles with writer’s block. The Orchid Thief lacked the structure needed for a movie, so Kaufman wrote himself into the film and created his fictional twin brother for good measure. Anyone who has ever struggled to put pen to paper will surely understand the difficulties suffered by Kaufman in ADAPTATION…
Another movie about the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema; Gloria Swanson plays faded movie star Norma Desmond, a woman lost in delusion that she is still a star and is simply waiting for her comeback role, when she really drifts around her Hollywood mansion like a ghost, and is all but forgotten in the world outside her home. William Holden plays Joe Gillis, a hack screenwriter hired to doctor Desmond’s screenplay for Salome; a film she believes will make her Hollywood royalty again. SUNSET BOULEVARD examines the ugly side of Hollywood and fame, and the desire to be loved that drives Norma Desmond to desperation and eventually, murder. The film is a wonderful noir piece directed by Billy Wilder, and is one of the best films designed to show the dark underbelly of fame and glory.
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT
Not only a wonderful example of live action meeting animation to make glorious results, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT feels like a pulp movie thrown up onto the big screen. Toon actor Roger Rabbit is investigated by Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins), a PI on the downswing of his career. Roger has been implicated in the murder of Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), and the evidence is damning, since it is believed that Jessica – Roger’s wife – was having an affair with the murdered man. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT is a comedy noir movie that showcases classical Hollywood at it’s best and worst, and also celebrates the Hollywood of 1988, as it showcases the talents and creativity of both live action and animated films. As well as this, the film is endearing, funny and fantastically scary.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
This Gene Kelly musical is another examination of the move from silent to talking pictures, but it uses comedy to show off the difficulties faced in the transition. While Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), possesses the classical beauty of a silent era film star, she has an incredibly grating voice on film, and this, as well as numerous other issues, threaten to derail the latest film from one of Hollywood’s most powerful studios. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN makes light of the difficult technological transition that Hollywood went through in the 1920s, and shows Kelly and his co-stars off at their best. While it has been parodied many times, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is still regarded as one of Kelly’s greatest films.
Honourable mentions to: THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, STATE & MAIN and BARTON FINK.
Do you have a favourite movie about making movies? Let us know in the comments below…
MAPS TO THE STARS is released in Irish cinemas on September 26th 2014