Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Bernardo Bertolucci: Cinema and Conformism

The Conformist (Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci)

Bernardo Bertolucci was born in 1941 to a prosperous family in Parma, Italy. His father was a well-known poet and critic. Starting out himself as a poet Bertolucci spent his formative years enthralled with the cinema, due mainly to his father’s work as a film critic. Bertolucci initially shot two short films with his younger brother. By the age of 20 Bertolucci was working as an assistant to his father’s friend, Pier Paolo Pasolini, on the latter’s first feature, Accatone (1961). Bertolucci’s own first feature, The Grim Reaper (La commare secca) (1962), based on a treatment by Pasolini, was an episodic investigation into a murder seen through the different perspectives of the inhabitants of a park in Rome.

1964’s Before the Revolution (Prima della rivoluzione), the director’s second film, tells the story of Fabrizio (Francesco Barilli), a middle class youth torn between his revolutionary ideals and the decadent luxury of his environment, introducing a political aspect that would, in his later films, be more developed.

Bertolucci’s two major influences during this period were Pasolini and Jean-Luc Godard, and the latter’s influence is evident in Partner (1968), Bertolucci’s third feature, an attempt at the elliptical, politically committed style of Godard’s late 1960s work. Based on  Dostoevsky’s novella The Double, Partner is the story of a young idealist (Pierre Clementi) who is confronted with his revolutionary and psychotic doppelganger. Notable for its attempts at Brechtian alienation, narrative disruption, direct addresses to camera, the film is very much a transitional work in which the tension between Bertolucci’s lyrical vision and cinematic self assurance come up against the fragmented style of Godard’s overtly political films.

His work in the early 1970s provided the major breakthrough for Bertolucci. The Spider’s Stratagem (La strategia del ragno) (1970), based on Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”, and The Conformist (Il conformista), an adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel, are Bertolucci’s most highly rated works, with the latter especially considered to be his greatest achievement. Stratagem starts out as a contemporary tale about a young man, Athos Magnani Jr., (Giulio Brogi) arriving at a small town to investigate the death of his father, Athos Magnani (also played by Brogi), apparently at the hands of Mussolini’s fascists. The film then flashes back to scenes of the elder Magnani’s exploits as a Resistance fighter. Bertolucci incongruously casts the same older actors as Magnani’s comrades both in the present and the past, creating a jarring effect where the present and the past co-exist. A lyrical, symbolic work, marked by Bertolucci’s fluid camera and vivid scenes of colour it marked a leap forward in the young director’s faltering attempts to blend the self-reflexive with the mainstream.

The Conformist is the story of Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a young man in Mussolini’s Italy assigned to track down and murder his former teacher. Clerici travels to Paris where he becomes involved with his former teacher’s bisexual wife (Dominique Sanda). Bertolucci alters the linear sequence of the novel, starting his film close to the end, with Clerici in a hotel room awaiting the phone call to instigate the murder. The past then begins to unfold while Clerici travels in his car. Flashbacks unfold within flashbacks – leading back to a homosexual encounter as the locus of Clerici’s anxiety.

Bertolucci cleverly avoids traditional cinematic flashback indicators keeping the viewer unsettled and uncertain as the story unfolds. The Conformist was hugely successful and had a profound effect on a whole generation of filmmakers when it was released in 1970. Francis Ford Coppola described it as “the first classic of the decade,” its influence marked on his first two Godfather films, and the filmmaker and critic Paul Schrader commented, “To my mind, you can speak of pre-Conformist and post-Conformist design.”

Bertolucci with the aid of his cameraman Vittorio Storaro and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti created a claustrophobic environment around the sexually ambivalent, reluctant hit-man Clerici through their expressive use of light and architecture. The bare white walls and furnishings of a psychiatric hospital; a bureaucrat’s desk in the centre of a vast empty room; mirrors that surround Clerici and trap him within his own anxieties – the film is a triumph of visual detail and design.

The Conformist remains Bertolucci’s most critically acclaimed film. Last Tango in Paris (1972), which followed, is his best known and most controversial work. The story of an older American (Marlon Brando) and a young French woman (Maria Schneider) engaging in a series of anonymous sexual encounters inside a Paris apartment, the film was a huge box office success due to its explicit sex scenes and Brando’s committed performance. Although dated in certain respects the film’s raw conviction still retains the power to shock. 

