15 October 2013 | murtaza_mma
A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Elia Kazan's highly underrated masterwork of cinematic art
The Last Tycoon, Elia Kazan's swan song based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's final, unfinished novel of the same name, is an important work of cinematic art. The Last Tycoon can be approached in different ways depending purely on the viewer's taste and his level of understanding.
First, at its most basic level, it is a film about films and people who make them: writers, directors, actors, producers and studio bosses, not in the increasing order of their creative importance but in terms of their actual influence as prevalent during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Second way to approach it is to look upon it as a tale of unrequited love. Third, as a film about the fall of a man from omnipotence to oblivion. Fourth, The Last Tycoon is about the inflated human ego and the Lear-like grand operatic collapse it so often triggers.
Fifth and the most complex way to approach it would be as a surrealistic expression of an artist working at the height of his powers and desperate to make the most of the final few opportunities left with him.
The Last Tycoon features quite a few memorable performances including cameos from Tony Curtis, Jeanne Moreau and Jack Nicholson. The film revolves around a Hollywood movie producer, named Monroe Stahr, slowly working himself to death.
Robert De Niro is absolutely breathtaking to watch as Stahr—a role fashioned upon Irving Thalberg, the production chief at MGM during the late '20s and '30s. The scenes that he shares with Jack Nicholson—the only ones that the two legendary actors ever shared on the celluloid—are pure gold.
De Niro shares great chemistry with the two female leads who complement him really well. While Ingrid Boulting is delectable to watch in her enigmatic portrayal of Kathleen Moore, Theresa Russell creates a strong impact in the limited screen time she gets.
The Last Tycoon, as underrated as it is, deserves much more attention than what it has received over the last four decades. The movie succeeds in breaking the glittery image of the Tinsel Town, which is often portrayed as some kind of a Shangri-La for the young and upcoming artists, by presenting a caricature that's far more realistic.
The movie may lack the refinement of a work of commercial art but its unfinished crudeness definitely makes it more lifelike. It's a movie that hasn't lost its relevance with time and perhaps that's what makes it a timeless gem of cinema. The restless viewers can afford to stay put, but those with patience must check it out, for they would be thoroughly rewarded.
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