A Master Class in Filmmaking

A Master Class in Filmmaking

Posted by Mike Finnegan on Jan 2nd 2019

As she approaches her 82nd birthday at month’s end, acting eminence Vanessa Redgrave abides. Courtesy of Cohen Media Group, two opportunities to watch her cast her spell are occupying theaters: a sparkling restoration of the Merchant-Ivory production of Henry James’s The Bostonians (1984, featuring her Oscar®-nominated and National Society of Film Critics Best Actress-awarded performance) is playing at various screens across the country and, opening next week, director Julien Landais’ adaptation of James’s The Aspern Papers (2018), a project with a rich family connection, as her father Michael Redgrave once penned and starred in a highly regarded 1959 stage adaptation, and her daughter Joely Richardson co-stars with her in this new reimagining of the material. This weekend she concludes a three-month London theatrical run in Matthew Lopez’s AIDS-era drama The Inheritance, and her unmistakable narrative voice will again grace an eighth season of the beloved BBC/PBS series Call the Midwife arriving in the Spring. Awarded the Golden Lion lifetime achievement award for acting at last year’s Venice Film Festival, where The Aspern Papers was world-premiered, she possesses and generates indelible memories; a staggering 60-year stage and screen career will do that.

In doing publicity for The Aspern Papers, she spoke with the Los Angeles Times’ Emily Zemler, and in an interview published online today, shared several memories of various movie collaborations, one of which was the powerful screen adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento story Julia (1977). She recalled: “I treasure the days I spent with [director] Fred [Zinnemann], both before and during and after we made this film. I could write or speak for a long, long time about Fred as a director and as a man. I will tell you about his words to me and Jane Fonda the evening before we shot our scene in the cafe. The scene was not a long one and it was very, very well written by Alvin Sargent. Fred told both Jane and me to make as many cuts in our individual texts as we could. The next morning, we gave Fred our cuts, which the script supervisor made notes of. As far as I remember, Fred accepted both Jane's and my cuts. Then we filmed the scene – very little discussion. In his final edit with Walter Murch, Fred cut the scene to something like the barest minimum. All this was – and still is – for me, a master class in filmmaking.” Twilight Time fans might just agree with that, as the label’s hi-def Blu-ray showcasing her luminous Academy Award®-winning performance, plus an Audio Commentary discussion between Nick Redman and Fonda, a long-time friend and admirer, ably demonstrates.

A week before that 82nd birthday commemoration, TT also offers another lovely illustration of her craft, director John Schlesinger’s World War II-era romantic drama Yanks (1979, debuting January 22). There will be more Redgrave (she has three 2019 projects on her IMDb docket) and more on Yanks in the days ahead.