I do believe that cinema at its best is done through an author, a voice that filters one point of view. So yes, I believe in the auteur theory. At the same time, I’ve seen very strong evidence of these auteurs losing their “voice” at certain points in their careers… which has paralleled the loss of certain key members of their team, a loyal sidekick who was their muse, collaborator or balance.
That’s not to say that said auteur is nothing without this “right hand” person. Making movies is inevitably a team effort, even if your crew only has 2 people. Eventually, you do need to edit, or promote or score your movie or whatever. You can’t avoid the social aspect of movie making. Kubrick kept his crew to about 6 people, and generally he had the same 6 for the last 30 years (resulting in 4 movies… but great ones).
Examples of directors that weren’t quite as good once they lost that key member are… Oliver Stone when Robert Richardson stopped DPing his films, Spike Lee when Ernest Dickerson stopped DPing his films, Alfred Hitchcock when Bernard Hermann stopped scoring his music, John Hughes when John Candy stopped acting in his films (Hughes called Candy his “muse”), even Quentin Tarantino when Sally Menke stopped editing his films (after she died of heat stroke hiking in LA, Tarantino called her his “co-writer.” She was sorely missed especially in “Hateful Eight”).
Most directors never get their mojo back once this sidekick is gone.
Woody Allen is perhaps the only director I can think of who who survived this ordeal… and more than once.
And yet, the richest sidekick document must be “When The Shooting Stops … The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story.” Ralph Rosenblum was the veteran editor enlisted by Woody Allen when he was just beginning his directing career. Perhaps the first of many “wisemen” Woody hired to soak film knowledge from like a sponge. The list of these gurus or uses are as long as Woody’s career (Gordon Willis, Carlo DePalma, Mia Farrow, Marshall Brickman, Robert Greenhut, etc) but none of them had the temerity to write a book about it, except for Ralph Rosenblum.
Not only does “When The Shooting Stops…” gives you great insight into the art of film editing (Rosenblum edited for Sydney Lumet, Mel Brooks, and many other directors), it takes you into the private cutting room of THE movie, the one that catapulted Woody’s career, “Annie Hall.” Originally, called “Anhedonia,” this abstract, existential, deeply experimental film was more something like “Synecdoche, New York” than the Oscar winner that became an overnight classic and accidentally bred the dreaded rom-com subgenre. After the first cut, Rosenblum begged Woody to recut the movie and mold it into the “relationship” of Alvy & Annie. Woody relented and “Anhedonia” became the taut, 90 minute masterpiece that we’ve all seen up-teenth times.
Mysteriously, when the book came out, Rosenblum stopped editing their current project “Manhattan” and his assistant Susan Morse took over (editing Woody’s next two dozen films). Rosenblum retired and although there’s no evidence that there was any bad blood, no Woody team member ever wrote a book about him again, which makes this document an even more valuable piece of cinema history.
Now, I’m not saying Rosenblum made Woody’s career, but he certainly used his skills to make “Annie Hall” the best version it could be. If you watch this film again, it is clearly an editor’s movie. I’m just saying, Rosenblum brought the best out of Woody Allen, who never quite told a story “this way” again.
Written by: Norith Soth