Sunday, July 12, 2009
Andrew Sarris profile on The New York Times
I remember my first interview of Filipino filmmaker Mario O'Hara was in this tiny dim sum shop on the third floor of Glorietta Mall in Makati City and just after a few minutes of talking, of what I thought of his work and the fact that he hasn't made a picture in two years, he laughed out loud and exclaimed (in Tagalog): "you're treating me as if I were already dead! I'm still alive, you know."
That was some fifteen years (has it been so long?!) and six films ago; far as I can tell O'Hara is alive and well, but living in his habitual mode, under the radar. Last I heard was through a niece, who passed on to me his recognition that his filmmaking days are probably over, and the young Turks with their digital cameras have taken over the filmmaking scene.
I'd love to pull him aside and yell in his ear "are you kidding? With that box full of scripts you haven't directed?" but I'm stuck here on the other side of the Pacific with no realistic way of getting in contact with him (he doesn't even have a telephone, much less Twitter). So I'm thinking violent thoughts, in the hopes of getting him off his ass and maybe working again, in any capacity (aside from directing he's a noted writer and actor, in theater, television and radio). I'm not writing him off just yet.
So it's probably premature to write off Andrew Sarris, even if in a recent New York Times profile article he's pretty much made it clear that he won't be writing for a major newspaper any time soon (though articles for Film Comment have not been ruled out). Why such a profile, now? Would like to think such people--institutions established after decades of struggle--are always newsworthy, though beneath the bravado one hears the whisper: this is a salute in honor of the man while he's still alive, and we can still do him some measure of justice.
I've never been so complacent as to think The Grim Reaper's clammy grasp would never find my neck, but there are moments--now more often than ever--when I feel those bony fingers brushing past my shoulders, reminding me that he'll be back. Nothing stops, nothing lasts, nothing remains the same; we survive, after a fashion.