11 October 2009


Within the past few years, we've gotten varied cinematic portraits of famous people: Édith Piaf, Séraphine de Senlis, Françoise Sagan, Uschi Obermaier, Che Guevara, Coco Chanel, Harvey Milk, Jacques Mesrine, Diane Arbus, George W. Bush, Charles Bronson (the prisoner), Idi Amin, Edie Sedgwick, Charles Darwin, Gustav Klimt, the Bouvier Beales, the Notorious B.I.G., Amelia Earhart, Ian Curtis, Queen Victoria and Jean-Dominique Bauby. Now you can add a few more to add to the list, for better or worse; and I'm sure there are plenty more in the works.

Without anything useful to say about Roman Polanski’s imprisonment in Switzerland, a friend of mine directed me to an unofficial Polanski biopic that was released this year. Already available on DVD, the film, now called Polanski: Unauthorized, is co-written, directed and starring some guy named Damian Chapa, who you may recognize from a small role in Under Seige or as “Ken” in that awful Street Fighter movie (the one that had Kylie Minogue and Jean-Claude Van Damme, not the other awful one). Polanski: Unauthorized looks like a disaster and surprisingly was made and released before all the new developments, though likely capitalizing on the newfound interest in Polanski’s exile after the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired came out. Based on the trailer, it appears to cover the director’s life from the taking of his parents to Nazi concentration camps to the infamous court case, likely in flashbacks but I’m only inferring here. The actress playing Sharon Tate looks especially appalling; just listen to her tell Roman over the phone that she’s pregnant. As the cast list includes actors playing both Mia Farrow and Anton LaVey (ha!), the filming of Rosemary’s Baby probably takes up a good portion of the film. If anyone’s actually seen this, let me know… Variety’s review, by Todd McCarthy sounds amazing:

Roman Polanski won't lose any sleep over Polanski Unauthorized, a basement tape-quality slum through the most famously traumatic episodes in a sensation-riddled life. Straight-to-DVD auteur Damian Chapa invested little money, and less talent, in depicting the subject's escape from the Nazis, flirtation with devil worship on "Rosemary's Baby," relationship with Sharon Tate and arrest for raping a 13-year-old girl, moments from all of which are shuffled together almost at random. With production values no better than homemade porn -- most scenes are played in front of drapes -- and dialogue that makes you feel sorry for the actors, this Friday the 13th Los Angeles vanity release isn't even fun in a bad-movie way. Paying customers will feel gypped.

Like Coco Chanel, Romy Schneider, for whom Chanel designed numerous articles of clothing, is the subject of two competing biopics at the moment (though technically Chanel had three released within a year of one another). The first of the two, entitled Romy, will be airing on German television 11 November, followed by the DVD release the next day. Actress Jessica Schwarz (Kammerfilmmern) will play Schneider; the rest of the cast includes Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist, King Kong, Queen Margot) as her first husband Harry Meyen and Guillaume Delorme as Alain Delon, a good friend and frequent co-star of the actress. The bigger of the two biopics, tentatively titled Eine Frau wie Romy [A Woman Like Romy], was scheduled to have begun shooting in summer 2008, but there isn’t a whole lot of information following that. Directed by Josef Rusnak (The Thirteenth Floor, Quiet Days in Hollywood), Eine Frau wie Romy has actress Yvonne Catterfeld as Schneider (no, not Beyoncé, unfortunately), and the IMDb lists Michel Piccoli, one of Schneider’s close friends, in the cast, as well as Jean-Hughes Anglade and Tchéky Karyo. I’ll let you know if I hear anything further about either version.

Breaking Glass Pictures, a new studio launched by former heads of TLA Releasing Richard Wolff and Richard Ross, has acquired the rights to An Englishman in New York, a sequel-of-sorts to The Naked Civil Servant from 1975, based on the autobiography of Quentin Crisp. John Hurt reprises his role as Crisp and is joined by Cynthia Nixon, Denis O’Hare, Jonathan Tucker and Swoosie Kurtz in the film, which earned Hurt a special Teddy Award from the Berlin International Film Festival for his performance. Breaking Glass will release the film sometime in 2010.

And finally, nothing looks to have changed about the Serge Gainsbourg biopic, Vie héroïque; it’s still set for a French release on 20 January.

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