The success of Last Tango gave Bertolucci the freedom of a large budget and power to attract a superb cast for his next film, 1900 (Novecento) (1976) a lengthy and epic account of early 20th century Italian history starring Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Burt Lancaster and Donald Sutherland amongst others. The film’s running time and its pro Marxist politics resulted in a falling out between Bertolucci and his American backers, which ended up with a severely curtailed version of the film being released with limited publicity. 

After the disappointment of its failure Bertolucci went in a new direction, firstly with the complex lurid melodrama La Luna (1979) starring Jill Clayburgh then Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981) before Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1988) a lavish biopic of the Chinese Emperor Puyi, brought Bertolucci commercial success and critical acclaim, winning nine Oscars in the process. 

Following its success Bertolucci adapted Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky (1990) a visually stunning account of the disintegrating relationships between three travellers in post-war North Africa as they succumb to hardship, moral collapse and fever in an alien clime. Bertolucci then directed Little Buddha (1993), an underwhelming attempt to fuse a double narrative structure into the tale of a modern American boy, who might be the incarnation of a great Buddhist teacher, with the story of the life of Prince Siddhartha. Both projects flopped at the box office. Bertolucci’s next film was Stealing Beauty (1996) a hesitant, unconvincing tale of an American girl’s sexual awakening in Italy while searching for her father. Besieged (1998) is a more satisfying, intriguing chamber work about an African medical student who supports herself as a live-in housekeeper in the villa of a reclusive English pianist. These two strangers are drawn to each other in a complex game of longing and desire that is never specified and unfolds entirely through editing, camera-work and spatial formation.

Bertolucci’s The Dreamers from 2004 was adapted by Gilbert Adair from his novel The Holy Innocents and tells the story of an erotic triangle set against the backdrop of the 1968 student uprising in Paris, replete with cinematic reference to the French New Wave of filmmakers. Bertolucci returned to directing with what turned out to be his final film Me and You (2012), adapted from a novel by Niccolò Ammaniti, a claustrophobic story in which a teenage boy and his older half-sister spend a week together in a cramped basement. 

Bertolucci died in 2018. Writing in The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw summed up his work thus: “Last Tango in Paris is now a subject for debate as much as reverence. It retains the power to shock, but also to put moviegoers into an eerie trance, especially in that inspired final shot of the last thing Brando’s character sees before dying. Admirers will also go back to the lavish pleasures of The Last Emperor and to the fierce intelligence of The Conformist and Before the Revolution – intense memories of his revolutionary nonconformism.”

The following excerpt is from an interview with Bertolucci from 1971 conducted by Amos Vogel for Film Comment magazine in which he discusses The Conformist and other issues.

FC: You said you wanted a precise script, but only to destroy it; but what is in the script—is it description of scenes and dialogue or detailed shot instructions, camera set-ups, and movements?

BB: It is only a script of situations and dialogue; it contains nothing about camera or its placement or about the actual shots. The script is a starting point for me—you have to have one-but that’s all …

FC: Yet, when one looks at your films, they are very complex and advanced, not merely stylistically, but in terms of editing as well. This is why I am not quite clear why you counterpose editing to shooting. For example, there is a scene in Before the Revolution, which involves a young man, Agostino, on a bike. Agostino is distraught and this is conveyed by means of jagged camera movements, interrupted action, cutting from long-shot to closeup and zoom without any transition. It is a beautiful sequence, very short, mysterious and unpredictable, created by the way camera and actors move within the frame, and by editing, tempo, length, and order of the shots. The scene could have been killed in the editing.

BB: Well, I was there and I happen to know how it all happened; in fact, it’s an example of why I feel the film is conventional. I believe that a film should be “all there” at the moment of shooting. When I see a sequence like the one you mentioned, it smells of manipulation. I had shot this sequence with two cameras-one with a wide-angle lens, the other with a zoom lens. This already indicates to me that I was somewhat undecided about the sequence. I shot it as I would a boxing match, thinking that I would fix it up in the editing and this is not good for me. All you can get from editing is a little bit of manipulation.

