One of the best thing Hollywood makes is films about Hollywood. Some may judge these movies like kind of acts of self-adulation, but the fact is that films dedicated to films making and even homage films about past stars and directors resulted into many remarkable creations from the classical Sunset Boulevard to recent films like Hitchcock  to remember just the one recent film in the genre I happen to remember now. These films have in common a dose of nostalgia for the times past and a lot of respect for the creators who preceded them. Even when they contain a dose of critical nuances or they describe disputable characters in the history of American film making like is the case with Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood they still carry a dose of reverence and fraternity across the generation. All this is very visible in this film of Burton which is almost hard to believe that was made 20 years ago, so fresh and contemporary it looks. In Burton’s filmography it may be one of the less ‘rebelious’ movies, yet it contains its dose of inventiveness and the sure mastering the skills of film making.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0109707/

 

Ed Wood (the real character) was – arguably – the ‘worst director’ in the history of film-making. There are certainly many great contenders to Wood for this title. Most of the IMDB ratings for his movies range between 3 and 4, with a deep dive to 2.2 and a stellar 6.2 for one of his latest films. Yet Burton’s film shows him as a man of passion, and a fighter with the system and the big studios sharks (BTW – I am waiting for a great film about Hollywood producers!). One of the scenes to remember in the film is the one of the meeting of Wood with Orson Welles.  The (problematic) message of the scene is that all directors – genius or trash – had to fight the same problems and the same system. The difference between them is of course that one had a huge talent, the other had just a daring character and a charming personality that allows us to sympathize with him while he is following and partly achieving his dream of creating trash on screens.

 

(video source thecultbox)

 

It does help of course that the lead role is played by Johnny Depp, the permanent fetish leading star of Burton.  He is rendering the character of Wood in its whole complexity, oddity, tenacity and charm. It is however the splendid re-enacting of Bela Lugosi by Martin Landau that caught my full attention.  A great star of the horror-fantasy movies of the 30s, Bela Lugosi  was all but forgotten, in poverty and sunk in drug addiction when Ed Wood re-discovered him in the 50s and allowed him a few last presences in his films. Ed Wood the movie is to a large extent the story of the friendship between the two men. Filming in black and white also gives style and quality to the film, and reminds us that The Artist  may have rediscovered the silent film, but not the black and white movies. If Ed Wood did not create any quality on screen during his activity in Hollywood he has at least inspired a film which is much better than anything he made as a director.