Teaser Trailer of Upcoming Feature Film

Daniel Kremer's upcoming feature film Raise Your Kids on Seltzer is in the editing stages, with a projected mid-2015 film festivals release.  The film tells the story of a pair of married retired cult-busters whose lives are thrown into turmoil when they receive a disturbing letter from the father of an ex-client of theirs.  When they take a new cult-busting job after years of inactivity, all hell breaks loose. Starring much of the San Francisco Bay Area cast of Ezer Kenegdo, which is still in post-production, Raise Your Kids on Seltzer is a very unusual motion picture "for those who'd rather not drink the Kool-Aid."

Cool Sounds from the Vaults: A Cinematic Detective Story

Previously published in Filmmaker Magazine on June 23, 2014.

Having a “Scorsese moment” could mean many things. If you walk into a bar feeling like the flurry of activity around you is grinding into slow motion and you hear the Stones playing on the nearby stereo, that qualifies as a Scorsese moment. Check. If you’ve just taken a few moments to assert or reassert your machismo while standing wide-eyed in front of a mirror, that could also be a Scorsese moment. Check. Or, if in standing your ground during an intense argument, you say something colorful but no less inspired…and, yes, generously laced with four-letter words, ’nuff said. Check. There are other varieties of this as well, but chances are that if you’ve lived in New York long enough, you’ve had at least one such moment.

I recently had what I like to call “my Scorsese moment.” I do live in New York, but it did not involve any of the scenarios I recounted above. The iconic director is known, perhaps secondarily, for his burgeoning involvement with film preservation and restoration. In 1990, he founded The Film Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the protection of film elements festering carelessly in vaults that are deteriorating with age. Prior to that, he oversaw many individual restorations, including one for one of my all-time favorite films, Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). Recently, as chairman of the Cannes Classics committee, he rescued Ted Kotcheff’s excellent Wake in Fright (1971), while simultaneously his World Cinema Project rescued unsung international films like Ritwik Ghatak’s A River Called Titas (1973). He is among the elite few of those in power who have the wherewithal to recognize what should be obvious — that our cinema past is part of our broader cultural heritage and that it is in grave danger. Because of this, he has committed himself to tirelessly insuring cinema’s magical permanence. You might say he is a motion picture archaeologist.

Every filmmaker and cineaste, it seems, has a pet film and a pet filmmaker they champion and wish to see given their due. Scorsese, in some respect, is the ultimate righteous man of the cinema. He wants to see respect given to most any pieces of old celluloid that sit in vaults, whether they are widely appreciated or neglected and forgotten.

Granted, my recent Scorsese moment only involved preserving a single film, relative to the countless number of preservation projects he has undertaken (often simultaneously), but the detective work that surrounded the process, and the dogged perseverance I was forced to maintain throughout, made me respect and applaud Scorsese even more for his prodigious efforts. When I met him briefly about two years ago, the very first thing I made sure to do was express my deep gratitude for what he does on behalf of film lovers who find our cinema past vital and important.

For the last year and a half, I have been writing the first book on filmmaker Sidney J. Furie, a manuscript that is both biography and monograph. The book, detailing the life and career of the director of The Ipcress File (1965), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), The Boys in Company C (1978), The Entity (1982) and many others, is currently due for publication from University Press of Kentucky’s Screen Classics Series in the fall of 2015. This is the same press that published Nick Dawson’s wonderful book on the similarly shafted Hal Ashby, who had also been scantly covered before its 2009 publication.

It has been a labor of love and an ultimate expression of admiration to a filmmaker who has been a hero of mine from age eleven, making my first amateur Hi-8 films by mimicking shots from The Ipcress File, which showed one day after school on Bravo (in its early/mid-’90′s incarnation, when old movies were shown and before reality TV took them over). Over the years, it actively pained me to see Sidney forgotten, maligned and marginalized, as I came to equally appreciate his other work, especially his British New Wave classic The Leather Boys (1963). While writing the book, I became quite close with the 81-year-old Furie. He became a friend and mentor. I have had a number of discussions with him, both taped and untaped, about his career and his films, which I believe, when seen collectively as a body of work, are a treasure trove for those who value auteurist analysis, despite his befuddling skill as a genre chameleon who turned to helming direct-to-video action films beginning in the ’90s. As he himself told me, “Making a movie, any movie, is my golf. It’s what I do to enjoy myself.”

Throughout my coverage, there was one film that stuck out, both because of its “cool” title, its subject matter and its status as a true pioneer effort. A Cool Sound from Hell, shot in Toronto in 1958 and released in England in 1960 shortly after Sidney’s arrival there, is the story of a small Canadian branch of the Beat Generation, starring Anthony Ray, one of the lead actors in John Cassavetes’s Shadows (1959) and the son of Nicholas Ray. Having won the Canadian Director’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, Sidney has rightfully been recognized as one of Canada’s cinematic forefathers in that he mounted two independent feature-length film projects in a time in Canadian history when there was neither an easy way to make such projects nor a way of getting the final products seen inside their native country. Canada imported films from the U.S. and England, but neglected and outright rejected their own product, or what little there was of it.
“I remember in 1957 taking my first Canadian feature, A Dangerous Age, to a Canadian distributor,” Sidney recalls. “He looked at it and said, ‘Throw it in the garbage. It will never play in a Canadian theater. Just forget about it.’” A year later, the film picks up excellent reviews and good press on England’s Odeon circuit, with the Evening Standard proclaiming, “Only 24, but what a filmmaker!” This became habit with Canadian cinema. In 1965, Don Owen’s first independent feature Nobody Waved Good-bye had to play to good reviews in the U.S. before returning for a contained, no-frills release in its home country. Donald Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road (1970), had to suffer some of the same slings and arrows before becoming Canada’s first big hit.

As Canadian film writer Martin Knelman aptly asks in his book This is Where We Came In: The Career and Character of Canadian Film, “How can one explain that Canadians have been content to exist for most of the twentieth century without films of their own, while living next to a country whose movies have culturally colonized the world?” Thankfully, things have gotten a bit better there since Knelman’s frustrated and frustrating question was posed. Sidney once told the British press, “I wanted to start a Canadian film industry, but nobody cared.” As the old joke goes, why did the Canadian cross the road? To get to the middle.

