A few weeks back, I had a few posts about Mike Nichols and Elaine May, so this is sort of an addendum to that. It's a hour-long appearance from 2006 that's mainly him interviewing her, but there's a great deal of cross-talk between them, so it almost more a conversation.
What's so enjoyable about this is seeing them together, and their clear affection for each other from a very long friendship. What's less enjoyable is that there is a huge amount whining about What’s Wrong with Movies Today and Society. She does at least acknowledge being dark compared to Nichols (though he has his share of complaining.
At its best, though, the biggest pleasure is the last 15-20 minutes talking about her films Mikey and Nicky and A New Leaf. The beginning is enjoyable, as well, before they get into heavy complaining, but this final section was the best for me.
By the way, I had never seen Mikey and Nicky, which stars John Cassavetes and Peter Falk. It was made in 1976, wasn't successful, didn't interest me at the time, and it pretty much fell through the cracks. But I finally got around to checking it out just before getting to their discussion here about it.
It's brilliant. Tremendous. I guess I can see why it flopped -- it's not anything even close to what you expect from Elaine May. If you didn't know who wrote and directed the movie and were given 25 guesses, I don't think that most anyone would have put "Elaine May" among those guesses, as either writer or director. The expectation, of course, is that it's a comedy -- since pretty much everything she did in her career was a comedy. And was a wonderful comedy. This...is...not...a...comedy. Not at all. The problem is that the first few scenes are maniacally frenetic, neurotic, and so, given that it's Elaine May, can seem sort of funny, which prepares to audience into thinking it's a comedy -- in fact, she says in the interview that at the early screenings of the film, people were laughing through it, thinking it's a comedy.
Make no mistake, if you check out the movie (and you should), this is not my personal interpretation of it being "dark" under the funny surface. It's not a comedy, not intended to be a comedy. It's a dark, serious, fascinating story about two lifelong friends who are low-level mobsters, one of whom (Cassevetes) is caught in a serious problem and calls his friend for help. It has a few light moments (very few), but is not funny. It's just wonderful.
Anyway, back to the main topic at hand, here's the interview between Nichols and May.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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