In today's screening, we watched the documentary The Kid Stays In The Picture, based on the autobiography of Hollywood producer Robert Evans, responsible for the revival of Paramount in the late 60s and early 70s, and greenlit cinematic opuses like Chinatown, The Godfather, Love Story and Rosemary's Baby. However, drug scandals in the 80s, and the lackluster performance of films like Robert Altman's Popeye and Coppola's The Cotton Club, brought his golden days to end.
The film is narrated by Evans, who brings this sort of well-worn, darkly humorous edge, often making self deprecational cracks about himself and some of the errors he made, but he has an energy to him, and a sense of bitter sweetness to his tone and writing, of someone who has lived this important and vibrant life, yet has regrets and lamentations, which gave this documentary a lot more heart and vibrance than your standard biographical fare.
After, in the seminar, we discussed more his background (He started as an actor, came from a business family, was offered to be a studio head by the owners of Paramount) and the time in which he worked (The New Hollywood, where directors had more control than ever before, and in which, standard conventions and acceptances were thrown out or pushed to one side). We talked about all of this in relation to our past discussion of the role of producer, given how much Evans gave in leeway to his directors, and how he gave the green light to a lot of unlikely projects/took chances, which is what, sometimes, one has to do in this business, both to prevent stagnation, but also to test one's mettle.
In closing, Evans was an incredibly fascinating figure, both for his achievements (as discussed before) and in his failures (Popeye is probably one of the most unusual family film, taking on a surreal aspect and aesthetic, bolstered by its sometimes schizophrenic songs). His career highlights offer a challenge to any one of us who wants to have a shot at film history, but his missteps warn us to be wary about our image, PR and relationship strength with those around us.