False Leads

A Cool Sound from Hell as a missing piece of Sidney’s career and as a piece of Canadian film history fascinated me. What also fascinated me was the fact that, in 1958, Anthony Ray was shuttling between New York City and Toronto to make Shadows and A Cool Sound from Hell respectively. There seemed to be an odd kinship between these two pictures.

In doing an extensive search on Google, I was (as the Brits would say) gobsmacked when I discovered that a DVD was selling at Best Buy that claimed to be A Cool Sound from Hell! I ordered the disc for $20 and exclaimed, “Well, that was easy!” Three weeks later, the package arrived. Opening the padded envelope revealed a badly designed disc entitled “Cool Space Stuff,” an hour of generic NASA footage with bad Muzak playing in the background. What the hell was this?! Talk about the air going out of your tires! This defeat revved my engines even more to actually find the film…somewhere.

I ordered the same disc that claimed to be A Cool Sound from Hell on the Barnes & Noble website, thinking that perhaps a shipping error had been made. Again, my hopes were dashed and my resolve was heightened. More space shuttle launchings and bad Muzak. Caveat emptor! I just dismissed it as a strange computer error at the distribution company. Sidney and I have long considered it an incredibly odd red herring. Up to the time of the publication, this falsely represented DVD is still being sold on both vendor websites.  The Library of Congress, while listing the film, only held a record of its previous existence and cited it in a survey of jazz in films (ironically, yours truly has the same kind of Library of Congress listing, and my first feature is cited in the same survey). The Canadian National Archives, while having restored and housed a print of Sidney’s first Canadian indie A Dangerous Age, had nothing whatsoever on A Cool Sound from Hell. “How typical of Canada,” a prominent Canadian actor friend of mine told me in a cynical tenor.

The cards were stacking more and more against me and my quest. Sidney’s friend Paul showed me a book about Canadian filmmaker Don Owen. Owen played a bit part as a poet for Furie, and in his book, A Cool Sound from Hell was referred to as lost. Director Ted Kotcheff, when discussing Wake in Fright‘s restoration, mentioned that an acquaintance of his from the Toronto International Film Festival, who specialized in films shot in Toronto, could not locate the film either. Other sources, including a site called Canuxploitation, likewise used the word “lost” to designate its status. It had vanished without a trace, clouded by decades of disinterest that made forgetting a foregone conclusion. I became more and more crestfallen.

Despite everything, I became determined to find A Cool Sound from Hell, and I was miffed because these bad discs being sold made a substantive Google search more difficult. I hit up various friends on the video grey market (i.e. bootlegs of older, unavailable titles) who had often sent me ultra-rare stuff in the past. No go. My best friend (and cinematographer) Aaron, who has always been the best audience throughout this literary project vis a vis my Furie yammering, then mentioned that he had a friend named Frank studying documentary cinema at the British Film Institute.

Aaron and I had seen a wonderful BBC documentary called Hollywood U.K. (1993), a comprehensive four-part program that examined the British film industry in the 1960′s. In the third episode, titled “Strangers in the City”, series narrator Richard Lester (yes, the filmmaker) discusses Sidney Furie’s arrival in England and how A Cool Sound from Hell had been featured as a double-bill with Karel Reisz’s block-busting hit Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). An old British Pathe newsreel of the theater showing both films accompanied Lester’s voice-over. Emblazoned over the theater entrance was A Cool Sound from Hell, in large letters. I remember wanting to jump into the newsreel, Purple Rose of Cairo-style, and buy a ticket.

“No,” I told Aaron, “BFI seems like a bureaucracy to me, and it’s a longshot that they have it.” For some reason, I was quite doubtful about the prospect. I think perhaps I had begun to lose hope, having passive-aggressively thrown in the towel. When he persisted, I emphasized, “Why would they have it? The original distributor, Galaworldfilm, is obscure and long defunct!” Frustrated with my strange stubbornness on the matter, he implored me to reconsider. When it took me awhile to respond, Aaron took it upon himself to contact his buddy and get a BFI contact with whom I could consult. When I got the e-mail address of a woman at the BFI National Archives named Lynn, I decided to give it a shot just for kicks and giggles, not expecting anything. In this life, we usually always like to be right about things. But in this instance, was I ever glad to be wrong!

Discovery and Excavation

On May 1, 2013, we received a response from Lynn: “Dear Daniel Kremer and Sidney Furie, Thank you both for your enquiry. The BFI holds a master picture and sound negative only – for the title A Cool Sound from Hell (1959). The cost to access the negs and to digitise to produce viewing material (DVD) will run into several hundreds of pounds. I’m attaching an application form for you to return – should you wish to continue, and I will then obtain a quote for you for the work involved.”

Despite her caveat that things would be expensive if we wanted to undertake digitizing and preserving the film (it ultimately wound up costing quite a few thousand pounds), I was thrilled that the negative still existed, in whatever shape. When Sidney told me to spark the whole thing, Lynn responded to my e-mail by reiterating the considerable cost and by mentioning that a DVD already appeared to be available for purchase in the U.S. “I would therefore assume this would be a far more preferable option for you.” She was referring to the space shuttle disc with the Muzak. I fumed for a few moments about the red herring and reasserted our need.

Once we got the ball rolling, we were asked for proof of copyright and documentation. This is something we could not provide, for obvious reasons. Sidney financed the original film under the banner Caribou Productions with the help of his father, who invested in his second film when the first paid off. He sold the film to a B picture distributor Galaworldfilms on a ten-year lease. Now, we were being asked to provide proof that the copyright rested back with Sidney, a forty-some-year-old document that would have never existed in the first place. Paper trails can be difficult to navigate, let alone one that finds you in the dark, dense forest without crumbs.

I replied in kind, “You must understand that this film is over 50 years old and Caribou Productions was established for the sole purpose of producing A Dangerous Age and A Cool Sound from Hell. It was not a formal production company, had no formal office, letterhead or paperwork. Additionally, it is also highly doubtful that Sidney or Kenneth Rive’s defunct companies possess still existing and/or readily available documentation to support such claims, nor would it probably exist under the aegis of any other outfit or company. The film has literally lain dormant for decades, with no outside interest.” Sidney told me that he would sue if it meant getting the materials back into his possession. Around the time, I read with great interest about how William Friedkin had to sue both Universal and Paramount, not for monetary gain but just to discover who owned the rights to his film Sorcerer (1977). Friedkin’s film, recently crowned a rediscovered masterpiece and given a wide re-release, was caught in a legal stalemate while awaiting its own restoration…and meanwhile, the film elements weren’t getting any younger.

