Seduced and Abandoned (R15)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner7/11/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Hugely entertaining, frequently hilarious documentary that explores the present-day realities of film financing and offers insightful comments on the film industry in general, as well as a meditation on the power of cinema and death itself.

What's it all about?
Directed by James Toback, Seduced and Abandoned (which takes its title from a 1964 Italian film) is a documentary that sees Toback and actor Alec Baldwin travel to the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in order to try and secure funding for their next project, a proposed Iraq-set update of Last Tango in Paris starring Baldwin and Neve Campbell, called Last Tango in Tikrit. To that end, they interview a host of financiers, producers and industry insiders, who are all rather brutal about the kind of money they can expect for their proposed cast, causing Toback to consider making various changes, such as replacing Campbell with Jessica Chastain (though still keeping Campbell in the film and just killing her off or making her Baldwin's character's ex-wife).

In addition, Toback and Baldwin interview a number of actors and directors (including Chastain, Ryan Gosling, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Berenice Bejo, Diane Kruger, James Caan, Bernardo Bertolucci and Francis Ford Coppola), each of whom offers insightful comment about acting, directing and the general state of the film industry. On top of that, Toback and Baldwin ruminate on the immortality that cinema can bestow (symbolised by a prominent photo of Marilyn Monroe) and unexpectedly ask each of their interviewees whether they are ready for death.

The Good
The prospect of whether or not Last Tango in Tikrit is a spoof project or not (it certainly sounds like it is, but who knows?) scarcely matters, since Toback and Baldwin never play it for laughs and the film isn't interested in perpetuating a Borat-style prank on unsuspecting Cannes attendees. Instead, the project serves as a feasible proposal with which to elicit a number of brutally frank opinions from industry insiders – Baldwin is repeatedly dismissed as a TV actor because of his success on 30 Rock, while they are both told that Campbell (a friend of Toback's thanks to a previous collaboration) simply isn't “bankable”; the problem is that they're right – as you listen to the pitch for Last Tango, you can't imagine ever wanting to see it.

The Great
Baldwin and Toback make a great double-act and are both revealingly frank about their respective careers and prospects – Baldwin in particular is looking to parlay his 30 Rock success into a revitalised film career. Similarly, the interviewees are highly entertaining, particularly Scorsese, Polanksi, Ryan Gosling (acknowledged by the film to be currently the most bankable male star in Hollywood), who turns out to be a riveting teller of acting anecdotes, and James Caan, who illustrates the depressing reality for aging stars and admits that his phone doesn't ring as often as it used to.

Worth seeing?
Seduced and Abandoned is a fascinating, insightful and hugely entertaining documentary that's a treat for film fans. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Seduced and Abandoned (R15)
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Content updated: 23/01/2020 17:18

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