Jun 30, 2016


'Such intimacy of collaboration between a writer and director is rare. The days of Howard Hawks playing backgammon on set with Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, or John Ford’s marathon poker sessions with Dudley Nichols, or Hitchcock’s long gourmand lunches with John Michael Hayes have passed into legend, but the franchise farm that is modern Hollywood tends to work against such recurring collaborations. The Harry Potter films were all written by Steve Kloves but farmed out to different directors—similarly the “Bourne” and “Captain America” movies. Martin Scorsese teamed up with writer Paul Schrader three times, for “Taxi Driver” in 1976, “Raging Bull” in 1980, during the making of which they fell out, before reteaming for “Bringing out the Dead,” in 1999, from Joe Connelly’s novel about fried ambulance drivers, itself an homage to Scorsese’s New York, and thus introducing the danger of a kind of creative feedback loop. “The heroine’s called Mary,” Schrader warned the director over dinner. “Watch out for the Catholic symbols. You’ve already done that in ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Raging Bull.’” If self-consciousness is the danger of such reunions, Mathison and Spielberg put it to work for them. Audiences have good reason to fear whenever filmmakers armed with digital paint boxes address the unlimited potential of the imagination as their subject—as Disney’s recent “Alice Through the Looking Glass” showed, C.G.I. imaginariums have a tendency towards gaudy over-crowdedness—but the images of Dahl’s dram country, briefly described in the book, have a classical, organic simplicity: a stream running uphill, a large oak tree reflected in a pool against a starry night sky, its inverted reflection a portal to the dream world. That tree could easily have been tended by Spielberg and Mathison's botanist extraterrestrial from 1982.  Like "E.T." the BFG is a two-hander, a record of a friendship, as well as a rekindled conversation between Mathison and Spielberg, the dream-catcher-turned-corporate-entertainment giant, about the nature of cinematic dreams.' — From my piece for The New Yorker

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