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Alec Baldwin is 'Seduced and Abandoned'
October 28, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

Can a picture conceived as a work of art, say in the style of Last Tango In Paris, still get made in Hollywood – where most successful films are now adapted from comic books?

That's what Alec Baldwin and Director James Toback want to find out in the upcoming HBO documentary "Seduced and Abandoned", premiering Monday night at 9 p.m., ET.

Baldwin and Toback (The Gambler, The Pick-up Artist) have concocted a kind of hybrid buddy adventure and documentary/essay that follows them to the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 where they pitch their treatment for a political-romance thriller set in post-occupied Iraq. Loosely titled as "Last Tango in Tikrit", its involves sexually explicit encounters between a conservative CIA operative played by Baldwin and a liberal journalist, slated to be played by actress Neve Campbell.

Seduced and Abandoned, which begins with a montage of greats like Hitchcock and Bardot arriving at Cannes in the 50s, and then diverges to become a great discussion of how Hollywood filmmaking became less about making art and more about making bankable investments based on youthful star appeal. Baldwin and Toback get interviews with Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski and other directors who recount problems getting financed even after critical acclaim and awards. Coppola tells the story of being unable to attract support for Apocalypse Now after winning six Oscars for the Godfather films.

They also talk with Bernardo Bertolucci, who directed Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris and want to revisit at how the director got the highly personal performance from the actor, or what Toback terms "erasing the line between role-player and role."

The problem for Baldwin and Toback might not have been simply the hard realities of a Hollywood now run by billionaire investors and international sales brokers. Their pitch for an adult drama exploring graphic sex – is barely a treatment at all. And they're less than astute pitch artists. At the end of one meeting, actress Diane Kruger (Troy, The Bridge) laughs awkwardly at one description of the sex theme and says "You have not really convinced me yet..."

It's not really clear whether, finally, there is real interest in the Baldwin/Toback project, if it was a serious venture at all, or, if it was simply a premise for the film, which has actors, directors and producers commenting on the futility of trying to make fine art in Hollywood.

One of the better moments of Seduced and Abandoned is a meeting with Ryan Gosling, who is articulate and expansive. He's one of the young stars who financiers say attract automatic financing regardless of the script. He recalls first coming to LA at 16: "it's filled with all these Don Quixote-type characters. Everyone's left their families, their homes, their friends, their jobs to pursue a dream, where they know that the percentage of achieving that dream is, never... and they do it anyway. And everyone shares the same dream. And no one's sure if it was a premonition or a delusion." He raises his eyebrows, "And there's only one way to find out."

The documentary's title refers to Baldwin's comment to an interviewer on Hollywood as a cruel lover: "You go back again and again and again... You go back trying recreate this experience that you've had in movie making and movie-going. You are seduced and abandoned over and over and over again."

As they continue to hustle their project, you can sense Baldwin's resignation and Toback's desperation increase. Toback tells Arpad "Arki" Busson, a wealthy investor, "200 years after you're dead, quite seriously, the reason people will know you were here, and care, is that people will see your name on the screen as the producer of my next film."

Busson looks a little puzzled, like us, not sure if the project is art, or serious, or whether the real payoff has been all the discussion around filmmaking and integrity.

He replies in a whisper to Toback, out of Baldwin's earshot,  "Alec Baldwin? In Last Tango? He can't do that remake. He's a TV actor."

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Wow...Everything we knew was truly happening in Hollywood has been exposed. Especially the "TV actor" bias. Busson clearly hasn't watched much television lately. And I had no idea Gosling was so, well, almost poetic.

I happened to catch Alec Baldwin talking about this project on one of his late night talk show appearances (one of the best guests on any talk show, in my opinion). If I remember correctly, he said this started out as almost a lark but who knows with Baldwin? That's just part of his talent!
Oct 27, 2013   |  Reply
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