Sidney himself responded to this inconceivable request: “Isn’t a biographer wanting to see a lost film the very purpose for which the BFI was formed? I realize that you need to be vigilant about protecting the donations that you hold in trust, but if a filmmaker who wrote, personally financed and directed a film can’t get access to that film for a biography of that filmmaker’s life and career, than what is the purpose of even holding the materials in the first place? The last thing I want to get into is who gave you the materials to begin with. I certainly didn’t authorize it and I never gave my permission as the copyright holder for anyone else to give it to you. The UK distributor certainly had no legal right to do so. Of course, I’m glad you have it at all. I only mention that if you want to stick to legalities, it works both ways.”

Sidney is one of the most passionate personalities I’ve ever encountered, and that facet of him had come out in fine form. Yes, we were both eternally grateful that the BFI held the materials, but never bargained about having to fight to see it once it was located. Our pleas seemed to do the trick for the BFI, and, after weeks of back-and-forth on this point, the inspection of the elements was mounted.

In the meanwhile, to get into the mood of mounting a preservation project, I started reading Ronald Haver’s book about the detective work surrounding the restoration of George Cukor’s A Star is Born (1954). That film had been cut down by a meddling Jack Warner from its 182-minute premiere length to a release version of 154 minutes, much to the horror of the director, who always harbored resentment and hurt about what had been done to a film to which he felt close. In 1983, Haver took it upon himself to find the missing pieces of the 182-minute version and, through a great deal of detective work, premiered a 176-minute version the day after Cukor’s death. I was rapt by Haver’s account of the false leads, the heartaches, the leg work and the time and energy that went into the restored cut of A Star is Born.

In the middle of reading this, we received news of the inspection. The condition of the 35mm mute dupe negative was noted as “ok,” i.e. slightly shrunken and bearing some scratches. The pH acetic level on the film tested at P1, thankfully the lowest level. The bad news was that the magnetic sound track and one of the 35mm reels had gone missing. A search was about to be conducted in the BFI’s vaults. Without the sound and a missing part of the story, what use would it all be?

Finding Hell’s Cool Sounds

Months passed as the BFI folks searched for these missing elements. Sidney and I remained hopeful, but were prepared for the worst. At this point, I was prepared to shell out just to view what existed of the soundless reels. I worked away on the book, interviewing various actors and crew members with whom Sidney worked over his more than 55-year career. I watched other films that I knew had been excavated and preserved, but whereas I was grateful for the salvaging of these other films, I pined to see my own restoration project fully realized. It was part idle dreaming, part envy, part compulsion, part something else. Scorsese probably suffered worse battle scars in this endeavor than what we’ve had to withstand, I thought.

Sidney told me during this waiting period, “Don’t get your hopes up too much. It’s not really a good film, but it’s important for you to see for the book.” I hoped he was just being modest or underselling it for some other reason. In any case, good or bad, it was an important piece of film history. This was a true grass roots independent production, written, produced, financed and directed by Sidney, shot in 10 days, on little money and resources, on the streets of Toronto. It predated many of the other films labelled as independent filmmaking landmarks. Even if it didn’t win medals and statuettes for quality, that counted for something in my book. As Sidney told me in our original taping sessions, “It was just me, the cameraman, the sound man and the actors on Dangerous Age and Cool Sound. It was extremely intimate.”

We received good news in the fall of 2013. They located both the magnetic sound track (a revised mix track dated June 29, 1959) and the missing reel, both having been misfiled under the title “Beat Generation.” The magnetic track had tested with dangerously high acetic levels, but they transferred the audio to a digital WAV file with minimal damage. When a Canadian donor (who shall remain anonymous) stepped up to the plate to finance the preservation/restoration project, we were ready to go, and I was ready to inspect the elements myself: 6,267 feet of film, translating to a relatively modest 72 minutes of screen-time.

In something of a cosmic moment, Lynn sent us a list of development, post and telecine houses in London from which we had to choose to have the film’s work done. Near the top of that contact list was the name Tony Ray, who worked for a post-house in London called Dragon We, of course, knew it wasn’t the same Tony Ray as the actor in the film, but it caused Sidney to exclaim, “It’s a sign! An omen! That’s our man! Take our stuff to Tony Ray!” We had a laugh, one that made both of us feel oddly fulfilled, that perhaps the aggravation was about to pay off.  The lost film of one of my favorite filmmakers was about to be restored! To me, it was a privilege akin to a Monet enthusiast discovering a painting of his no one ever knew about. We’d come a long way from making annoyed returns to the Best Buy website, and unsuccessfully confronting cheap DVD companies about false product information.

Is It Any Good?

Just a few days ago, I finally received the spec DVD of the BFI’s work on A Cool Sound from Hell, after over a year of false leads, copyright entanglements with a non-existent paper trail, missing reels and mag tracks, the minutia, the waiting, when patience was in short supply and eagerness was in surplus. As Yiddish would have it, I had a case of year-long chronic schpilkes, or “pins and needles of anxiousness.”

Does the film measure up to expectations I might have had for it? As expected, it is not a perfect film. It is, in many ways, the work of a filmmaker still growing and discovering his voice. Against the likes of Kubrick’s similarly flawed Fear and Desire (1953) and other blood-sweat-and-tears debut features, it holds up remarkably well, however. It certainly merits being called an item of fascination, as I would actually consider a few scenes and sequences real standouts (especially the “late-night jazz-blasting motor rave” sequence) because they exude a vigor, a raw ambition, an exuberance, and a glorious youthful impetuosity often present in the best filmmakers’ less-than-perfect debut films, even though this was Furie’s second. I have provided three video samples from the film to consider vis a vis. The film also treats the city of Toronto much like a character in the film, and one could easily write a paper just about its extensive use of Toronto locations.

