“I like the surprise of the curtain going up, revealing what’s behind it.” –John Schlesinger The British director John Schlesinger was one of the cinema’s most dynamic and influential artists. Now, in Conversations with John Schlesinger, acclaimed writer Ian Buruma, Schlesinger’s nephew, reveals the director’s private world in a series of in-depth interviews conducted in the later years of the director’s life. Here they discuss the impact of Schlesinger’s personal life on his art. As his films so readily demonstrate, Schlesinger is a wonderful storyteller, and he serves up fascinating and provocative recollections of growing up in a Jewish family during World War II, his sexual coming-of-age as a gay man in conformist 1950s England, his emergence as an artist in the “Swinging 60s,” and the roller-coaster ride of his career as one of the most prominent Hollywood directors of his time. Schlesinger also discusses his artistic philosophy and approach to filmmaking, recounting stories from the sets of his masterpieces, including Midnight Cowboy; Sunday, Bloody Sunday; Marathon Man; and The Day of the Locust.
How does an accomplished historian of Asia (Inventing Japan) come to write about an Oscar-winning director? Buruma, it turns out, is Schlesinger's nephew-as a small child, he even had a brief cameo in one of his uncle's earliest short productions. Their personal rapport creates a leisurely pace, so it isn't until a third of the way through that the conversation turns to Schlesinger's first major directing effort, 1962's A Kind of Loving. The veteran director has amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes about actors like Jon Voight and Laurence Olivier, but a debilitating stroke (Schlesinger died in 2003) ended the talks before he could discuss his final films, including the Madonna vehicle The Next Best Thing (not, Buruma suggests, that he would have had anything good to say about the experience). Schlesinger feels his limitations keenly-"I've never been a critics' darling," he admits-but offers perceptive insights into the reception of his frank treatment of controversial subjects. In fact, he believed, his most famous film, Midnight Cowboy (1969), couldn't get made in today's Hollywood, its treatment of homosexuality and male hustling too raw for skittish studios. A fuller consideration of Schlesinger's work is still needed, but these informal dialogues will do until then. Photos. (On sale Jan. 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2005
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