Hey, thanks for your interest in and support of Season One of Sachs and the Cinema! Coming soon, Season Two, featuring vintage interviews with music legends Bryan Ferry, Ornette Coleman and Steve Reich, guest critics (maybe you!) and far more technical fluency! Meanwhile, play ball!
When Bill Forsyth was turning out gems in the 1980’s, first quirky Scottish films like Local Hero and then offbeat Hollywood productions like the Burt Reynolds vehicle Breaking In, we had reason to look forward to him enjoying a long and successful career.
Things didn’t work out that way, alas. In spite of strong reviews for Breaking In and Housekeeping, commercial success eluded him in America. And then his cosmic Robin Williams drama Being Human was universally panned – after which, save for a so-so sequel to Gregory’s Girl, his “marvelously cockeyed” coming of age comedy as one critic described it, he largely disappeared from the scene.
But when I spoke to Forsyth in Chicago in 1981, he was riding a wave of enthusiasm for “Gregory’s Girl,” which was just out. In our chat, he talks about how he went from school dropout to filmmaker, the lessons he learned from the French New Wave – and his hopes for the future. Listen to the conversation on the latest episode of Sachs and the Cinema via Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other platforms. And sign up for the podcast here.
“There’s nothing more pathetic than the level of emotion in films like Star Wars.” When Arthur Penn said that during our 1985 interview, which you can hear on the latest episode of Sachs and the Cinema, he did so as a director who got carved up critically himself – for Bonnie and Clyde, now regarded as one of the masterpieces of American cinema.
Regarded as an intellectual artist – in a good way! – he turned out other smart gems including Mickey One, Little Big Man, Alice’s Restaurant and Night Moves. But he increasingly found himself frustrated by Hollywood’s dumb-down ways and spent much of his later period in the theater. Hear him candidly discuss his experiences during a 1985 trip to Chicago to promote the espionage thriller Target, starring his frequent star Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon.
Listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts and other platforms. And sign up for the really big show here.
“Art is all that matters.” In living up to that dictum, the visionary British director Michael Powell made movies like no one else. With his Hungarian screenwriting partner Emeric Pressburger, he made fantasy seem real and reality seem fanciful, whether turning a British backlot into the Himalayas (Black Narcissus) or staging a courtroom trial in heaven (A Matter of Life and Death).
It was a thrill to chat with Powell in Chicago back in 1986, when he was in town working on his memoirs while his wife, the great film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, worked on his friend Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money. I’ll never forget our lunch at the late and lamented Nuevo Leon down on 18th Street – a festival of accents!
Hear my interview with Powell on the latest episode of Sachs and the Cinema, accessible via Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other platforms. And subscribe to the podcast here.
How cool is this? Thanks a ton to Monica and Justin at Axios Chicago for their kind attention to Sachs and the Cinema. Go to the Axios Chicago website and subscribe to their newsletter. And, of course, subscribe to Sachs and the Cinema. Next up: the great Arthur Penn.
Veteran Chicago arts writer Lloyd Sachs had the misfortune of covering film at the Chicago Sun-Times during the Roger Ebert era.
Meaning that no matter how astutely Sachs wrote about cinema, he’d always work in the shadow of perhaps the most influential film critic of all time.
Why it matters: The writer’s film coverage is enjoying fresh life in the new podcast, “Sachs and the Cinema,” featuring fascinating 1980s-era interviews he conducted in Chicago hotel rooms with some of the world’s most important filmmakers.
The subjects: Directors John Carpenter (“Halloween”), Terry Gilliam (“Brazil”), Bernardo Bertolucci (“Last Tango In Paris”) and more.
Each 30-minute episode lets you eavesdrop on thoughtful chats never meant for broadcast, with snacking, real phones ringing and coffee cups clinking in the background.
The inspiration: “When informed of the tapes and my desire to launch them out there in the share-o-verse, young people who know this stuff said I was sitting on a ‘gold mine’ — interest-wise, not money-wise — and that I should go pod,” Sachs tells Axios.
His biggest surprise: “How few dumb questions my younger self asked.”
His hope: “That listeners gain a deeper appreciation of these great artists, and the film art, through spending some quality ‘down’ time with them.”
Sachs’ favorite moments: “Hearing hallowed masters Michael Powell (‘The Red Shoes’) and Bertrand Tavernier (‘Round Midnight’) break out in giggles over a comment. … What great company they were!”
French director Bertrand Tavernier was such a prolific, stylistically wide-ranging, consistently inspired artist, when he died in 2021, it seemed like the world of cinema had lost four or five great directors. No one had his stylistic reach, which extended to war dramas, policiers, period pieces, domestic thrillers, sci-fi and the jazz classic Round Midnight.
One of film’s last true craftsmen, he shot everything with both a deep respect for the tradition of quality in France and a bold sense of adventure. During his visit to Chicago in 1981, we talked about his risky transformation of a ’60s novel by pulp master Jim Thompson into an edgy noir set in French colonial Senegal: Coup de Torchon. We also talked about the French mastery of stealing from American films.
Hear the conversation on the latest episode of Sachs and the Cinema, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or whatever platform you like. Next up: the legendary British director Michael Powell!
With great films such as The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci drew rave reviews in the face of controversy, the former for its politics and the latter for its X-rated eroticism. But with his 1979 melodrama, Luna, in which an American opera singer has an incestuous relationship with her drug-addicted son, Bertolucci took a critical drubbing. Vincent Canby of the New York Times called the film, “the work of a good poet on an absolutely terrible day.” Bertolucci thinks critics missed the humor in Luna, among other things.
I spoke with the great auteur in 1979 in Chicago during a rare promotional tour for him. You can hear our chat on the latest episode of Sachs and the Cinema, on Spotify and other platforms. And subscribe to the podcast here.
Few directors have dined out on conflict the way Terry Gilliam has. Just about every film by the American-born Monty Python animator – from his 1984-ish masterpiece “Brazil” to his forever-in -the-making “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” – has run into trouble: money trouble, studio heads insisting on shorter running times and happier endings, even a torrential flood.
But fighting for his art in sometimes sly ways, he delivered some of the most strikingly original films of his era, among them “Time Bandits,” “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” and “12 Monkeys” – and, of course, “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.” We spoke in 1985 when he came to Chicago to promote “Brazil,” which required all of his wiles to get released in America in its original version. “A lot of what we’re doing is in unknown territory,” he says. “You don’t know how far you can push an audience.”
Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts and other platforms. And SUBSCRIBE to the podcast (for free, of course) here.
In episode two of Sachs and the Cinema, recorded on my trusty cassette recorder in 1985, I talk to “Exorcist” and “French Connection” director William Friedkin, who returned to his hometown of Chicago in the hopes of getting back on the winning commercial track after a few box office failures with “To Live and Die in L.A.”
Starring Windy City actor William Petersen as Secret Service Agent Richard Chance, the film was a kind of West Coast sequel to “French Connection” with its breathtaking chase scenes and obsessed protagonist.
“The whole film is really about counterfeiting, counterfeit relationships, things not being what they seem,” says Friedkin. “There’s a thin line between policeman and criminal, which is really what fascinates me as a theme. Every cop I’ve ever met who’s any good is very close to criminal…To pass undercover, you have to think like a criminal.”
Always a straight-talker, Friedkin openly discusses his hits and misses and his years in L.A., and why “Sorcerer” is his best film. Listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and subscribe HERE.
A reboot of my long-running feature on Chicago radio, Sachs and the Cinema presents rare, never- before-heard chats from the 1980s with great film directors. The podcast debuted with “Halloween” maestro John Carpenter. Next up: Terry Gilliam!