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By Daniel Lammin
4th May 2014

Of the many film festivals around the world, none have the glamour or prestige of the Cannes Film Festival. Its reputation has long made it the supreme film festival, demonstrating the best of the best of world cinema. But any self-respecting film buff knows that behind the glamour is one of the roughest events on the film calendar thanks to the infamous Cannes film market, where films of all shapes and sizes compete for distribution or funding. Filmmaker James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin make Cannes and all that goes with it the focus of their bizarre and entertaining documentary ‘Seduced and Abandoned’, and attempt to conquer the festival, either by playing the game or breaking the rules.

A discussion of the importance and legacy of Cannes is secondary to the major "narrative" that runs through the documentary. Toback and Baldwin have connected over their love for Bertolucci’s classic ‘Last Tango in Paris’, and want to make their own version set in Iraq with Baldwin and Neve Campbell as the leads. Their trip to Cannes is to secure funding for the film, either through funding bodies and independent studios, millionaires wanting to waste some money on the film industry or government tax cuts that are on offer to attract interest from studios to film there. This has Toback and Baldwin peddling their unusual project all over the festival, from on the corsage to the obnoxious film market to millionaire homes and yachts.


If anything, ‘Seduced and Abandoned’ is an incredibly entertaining ride, a giddy film lover’s dream that takes us through the history and mechanics of Cannes. Toback and Baldwin meet a lot of famous faces along the way, and interview Bertolucci, Polanski, Scorsese and Coppola, as well as Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Bérénice Bejo and Diane Kruger, about not only their Cannes experiences, but the struggles of securing the money to make their films at all. These are offer some really interesting moments, many speaking with a frankness and honesty that’s surprising. Without a project to promote, they have no problem discussing the trials and tribulations that come with being a member of the industry, and even with the glitzy background of Cannes, a lot of mysticism about working in the film industry is stripped away. You can see, especially with the directors, that glint of fear in their eyes that at any moment it might all come crashing down.

Where you get the real meat though, is in the pursuit of funding for ‘Last Tango in Iraq’, and this is where the true mechanisms of the film industry are illuminated. It becomes clear pretty quickly that they aren’t very serious about this film they’re shopping around, but use it instead to poke and prod and test the waters with what the money men are actually looking for. While the artists speak of artistic integrity, the financers reduce film to a numbers game. One hilarious and slightly horrifying sequence sees Toback and Baldwin discussing their project with a financing mogul who reduces the stars of the film to a set box-office return, and makes it clear that his choice of which films to finance are a result of where the stars fit on his scale. It’s the part of filmmaking we don’t hear about, and frankly, who would want to? We speak so freely of the art behind film, but rarely want to consider the fact that the money that is spent on them has to come from somewhere, and with independent film, it isn’t coming from a major studio but a battalion of financers who may not even care what the film is about. As much as Toback and Baldwin are clearly enjoying playing their game, they can’t help but be a little taken aback by what they find, giving us permission to be as surprised as them.

‘Seduced and Abandoned’ is an incredibly entertaining ride, a giddy film lover’s dream that takes us through the history and mechanics of Cannes.

As a film, ‘Seduced and Abandoned’ is very cheeky and very rough around the edges, with Toback keeping the film trotting along. It’s never boring or unenlightening, and the two men are excellent hosts, even if their banter together seems a tad contrived and often pretentious. As you start to pick up on the joke though, that this film-within-the-film isn’t to be taken too seriously, you start to understand what they’re getting it. The central image of the film, and one it keeps returning to, is a merry-go-round, and this is a perfect metaphor for the film industry: going around and around in circles. As soon as you get the funding and make the film, you jump straight back on and do it again. ‘Seduced and Abandoned’ is our chance to jump on the ride and see what it’s like for ourselves, with Toback and Baldwin as our guides. It’s a dizzying, confusing and bizarre little trip, but a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

RELEASE DATE: 08/05/2014
RUN TIME: 01h 38m
CAST: Alec Baldwin
James Toback
Martin Scorsese
Bernardo Bertolucci
Roman Polanski
Ryan Gosling
Jessica Chastain
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