Men and Mayhem

Ted Kotcheff, NYC, 10/3/12

I photographed Ted Kotcheff in 2012. It was a few years before I developed a very late-to-the-party fascination with Olivia Benson (and crew) and started working my way through, in no particular order, 400+ episodes of SVU, 285 of which he had executive produced.

Kotcheff’s third theatrical feature, “Wake in Fright” (1971), is a horrific (and riveting) view of men out of control, acting on impulse and seemingly without reason. But unlike the show the incompetent-in-chief and and his co-conspirators in DC put on every day, the film is well-crafted fiction.

“Wake in Fright,” which premiered at Cannes, had long been unavailable and believed to exist only as poor-quality print. But after a decade-long search, the original negative was unearthed in Pittsburgh and used to produce the new, shockingly vibrant print, which Film Forum’s repertory programmer (extraodinaire) Bruce Goldstein first screened  in October 2012. I then wrote:

John Grant, a sophisticated young teacher, posted to a (literally) two-house town in the dusty Australian outback, dismisses his students for Christmas break, downs a beer and catches a train to a much larger but only slightly less remote town, “The Yabba,” for a one-night stopover before a flight back to civilization in Sidney.

But after a few beers–and then a few more–Grant (Gary Bond, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Peter O’Toole) loses his money in a coin toss betting game (with curious rules). And then with his new mates sinks into days of alcohol, sexual misadventure, and the horrifying  brutality of  a kangaroo hunt. He emerges from the madness transformed, dirty and full of self-loathing.

Tonight at Film Forum, after a 7:00 pm screening of “Wake in Fright,” Kotcheff will be interviewed by Bruce Goldstein, with an audience Q&A, followed by a signing in the lobby of his new book, “Director’s Cut: My Life in Film,” which will be available at the concession.

Kotcheff  has directed other films about male mayhem (“Weekend At Bernie’s” and the inaugural Rambo movie, “First Blood”) and will appear in person at the Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn for a screening of the latter, the Stallone classic, on Wednesday, May 3 at 7:00 pm, for a Q&A and a signing of his new memoir.

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