Paul Bartel (1938-2000), best known as a character actor, was also a director with an incisive (and highly entertaining) take on violence as comedy, sexuality, perversity, race, greed and social-climbing.
“The Films of Paul Bartel,” the first retrospective of his work, includes his most famous film, “Eating Raoul” (1982). He stars with his frequent lead actress, sexy Warhol superstar Mary Woronov, as Paul and Mary Bland, Los Angeles cannibals, trying to find the funding to open a restaurant. Premiering at the 1982 New York Film Festival (and press screening a few days earlier, ironically on Yom Kippur), then-New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said that the film is a “comedy form that remains equidistant between put-down and send-up,” adding that “‘Eating Raoul’ is an extremely nice comedy about people who know that niceness is next to godliness and that sex is simply disgusting.”
The series, guest curated by David Savage, also includes cult favorite “Death Race 2000” (1975), which Bartel directed for producer Roger Corman, starring David Carradine, Mary Woronov and Sylvester Stallone; the NYC premiere of the newly restored print of “The Secret Cinema” (1968), a very funny short film about paranoia; “Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills,” (1989) Bartel’s “answer to the bed-hopping French farce,” with Jacqueline Bisset and Mary Woronov; and “Lust in the Dust” (1985), a western parody, with still handsome 1950s matinee idol Tab Hunter (who also wrote the screenplay), as a cowboy, and Divine as dance hall girl Rosie.
“The Films of Paul Bartel” opens today at Anthology Film Archives and runs through Thursday, October 19. Special guests include Stephen B. Armstrong (author, “Paul Bartel: The Life & Films”), Q&A after the “Death Race 2000,” show on Friday, Oct 13 at 7:00 pm; Bob Schulenberg (co-producer, “The Secret Cinema,” and production designer, “Eating Raoul”), Q&A panel after the short films program, Saturday, October 14 at 4:15 pm; and Wallace Shawn (“Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills”), Q&A after the “Scenes…,” screening on Sunday, October 15 at 6:30 pm.
I was assigned to photograph Paul Bartel (individually) and his “Lust in the Dust” stars Tab Hunter and Divine (together) at the Parker Meridien for the Village Voice. When I arrived, there was a crowd in the suite’s living room. I chose to shoot the actors first and I asked Hunter’s boyfriend, a producer of the film, and the publicist to please wait in the bedroom. Bartel watched from across the living room.
Hunter and Divine were, as expected, really fun to shoot, and when I finished, Bartel and I went into the bedroom for a different environment. Divine accompanied us. Everyone was crowded together on the bed, doing work. I rearranged them a bit and added Divine reading the newspaper, and Bartel in the foreground, looking at the camera. The picture still makes me laugh, and also reminds me of a great, and significantly more somber, portrait Diane Arbus shot of Marcello Mastroianni in another hotel room, her image commenting on how film publicity is not always glamorous.