By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Andy Rector

“Don’t try to sound wise or informed about Jerry, don’t try to shed light.  He rejects being understood, quite properly, and his impulses live in darkness.  At any rate, nobody really knows anybody in this life, we’re all surprises—a fact Jerry’s every twitch elucidated.  The countless commentators who worked through the decades to label Jerry, judge him, pass sentence, never sat with him at table, yet eagerly framed him in personal, not professional, terms.  We never met, but I always cherish a tiny moment caught and held by Martin Scorsese in The King of Comedy, where a man I take to be very like Jerry, named, of course, Jerry, pauses in the atrium of his New York apartment to watch Sam Fuller’s Pickup on South Street on his television: the penetrating regard, the poise, the suspension of breath, the meticulous air of analysis (which I take to have belonged to both the onscreen Jerry I watch there and the real Jerry playing him) give me a thrill, as though in working to scrutinize this TV watcher I am picking up some of the mojo that is already his, in watching the film on his screen.  Perhaps Jerry Langford isn’t Jerry Lewis in any way, and I’m not getting anywhere near Jerry Lewis by observing him, but I really don’t believe that.

It seems he was always in the glare of one light or another, arclight, klieg light, candlelight, sun. That for him being in the light came naturally (stepping out through the billboard mouth hole in Artists and Models) and therefore couldn’t have been a torture.  Yet can we ever be sure?  Think of Bertolt Brecht’s lines for Kurt Weill:

Some in light and some in darkness
That’s the kind of world we mean.
Those you see are in the daylight.
Those in darkness don’t get seen.

Since, watching Jerry, we sit in the darkness, can we really know what it is to suffer illumination—always unless one retreats, from every side, and with howling voices?  Jerry’s performative antics were hugely visual. It is interesting that Jerry, an unwavering source of brilliance, was somehow not a source of illumination.  Illumination was neither his method nor his path, although he was a blinding sun.  The confession speech at the end of The Nutty Professor, where he breaks up during “That Old Black Magic,” then stands on the stage and tells the story of his life:  it is pure sunshine, if also, simultaneously, degradation. ”
~ Andy Rector

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The Atlantic: You saw that the Academy Awards recently held up your 2001 acceptance speech as the Platonic ideal of an Oscar speech. Did you have a reaction?

Soderbergh: Shock and dismay. When that popped up and people started texting me about it, I said, “Oh, it’s too bad I’m not there to tell the story of how that took place.” Well. I was not sober at the time. And I had nothing prepared because I knew I wasn’t going to win [Best Director for Traffic]. I figured Ridley, Ang or Daldry would win. So I was hitting the bar pretty hard, having a great night, feeling super-relaxed because I don’t have to get up there. So the combination of a 0.4 blood alcohol level and lack of preparation resulted in me, in my state of drunkenness crossed with adrenaline surge. I was coherent enough to know that [if I tried to thank everyone], that way lies destruction. So I went the other way. There were some people who appreciated that, and there were some people who really wanted to hear their names said, and I had to apologize to them.
~ Steven Soderbergh

 

“I have made few films in a way. I never made action films. I never made science fiction films. I never made, really, very complicated settings, because I had modest ambitions. I knew they would never trust me to have the budget to do something different, so my mind is more focused on things I know. So they were always mental adventures I wanted to approach and share. Working for cinema with no – not only no money, but also no ambition for money. I was happy and proud [to receive the honorary Oscar] because of that, that [the Academy] could understand what kind of work I have done over 60 years. I stayed faithful to the ideal of sharing emotion, impressions, and mostly because I have so much empathy for other people that I approach people who are not really spoken about. I have 65 years of work in my bag, and when I put the bag down, what comes out? It’s really the desire of finding links and relationships with different kinds of people. I never made a film about the bourgeoisie, about rich people. about nobility. My choices have been to show people that are, in a way, more common and see that each of them has something special and interesting, rare and beautiful. It’s my natural way of looking at people. I didn’t fight my instincts. And maybe that has been appreciated in the famous circle of Hollywood.“

Agnes Varda