FC: Well, “manipulation” is inherent in any sequence, in the way it was photographed, “set up” and edited to give it a particular tempo and character. Doesn’t art constantly—and inevitably—manipulate reality?

BB: Not in the shooting. The shooting is just “a happening” [in English], it’s a rapport between me, the camera and what is present…

FC: Do you think all editing is manipulative?

BB: The editing of Griffith, Eisenstein, Vertov was not manipulative, but a great invention.

FC: But Eisenstein, especially, has been accused of intellectual manipulation and even formalism.

BB: No, in my opinion editing becomes manipulative only when it is taken over by the producer. Before that, it’s a sublime invention. But even if my producer does not oppress me, the editing itself has today become manipulative.

FC: But what about independent or underground filmmakers who don’t even have a producer?

BB: In their films there is even more manipulation than in normal films because, in the underground cinema, there is the same refusal to accept the so-called commercial, establishment cinema that certain young bourgeois express against their fathers; but, as their fathers are, in a sense, far removed from them, the sons are somehow integrated into society anyway. The underground cinema is merely the other side of the coin of the Hollywood cinema; it’s a reaction that remains within the framework of Hollywood. In a more banal, simple sense, there is a great love for Hollywood in underground films; when they want to be perverse, or against the official morality, they are as innocent as young school girls. They do all the things their masters told them not to do; now, that is nice, but it’s not revolutionary. But remember that I speak of editing here not as a theoretician; I only express a certain unhappiness. In ten days, I might change my mind.

FC: There is a scene in The Spider’s Stratagem in which Athos, the young protagonist, leaves a building. He walks to the right, out of the frame; behind him is a startling, very blue wall; he has already left the frame, but you decided to have us look at this blue wall for another several seconds. Now this is an editing decision.

BB: No, it’s a shooting decision.

FC: But during the editing, you decided to keep this footage in the final film and not to cut when he leaves the frame?

BB: I had already decided this before the shooting ; otherwise I would have told my cameraman to cut.

FC: And so the “divine moment” is in the shooting, not in the editing?

BB: Not “divine”…

FC: The supreme human moment is in the shooting?

BB: Yes, definitely.

FC: This is very different from the views of many other directors, including the early Russian revolutionary directors. According to them, a film is born only in the cutting room.

BB: There is something fundamental I want to say about all this: When there are no ideas in the shots, you cannot insert them by means of editing. The idea has to be there during the shooting. Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, for example, has long, long takes and no editing and is one of the more extraordinary examples of non-editing; or rather, filmic creation at the moment of shooting…

FC: But when you call editing an imperialist device, it’s really not the editing but rather the intervention of the producer you refer to?

BB: Yes, in fact, I said earlier that editing was a beautiful invention, an expressive device; just like the trade unions were great at one time; but in the next moment, capital stepped in and interfered in the unions, like in America.

FC: I am struck by the stylistic differences, between The Spider’s Stratagem and The Conformist and your earlier Before the Revolution. Do you consider these new films to be an advance aesthetically or do you merely wish to indicate that the staccato, avant-grade style of Before the Revolution was only appropriate for that particular, passionate, almost autobiographical subject? After all, the style of your last two films is much closer to conventional narrative cinema, with lyrical and poetic components.

BB: I believe that these films are like three different ways of loving three different women. There are different ways of loving. I made Spider’s Stratagem immediately before The Conformist, but even though there were only a few short months between them, my psychological situation was different. And that is why these two films are so different. I made The Spider’s Stratagem in a state of melancholic happiness and great serenity and The Conformist in a tragic state of great psychological upheaval. As to Before the Revolution, I do not remember.

FC: It’s in the film. As to The Conformist, it will easily be acceptable to the American art-theatre public, both politically—as an antifascist film—and aesthetically. This is not true of Before the Revolution, a very private, very special work, in fact, a cult film for a small group of cineasts and critics.

BB: I like that very much…

FC: That it has become a cult film?

BB: No, that with The Conformist, can now speak to a wider audience: it is possible that I make films because, in real life, I cannot communicate; and this way I communicate with lots of people. In this sense, Victor Fleming was a very fortunate person… He made Gone With The Wind… [Laughs] Fleming communicates with everybody.

FC: But this reminds me of the strange remark you made during your New York Film Festival press conference following The Conformist, when you affectionately referred to it as “your commercial film,” “a bit of whoring” on your part, and then smiled in a devilish way.

