April 14, 2018

Goodbye to Milos Forman.

The great film director was 86 (NYT).
In his memoir, Mr. Forman said the producers of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, sought him out because “I seemed to be in their price range.” In fact, they had made a perfect match between filmmaker and material, in this case a cult novel by Ken Kesey....

“The People vs. Larry Flynt” pressed the limits of tolerance for an antihero with its sympathetic portrait of the Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt....

In 1999, “Man on the Moon,” Mr. Forman’s complex portrait of the comic Andy Kaufman and his alter-ego Tony Clifton, did only a little better for Universal Pictures....
All the great movies with white male anti-heroes! They seem to belong to a bygone era now. How influential these movie characters were on me.

52 comments:

Rob said...

A sympathetic portrait of Harvey Weinstein will have to be back-burnered.

David Begley said...

Nurse Ratched?

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

"Cuckoo's Nest" may be a classic, even if the Nurse Ratched character was too melodramatic. Torture is worse when it's inflicted by the person who's supposed to be a nurturing nurse? It's the well-meaning people who will do the worst harm? The business about "the supposedly crazy may be the sane ones, and vice versa" is quite old--it's in Swift, and Aristophanes. There was a new neo-Marxist twist: the capitalists have learned to buy us off with consumer goods; we need to adopt a radical perspective to see we are accepting violence and injustice--perhaps the separation of all of us from nature. Marcuse was asked what he thought about some of R.D. Laing's work on mental illness as a path to wisdom, and he said he couldn't accept that people who were nuts were wise just because they were nuts. Still, it's probably true that the mental health establishment continues to claim to know more than they actually do. Kesey experienced some of this at first hand. Larry Flynt: sexual freedom means the freedom to look at porn and masturbate. Has this now become too much, too addictive? Do men expect to reach orgasm in 6 to 8 minutes, and does this spoil things for women?

rehajm said...

I could put Amadeus or Cuckoo's Nest on a loop and be entertained for months.

The period when movies mattered is a little farther away in the rear view mirror today.

David Begley said...

Who directed Black Panther or Iron Man 2? Giants of cinema!

The arts have been in a decline since about 1980; music, film and painting. Hamilton and Wicked are in a small group of quality work.

Molly said...

I loved Cuckoo's Nest as a movie. But as a cultural phenomenon, it contributed in a substantial way to the "deinstitutionalization" movement. The mentally ill are not really mentally ill (is the message) they are just rebels who refuse to knuckle under to the behavioral demands of the tight-asses who run the world. Cuckoo's Nest is not the only, or even the first, movie with this message (or book with this message). I don't think we can look back on the way that things have developed since the 1950s and 60s, with growing homelessness and other modern issues/problems. We've arrived at a point where we are loathe to categorized anything as mental illness -- it's just a different opinion about appropriate lifestyle.

Shouting Thomas said...

His best movie, by far in my opinion, was “The Fireman’s Ball.”

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

David Begley: Nurse Ratched?

I enjoyed Kathy Shaidle's less conventional perspective on Nurse Ratched. (Though I wouldn't have used "draft-dodgers" as the short-hand for the arrested-adolescence audience she's describing.)

Rob said...

I'm still imagining a biopic about Harvey Weinstein (tentatively titled "Weinstein in Love"). John Belushi would have been perfect as Weinstein, but he left us too soon. So it's Al Pacino, ready to make a meal of the scenery. And Gwyneth Paltrow could play herself, if she can tear herself away from putting stones in her hoohah. I think we've got a hit on our hands!

EDH said...

I threw away his grill. Clunky and took up too much counter/cabinet space.

J. Farmer said...

Huge fan of Miloš Forman's work, but it is a pity that his last film, Goya's Ghost, was unwatchable. Well, it is almost watchable if only to see Randy Quaid play the part of Charles IV of Spain.

gilbar said...

so, there was this guy; who was a
sex offender
rapist
child molester

and then, through medication, surgery, and years of labor; a hard working nurse cures him of his anti-social psychopathic ways ...

And then some alcoholic indian KILLS HIM!!!

imagine what a terrible loss that was; you spend Years curing someone; and then, in a flash, he's taken from you

Michael K said...


"Cuckoo's Nest" may be a classic, even if the Nurse Ratched character was too melodramatic.


I agree with Molly. That movie had a serious role in the destruction of mental health are in this country.