Upon seeing the film for the first time in over half a century, Sidney found himself flabbergasted. Shortly after viewing it with his wife Linda, he phoned to tell me how grateful he was that I helped to dig up the film, then expressed how proud he was seeing it today. “I was a crazy kid making A Cool Sound from Hell, and it’s written all over every frame,” he said, recounting scenes and moments where he perceived the general influence of On the Waterfront clearly overtaking his 25-year-old self. It was emotionally overpowering to him. The next day, he reiterated his feelings to me in an e-mail: “Indebted to you for pursuing Cool Sound. Seeing it really inspired me.” By inspired, he means concerning his upcoming film project, the first he has written solo since 1961′s During One Night, his first British independent film. He claims this will be his final film. I don’t believe him for a second, because he’s got too much spunk, even for me as a 29-year-old. He says this will be his swan song and a return to personal filmmaking on a shoestring budget, with my own usual crew of young filmmakers, including my usual cinematographer, helping him to achieve it.

The people reading this article are, no doubt, film lovers and buffs, at least to some extent. An impassioned appeal is in order. Preservation has become imperative in an age when digital processes have overtaken photochemical ones, and as elements decaying in vaults face an obliteration that is often deliberate. Yes, deliberate. Recently, on the phone, Ted Kotcheff recounted to me the story of his old editor’s visit to Pinewood when they were in search of the Wake in Fright negative. While leaving the archives that day disenchanted with the chief archivist’s nonchalance, another man standing next to a lined-up row of film cans asked if he recognized any of the titles on the cans. When he did not, the man informed him that these films were slated for demolition, to be burned and discarded, never to be seen again. Later, the last remaining source of Wake in Fright was found in a warehouse in Pittsburgh, in a bin marked “For Destruction.”

There are many grandstanding speeches in George Clooney’s The Monuments Men about the importance of preserving cultural heritage, and how the job of art historians and their comrades is just as important as the job of the soldiers fighting the battles. I’m not making a claim that Clooney’s sanctimonious adventure flick is making a sweepingly original statement, but I cite it perhaps because it is more fresh in the collective consciousness. Although simply a nice little yarn of a movie, it did express a startling and immediate reality, most of all, for our cinematic cultural heritage, one that Scorsese strives to make permanent. With many film prints and photochemical sources comprised of elements that disintegrate, deteriorate and/or remain on the shelf indefinitely while people stuck on the outside of the vaults yearn to see even more obscure titles in the best way they can be seen, the clock is ticking.

As a single person lacking the resources that organizations and committees have at their disposal, I will continue to seek ways, even in small strides, to insure the permanence of filmmakers’ visions. Scorsese, bless him, cannot be the only one doing it. If possible, have yourself a Scorsese moment that doesn’t involve an inspired insult or slow-motion daydreams with an oldies soundtrack. Easier said than done, but I recommend having one that might be everlasting.

A very big thanks to the anonymous donor, and to the British Film Institute, and everyone there who helped us uncover this neglected film. Thanks to Aaron Hollander and Frank Verano, who suggested I contact the BFI. Thanks to Martin Scorsese for the inspiration. And Sidney, ditto.

Current Projects in the Queue

Hello, loyal readers!  I apologize that it has been so long.  I am involved in a great many projects.  For one, I am finishing up the editing of Ezer Kenegdo, getting it ready for sound design, color timing and the works.  I am also editing a personal essay documentary called Ancestral Avenue, about how the house in which I grew up is now an abandoned, vandalized building in what is now a high-risk neighborhood in Pittsburgh called Swissvale.  I visited the grounds with my mother and father, and it was certainly an emotional experience.  The film examines the fragile nature of the places in our memories, and how memory itself is ungraspable.

And as I am sure you all know, I continue to work on my book about filmmaker Sidney J. Furie.  The book's new (and, I believe, final) title is Working the Angles: The Life and Films of Sidney J. Furie. I have interviewed many people with whom Sidney has collaborated, and have gone on more than a few research expeditions, including to the amazing Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills.  I continue to be grateful that I get to chat daily with Sidney throughout this process, both as friend and collaborator.  The book has been picked up by Patrick McGilligan's Screen Classics Series and will hopefully be published sometime next year.

In addition to all this, I am raising funds for my new film, entitled Raise Your Kids on Seltzer.  Please go here to donate on IndieGoGo!  The film tells the story of a middle-aged married couple, Terry and Tessa, who live in the Bay Area. They are exit counselors who have been forced into early retirement.  An "exit counselor" is a professional who is contracted by families to kidnap people away from dangerous cults so they can "deprogram" them at a secure location.  Terry and Tessa's cryptic motto during their often verbally and physically abusive deprogramming process: "Raise Your Kids on Seltzer, Bubble per Bubble!"  They have fallen out of favor in this profession in the years since their 1970's and 80's heyday, when cults were "booming" the most in San Francisco.  There is even a festering lawsuit filed by a disgruntled client following in their wake. For the last fifteen years, to make ends meet, they produce stylish, unintentionally humorous corporate media.  However, they are soon called back to do some exit counseling for one last, very special case. Raise Your Kids on Seltzer is a tender, funny, certainly quirky, and occasionally frightening comedy-drama mainly about how people deal with becoming obsolete.

Trailer for New Film: Ezer Kenegdo, Directed by Deniz Demirer and Daniel Kremer

Throughout this year, I have been in post-production on a new feature film shot predominantly in San Francisco (with other locations in Brooklyn), entitled Ezer Kenegdo, and a trailer is now available to view for the first time.  This very personal film was co-directed and co-written with my friend Deniz Demirer, and explores the frictions that develop when a Chassidic Jew from Crown Heights (played by yours truly, in front of the camera for the first time in six years) travels to San Francisco to visit a Polish-born friend (played by my co-director) with the intent of uncovering why a Bay Area art-world iconoclast (played by independent filmmaking icon Rob Nilsson) seeks to destroy a lifetime's worth of his own work. The film also stars filmmaker Josh Safdie (Daddy Longlegs, The Pleasure of Being Robbed) as my character's Chassidic buddy.  The film is about historical baggage, its weight on the relationships we forge, the complexities of male friendship (especially when it crosses fraught cultural divides), and how art and destruction plays into all of these things. It's the best time I have had shooting a movie in what feels like a really long time.  The cast, recruited mostly among the players in Rob Nilsson's current acting troupe, proved a total and utter joy of collaborative energy.  It was that most mirthful of film births.  We're still looking to maybe fit in a couple interesting cameo appearances into the film, so stay tuned!

We're looking for a late 2013 premiere of Ezer Kenegdo for cast, crew, friends and family -- possibly December. Then we'd look to pump it out to film festivals...with this one, we'll finally be trying for the best of them. I'm also still working on completing my full feature-length cut of my previous 2012 film A Simple Game of Catch.

