Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sydney Pollack (1934-2008): Filmmaker, actor, humanitarian

Sydney Pollack, who died yesterday at age 73, was a great director and actor. He broke into cinema with his 1969 drama They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and eventually emerged with that rebellious 1970s cohort of filmmakers who challenged so many age-old Hollywood conventions. He was also an unrepentant liberal and humanist in the best sense of those words. There were countless tributes to him in newspapers across America, but the best one -- IMHO -- was Ty Burr's Blog on Pollack in today's Boston Globe (click here). To remember this towering giant of modern cinema, I'm including an excerpt of an interview he did with The Progressive magazine back in 2005, at the time his film The Interpreter was released in theaters. Pollack's answer to the question is eloquent and thought-provoking. A man this great deserves the last word.

Q: What is your reaction when people assert that Hollywood is some great liberal establishment?

Pollack: The essence of acting is seeing the world from another point of view. That’s what acting is. I’m not going to be an interpreter at the U.N. I’m not going to live in Africa on a farm or whatever, but I am going to see the world through those eyes when I make those films. Most human beings who are accustomed to attempting to see the world from various points of view tend to be more liberal than conservative. I have one life. I am a certain age. I’m married to one person. I have a certain number of children. I won’t have another life other than that, but I do have many lives through the films. It’s a way for me to understand what it’s like to be a murderer, to confess, to be a beaten wife, to be a minority, to be a victor, to get the girl, to lose the girl. I can do all of that through the practice of an art form. So when you spend your life being other people, as opposed to being the one person that you are, you learn that life is gray sometimes, not black and white. That what you thought was true isn’t necessarily true if you switch sides. That doesn’t mean you should go around understanding Hitler. It does mean that there are all kinds of people and they look at life in different ways.

I think that’s just one of the reasons why people that are in this profession tend to lean toward the liberal side rather than the conservative side.

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