Posted on Monday, May 26th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
Director Sydney Pollack passed away today due to cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 73.
Notable films as a director: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (nominated: Best Director 1970), Tootsie (nominated: Best Director/Best Picture 1982), Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were, The Yakuza, The Firm, Jeremiah Johnson, Out of Africa (Winner: Best Director/Best Picture 1986)
As a producer: Recount, The Quiet American, Forty Shades of Blue, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Searching For Bobby Fischer (!), King Ralph (!!), Sense and Sensibility
Pollack was recently praised for his supporting performance in the Best Picture nominee Michael Clayton. He also appeared on The Sopranos in a small but highly memorable and resonant role. His producing partner and fellow director , Anthony Minghella, passed in March, aged 54.
If you want to take a look back via Netflix, I’d recommend They Shoot Horses…, Condor, Tootsie and Jeremiah Johnson in that order. As an actor, Tootsie, Husbands and Wives, Eyes Wide Shut, and Clayton. To people under 25, Pollack served as a fine representation/presence of a Hollywood long past, where smart films for adults were a priority (imagine that, even if you’re not a film snob!) and where franchises and event films didn’t yet have a deathgrip on the market.
Casual moviegoers responded to his voice and mannerisms on screen—you knew this guy, he seemed smarter than most—and as you watched, or at least as I watched, what came across was that Pollack cut through the modern day industry bullshit and greed, and man, he fucking knew it. Some of his films like The Yakuza still seem a little over-fawned upon, but he’s a prime example of a talented cineaste who didn’t sell out and who aged with grace, eyes open.
I’d hate to get a raised eyebrow from the man, is all I’m sayin’. When I think of a respectable film director, Pollack’s voice and face often pops up (yes, those “do not interrupt” commercials help). I wonder and, have wondered at times, who the hell will be there to take Pollack and his peers’ place. That’s usually when a walking-talking mega cup of soda bursts through the door to say “hi.” Sydney Pollack will be missed, but his work and reputation will also be discovered for generations. You can say his name in any film class that is nearly worth the cost, and a certain communal respect will hit.
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