Movie watch: The curse of Alan Smithee, phantom director

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Mr Smithee goes to Hollywood: Picture this: a spoof film about a movie so awful that the director has his name removed from the credits. Imagine further still that the spoof itself turns out to be so bad in its director's estimation that he has his name removed from the credits. A Hollywood flight of fancy? Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas must be wishing it was. Eszterhas decided to write a film, Alan Smithee: Burn Hollywood Burn, about the 1969 Directors Guild of America agreement that directors who were unhappy with their film as released could substitute the fictional name `Alan Smithee' for their own on the final credits. Since then, Smithee has had a prolific career, `directing' countless TV productions and over 30 feature films. First called into the breach by directors Robert Totten and Don Siegel on Death of a Gunfighter, Smithee has cropped up at the helm of classics such as Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh and The Shrimp on the Barbie. Eszterhas, the writer behind recent high-profile turkeys Showgirls and Jade, inexplicably felt that this industry convention deserved a film of its own. The dubious result dealt with the predicament of a disgruntled Hollywood director, played by Eric Idle (above), who can't drop his name for the conventional pseudonym because he himself is called Alan Smithee. His decision to surrender himself as Hollywood's most conscpicuous hostage to fortune inevitably backfired when the director Arthur Hiller pulled out of the project on seeing Eszterhas's final edit. Eszterhas was putting a brave face on the film as it was released last week in the States: `I think that this movie is way out there, hanging off of some limb, out in the wind.'

Cuts over cuts: Amistad, has run into trouble with Jamaican censors. Having already weathered copyright infringement allegations and mediocre opening box-office returns, Steven Spielberg's slave epic had to go under the knife before it reached the audience with whom it potentially may have the biggest impact: over 90 per cent of the Jamaican population can trace its ancestry back to slaves from West Africa. In particular, the Jamaican Cinematographic Authority objected to the film's opening scene in which the Amistad's slave traders are ruthlessly dispatched by the rebellious slaves. Rex Nettleford, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, said: `Everything that deals with the history of our people is treated with the conspiracy of silence.'

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