Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Both Irwin Kershner and Mario Monicelli died; i've just seen "The Passionate Thief", one of Monicelli's comedy-dramas, which was an excellent example of his particular style. Irwin Kershner's legacy is rather like Alec Guinness: it's gotten swamped by the "Star Wars" mystique.

Irwin Kershner's early movies ("The Hoodlum Priest", "The Luck of Ginger Coffey") were mired in distribution problems, which always happened with independent films during the 1950s and 1960s. When he tried to work in the studio system ("A Fine Madness" and "The Flim-Flam Man"), he wound up embroiled in difficulties, where his films were taken away and re-cut.

But his career is an example of how things turn out. Kershner was teaching film throughout the 1960s, and almost two decades later, one of his students would ask him to direct a film. The student was George Lucas and the film was "The Empire Strikes Back". And that was the lead in terms of all the obituaries.

Movies like "The Hoodlum Priest" and "The Luck of Ginger Coffey" are representative of the independent movies of the period (late 1950s-early 1960s): mostly black-and-white, with stories that dealt with "off-beat" subjects which weren't handled in Hollywood. Kershner's movies weren't as startling as movies like "On the Bowery" or "Shadows", but they were part of the attempt to create an "alternative" to Hollywood.

And the fact that Kershner's most noted credit would be the essence of the Hollywood system of the 1970s-1980s is perhaps symptomatic of most careers in the movies.


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