Might Be a Giant: In Recognition of Director Anthony Harvey

   In the spirit of the article written last year about another unfairly forgotten and marginalized director who had been denied recognition, as an auteur with a rich body of work, I continue the tradition this year with British director Anthony Harvey.  I write this article concurrent with drafting a book on my last subject, Sidney J. Furie.  I am not “cheating on” Furie in the literary sense, as it were.  (1) I feel the need to keep the blog alive while I complete the demanding book project, and (2) I need to give my mind an analytical exercise outside of the realm of Furie-ous films to give my analysis of those works more freshness, variation, distance and perspective. The Harvey analysis might inadvertently shed light on my Furie analysis.  And after all, who knows?  Maybe Anthony Harvey will be the subject of my next book.

Coming Soon: An article about the excavation and resurrection of the 35mm negatives of Sidney J. Furie's missing-in-action 1959 independent film A Cool Sound from Hell, thanks to the British Film Institute!

   Oscar night, 1969.  Ingrid Bergman announces the winner of undoubtedly the most anticipated award of the evening: the Best Actress prize.  The critics, the press and the trades have been publicizing a neck-and-neck race between the seasoned veteran Katharine Hepburn, who has won the coveted award twice previously, and newcomer Barbra Streisand for her starmaking film debut as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.  Variety’s headline exclaimed “Funny Girl vs. The Lioness”.  As Bergman opens the envelope, she is stunned and clearly a bit flabbergasted. “The winn…,” she starts to announce as her voice trails off.  A bewildered double-take, followed by a shocked demur accented with a movement of the hand to cover her mouth in amazement. “It’s a tie!”  For the first time in Oscar history, two performers are presented with the same award. Hepburn, whose Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter won nearly unanimous accolades, is not present to accept the award herself.  Accepting the award on her behalf is her director, Anthony Harvey.

   Arriving at the podium flanking a radiatingly happy Streisand, he holds the statuette in his hands and declares in a distinctly mellow-tenored “public school class” British accent, “When I asked Ms. Hepburn what she thought when she had broken the records for nominations, she said, ‘I suppose if you live as long as I have, anything can happen.’”  The audience utters a few murmered courtesy chuckles.  He continues, “And I’m absolutely thrilled that it has happened. Thank you.”  He steps aside as Streisand takes the podium for her speech, gazing wide-eyed at her statuette and greeting it with a now-classic Streisand salutation.  “Hello, gorgeous!”  The audience explodes in laughter.  They’re in love with her.  Already, even at the height of his fame, Anthony Harvey had been forgotten with due haste, his awkward and rare would-be cameo effectively upstaged.  Thus marked a rare public appearance of Harvey, who himself was nominated that same year for directing The Lion in Winter, losing to veteran Carol Reed for Oliver!, that year’s most successful contender.  The die, it would seem, had been cast.

    Anthony Harvey launched his career as a film editor on many British productions of the 1960’s.  Both Stanley Kubrick and Bryan Forbes regularly employed him, namely on Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964), the criminally underrated The L-Shaped Room (1962) and The Whisperers (1966), and both Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1966) and Guy Green’s The Angry Silence (1959) bear his name as film editor.  He made his directorial debut with the 55-minute Dutchman in 1967, which earned its lead actress Shirley Knight an acting award at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Lion in Winter, undoubtedly the most prominent, most critically beloved and most commercially successful film Harvey directed, did not provide my own personal introduction to his work.  At the age of fourteen, I came into possession of the Rank Organisation-bankrolled British Western Eagle’s Wing (1979) on a pan-and-scan VHS.  Little did I know at the time that the film had been beautifully lensed by Billy Williams in anamorphic widescreen and that I was missing almost half the full frame on this video copy.  The epic splendor of the images, cited by even the film’s most virulent detractors, was more than a little lost on me, but I still nonetheless took note of its strange pacing — a pace that was particularly at odds with a story that pitted four separate components of a chase narrative against one other.  I might have been looking at a Western produced by men fond of regular daytime tea breaks, but I started to recognize a method to the ostensible “madness” inherent in the conflicting rhythmic and narrative elements.  In the subsequent years, I came to see most of the other works in Harvey’s directorial canon.  Recently, I had the occasion of seeing both Richard’s Things and the only recently released widescreen version of Eagle’s Wing.  Both incited the writing of this, the first formal written work justifying Harvey’s heretofore unawarded status as an auteur.

   The crux of Harvey’s films lies, of all places, within the title of Noel Coward’s most beloved play: Private Lives.  The private sphere is sacrosanct in the filmic worlds that Harvey fashions, because the self-determined fragmentation and moderation of human behavior seems to fascinate Harvey as his characters slingshot between public and private.  This is most prevalent in Harvey’s films in which his characters specifically operate as public figures, namely King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968), the pseudo Sherlock Holmes and his crafty female psychoanalyst Watson in They Might Be Giants (1971), Queen Kristina of Sweden and Cardinal Azzolino in The Abdication (1974), Aimee Semple McPherson in The Disappearance of Aimee (1976), the two Wimbledon-class tennis pros in Players (1979) and the eponymous stroke-plagued actress in The Patricia Neal Story (1981).  While these films especially function within this construct, most of his other films also are suffused with this conceit as well.  Harvey’s gravitation towards material like Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (1973) and Frederic Raphael’s Richard’s Things (1980), despite their exclusive resignation to depicting the lives of ordinary people, is still logical, particularly in the latter case.  Both of these are about private lives and, more aptly, inner lives.  Grace Quigley (1985) takes an almost farcical and darkly zany approach to charting the lives of the same brand of ordinary people.  The only anomalies within this paradigm, Dutchman (1967) and Eagle’s Wing (1979) use the public sphere exclusively as a fisticuffs ring in which characters attempt to resolve their private angst and interpersonal treachery.  It is an unwilling stage platform for these private lives.  Put another way, the narratives of these two films solely occur within the public sphere as to define Harvey’s task as director as one being meant to show how private hostitilies disrupt and irrevocably alter this public sphere.

