Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Pink Panther Strikes Ever Again

Being as old as dirt, the Senescent Man has a fond rememberance of the movies of Peter Sellers. And that is why a review by Alessandra Stanley of this HBO made for TV movie entitled "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" -- to be aired tomorrow (Sunday) night at 9 -- caught our eye. Stanley reviews a TV movie, but asks several important questions for our Age.

Below an excerpt:

Why is Hollywood so addicted to making movies about Hollywood, despite all the evidence indicating that biopics about movie stars almost always flop? And why is our culture so intent on cannibalizing the pop-culture past?

The Peter Sellers story is part of a larger onslaught of show business necrophilia, from cameo re-creations of Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's "Aviator" to "The Real Gilligan's Island," a TBS reality show in which ordinary people compete to impersonate sitcom castaways on a desert isle (dueling Professors and Mary Anns). A new television ad uses computer graphics to resurrect the actor Steve McQueen, putting his image - and mystique - behind the wheel of the 2005 Mustang.

Ours is the Age of Recycling, a time when filmmakers, politicians and advertisers alike rely on the rule that audiences relate most easily and quickly to a familiar famous face. Before narrative, before context, the easiest product to sell in the crowded marketplace of imagery is identification: if the audience knows them, they will come. Biopics of actors are in a way easier to sell than movies about historical figures like Alexander the Great or Alfred Kinsey. In a generation of viewers raised on People magazine, the E! Channel and "Behind the Music," most viewers know actors better than anyone else.

For filmmakers, of course, a movie like "Peter Sellers" is glorified shoptalk - a chance for actors and producers to revel in their own small, self-absorbed world. It's a bit lazy, perhaps, to wrap a script around the one subject that requires almost no research: the narcissistic show-business personality. (Why don't moviemakers ever get over themselves and make a movie about the life and death of Jesus? Oops. Never mind.)

Solipsism is hardly unique to Hollywood: journalists who read and write media gossip Web sites like or are just as guilty. There isn't a medical conference in the world where doctors and researchers just stick to the disease at hand and do not also dissect their colleagues.
Our sentiments exactly. Read the whole thing (free online subscription required).

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