I’m sure it was obvious to Joseph L. Mankiewicz that the pipsqueak with a Hasselblad around her neck was having an out-of-body experience “directing” him and another of cinema’s giants, Jeanne Moreau, “Please stand closer and angle toward each other, and please look directly at the lens.”
We were backstage, pre-awards ceremony at the 1983 Berlin Film Festival. They were jury members. After a few frames, Moreau dashed away and I asked Mankiewicz if I could shoot him alone. He agreed. I wanted him to go up a few stairs (so that I could shoot him from below, making him look as monumental as his reputation). In position, he looked at me and asked, “Kid, what are a couple Jews like us doing in a town like this?” I knew he had worked for Paramount in Berlin in the late 1920s as a translator of intertitles, knew he was (sort of) kidding, but couldn’t begin to wrap my head around how I’d gotten to be part of his first person plural.
New York Film Festival’s Retrospective, “Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast,” (October 1 through October 14) will screen the great writer/director’s 20 theatrical features and his one made-for-TV film (“A Christmas Carol”). Mankiewicz won both the Best Directing and Best Writing Screenplay Oscars two years in a row: for “A Letter to Three Wives” in 1950; and for “All About Eve” (which also won Best Picture) in 1951. But even if you’re anticipating every one of the famous lines, watching “All About Eve” on Alice Tully’s giant, shimmering screen (Wednesday, October 1, 9:00 pm) will be an unforgettable moviegoing experience, and is the way it was ideally meant to be seen.
Sergei Parajanov’s heart-grabbingly beautiful 1968 film, “The Color of Pomegranates,” tells the story of the inner and outer lives of Sayat Nova, the 18th century Armenian/Georgian poet. A meticulously restored print will be shown in the New York Film Festival’s Revivals section on Thursday, October 2.
With a seemingly endless series of stunning images–still lives with fish, books, flowers, thorns; an exquisite woman in extravagant costumes and headdresses looking through lace; rows of black-clad monks eating pomegranates as if they were apples; a sheep mob surrounding a recently deceased religious figure; the poet’s cloak on paving stones, mimicking his shadow–an entire, incomparable world is created.
I also photographed Parajanov backstage–this time at Lincoln Center, during NYFF26. I don’t know who gave him the bouquet but it was the perfect prop.