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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

The Death of Mr. Puiu and the rigidity of a communist system

thedeathofmrlazaresc572398.jpgBetween screenings, I’m trying to carve out the time to close the books on a few more euphoric moments from Sundance, but then I find probably the most depressing story I’ve seen so far this year, from Bilge Ebiri at ScreenGrab: a gifted filmmaker who might just have quit: Ebiri reports on a press release that “Cristi Puiu, winner of the 2005 Prize Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Bear for Short Film at the 2004 Berlinale, announced at a recent press conference in Romania, his decision to no longer participate in the contests held by The Romanian National Centre for Cinematography. The announcement follows the denial of development funds for two of his projects, which were submitted to the latest contest organized by the Centre for Cinematography… Puiu [also] stated that he will not make use of the funding granted to another one of his projects during a previous contest…” Illuminates Ebiri, “[T]he idea of a smallish Romanian film director choosing to forgo state support for his films may not seem like a big deal, but… Puiu is the director of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu the much-acclaimed masterpiece that made its way to the top spots in… critical surveys in 2006… In countries like Romania, state funding through organizations like the Center for Cinematography is absolutely crucial for film production to survive…This is Puiu basically saying he will not accept this funding, even if it means he never gets to make another film, which it very well might. The release goes on to say that “the hard line decision is a protest against what Puiu sees as the ‘rigidity of a communist system’ still present within the Centre for Cinematography and the way the organization spends public money on productions with no value.” Fuck. You can find a remarkable earlier interview with Puiu at the link.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon