A Lucky Reader Spends An Evening With Paul Schrader And ADAM RESURRECTED!
There's been this misguided urge to align Paul Schrader's ADAM RESURRECTED with Jerry Lewis's notoriously unseen THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, which, having seen a staged reading of the latter, does a profound disservice to the former. You can't replicate that kind of hubris, nor should you try.
Fortunately, I don't think that was on Schrader's mind when he chose to shoot Noah Stollman's adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk's novel about a clown who entertains mentally ill Holocaust survivors - though casting Jeff Goldblum in the title role certainly invites its own challenges. Don't get me wrong: I love Goldblum. It's just that he tends to fall back on those familiar verbal quirks, which has a way of frustrating one's involvement in the story. Too often we see Goldblum, not the character he's playing.
The word out of Telluride this year was that Goldblum gives a career-redefining performance in ADAM RESURRECTED. There was Best Actor talk for a short while, but now that the film is slated for release in 2009, that's died down. It still sounds like a fascinating movie, though, and, because Schrader is one of the smartest men working in and thinking about film today, I can't wait to see it.
I'll hand it over to "slder78"...
Last night I attended the Mill Valley Film Festival tribute to Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Giggolo, Raging Bull). There they showed clips from all his works (yes, even his version of the Exorcist) and had a brief Q & A with him before and after the screening of his latest movie "Adam Resurrected". Listening to him speak about cinema coupled with reminders of all the great work he's done you get a sense that his kind of filmmaker is in short supply. He credited Godard and Bertolucci as influences and said that his first two directorial efforts weren't very good because he didn't understand the art of film until he worked with Bertolucci's Production Designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti. He also said he had taken many visual cues from "The Conformist".
Then then screened "Adam Resurected". This movie by far contains the best performance of Jeff Goldblum's carrer. Goldblum plays the titular Adam, a man who finds himself in a mental asylum for Jews who survived the holocaust, but were left psychologically scarred by it. There, we find that he has been under the care of Dr. Gross, played by Derek Jacobi. Gross laments that he has been unable to treat Adam, but vows to keep trying even as Adam dismisses him as lacking the ability. We flash back to a pre World War II Germany where we see Adam headlining a type of variety show. Adam is a very charismatic charmer who can somehow, either by observation, or something more mystical (I use the term mystical lightly because it's never really explained) can tell something about a person's past merely by rubbing the collar of the person's coat. His use of this ability will lead him to cross paths with Klein, played by Willem Dafoe (a Schrader regular who did this movie as a favor), a man who while attending Adam's show and being "read" by Adam we find was contemplating suicide just before attending the show. Adam uses his charm and his bag of tricks to amuse Klein enough to make him laugh, which for better or worse will come into play when Adam finds himself and his family in the concentration camp run by the now Commandant Klein.
Klein, remembering Adam's act pulls him from not only the line of Jews being processed but his family as well and asks him to "perform" for him. What he does is to soothe a barking German Shepperd into submission by acting like a dog. Klein is amused by this and here we get the thrust of the story. Klein will spare Adam's life and give hope to saving Adam's family if Adam pretends to act like a dog. But not just act like a dog, but be a dog. Eat like a dog, sleep like a dog, walk on all fours as a dog.
There are many details about this movie I have left out, but I just wanted to give the setup of the story. Like i wrote, this is the performance of Goldblum's career. His accent may come and go, but that wasn't important to me as his characterization. Though Adam is supposed to exude great charisma, Goldblum adds layers of subtly and a deep emotional wound that follows through in all of adam's actions. To be sure, all of the performances in the movie were top notch. The direction by Schrader as well was of great caliber. He utilized certain visual cues that are rarely seen in movies anymore or at least in mainstream movies and he really got the most out of his actors. Schrader has created a world where all the principal characters have questionable mental stability. From the doctors on down to the patients. There are no "clean souls" in this movie.
The one thing lacking in this movie is the script. My first instinct would be to say this was like a jewish version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Except that would be a disservice to both movies and the Nurse Ratched here is DEFINITELY not like Nurse Ratched in any way, shape, or form. And that's putting it lightly. (The nurse, Gina has a very peculiar relationship with Adam and I'll leave it at that.)The anger and resentment showed by certain characters towards Adam for seemingly collaborating with the Nazis by acting like a dog and providing amusement for the Commandant while everyone else was being executed, came out of left field for me. I suppose we're meant to feel that way, because we only see from Adam's point of view and we're to ask ourselves, "What would we do in similar circumstances?" It's just that Adam was also treated severely and as a subhuman. He was literally treated as a dog. It was not as if he was granted special privileges. He is actually forced to sleep in a kennel at one heartbreaking point. The level of vitriol seemed very high for what Adam had done and endured. Furthermore, while Adam's arc is tied up nicely, it doesn't seem like that it was earned. Or the way it was earned just wasn't believable for me.
After the screening one of the producers took the stage with Schrader to discuss the film. It was revealed that people had been trying to make this movie since the late '60s. People like Orson Wells actually envisioned himself as director and in the role of Adam. Charlie Chaplin was also interested in making the film. It seems that adapting the source book to film proved to be difficult and I can see why. Then the Festival organizer came up to present Schrader with the lifetime achievement award and he called upon one of Schrader's colleagues from one of his earlier movies "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters", to make the presentation. So up came George Lucas. Suffice to say I was not expecting to see him. Lucas said he was envious of Schrader for being able to make art movies while he was stuck "doing cartoons". Mishima was one of the clips they presented earlier and it seems interesting, so I figure I'll look it up. Schrader said that there was a newly restored 35mm print showing at the festival later in the week, but with the Roy Scheider narration replaced by a Japaneese actor.
So all in all, Schrader made as good a film as could be had with the script. It's disappointing the script couldn't support the work. Schrader says that they're talking to two distributors at the moment and will probably be released in the spring of '09.
I don't agree with Schrader when he says that his first two directorial efforts "weren't very good". For my money, BLUE COLLAR and HARDCORE remain two of his best. In fact, I think BLUE COLLAR is my favorite Schrader picture; it definitely features Richard Pryor's most inspired work as an actor. Highly recommended.
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Oct. 6, 2008, 11:59 a.m. CST
by Stuntcock Mike
George C.Scott looks like he's going to explode in anger every 30 seconds or so.
Oct. 6, 2008, 12:12 p.m. CST
Damn You Michael Bay
Oct. 6, 2008, 1:18 p.m. CST
I wonder if this is full-circle for Mr. Goldblum, considering that he was a kind of street-magiciany type in Nashville way way back in the day.
Oct. 6, 2008, 1:36 p.m. CST
by Gungan Slayer
You're the only one to blame.
Oct. 6, 2008, 2:21 p.m. CST
like what Jakob the Liar was trying to be. I didn't mind that movie though.
Oct. 6, 2008, 7:45 p.m. CST
by Spacker Dave
Definitely Pryor's best performance.
Oct. 6, 2008, 7:58 p.m. CST
by The Amazing G
one of the most intelligent Christians out there
Oct. 7, 2008, 9:53 a.m. CST
Paul Schrader here. Thanks for the kind words about Adam. What I meant about Blue Collar and Hardcore wasn't they weren't "good" but that they weren't particularly well directed. I hadn't figured out how to direct yet. I was learning on my feet.
Oct. 7, 2008, 2:45 p.m. CST
I apologize if I misquoted you regarding your first two films. I really wanted to ask you after the movie if the decision to go from black and white in the first flashbacks to a sort of desaturated color scheme in the last flashback was a stylistic choice or if we were to read anymore into it? Thanks for all the great work.
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