It may be the most influential movie on the culture since Clark Gable took off his shirt in "It Happened One Night." Most of you are probably too young to remember (not that I did at the time) but undershirt sales crashed. The result was far less damaging (except the BVD corp) than the Cuckoo effect.

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Shouting Thomas said...
His best movie, by far in my opinion, was “The Fireman’s Ball.”
------------------------------------

YES!

traditionalguy said...

What a Director. He could make crazy white men's guilt seem like living a normal life. ANTI- hero indeed.

Fernandistien said...

In the book the main character was the Indian.

Molly said...
But as a cultural phenomenon, it contributed in a substantial way to the "deinstitutionalization" movement.


That "movement" had started at least 20 years earlier, and early psych drugs, Szasz and CA Gov. Reagan predate the movie.

Michael K said...

The movie was made in 1975. In 1962, the mental health system was still based on inpatient care of psychotics.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

The movie was made in 1975. In 1962, the mental health system was still based on inpatient care of psychotics.

I agree with you about the film's portrayal of mental health treatment, particularly in techniques like electro-shock, which actually can have extremely positive effects on people with severe chronic depression and is nowhere near as dramatic a procedure as portrayed in popular media. That said, from my understanding of the history, the de-institutionalization movement was mostly spurred by the advent of effect psychotropic drugs. I am kind of ambivalent about de-institutionalization. It was certainly a positive development for a number of psychiatric patients. Yet their remained that chronic, long-term patient who mostly ended up living on the streets or in jail or prison. What's really occurred over the last several decades is that long-term inpatient psychiatric care has shifted to the corrections departments and county jails.

Michael K said...

from my understanding of the history, the de-institutionalization movement was mostly spurred by the advent of effect psychotropic drugs.

I agree but the early drugs had side effects that contributed to the failure to keep on meds when not in an institution.

Additionally, the illness has the effect of no insight into the illness by the patient.

It's a long story. I considered seriously a career in psychiatry until I spent some time with professors of Psychiatry who were still wedded to the analytic model, which is useless with psychotics.

We are only now getting into real science in Psychiatry.

The professor I worked with as a student was very impressive but was in disagreement with most of the profession. One of his residents at UCLA wrote the book, "Reality Therapy" which is still in print almost 60 years later.

At one time, in an era when public schools were still sane, it was recommended for the LA Unified School System.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

I could put Amadeus or Cuckoo's Nest on a loop and be entertained for months.

Forman was a brilliant director. Cuckoo's Nest, the novel, was written from a counter-cultural perspective. I fully agree with Molly that the philosophy involved was bad science but it remains great entertainment. Amadeus, while not historically accurate, was a great film because of Mozart's music and Forman's uncanny directive skills.

tim maguire said...

The Fireman's Ball

I'm not a Milos Forman expert. I can't promise that this is his best movie, but it's the best one I've seen.

tim maguire said...

Lloyd, Forman grew up on the other side of the iron curtain. He is not promoting hippie counterculture, he's railing against totalitarianism.

rehajm said...

Amadeus, while not historically accurate...

There will always be critics who complain fiction isn't historically accurate.

mockturtle said...

Tim maguire writes: Lloyd, Forman grew up on the other side of the iron curtain. He is not promoting hippie counterculture, he's railing against totalitarianism.

Cuckoo's Nest was adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey. Forman directed [brilliantly] the film but did not write the script.

Molly said...

Tim Maguire and others:

No doubt totalitarians have used "mental illness" to justify suppression of opposing views. What I argue is that movies like Cuckoo contributed to the extreme reaction to this -- the notion that most cases of mental illness are actually people who are simply resisting the socially accepted norms of thinking, belief, and behavior.

William said...

I've seen most of the films mentioned here. I remember them being very good, but I don't remember much else about them. The exception is Amadeus, but, as mockturtle observes, that's mostly because of Mozart's music......I've got a suspicion that if I see Cuckoo again my opinion would be revised downward, so I avoid rewatching it. I've got no wish to see the Larry Flynt or Andy Kauffman movies again. As I remember them, the jokes in the Kauffman movie weren't funny and the girls in the Flynt movie weren't that hot.

mockturtle said...

