Sydney Pollack Blogathon-Day 2
Day 2 of Sydney Pollack Blogathon, we have a great collection of posts for the sharing here.
First up from Kevin Olsen of Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies, we have a great post on Sydney Pollack’s Depression era drama, They Shoot Horses Don’t They. Kevin has done his own retrospective of Pollack’s movies, and here he covers the rather existential look at the Depression era, through a marathon dance competition.
Sydney Pollack’s adaptation of Horace McCoy’s Depression-era novel They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is as engrossing and affecting as I’m sure it was when it was released in 1969. The existential look at the celebrity machine and the producers (here in the form of a dance competition coordinator) that exploit the hopeful masses of one day “making it” differs from the source material (the film is definitely a little more frenetic than the book), but what film doesn’t take liberties with its source material? The fact the film is a little noisier and busier and kinetic than the sparse prose of McCoy’s novel doesn’t equate to it being a bad, ineffective, film; no, the film is still able to resonate and acts as an easy marker in Pollack’s career for one to point to and say, “this is where Sydney Pollack arrived as a filmmaker.”
Film directing isn’t often compared to completing a jigsaw puzzle, but that analogy seems most apt in describing exactly what Sydney Pollack accomplished with Tootsie, which opened 25 years ago today. What began with a story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart and a screenplay by Gelbart became the center of a fight between the film’s star, Dustin Hoffman, and Pollack ended up with countless other notable scribes (among them Barry Levinson and Elaine May) taking their shots at the script. In the end, the final screen credit went to McGuire and Gelbart for story and Gelbart and Murray Schisgal for screenplay, but Pollack’s ability to weave the best parts of all those drafts and spin them into cinematic and comic gold deserved a credit all its own. If that feat of wizardry weren’t enough, Pollack also turns in a fine supporting role as well, playing Hoffman’s character’s agent.
Sydney Pollack was a director who, like many of the greats, didn’t have a problem skipping from one genre to another. He made War Movies, Westerns, Political and Crime Thrillers, Romances, Dramas and Comedies. He never relied on just flashiness or style to tell his stories. He was a true old school filmmaker who simply chose great subject matter and brought a strong cinematic vision to his productions. This is really what impressed me most about him as an artist. For this blogathon we’ve put together a list of some of our personal favorite Pollack films which will show the dynamic range he had. If you happen to be new to his work, we highly recommend looking at his others after you’ve seen these.