BB: Yes, I said it and I meant it and I hope it is true. What gave me a sort of devilish appearance is that I know that The Conformist is my most difficult film and that amuses me very much. It seems to be my easiest film, but actually it is the most difficult because it is the simplest one. One enters it on a first level of “reading” that was missing from Before the Revolution: that film had many other levels but there did not exist a first level of reading as soon as you saw it. In The Conformist, there is such a first level, so everybody enters it and poses no further problems to himself. Instead, the film is full of other levels. This is the trick of the great Hollywood directors: in Europe, we needed thirty years before some young French critics made us realize that the American cinema was something more than what had been thought of until that moment.

FC: At your The Conformist press conference, you also said: “The destruction of structures in Partner is, in The Conformist, followed by a very definite structure.” But isn’t the “destruction of structures” one of the signposts of contemporary cinema, the cinema of Godard and the underground; and also of modern literature, painting, music, poetry?

BB: Yes, definitely. In the cinema, Godard started it. In music, Schönberg. But The Conformist arrives at a moment when I myself, looking around in cinema, realize that this destruction of structures has itself become the new establishment, not only in my film but in those of others. I think we need more plot and structure now. Perhaps it is fear, I don’t know.

FC: Well, there was plot in Partner and Before the Revolution too, a looser, more dissociated, modern kind of plot.

BB: I mean, we need more solid structures. Maybe this is a fear of aestheticism and a feeling that the avant-garde is itself bourgeois…

–Excerpt from “Interview: Bernardo Bertolucci”. By Amos Vogel, Fall, 1971, Film Comment Magazine. 

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Terry Southern on Stanley Kubrick

Dr. Strangelove (Directed by Stanley Kubrick)
Writer Terry Southern was hired by Stanley Kubrick to make a satire out of a screenplay originally based on the novel Red Alert by Peter George. Released as Dr. Strangelove (1964), the movie takes us into the war room of a certain President Merkin Muffley, to reveal a military culture gone berserk, as its leaders cheerfully prepare for the imminent end of the world.

Kubrick's examination of Cold War unease is one of the most biting satires ever produced in Hollywood. The movie is set at the height of Cold War hostilities and centres on a deranged US general (played by Sterling Hayden) who, frustrated by his sexual impotence, plots to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, a disparate coalition of political leaders makes a last-ditch effort to avert apocalypse. Peter Sellers plays three separate parts, including Dr. Strangelove, a weapons specialist with Nazi sympathies, while George C. Scott stands out as a hawkish general. The film was initially intended to be a dramatic examination of the Cold War (based on Peter George's book Red Alert), but Kubrick determined that it would be more successful as a parody. Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a subversive masterpiece that established Kubrick as an unmatched stylist and bitter ironist. 

The moment in which an air force major (played by Slim Pickens) rides atop a falling nuclear weapon is one of the film’s most lasting images. Originally, the film concluded with a lavish pie fight within the War Room. The section was omitted, and the rewritten conclusion depicts a sequence of nuclear explosions set to Vera Lynn's iconic World War II song "We'll Meet Again." 

Dr. Strangelove's development was hampered by a plagiarism action involving the 1964 picture Fail Safe, which was based on a book similar to Red Alert, and the fact that the picture's premiere was initially scheduled for Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was killed.

Kubrick deftly weaves social critique onto an otherwise straightforward Cold War narrative. Kubrick clearly underlines a sense of dramatic irony in practically every scene via staging and language, most notably in the Strategic Air Command's slogan, "Peace is Our Profession,"

Kubrick deftly incorporates this lethal irony to demonstrate what occurs when communication is disrupted. Fundamentally, the tragedy is the loss of discourse during translation, which invites the question: Who is responsible? What is both funny and distressing about the film’s escalation into nuclear annihilation is that many of the film's ill-advised scenarios (such as the mishandled hotline between President Muffley and Premier Kissov) might have been prevented with appropriate planning and technology. Kubrick, however, does not underplay its baleful repercussions. By portraying caricatures of powerful characters, Kubrick skillfully suggests to the audience his own cynical views of society’s leaders: powerful men who are tragically out of touch with reality and whose paranoia will eventually destroy the world. Gens. Ripper and Turgidson exemplify this craziness. Ripper believes the Soviets have been fluoridating American water supplies to pollute the "precious bodily fluids" of Americans, while Turgidson asserts that a coordinated preemptive attack would restrict reprisal to a "modest" 20 million American deaths. As the adult men quarrel in the War Room, Kubrick wrestles with a world gone mad, warning cogently against naive reliance on a system that may result in destruction and chaos. 

