Late last night’s Collider‘s Steve Weintraub posted a high-calorie, extremely nutritious q & a with London Boulevard director-writer William Monahan. The weird part is that Weintraub has seen the crime drama but declines to post a sidebar review despite the fact that it’s opening in London eight days from now, on Friday, 11.26.
Weintraub says “it’s a great first film,” “it’s going to surprise people,” and that Monahan has proven “he knows how to tell a story visually, and can definitely shoot action…this will not be his last time behind the camera.” Very glad to hear this, I said in an e-mail. Good news. I can’t wait to see London Boulevard when it opens in the U.S. next spring.
But I still don’t get why Weintraub didn’t post a review with the British opening so close at hand.
Weintraub explained that he was shown London Boulevard as a friend/admirer of Monahan and not as a critic, and that he’s simply respecting Monahan’s request not to review it. “You’re hedging,” I replied. “This movie is presumed to be troubled on some level and is about to be reviewed by all of London, and you’re holding back on the specifics of your admiration because Monahan is a pally? I’d understand if the opening date was a couple of months off, but EIGHT DAYS?”
At one point in his excellent interview Weintraub asks Monahan about his “feelings on the test screening process,” which is a friend-of-the-filmmaker way of asking why the numbers haven’t been all that terrific, and why additional shooting was reportedly done as a result, and why the film didn’t appear at the Venice/Telluride/Toronto trifecta.
“Ninety people walked out of Goodfellas,” Monahan replies, “which is what I think about test screenings. But they’re also irresistible, test screenings, because you want to see the film with an audience and watch the audience. We tested twice, and very well, for an R-rated British film, in Sherman Oaks, of all places.
“On The Departed, when we tested in Chicago, the audience wanted to know the same things the studio had been asking, on behalf of a projected audience — who’s the father of the baby, and what’s in the envelope. Marty’s position was: fuck you, this is art. This is the way Bill wrote it and it’s why I did the picture. I love audiences, but they’re not there to drive the bus. Whenever you ask opinions or anticipate opinions you can get pretty terrible art, or non-art. You need a single guiding intelligence, even in a collaborative form.
“People can get on exactly the same page, which I think we all were on London Boulevard, but it’s rare and difficult. Bands where every member exactly gets it, like the Stones to a certain point in history, are freak and magical occurrences. You’ve got to go it alone.”
No one will be happier than myself if it turns out that London Boulevard works. I love Monahan’s writing, and I’ve been totally queer for London gangster films since the ’70s. But Monahan and Weintraub know that the word on this thing is dicey, and that the general feeling is that it’s a bleeding groaning bear with a bullet in its side. If Weintraub really likes it as much as he says he should be a man and tell the world how good it is — clearly and specifically and passionately.