The films of Jerry Schatzberg, particularly the key works he directed in the 1970s, have been undervalued in the eyes of many critics who, in their survey of American cinema have elevated other directors to iconic status. (He is not alone – Michael Ritchie is another director richly deserving of re-evaluation.) So this brief retrospective, which includes a masterclass with the filmmaker, is a very welcome addition to the third edition of the American Film Festival.
Although Schatzberg has not made a film for some years, his work continues with his photography. In these images one can still see what made his film work so compelling; like other great directors of the 1970s, Schatzberg's attention to faces and how they contrast with the world around them creates an intimacy between the image and spectator.
The remaining two films in the programme have come to define Schatzberg's film work. Panic in Needle Park (1971) is a searing portrait of drug addiction that introduced the world to Al Pacino. Scarecrow (1973), in stark contrast, is a road movie about two drifters. the film was made between Pacino's star-making appearances as Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather films, and also stars Gene Hackman, fresh from his Oscar-winning performance in The French Connection (1972).
Ian Haydn Smith
AFF English Daily Editor
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