   Considering this and other elements, one can perceive a voice and a preoccupation with certain themes through which one can stake a claim for Harvey as an auteur.  Add to this a richness of craftsmanship.  The technicians and writers with whom Harvey associated constitutes a formidable list of masters.  Cinematographers Gerry Turpin, Douglas Slocombe, Geoffrey Unsworth, Freddie Young, Billy Williams and Larry Pizer, and writers Amiri Baraka (nee LeRoi Jones), James Goldman, Ruth Wolff, John Briley and Frederic Raphael have all worked under the aegis of Anthony Harvey the director.  This is to speak nothing of the impressive working relationships that had been sustained by Anthony Harvey the editor.  Though not an overt visual stylist, save for Geoffrey Unsworth’s soft-focus work in The Abdication and Billy Williams’ epically charioscuro panoramica in Eagle’s Wing, Harvey always remained apt at subtle visual cues and framing a story within a larger visual context using these cues.

   Anthony Harvey’s directorial debut Dutchman (1967) is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with the braying, ornery uglieness turned up to eleven, featuring a young interracial Taylor and Burton grappling for control over each other in an unmistakably public arena, with the innocent bystanders as witnesses to the treachery and as silent victims to the drama.  Likewise adapted from a stage play, the film is set in the underground New York City of a subway train that doesn’t seem to me making its stops.  An aggressive and obnoxious firecracker of a woman named Lula takes a seat beside a young black man named Clay.  Harvey tempers the early scenes with a reactive but articulated zoom lens.  In an early shot preceding the meeting of the two characters, Harvey and his cameraman Gerry Turpin choreograph a low-angle zoom from the foregrounded Clay to the backgrounded Lula.  With the arrival of subway passenger onlookers in the second act, the zoom lens not only ceases being reactive but ceases all usage en toto.  The surrounding eyes that have congregated take the place of these early reactive zooms, thus the camera approach changes, marks the point in which the film’s subjectivity switches and turns on itself.  It is a fascinating stylistic choice.  Although the film certainly has weaknesses (for one, it is often too obvious in its roots as a dated polemic on race), its virtue lies in this kind of sophistication.

   In a quantum stylistic leap from Dutchman, Harvey moved on to his sophomore effort The Lion in Winter, a well-budgeted and handsomely mounted Joseph E. Levine production adapted from James Goldman Broadway stage play.  The story involves King Henry II’s selection of an heir to the throne, and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s struggle for influence in the selection.  Harvey’s latitude with thematic auteurship is, of course, dictated by his treatment of the source material, to which he is slavishly faithful.  The playwright James Goldman is also the film’s screenwriter.  At heart, the play’s and the film’s central idea of a human, character-driven insight into historical incident that almost accidentally seemed to conform with Harvey’s past and future works.  Peter O'Toole championed Harvey as director of the project from the outset.  It was he who lured Hepburn to the co-starring role following rumors that she would retire after Spencer Tracy's death (the two of them had just co-starred in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, for which Hepburn also won a Oscar statuette).  Hepburn saw Dutchman at O'Toole's behest, fell in love with it, stating the film "grabbed you by the throat, which is exactly the approach that our material needed.  Not that glossy old MGM stuff, but cold people living in cold castles."  She remained steady friends with Harvey for the rest of her life, as Hepburn would go on to star in two future Harvey productions, The Glass Menagerie (1973) and Grace Quigley (a.k.a. The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley) (1985).

  Staging is of the essence in The Lion in Winter, even more so than its stage incarnation could have been.  Looking at the film as an ensemble piece, every room in its castle location could be considered a smaller theater within the castle's (and the film's) larger theater.  The perfect example to cite is the key scene that intimates a scandalous sexual relationship between Richard the Lionheart (Anthony Hopkins in his second film role) and King Phillip II (the debuting Timothy Dalton).  As the two men are about to illicitly liaise, O'Toole's Henry II intrudes, prompting Richard to hide behind a nearby curtain.  Richard becomes voyeur to a conversation between Henry and Phillip.  The contrasts of the initial intimacy, the interruption of that intimacy, and the ensuing voyeurism all speak to Harvey as one who moderates and mines the levels of complexity in a favorite theme with taste and precision, even at such an early stage of his career as director, as if he knew the thematic path he would tread later.

  As in Fred Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons (1966) and Peter Glenville's Becket (1964, in which O'Toole plays the same character as in Lion), while the fate of a nation hangs in the balance within the film's narrative, the focus is not lavished on cold, impersonal epic pomp that would have plagued a more Samuel Bronston-esque production, but more on the contentious interpersonal power plays which determine that fate; how the private effects and conclusively transforms the public, for once and for all.  We cannot see the latter morph, because Harvey nestles his interests in the former, but   The Lion in Winter thus becomes a different kind of affair than A Man for All Seasons and Beckett, because Harvey is more specific in his approach and execution as to what it is about the narrative that engages him, and you can start to see this in the broader expanse of his work.  Periodic scenes feature all of the characters together in the same space, but they will once again resign themselves to one-on-one hideouts in the same larger space.  This is carefully schemed and choreographed, of course, by the writer, but it is orchestrated by its director.  This is a key differentiating factor.  Harvey's auteurship emerges in his representation of the reciprocity of his binary spatial constructions.

   Excepting Mike Nichols' Carnal Knowledge, The Lion in Winter proved the last successful prestige production that Joseph E. Levine’s now-defunct Avco-Embassy Pictures mounted.  In yet another quantum leap, Harvey followed up The Lion in Winter with a ripping yarn of a nutty comedy called They Might Be Giants, starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward, and produced by Paul Newman.  It is in this film that an opening-up of Harvey's thematic thread of public vs. private occurs.  The film tells the story of a widowed Manhattan lawyer named Justin Playfair who, in an apparent bit of paranoid delusion, believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes.  He garbs himself in deerslayer attire and takes to the streets in search of his nemesis, Moriarty.  His concerned brother hires female psychoanalyst Dr. Mildred Watson to treat him.  Soon, largely thanks to her fortuitous surname, she is drawn into his infectiously exciting world of "adventure, danger and intrigue" against her better judgment.  As Holmes/Playfair also lures a cast of “Bleecker Street irregulars” into his fantasy world, it becomes more and more apparent that these irregulars not just inhabit this world, but own it as well.  The They Might Be Giants universe is one based in fanciful quixotic fable, where public and private become blurred, ultimately indistinguishable.  If The Lion in Winter is about the existence of the binary of public and private, They Might Be Giants is about the deconstruction of that binary, and what happens when the barrier is torn away.  Finally, at the final fade-out, it asks the existential question common and popular in the theater of the absurd: Does it matter to which reality we subscribe?  The film, quite befittingly, has become a cult favorite over the years, even though its original box-office returns were somewhat less than encouraging (despite Maltin's description of it as a "box office disaster," which simply is hyperbole).