IMO, the best parts of Cuckoo's Nest are the initial interview with Dr. Spivey [that guy was classic!] and of course Louise Fletcher's flawless performance of a good psychiatric nurse who sees through McMurphy's ploys and tries to maintain a secure environment for her patients. Of course, to Kesey [the author of the novel] and from the film's perspective, she was the villain.

William Chadwick said...

And "Cuckoo" gave us Nurse Ratched, a prophesy of the Coming of Hillary.

rehajm said...

It's wild. You can rent movies anyplace now on cassettes, they got 'em everyplace, they got 'em everywhere, I tell ya, it's crazy. Supermarkets, dry cleaners. My wife comes home from the gynecologist -- she says to me, "Honey, I got cystitis and Amadeus!" ... I said, "Is it serious?" She says, "Parts of it, but the music is beautiful!" [rim shot]

-Buddy Young, Jr.

rcocean said...

I can't think of single movie of his that i truly like. Ragtime was a disaster. All the rest were bores.

Yancey Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yancey Ward said...

I am pleased to see that others also thought well of and remember The Fireman's Ball. It is actually the first Forman movie I ever saw, though I saw the Amadeus later the same day, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the next day (I was a freshman in college and a local theater did a weekend Forman celebration).

There is a scene in the The Simpson's Movie that is a direct allusion to the Forman movie where Moes Tavern is looted.

Quaestor said...

I cannot say that Milos Formen was a favorite director of mine, nor can I say that any of his works appear on my "top 100" list. I do not keep such lists, nor do I rank one film against another except on the rare occasion when two films draw on the same material. Typically such a condition exists in the case of remakes, a long-standing and generally obnoxious Hollywood practice. Very rarely a remake is markedly superior to its progenitor. For example, there is John Huston's 1941 production of The Maltese Falcon, an undoubted masterpiece when compared to the 1931 version of the same story. To my knowledge, Milos Forman never directed a remake, which is much to his credit in my estimation. However, he was a director in one of two instances of rival films of the same story produced virtually in tandem. That was Valmont (1989), Forman's treatment of Les Liaisons dangereuses, the slightly pornographic 1782 epistolary novel penned by a then-obscure military engineer called Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Valmont was released barely a year after another treatment of the story, Dangerous Liasons (1988), directed by Stephen Frears. Forman's Valmont is clearly superior. I suspect that Frears was the victim of casting choices made by the producers, who were perhaps trying to disguise a weak screenplay with box office draws like Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Keanu Reeves sadly miscast. Another example of this kind of material rivalry is the tandem release of two films about Truman Capote's fascination with the horrendous destruction of the Clutter family in 1959. The first out the gate was Capote, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role in 2006. It's rival, Infamous, débuted in 2006, and was like Valmont second in time and first in my estimation. Toby Jones was a just a better Capote. Bennett Miller apparently wanted to make a film about a gay man, whereas Douglas McGrath wanted to make a film about an interesting man.

Quaestor said...

Oop, typo alert! Somehow I mistyped the release date of Capote, which was 2005, and not 2006. Actually, the two films about the inception of Capote's nonfiction novel were 21 months apart.

mockturtle said...

Keanu Reeves sadly miscast.

Isn't he always? Remember his role in Much Ado About Nothing?

eddie willers said...



I read the book after watching the movie. I was shocked by the first line that reveals the Chief as the narrator.

My favorite scene (in a movie with many great scenes) was when the truth (that the Chief wasn't mute) came way late with the Juicy Fruit line.

What joy...and it was the creation of the movie folks and not the novelist.

Quaestor said...

Amadeus, while not historically accurate, was a great film because of Mozart's music and Forman's uncanny directive skills.

A fine example of that was the scene where Salieri gets his first glimpse of the famous prodigy. Nearly caught in the act of plundering the Prince Archbishop's treats laid out for his most favored guests, Saliere hides under a table. Of Mozart, he can see only the legs. A worm's eye view that presages his worm's eye view of the relationship of talent to moral uprightness, two things that only accidentally coincide. Perhaps Forman was reminding us that great art sometimes derives from less than admirable minds, a phenomenon with a long history, one supposes. Unfortunately for our time which has produced so little in the way of great art, those allegedly artistic minds all too often are not merely unadmirable, they are downright despicable.

Quaestor said...

Remember his role in Much Ado About Nothing?

Shakespeare would have insisted on a title change, methinks... something like Much Nothing About Nothing comes to mind,

langford peel said...

