02 Oct

Hal—directed by Amy Scott. Biodoc. 90 minutes. Color 2018.
The Story: Film director Hal Ashby’s renegade work prospered in the ‘70s, and how that came to pass and what Ashby was like remain key to indie production and the culture of film as we now know it.
He is not a particularly inviting figure surrounded as he is by the walls of an impenetrable cloud of pot and a vast beard.

But certain of his films remain marvelous. And the marvel of the man himself is made plain by the stories of accomplished actors and professionals whose performances still come to life before us.

Some of his work never did hold water—Harold and Maud and Being There—but The Last Detail, Shampoo, and Coming Home are vivid and valid as the day they were made.

Ashby did not fit into the Hollywood mold because no one worked so hard at his craft as he did or cared about it more.

And we hear his qualifications from every side: Roseanne Arquette, Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, John Voight, Lee Grant, Jeff and Beau Bridges, Lou Gossett, Dustin Hoffman. They all say not just how wonderful as a director he was but how wonderful he was as an individual to make a workplace heaven to be in. Cinemaphotographer Haskell Wexler, a difficult party if ever there was one, says the same, and so does director Norman Jewison.

Well, here’s a secret worth knowing for us all.

How did he do it? Probably because he loved all aspects of movie-making.

Except for the suits in the front office. Here he seemed to have behaved like a hippie fool—writing them rude letters, stamping his foot, and being puerile. He might have taken a tip from George Stevens and simply walked away from them and thus gotten to do what he wanted from the beginning.

After his successful decade, we hear about his last six films, all failures, although I still want to see them.

What became of Hal Ashby personally? I don’t know. Oh, he died of pancreatic cancer aged 59, but that’s not what I mean. Perhaps what happened to him was that he was a drug addict and that is why his work after Being There was unsuccessful. I don’t really know.

What I do know is that certain of his pictures have stayed in my heart, and I wanted to do what I could to find as much as I could about the human who arranged that for me all those years ago.

Comments Off on Hal

Posted in Biodoc, DOCUMENTARY

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button