Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 12/08/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Last Tycoon" is a thinly veiled retelling of the life of movie mogul Irving Thalberg. Thalberg made an amazing slew of motion pictures during his short rein as a producer and studio head in the 30's. DeNiro's Monroe Stahr is a mysterious, haunted individual who literally lives only for the movies he's making. It seems his fascinating with the screen makes him unable to communicate with the living all around him.
Writer Harold Pinter's dialog rhythms only enhances the impression that Stahr is in this world but not of it. Ultimately Stahr's intense devotion to appearance dove tails nicely with the themes examined in the book. Pinter fleshes out Fitzgerald's unfinished novel nicely although the film has an unfinished quality as well.
As directed by Hollywood and Broadway veteran Elia Kazan (On The Waterfront, East of Eden, A Streecar Named Desire), The Last Tycoon isn't an easy film to like; many of the characters seem vapid and self serving. In the character of Stahr we have a protagonist who isn't really "there" at all. Which is precisely Kazan and Pinter's point; The Last Tycoon is how image overwhelms substance but can't become a substitute for living.
Kazan's direction brings many of these characters to life providing a unique glimpse into the Hollywood studio system at its prime. Kazan and Pinter provide a fascinating and disquieting glimpse into the American life of the glamorous and powerful of Hollywood during its heyday. It's a sad and tragic tale which Kazan manages to inject with quiet power.
The transfer is very nice although there are a few analog and digital artifacts. The compression artifacts are minimal, however and probably won't be noticeable to most viewers.
There aren't any extras provided. With the cast, writer and director involved you would expect there to be something in Paramount's vaults that could be included as an extra. There's no audio commentary. Since Kazan was alive just prior to the release of this film (September 2003) on DVD, I would have thought he might have been asked to provide a commentary after all this was his last film. Additionally, it was produced by legendary independent producer Sam Spiegel with music by Maurice Jarre so from a historical perspective it's a fairly important mainstream film. The Last Tycoon was the last gasp from a generation of film makers and, as such, deserved better.
While not a showcase like Kazan's earliest motion pictures (he peaked as a film director in the 50's with On The Waterfront and a handful of other classic films), The Last Tycoon manages to capture the end of an era and a tragic life in its all too brief 123 minutes with elegance and power."
Many good pieces but not for everyone
Daniel Friedman | Harrison, NY USA | 04/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Last Tycoon is one of the last vestiges of old Hollywood merging with new Hollywood. Adapted from the unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is an effective tribute to a time when the movie industry was in its infancy. As a fan of the original book I can't decide whether my familiarity with it made me more inclined to like the film or not. I've decided that it did, but I can see where other Fitzgerald fans would think otherwise.Robert DeNiro stars as Monroe Stahr, a thinly veiled depiction of film pioneer Irving Thalberg, who is burdened by his overwhelming position as a studio production head, by the loss of his movie star wife, and by his weak heart. While DeNiro's portrayal is the centerpiece of the film, there are several other elements involved which lend an extra aura of prestige. Directed by Elia Kazan, the film is technically competent, but, as it is based on a work which its original author left incomplete, the ending is a bit forced and contrived. You can tell that they had to come up with an ending without the resource of the author to make it seamless. To lend additional sparkle, there are appearances by a multitude of stars such as Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Ray Milland, and Theresa Russell who vie for screen time on the periphery of the main plot line involving Stahr's encounter and subsequent infatuation with an extra, played by Ingrid Boulting, who is his dead wife's twin. Mitchum in particular does a nice job as the studio boss, but all of them feel underused. If you're going to put these people in a film, they should have something to sink their teeth into.Kazan captures the spirit of the time and place well, but the pacing is slow - sometimes interminable - and sometimes confusing. It doesn't seem to have that crackle that Kazan's previous films had, and perhaps the director recognized this and subsequently retired. While The Last Tycoon represents Elia Kazan's last directorial effort, it is also notable for featuring the only joint screen appearance to date of Robert DeNiro and Jack Nicholson."
An Enigmatic and Reclusive Cinema Giant
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 02/06/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Monroe Stahr is a high-powered Hollywood executive seen as a creative genius by his studio peers. What makes him so different from so many executive screen depictions is that he is not the boisterously expansive "eat on the run" giant one so frequently sees, but is more of an otherwise faceless bureaucrat who says little and acts only when it is necessary.
"The Last Tycoon" was director Elia Kazan's last film. The 1976 drama was adapted from the final work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's friend John O'Hara and others of the literary cognoscenti believed it would be his enduring work, but alas, before he could complete it he succumbed to a fatal heart attack in his apartment at the Laurel Arms in Hollywood, located next door to the Garden of Allah, the author's favorite Southern California residence, but one that was beyond his means at that point of a problem plagued career.
The difficulty with a work of this kind that ends before the creator had an opportunity to instill a deft finishing touch is that so much is left to the imagination as we abound in a sea of speculation. Celebrated British playwright and screen scenarist Harold Pinter entered the picture and applied his efforts to provide a conclusion. He focuses on the enigmatic and impossible to reach elements of Monroe Stahr, who was drawn in real life by Fitzgerald from his days as an MGM screenwriter, when he knew and observed Irving Thalberg. Like Fitzgerald, Thalberg was a product of New York intellectual circles. Both soared like comet while still in their twenties. They both also died tragically young. Fitzgerald's heart problems brought about his death at 44. Thalberg, never blessed with a strong constitution, succumbed at 37 from pneumonia.
Robert DeNiro, then a hot young talent who had recently dazzled in "Taxi Driver," played the cards dealt him with professional skill as the enigmatic Monroe Stahr. It is difficult to internalize a driving dynamo that keeps so much of his emotion pent up within him, as was the character's persona. Robert Michum does his usual superb job, this time as the studio head that tries to understand DeNiro, but is ultimately as perplexed as anyone else. So is his spoiled daughter played by Theresa Russell. On her vacation time from an impressive Eastern college she seeks to seduce DeNiro, but her passes fall consistently incomplete.
Instead DeNiro expends his outward passions, but even then in his normal distant style, on Ingrid Boulting, who is engaged to an architect who spends much of his time out of Los Angeles. On one of those occasions, when she is visiting the studio as a tourist, DeNiro sees her and is awestruck at the resemblance between her and his deceased former movie star wife, whose tragedy he cannot put behind him. Boulting's friend Anjelica Houston runs interference and hopes to attract the movie executive's romantic attention, but she cannot help but fail. Whereas she is direct and extroverted, DeNiro is cut from the same cloth as her girlfriend Boulting, with both being taciturn enigmas.
The tempest waiting to erupt within DeNiro ultimately explodes when Mitchum assigns his troubleshooter to talk to New Yorker Jack Nicholson, who has come to Hollywood to unionize writers. Mitchum disgustedly refers to Nicholson as a Communist agitator, normal terminology from studio executives seeing union organizers as threats to their tightly run power bases.
When it is DeNiro who ultimately loses his poise by getting drunk and being unable to tend to business at the time that Mitchum needs him to be in top form the studio boss, along with the chief legal representative from the New York office, played with executive efficiency by Ray Milland, believe it is time for DeNiro to take a long and badly needed rest.
In a film that is replete with big names Tony Curtis excels in his role as a frightened leading man who has developed impotence. He goes to DeNiro and tells him his story, looking for help. The irony is that seeking assistance from the highly troubled DeNiro is like the legendary case of "the blind leading the blind.""
BORING AND PRETENTIOUS FILM.
Alejandro Cortes | Mexico | 11/09/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When you notice that this movie was directed by Elia Kazan, has the great Robert De Niro in the central role, has a supporting cast with very familiar names (Jack Nicholson, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau and Theresa Russell), you would think that this should be a great movie...well, it isn't, in fact is a very boring movie."The Last Tycoon" is full of uninteresting situations, one dimensional characters, a very slow and boring rhythm, in few words this movie is a big disappointment. The only reason to see this sleeping potion, is to see the scene that shows at the same time the screen legends Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson. Beside that, there isn't another highlight.Recommendable only for Robert De Niro fans or Jack Nicholson fans, but most likely they will see this movie only once."
Depends Who You Are
Jim Price | USA | 12/07/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I can understand how a lot of people feel bored by this movie. It mainly just introduces some characters and shows them progressing through their lives with no real direction for the plot, and the ending makes you feel like you have to wait for a sequel to find out what happens in the story. However there are a few reasons to like this movie. Seeing a young Deniro who was aggresive and not playing the same old cop role of today is something to see. Seeing him with fellow icons Robert Mitchim and Jack Nicholson is a once and a lifetime thing to see. Also the attractive woman he persues, could really aggrivate some men who have been in the same situation. Seeing how the prettiest women who can get any man, treat guys so badly and play with their hearts. Also I admire Deniro's character's creativity and drive to be the best at what he does, that's something that can inspire people to be the same way."