Monday, April 20, 2009

Mike Nichols To Alfred Hitchcock: You Suck.

By Lars Trodson

Well, not quite that bad.

But I thought a comment made by director Mike Nichols in a recent profile of him in The New York Times was a little odd. The article, written by Charles McGrath, is headlined “Mike Nichols, Master of Invisibility” and the occasion it marked was a retrospective Nichols’ career received from the film department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

McGrath confronts the fact that Nichols does not really have a directorial style in almost the opening of the piece.

“[I]t’s sometimes hard to say what makes a Nichols movie a Nichols movie,” writes McGrath. “They seem like vehicles for actors, not the director, whose stamp is in leaving almost no trace at all.”

Nichols career started out with a bang: “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?”, “The Graduate”, “Catch-22” and “Carnal Knowledge.” He then stumbled through the 1970s, with some very odd films indeed (“The Day of the Dolphin”), and then went on to settle into a 30-year period of boom and bust: (“Silkwood”, “Postcards From the Edge”, “Regarding Henry”, “Wolf”, “The Birdcage”).

So it was a little strange for Nichols, in his own defense, to denigrate Alfred Hitchcock -- as though having a signature style was a negative thing. “‘If you want to be a legend, God help you, it’s so easy,’ Mr. Nichols said the other day over coffee in his Times Square office. ‘You just do one thing. You can be the master of suspense, say.’”

Sure, Mike, if it makes you feel better.

Let’s be clear, that comment is also directed at a Martin Scorsese or a Guy Maddin or a John Carpenter or Samuel Fuller or Budd Boetticher or Sam Peckinpah or anybody else that had the crazy idea that a movie could be a very personal thing.

But maybe Mike Nichols is actually a pioneer. Maybe he’s the guy who helped destroy the idea that you could be an American auteur and make popular films. If so, he succeeded.

And it was so easy!

Here’s the NY Times article: