With nearly everyone who has access to a video camera calling himself a filmmaker, it has become increasingly difficult to fully comprehend how much effort is required to actually BE a filmmaker. Many of today's wanna-be's and pretenders fail to understand that tools and gee-whiz technology, no matter how powerful and seductive, are no substitutes for craftsmanship and storytelling skill. One exceptional filmmaker who is more than worthy of that designation, who has certainly done the work, and who has consistently been one of our most intriguing storytellers is John Schlesinger.
Bitten by the film bug after receiving his first movie camera at age eleven, Schlesinger has, over the last forty years, produced an impressive body of work in the dramatic arts that spans various genres while still retaining his unmistakable signature style. After dabbling a bit with film during his stint with the Royal Engineers during W.W.II, Schlesinger plunged into the theater as both actor and director with the Oxford University Dramatic Society. He developed his feel for drama and his directing skills throughout the 1950's by acting in and directing numerous stage productions as well as directing a number of documentaries for British TV. An association with director/producer Roy Boulting eventually led to Schlesinger's first feature, A Kind of Loving in 1962, which earned him the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. From there he has repeatedly examined our troubling, yet fascinating, human contradictions, often focusing on obsessive ambition and the lack of tenderness and compassion in a modern world. Darling (1965), which catapulted Julie Christie (as a success-at-any-cost model) into international stardom, is one of his most penetrating works, trenchantly exposing the other, less glamorous side of then ''swinging London.''
Regardless of the setting or subject matter of a Schlesinger film, one can usually spot the sure hand of the director at work through his actors' performances. Almost without exception, actors in a Schlesinger film infuse their characters with a sensitivity, a humanness that can evoke uproarious laughter one minute, then flooding tears the next. Characters such as Joe Buck (Jon Voigt) and Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) from Midnight Cowboy, Shirley MacLaine's Madame Sousatzka, and Kate Beckinsale's Flora in Cold Comfort Farm linger in our memories long after the lights come up. Schlesinger's characters are fully realized: their relationships complicated, yet filled with truth. Details that make up a life, however small, are given the utmost respect and attention. Never a pretender, always true to himself, John Schlesinger is the real thing. He is a filmmaker.
Don't miss the special Tribute Event to John Schlesinger where we will screen Falcon and the Snowman and present Mr. Schlesinger with a Maverick Award. Cinequest will also screen the following Schlesinger hits: Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man, and Madame Sousatzka. - Pete Crane