Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ed Wood

Movie name: Ed Wood
Year of release: 1994
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Bill Murray, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lisa Marie, Mike Starr, Jeffrey Jones
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 10

“Ed Wood” is director Tim Burton’s heartfelt homage to the director by many considered the worst that has ever graced the silver screen. The film ends up being a celebration of the joy of creation, of making films, against all odds (and all tastes).

By the time “Ed Wood” reached the screens in 1994, Tim Burton was already an established director, with a considerable amount of successes on his belt (namely “Beetlejuice”, “Batman”, “Edward Scissorhands” and “Batman Returns”). Originally “Ed Wood” was going to be directed by Michael Lehman, the reputed director of “Heathers”, whose career had taken a nose dive after the critical and commercial failure of “Huson’s Hawk”, but after Burton expressed interest in doing “Ed Wood” Lehman stepped out, but stayed on board as an executive producer. The film’s screenwriters, had to this point a short and not very commending résumé – Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski had written the successful but critically panned “Problem Child” films (afterwards they moved to bigger and better projects, such as “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and “Man on the Moon”).
“Ed Wood” details a slice of the life of the director who was unanimously declared “the worst director of all times”. The film starts in the 1950’s when Wood is working on the studios, basically doing small tasks and trying to get a foot in directing. We are introduced to the character of Ed Wood as basically a good and sweet natured young man, filled with dreams, and a small secret – his taste for wearing women’s clothing. This secret of his, which he hides from his girlfriend Dolores, propels him to apply for the job of directing a film about Christine Jorgensen, a transsexual whose story a producer wants to turn into one low budget film. After a chance encounter with the fading star Bela Lugosi, Wood gets the job directing the film, which he entitles “Glen or Glenda” (after a screenplay that he writes himself, and who turns out to be more about a man who likes to dress as a woman). Ed tries to get more directing jobs through that film, but he meets mostly indifference and rejection. He then resorts to raising the money for his own productions, and eventually with the help of his group of friends and a diversified number of producers (butchers, evangelists), manages to shoot his “masterpieces”, “Bride of the Monster” and “Plan 9 from Outer Space”.
Tim Burton has managed to create with “Ed Wood” a film that mixes the nostalgia of B-Movies, with the joy of creating films that surpasses all barriers. Ed Wood, whose hero was Orson Welles, who shows in the film played by Vincent D’Onofrio (whose productions were always a struggle to get finished due to the intrusion of producers), is a reference in the film, mostly because his joy of doing films is what also propelled Ed (even though with different results). Burton creates an empathy with the group that surrounds Ed Wood (and in a lot of ways, it resembles his own group of actors that Tim Burton often works with), namely the hilarious Bill Murray as the pre-op transsexual Bunny Breckinridge, Jeffrey Jones as the fortune teller Criswell, Lisa Marie as Vampira, Patricia Arquette and Sarah Jessica Parker as his loved ones, without forgetting the great Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, who has some of the funniest and most memorable scenes in the film (and Landau won the Oscar with due justice). The always terrific Johnny Depp plays Ed Wood as a sweet and kind man, non-judgemental and always ready to help his friends. His performance is filled with precious moments, like when he sees his film being shown on the screen – we truly believe in the love that Ed Wood had for his creations, his masterpieces. The film doesn’t focus on the descent of Ed Wood to filming more exploitive fare, but it does give the insight to what the art of filmmaking is all about – the pure joy of telling a story, of creating magic where there was none. Ed Wood’s eyes sparkle with excitement, and so do we!
This film is pure joy to see, and it will long remain a classic, for the larger than life persona that “Ed Wood” was, but mostly, because it’s a tribute to the art of moviemaking itself.