   The Abdication, adapted from a stage play by British dramatist Ruth Wolff, feels like a even more stage-bound work than The Lion in Winter, sporting flashbacks that were perhaps better served on stage, where its lead characters more likely recounted strictly in words what the film version perfunctorily stages in rather bland terms via recreated event.  Pauline Kael, that imperious New Yorker dame, attacked the film, writing that the film is "embalmed in such reverence for its own cultural elevation that it loses all contact with the audience."  Laying into Harvey, she continued, "Anthony Harvey directed, on his knees.  We're never allowed to forget the exalted rank of the characters, and nothing like human speech intrudes upon the relentless dignity of Ruth Wolff's script."  The rest of the reviews were not much better.  The Abdication and the television film The Disappearance of Aimee are both rather dry treatments of their historical sources.  Only Geoffrey Unsworth’s alluring but woefully ornamental soft-focus camerawork lifts it one step above.  The nadir of Harvey's career came in the form of Players (1979), a Robert Evans pet-project for which the ex-Paramount head personally oversaw the making and marketing.  Starring Evans' ex-wife, Ali MacGraw, as a tennis pro at Wimbledon in love with another player, Dean Paul Martin, a real-life tennis pro in a dreadful performance.  However, disregarding the quality of the film, Harvey's burgeoning attraction to examining the dichotomy of public in relation to private is still palpable.  Even in the most de rigueur work, Harvey lets this preoccupation be known, flashing it well above surface.

   Harvey returned to form with two consecutive works: the exquisite Eagle's Wing (1979) and Richard's Things (1980).  In the same tradition as Dutchman, Eagle's Wing showcases a string of characters engaged in a dedicated private struggle in the open public space, in this case the landscapes of American Southwest (versus the earlier film's single subway location).  Eagle's Wing, penned by John Briley (Gandhi), is perhaps an apotheosis for Harvey as director probing specific and sustained thematics, and Richard's Things in response is his striking, calculated and effective diminuendo.  It is also Harvey's return to the British film industry after a short tenure in Hollywood and American television films.  The "public" in Eagle's Wing, however, is one that is of questionable basis.  Harvey is constantly aware of this particular land as sacred space, and the film plays out visually, mostly silent, with a scant dependence on the spoken word, as not to disturb the gravitas in the vistas that Billy Williams' camera constructs.  These vistas are not there simply to provide picture-postcard snap, crackle and pop.  This is a film about the very meaning of land, meaning dependent on through whose eyes we choose to perceive it.  Apotheosis, then, becomes the most apropos term.  Public and private are again blurred, albeit in a way that is worlds away from the way it is blurred in They Might Be Giants.

   At one point in the film, in a microcosm sequence, Martin Sheen's character Pike invades what can be nothing other than a sanctified space during the foiled ritual slaughter of the white horse that gives the film its title.  The encounter ends in the accidental death of the Indian priest, followed by Pike's appropriation of the beautiful "mystical steed" that has been spared ritual death.  The film becomes about something else: how the now-blurred public and private space has relative meaning.  In a film that purports to be about "the West before the myths were born," what is not intimated is that the myths to which this opening voice-over alludes are myths manufactured by the white man.  Eagle's Wing exists in what the civilized "white man" would call the primordial world, in an environment that naturally exists apart from the empty meanings it would be ascribed later in time.  The horse is used by the white man to traverse the space.  In this scene, it is intimated that the horse itself assumes ritual and spiritual meaning beyond the practical use the white man attributes to it.  The ensuing duel between warrior White Bull (Sam Waterston) and fur-trapper Pike (Martin Sheen) quickly and unpretentiously ascends to the level of allegory, as two men grapple for dominion over the white horse Eagle's Wing.  In a four-way struggle, with a posse recruited from a nearby hacienda in hot pursuit, the wide-open spaces of Eagle's Wing also allude to those who attempt to lend to the land a colonial (read: Christian) spirituality.  For instance, at one point, White Bull traps a scorpion first with a tribal object decorated with feathers and beads, then exchanges it for a large crucifix-topped chalice-cover pilfered from a hacienda-bound stagecoach he ambushed earlier.

   I am personally rather partial toward Tom Milne's review of the film in Time Out London: "Set in the as yet untamed American wilderness 'long before the myths', this is unusual not only as a first-class Western made by a British director, but in being virtually a silent movie as an Indian and a white man (Waterston and Sheen), each a failure in his own world and determined to prove otherwise, pursue a strange, obsessive duel for possession of the glorious white stallion that gives the film its title. Quirkishly funny as the duel evolves into a sort of medieval quest attended by its own rituals and chivalries, the film gradually weaves its concentric subplots (various other parties tag along behind, driven by their own passions) into a plaintively spiraling lament for lost illusions. Marvelously shot by Billy Williams, it's weird, hypnotic and magical."

  The phrase "long before the myths" to which Milne alludes helps to introduce the film in the film's laconic "mysterioso" opening voice-over narration.  It is one of the few films that examine the primordial, "pre-historic" West that ends with a tearful white man in defeat.  As White Bull blazes off into a wide-open plain, trailing thick white dust behind him, Pike overlooks the victor's escape from a see-all vantage point and mournfully whimpers, "Help me...please...help me."  It is a fitting way to end what is Harvey's best film, and what French cineastes might call his "testament film" (the one-film summation of a director's technique, the work that signifies "what cinema means" to that director).  All the more extraordinary is the fact that it stands as Harvey's best not just because it clearly exemplifies everything he had been working towards throughout his entire directorial career, but also because of a clarity and poetic truth inherent in the final product.  The film has only recently been released to video in its original anamorphic widescreen form.  Eagle's Wing and The Lion in Winter mark the only occasions Harvey uses this format, usually reserved for large-scale productions.  In the case of the former of the two, the film loses its very soul when it is reformatted to fit the standard television screen.  It becomes an emptier work, less about the land, the mythics, the allegory, et al. than the chase itself (or what is left to see of it).