This douche was not a pimple on John Ford or Howard Hawks or William Wellman's ass.

Once a commie always a commie.

His stuff just does not hold up.

The only way Hollywood would honor him is if it comes out he molested a child like Polanski and Allen. Those are the true heroes to Hollywood.

langford peel said...

Cukoo's nest was about as over acted as a community based summer stock production.

What do you expect with Michael Douglas as the producer.

mockturtle said...

Perhaps Forman was reminding us that great art sometimes derives from less than admirable minds, a phenomenon with a long history, one supposes. Unfortunately for our time which has produced so little in the way of great art, those allegedly artistic minds all too often are not merely unadmirable, they are downright despicable.

Yes. For instance, I loved Jeffrey Jones' portrayal of Emperor Joseph II but not the fact that he was convicted of possessing child pornography. If every artist had to pass the sniff test we wouldn't have very many artists. Or politicians, either.

BTW, F. Murray Abraham as Salieri is one of my two all-time favorite performances, along with Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull.

Big Mike said...

A look at his filmography page on Wikipedia is a real head scratcher. By 1989 he had won two Academy Awards, one of the films he had directed, “Cookoo’s Nest,” won best film, best screenplay, best actor in a leadind role, best actress in a leading role, and best director. He was in his mid-50’s. He should have been on top of the world. Yet he only directed three films after that. I wonder what happened?

Michael K said...

BTW, F. Murray Abraham as Salieri is one of my two all-time favorite performances,

His role in "An Innocent Man" is one of my favorites.

Liza Moon said...

two our of your three favorites were written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who have written many a fabulous biopic. i bet you will like them all.

William Chadwick said...

Lloyd Robertson wrote: "Larry Flynt: sexual freedom means the freedom to look at porn and masturbate." How would it not?

rcocean said...

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is Cuckoo.

It tries to make a hero out of McMurphy. But he's actually Con-man who's only out for himself and tries to disrupt the ward. Eventually, he attacks - and tries to kill - Nurse Rachet. Why? She's just doing her job.

Here's a mind-experiment. Imagine Rachet as a sweet little old lady played by Doris Day or a cute just-out-of-college Sally Fields. We wouldn't root for McMurhphy, would we?

Its the same with Nicholson's famous "Give me a chicken Sandwhich" scene in "5 easy pieces". His nasty attitude only works with an obnoxious, not very attractive middle-age waitress. Put Dolly Parton in the role & we'd all wonder why Jack was such an asshole.

gilbar said...

Dolly Parton would have smiled, gotten him the sandwhich; and nicely, and politely said to him: "don't worry, i didn't spit in it"

gilbar said...

" He should have been on top of the world. Yet he only directed three films after that. I wonder what happened?"

oh! oh! i know! i Know!

he did NOT provide sexual favors to Harvey Weinstien

mockturtle said...

It tries to make a hero out of McMurphy. But he's actually Con-man who's only out for himself and tries to disrupt the ward. Eventually, he attacks - and tries to kill - Nurse Rachet. Why? She's just doing her job.

I agree, rcocean, with your perspective as I stated above somewhere. But that does not negate the excellence of direction, Louise Fletcher's spot-on performance and an overall entertaining movie. Certainly Kesey saw his protagonist as a hero of sorts but we don't have to in order to enjoy the film. I thought McMurphy was an asshole, just like every other character Nicholson has played.

rcocean said...

"I agree, rcocean, with your perspective as I stated above somewhere."

I agree that Fletcher gives a great performance, just wanted to make the point that the movie "stacks the deck" by making her dictatorial and middle-aged - IOW, a "Bad Mom" thereby manipulates us by appealing to our Teenager/childish side that dislikes that kind of person and approves of the "rebel".

And Jack as an "asshhole". Certainly that was his persona in the 70s/80s. I liked jack Nicholson a LOT more as a young man, then I do now. Note: He's the "good guy" in Missouri Breaks. He lets Brando be the 'asshole' in that one.

Tina Trent said...

Milo Forman should be better known for his female anti-heroes, whom he invented to be despised.

His stories were all about poor little baby-men acting out their emasculation as if they were freedom fighters instead of rapists (Cuckoo's Nest) or preening pervs. I always found them tedious, and now they just seem like an early hint of the victimization culture engulfing real masculinity and all common sense.