While the Cold War’s immediate terrors have mostly subsided since the debut of "Dr. Strangelove," Kubrick's disturbing images implying the inevitability of nuclear war can nevertheless strike fear and dread – even today. Kubrick consistently infuses "Dr. Strangelove" with contradictory feelings of exhilaration and terror, patriotic enthusiasm and troubling hate, until the film's terrifying conclusion. As the soothing verses of Vera Lynn's optimistic World War II anthem "We'll Meet Again" plays on the soundtrack, coordinated scenes of nuclear explosions fill the screen, a disturbing vision of darkness unleashed. 

The following extract is taken from an interview with Terry Southern by Lee Hill in which Southern discusses his experience of working with Stanley Kubrick.

What was the status of the ‘Dr. Strangelove’ script before Stanley Kubrick decided to hire you in the fall of 1962?

When Kubrick and Peter George first began to do the script, they were trying to stick to the melodrama in George’s book, Red Alert [published under the pseudonym ‘Peter Bryant’... There was an outline. They didn’t go into a treatment but went straight into a script. They had a few pages and in fact had started shooting, but in a very tentative way. Kubrick realized that it was not going to work. You can’t do the end of the world in a conventionally dramatic way or boy–meets–girl way. You have to do it in some way that reflects your awareness that it is important and serious. It has to be a totally different treatment, and black humor is the way to go. That was Kubrick’s decision.

When you first got together with Kubrick, did you start changing the tone of the script right away?

Yeah, after the first day, at our first meeting, he told me what the situation was. All those things that I’ve told you were his very words. ‘It’s too important to be treated in the conventional way. It’s unique! The end of the world is surely a unique thing, so forget about the ordinary treatment of subject and go for something like a horror film.’ He decided to use humor. The flavor that attracted him in my novel The Magic Christian could be effective in this new approach. He would talk about the mechanics of making it totally credible and convincing in terms of the fail-safe aspect and then how to make that funny. And the way you make it funny, because the situation is absurd, is by dealing with it in terms of the dialogue and characters.

I’m curious about the day-to-day working relationship with Kubrick as you wrote the film from the preproduction period through the actual shooting.

Well, after my first day in London when he told me what he had in mind, I got settled into a hotel room not far from where he lived in Kensington. That night, I wrote the first scene, and then he picked me up at four-thirty the next morning in a limo. The limo was a big Rolls or Bentley. We rode in the backseat with the light on. There was this desk that folded down. It was very much like a train compartment. It was totally dark outside. If it got light, we would pull the shades down. He would read the script pages; then we would rewrite them and prepare them for shooting when we got to the studio, which was about an hour to an hour–and–a–half drive depending on the fog.

Kubrick is notorious for his organizational mania.

Yes, he loved nothing so much than to go into stationery stores and buy gadgets and organizational aids.

You hear all these fantastic stories about how Kubrick lives. Did you visit his home much when you were in London?

Yes, several times. He has a castlelike structure, a grand old mansion, which has this two–projector screening room. It has electric fences and security devices. It has everything except a moat. He’s super private because he lives for his children. He lives in comfort and luxury in almost total isolation.

Peter Sellers was going to play all four parts originally, including the Texan bombardier. I understand you coached Sellers on his accent.

The financing of the film was based almost 100 percent on the notion that Sellers would play multiple roles. About a week before shooting, he sent us a telegram saying he could not play a Texan, because he said it was one accent he was never able to do. Kubrick asked me to make a tape of a typical Texan accent. When Sellers arrived on the set, he plugged into this Swiss tape recorder with huge, monster earphones, and listened to the tape I made. He looked ridiculous, but he mastered the accent in about ten minutes. Then Sellers sprained his ankle and couldn’t make the moves going up and down the ladder in the bomb bay. So he was out of that part. The doctor told him he couldn’t do it. Then it was a question of replacing him. Stanley had set such store by Sellers’s acting that he felt he couldn’t replace him with just another actor. He wanted an authentic John Wayne. The part had been written with Wayne as the model.
Did Kubrick ever try to get Wayne to play the role?

