Friday, 2 May 2008


Director and writer Alan Parker is also a master cartoonist. His vision of movie-making expressed with a pencil is as sharpen and accurate as his eye of movie-maker. Will Write and Direct for Food is his third collection of cartoons on the movie industry, a funny, caustic and clever voyage through the other side of the screen.

« The (Hollywood) system IS dysfunctional at best and not a help to taking creative chances, which was and remains a pity. It is not for the thin-skinned and humiliations come in all shapes and sizes. » (Nicholas Meyer)

« It's only a movie, Ingrid. » (Alfred Hitchcock)


When you are at some level or another of the great food chain of the motion picture industry there is always a moment when you try to recall what it's all about. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you remember all this is about films, movies, flicks, the stuff you used to watch in a dark room full of people before it goes on strange small discs and on Telly.

The Saving Grace can touch you during a lunch with Stephen Tobolowsky, while discussing with a cultivated and epicurian spanish gentleman or while you laugh reading the latest collection of cartoons by Sir Alan Parker.

Before beeing one of the greatest directors and writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, Sir Alan used to be a cartoonist in a London ad agency. Later, he kept playing with his pencil as a catharsis during the usual, frequent and exquisite « cultural confontations » with studios suits.

« Mostly, of course, you pinch yourself how lucky you are to actually be involved in making films but also, when things get rough, making a film can seem like 120 pages of sodomy. » (Alan Parker)

« Timing is everything » says the villain in Adrenalin, a german actioner. This third book of Sir Alan's little tricks and treats (after Hares in the gate and Making Movies) comes just after the summer of all fears and discontents for US box office and the Hollywood industry.

And ouch, it hurts... « I'm telling you Larry, modern cinema is the bastard child of the effects movie and the computer game: the confluence of the phony with the non existent, resulting in the unimaginable. » (Will Write and Direct for Food, page 30)


With Alan Parker the sketch game often mutes into skeet game and no-one is spared: Cameron Diaz, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Guy Ritchie... but from a purely cinephilic point of view, the deadliest bullet shot to the « Mighty Ducks » is 20 years old: the cult-classic « God, how I hate the Laura Ashley school of film making » (« A Merchant Ivory Production », page 93).

« 20 million over budget, 2 hours too long, and forty minutes after closing time. » (« Mammoth Pictures Presents The Grand Epic », page 68)

Nevertheless make no misunderstanding, Will Write and Direct For Food is not Die Hard with a vengeance. It's a funny and intelligent look over the bringers of wonders from an insider. The status of the director within the system (« In Europe the director is the author of the film: God. In the States the director is shit: a hired hand, an indeventured servant. », page 15), the multiplexes (Shrek on 9 screens, Amelie in the 10th one - page 65), the pre-production process, the execs, the agents, the journalists and the critics (after page 204 your humble scribbler considered buying a kevlar bullet-proof vest) are amongst the many themes of this Survival guide to Hollywoodland.

Sometimes the pencil of Sir Alan could strangely be taken for a crystal ball - particularly page 194 - but, as he writes in the foreword of this useful book, « nothing has changed in the movie business in a hundred years ».


« I mean what is the British Film Industry anyway? Just a bunch of people in London who can't get Green Cards. » (Page 85)

Alan Parker makes Hollywoodland bite the dust and Homeland eat ashes, when targeting the British Film Industry with an almost melancholic tone (« So much leg work. So many miles. So little progress », page 81) for a past Chairman of the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute. Revenge of the Grumpy Old Man? No, Will Write and Direct for Food is an amusing and elegant piece of wit from an eclectic artist wishing to recall us all this is about making movies (« In equal doses it is an uplifting and sluttish profession »).

British Actor extraordinary Stephen Fry says about Will Write... : « You'll want three copies: one for keeping, one for sending to your friends (and enemies) and one for cutting up and framing ». Those who know the author of this article personally will guess which cartoon he could xerox and frame...

Santa Claus is coming to town earlier this year, thanks to London-based publisher Southbank Publishing and to this superb book (£14.99). Note that Southbank also publishes a book on the Shepperton Studios with a foreword by Sir John Mills and an introduction by Sir Ridley Scott.

« Alan Parker and Ridley Scott are great generals. They have vision, clarity, and GREAT PREPARATION.» (Stephen Tobolowsky)

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