   In another in a series of film-to-film departures, Richard's Things is based on a novel and a screenplay by Frederic Raphael, author of John Schlesinger's Darling (1965) and Far From the Madding Crowd (1967), Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and the BBC miniseries "The Glittering Prizes" (1976), also based on his own novel.  While I would certainly argue that his best, most accomplished work on both an aesthetic level and storytelling level remains Eagle's Wing, Richard's Things is likewise one of his richest works, and one that stands up next to the likes of The Lion in Winter and They Might Be Giants, despite dissent from shallow critics who have listlessly reduced it to an insipid, facile stereotype which unjustly cheapens the work.  Harvey's drama, featuring Liv Ullmann (yet another Harvey alumnus from her work in The Abdication) in a colossally challenging lead role which won her the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival, can easily be and has been lazily displaced into the "average lesbian soap opera" camp.  Andrew Sarris, scholar and Village Voice critic of the time, was among the few to note its subtle power, writing, "I am hopelessly hooked on the scintillating blend of sensuality and sensibility expressed through the intense rapport of Liv Ullmann and Amanda Redman.  Oh those lips and those eyes.  Ullmann has never acted as eloquently and emotionally in English.  Magic is worth celebrating."

   The film tells the story of Kate Morris (Ullmann) who, following twenty years of marriage, is confronted with the news of her husband's death while he is away on a business trip.  His hotel register reveals that he had been traveling with another woman.  Kate tracks her down her rival and discovers the secrets of her husband's double life.  However, as the two women talk about their relationship with Richard, this becomes a kind of exorcism for both of them.  This soon develops into a physical relationship between the two women.  Where Eagle's Wing filled its canvas with breathtaking visuals and largely dialogue-free sound design, Richard's Things conversely fills its canvas with the motion picture equivalent of "the talking cure," i.e. scenes that are driven by mutual psychoanalysis and a kind of symbiotic therapy between the two women.  The film's cinematographer, however, is Freddie Young, who lensed expansively epic productions like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Nicholas and Alexandra, and many others.  Young is no stranger to dialogue-driven films that function often like stage plays, including Robert Enders' Stevie (1978), starring Glenda Jackson.  Superficially, the film sounds Bergmanesque: a brooding, Persona-like two-women study of an interpersonal communion born from an infidelity -- what Susan Sontag called "the violence of spirit" when she described the theme of Persona.

   The level of sophistication of Richard's Things easily usurps films like Robert Towne's Personal Best (1982), although Georges Delerue's score sometimes threatens to suffocate that sophistication.  In tone, the film tends to feel like a cousin to Schlesinger's Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971), which is fitting for many reasons.  The main reason is the respective sensitivity of both works, which computes because both Schlesinger and Harvey were/are gay men.  What makes the central romantic relationship between the two women particularly fascinating in Richard's Things is that the erotic is given rise through a kind of exorcism, i.e. drudging up an inner-private life and making it public to another.  The question is not one of space, as it had been in Eagle's Wing.  The world of spaces in Richard's Things is almost entirely private, although a key scene in a supermarket early in the film, in which the cuckolded Ullmann slips an incriminating personal item into her rival-cum-lover's shopping basket may momentarily say otherwise.  On the whole, however, the idea of public vs. private becomes more of an abstraction in the film, but not any less of a thematic presence.  Ullmann's last words in the film, in a voice-over monologue, allude to public illusion and presentation.  As she drives off into an uncertain future, having left behind her new lover, we leave in the film exactly how we first encounter her, in the driver's seat of a car as she she says, "My pleasure will come from being what people believe me to be, and from not quite being it.  I shall never be suspected of being other than what I appear, and I shall appear to be exactly what I am."  This deceit is pure Anthony Harvey -- a signature.

   Grace Quigley (1985) started life as a script by A. Martin Zweiback, entitled The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley.  It had been a pet project of Hepburn's for eleven years when Golan and Globus of Cannon Films agreed to finance it, and Harvey agreed once again to stand at her side as her director.  Featuring Nick Nolte as a beleaguered hit man faced with the prospect of euthanasia for pay, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1984 at 102 minutes to the most dismal of notices.  Originally slated to play in-competition at the festival, its cold reception paved the way for an out-of-competition slot.  The film was twice re-edited, at 87 and 94-minute versions, once even by Zweiback the screenwriter, respectively all with different endings.  Theatrically released in the U.S. one whole year later in May 1985, the film came and went without a whisper.  It was Katharine Hepburn's final leading role in a motion picture.  The film's troubled post-production speaks to the fact that it is a troubling (but nonetheless interesting) film.

  Tonally, Grace Quigley defies Harvey's other works, even that of the wild and woolly They Might Be Giants.  It takes the anarchy of that earlier film to another level.  The characters on Nolte's mercy-kill list are fond of gathering for what could only be described as "death parties," where they air their joy at the prospect of facing the eternal void, making it well known how miserable their lives are.  I have only seen the Cannon-approved cut of this film.  Curiously, Maltin pans this version, calling it an "abysmal misfire that manages to be both bland and tasteless," yet in the same review calls the 94-minute director's cut of the film "a touching, funny and surreal black comedy about the problems of the elderly and the right of choice."  It goes to show you what a little editing can do!  I have not seen the version with the better review, so I refrain from extensive commentary on this title until I can get around to scoring a copy.

   Although Harvey is still alive (at the time this article is being written, he will be 82 years old in June), but Grace Quigley proved to be his final theatrically released film, and he has long since ceased working as a filmmaker.  He officially ended his career with the television film This Can't Be Love (1994), once again starring Katharine Hepburn, this time paired with Anthony Quinn.  I have not seen This Can't Be Love.  His career, however, is that whose auteurship is specific and honed in a sustained focus.  I find myself continually frustrated by directors who are overwritten-about, whose claims to auteurship are, in reality, based on precious little to make the claim for them, apart from occasional, isolated "good work" without the threads and through-lines to the rest of the director's work.  Go back to the source.  Andrew Sarris defined auteurship and auteur theory as "the idea that a director helps shape the creative intent of a film."  From The Lion in Winter through Richard's Things, from They Might Be Giants through Eagle's Wing, Harvey has often made films that are worlds apart from each other, but has clearly demonstrated how authorship and voice can emerge from any genre that exists within a director's corpus.