Wayne was approached, and dismissed it immediately. Stanley hadn’t been in the States for some time, so he didn’t know anything about television programs. He wanted to know if I knew of any suitable actors on TV. I said there was this very authentic, big guy who played on Bonanza, named Dan Blocker. Big Hoss. Without seeing him, Kubrick sent off a script to his agent. Kubrick got an immediate reply: ‘It is too pinko for Mr. Blocker.’ Stanley then remembered Slim Pickens from One-Eyed Jacks [1961], which he [had] almost directed for Marlon Brando, until Brando acted in such a weird way that he forced Stanley out.

When Pickens was hired and came to London, wasn’t that the first time he had ever been out of the States?
Yes, in fact it was the first time he had ever been anywhere outside the rodeo circuit as a clown or the backlots of Hollywood. Stanley was very concerned about Slim being in London for the first time and asked me to greet him. I got some Wild Turkey from the production office and went down to the soundstage. It was only ten in the morning, so I asked Slim if it was too early for a drink. He said, ‘It’s never too early for a drink.’ So I poured out some Wild Turkey in a glass and asked him if he had gotten settled in his room. ‘Hell, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Just a pair of loose shoes, a tight pussy, and a warm place to shit.’ One of Kubrick’s assistants, a very public-school type, couldn’t believe his ears, but went ‘Ho, ho, ho’ anyway.

Finally, I took Slim over to the actual set where we were shooting. I left him alone for a few minutes to talk to Stanley. While we were standing there talking, Stanley went, ‘Look there’s James Earl Jones on a collision course with Slim. Better go over and introduce them.’ James Earl Jones knew that Pickens had just worked with Brando. Jones was impressed and asked Pickens about the experience of working with Brando. ‘Well, I worked with Marlon Brando for six months, and in that time, I never saw him do one thing that wasn’t all man and all white.’ Slim didn’t even realize what he was saying. I glanced at James Earl Jones, and he didn’t crack [a smile]. Slim replacing Sellers worked out well because, unbeknownst to me at the time, the actor that was playing the co-pilot [Jack Creley] was taller and stockier than Sellers. Whereas Slim was about the same size [as the co-pilot] and more convincingly fulfilled the intention of this larger-than-life Texan.

To what extent did Peter Sellers’ improvisation depart from the shooting script?

It was minimal. It wasn’t like Lolita, where he improvised a great deal. His improvisational bits in Strangelove were very specific. One scene that comes to mind is when [Sterling] Hayden goes into the bathroom to kill himself, Peter’s lines are: ‘Oh, go into the bathroom and have a brushup . . . good idea.’ Sellers changed that to: ‘Splash a bit of cold water on the back of the neck . . .,’ which is more of a British thing. That was good.

What was Columbia’s reaction to this subversive black comedy that the studio had helped to finance?

Columbia was embarrassed by the picture and tried to get people to see Carl Foreman’s The Victors instead. At the time we thought we were going to be totally wiped out. People would call up the box office and be told there were no seats for Strangelove and asked if they would like to see The Victors instead. Gradually, the buzz along the rialto built word of mouth in our favor.

Wasn’t there some falling-out between Kubrick and yourself over screen credit following the film’s release?

Stanley’s obsession with the auteur syndrome – that his films are by Stanley Kubrick – overrides any other credit at all. Not just writing but anything. He’s like Chaplin in that regard. That’s the reason why he rarely uses original music in his films. [Since I had] written this great best-seller, Candy, which was number one on the New York Times best-seller list for something like twenty-one weeks, my reputation eclipsed Stanley’s; so I got total credit for all the Strangelove success in Life, the New York Times, and other publications. The credit I was getting was just so overwhelming and one sided that naturally Stanley was freaking out. He took out an ad in Variety saying I was only one of the three writers on the film, the other two being Peter George, and himself. He just lashed out. But it was like an overnight thing. I wrote a letter to the New York Times explaining that there was no mystery involved, and that I was brought in to just help with the screenplay.