Reading the copious ink and pixels devoted to the life’s
work of recently deceased literary legend Norman Mailer reminded me that he was
not only a writer but a filmmaker (see Harold Goldberg’s post for more on his
acting and directing work). In these
times of the multi-tasker and the multi-talented, there are many examples of
artists who "cross over" from one discipline to another.
Julian Schnabel, who began his career as a visual artist –
his original claim to fame was his "broken plate" paintings in the
1980s – has directed three films to date. His first was the reasonably well-received Basquiat, a biography of his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat, the
graffiti artist and painter who died in 1988 at only 28 years old.
Schnabel’s sophomore effort, Before Night Falls, scored a Best Actor nomination for star Javier
Bardem, who played Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas. Bardem is currently terrifying audiences as
ecologically responsible psychopath Anton Chigurh (he dispatches his victims
with compressed air!) in the Coen brothers’ No
Country for Old Men.
Schnabel keeps improving as a filmmaker: his latest film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, won
him the Best Director award at the most recent Cannes Film Festival and opens
November 30th. It’s based on a memoir by
French magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke that left
him only able to communicate by blinking his left eye.
Musicians aren’t immune to the lure of cinema, either. Bob Dylan, the subject of Todd Hayne’s just-released
I’m Not There, has also tried his
hand at filmmaking. He appeared as Alias
in Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 revisionist Western, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and contributed several songs to the
soundtrack. Dylan tried his hand at
directing in 1978, and the result was the three-plus hour surrealist film Renaldo and Clara. Reviews ranged from baffled to scathing, and
Dylan withdrew the film from distribution.