The Presence of Jerry Schatzberg at the 13th FICMBy: Jaime Garba, reportero (@jaimegarba)
The 13th FICM is honored to have the presence of U.S. director Jerry Schatzberg. HIs work as director was key in the renaissance of American cinema during the 1970s. His most significant films include The Day the Ponies Come Back (2000), Reunion (1989), The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), Sweet Revenge (1976), Scarecrow (1973), Panic in Needle Park (1971) and Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Scarecrow and Puzzle of a Downfall Child are part of the program of the 13th FICM.
In addition to his work as a director, Schatzberg is known as one of the most important photographers of the generation’s notable artists. In the 1960s, his work was published in the most prestigious magazines such as Vogue, McCall, Esquire and Glamour. He did portraits of personalities like Francis Ford Coppola, Andy Warhol, Aretha Franklin and The Beatles, among many others. One of his most representative images is of singer-song writer Bob Dylan, which was used on the album cover of Blonde on Blonde of 1966.
Screening of Scarecrow (1973)
The activities of this Guest of Honor at the 13th FICM began with the screening of Scarecrow (1973) at Cinépolis Morelia Centro. The film received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973. The first showing of Scarecrow in Morelia was presented by Daniela Michel, general director of FICM; Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival; the great film expert Pierre Rissient, and director Jerry Schatzberg, who commented:
Daniela Michel on Scarecrow:
“It is an honor for me to welcome one of the most important directors in the history of cinema to FICM. I’ve seen this film many times, and I think it’s incredible, perfectly written, perfectly acted. It’s one of the most important works in the history of American cinema.”
Thierry Frémaux about Scarecrow:
“Those who still have not seen the film don’t know how lucky they are to discover such an important film, which not only has a famous director, who is indispensable in the history of cinema in the decades of the seventies. Each time I see Scarecrow I wonder if it is possible to make a film like that today. The participation of Jerry in the history of film is enormous. He’s a great master.”
Pierre Rissient about Scarecrow:
“This film has some secrets about the way in which it was presented at the Cannes Film Festival. Fortunately, Jerry’s prestige was already established in France, so the delegation had no problem in choosing Scarecrow for the festival. However, there were conflicts of another nature, some people didn’t like the film. That was the case of an Italian director who wanted to win the Palme d’Or come what may. He did everything possible to achieve that. He even tried to boycott Jerry’s film, but didn’t succeed. I was certain that the award should go to Scarecrow, and I showed it to everyone who all loved it. At the end, the award was shared, but the majority felt it was unfair. They thought that Jerry should have been the only one to receive the Palme d’Or.”
Jerry Schatzberg about his film:
“I like the film and I’m always so conscious of the role of the actors. I feel so proud and happy when I talk with Al (Pacino) or Gene (Hackman) or when they are on television and always say this is their favorite role in their career.”
Jerry Schatzberg about what is the most important thing when making a film:
“I always said the script is the most important thing in the film. My subject matter is the script. I always look at the scripts in the projects, and sometimes I say no because of the script. I also think the photography is so important too.”
Scarecrow tells the story of a prisoner who was just released and after running into a young wandering vagabond, he offers him the possibility of joining him as a business partner in a car wash. This marks the beginning of a friendship that takes them across the United States where they undergo a series of adventures.
The screenplay is by the playwright and screenwriter Garry Michael White, and stars Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Penny Allen, Eileen Brennan, Al Cingolani, Richard Lynch, Dorothy Tristan and Ann Wedgeworth.
Screening of Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970)
Part Jerry Schatzberg’s activities at the 13th FICM included the screening of Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970) which tells the story of a model who once enjoyed fame and fortune and recalls her past when she tried to launch her career in New York, her relationship with an advertising executive and her friendship with a famous photographer, and her downward spiral into ruin. The feature film was written by Schatzberg in collaboration with prominent screenwriter Carole Eastman, and stars Clark Burckhalter, Faye Dunaway, John Hefferman, Ruth Jackson, Viveca Lindfors, Barry Morse, Barry Primus, Shirley Rich, Roy Scheider and Sydney Walker. The production company was Universal Pictures.
Prior to the screening of the film, Jerry Schatzberg unveiled a special theater seat with his name on it.
The screening of Puzzle of a Downfall Child was attended by Jerry Schatzberg, the film emminance Pierre Rissient, Daniela Michel, general director of FICM and Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, president of FICM, who said:
Alejandro Ramírez Magaña on the unveiling of the theater seat in honor of Jerry Schatzberg:
“This is a new tradition that we began at the festival. We ask our special guests who have left their mark in the history of cinema to also leave their mark in the history of FICM. It is an honor for me to present the master Schatzberg the theater seat with his name on it in the sala 4.”
Pierre Rissient on Jerry Schatzberg:
“I am very emotional today because for me this film has a great meaning, not only because of the picture itself but what it led to, my friendship with Jerry.”
Pierre Rissient on Puzzle of a Downfall Child:
“Some people have credited me for discovering this film. But I say I didn’t discover the film, the film discovered me. The secret to discover a film is to be lucky to be at the right time at the right place. In 1970, I was a guest at a festival, and one evening, there was a world premiere of the Puzzle of a Downfall Child, to be honest I was expecting nothing. I thought it would be a silly, superficial film. But very fast I was surprised, I was mistaken. It was exactly the opposite. I was taken by the film.”
Jerry Schatzberg on a Puzzle of a Downfall Child:
“I love this film for a lot of reasons. It’s my favorite. I felt so close to it, it was something so personal. I lived this fashion world before becoming a director and it was a project that took me 10 or 15 years to make. I knew the real model, whom the character of Lou was based on. She was a good friend and I felt I could tell her history from a very direct perspective.”
Jerry Schatzberg on his career as a director:
“At this moment as I do a check of my documents that will be donated to the university, I find out that when I was young I wrote some things that showed that I want to be part of the world of film. Even when I was a child I wanted to be an owner of a cinema (laughter), a dream I’m living again at this moment of my life. I decide to venture into cinema life because I had a lot of friends who were making movies and they gave me access to this world.
You can watch an interview with Schatzberg: here.