Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And Justice For All: The Films of Norman Jewison, August 11-31

TIFF Bell Lightbox will be presenting a retrospective of the films of one of Canada's greatest filmmakers, Norman Jewison. The program will feature 13 of Jewison’s finest films including The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, In the Heat of the Night, Agnes of God, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Soldier's Story, and The Hurricane.

The program opens on August 11 with a screening of Moonstruck which will be introduced by Norman Jewison himself. Also in attendance will be actress Olympia Dukakis and writer John Patrick Shanley, both of whom won Academy Awards for their work on this film.

In addition, director Clement Virgo will be in person to introduce the screening of In the Heat of the Night and director Bruce McDonald will be in person to introduce the screening of Rollerball.

[UPDATE, August 3]
Norman Jewison will also be in attendance for the screenings of The Hurricane on August 20. In addition, another special screening has been added: on August 29, Norman Jewison will be joined on stage by Michael Barker, Head of Sony Picture Classics for a discussion of his career in cinema followed by a screening of his little-known Gaily Gaily.

And Justice For All: The Films of Norman Jewison runs from August 11 to 31 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.


And Justice for All: The Films of Norman Jewison

While many Canadians have enjoyed substantial careers in Hollywood, few have enjoyed the remarkable success and longevity of Norman Jewison. Fewer still, Canadian or otherwise, have demonstrated such versatility: from cutting-edge dramas addressing some of the most volatile social issues of the day (In the Heat of the Night, A Soldier’s Story) to romantic comedies and caper films; from classic musicals (Fiddler on the Roof) to social satires (. . . And Justice for All) and even sci-fi fantasies, Jewison has consistently proven himself one of the most flexible and innately curious of contemporary directors. In his six-decade career, Jewison has not only received numerous honours—including the Irving Thalberg Award, a Lifetime Achievement award from the Directors Guild, and twelve Academy Awards for films he has directed and produced—but has won a reputation as a skilled director of actors, coaxing career-defining performances from such stars as Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Steve McQueen, Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington and, of course, Cher.

In many ways, Jewison’s career offers a capsule history of post-WWII American cinema. Like such contemporaries as John Frankenheimer, Sidney Lumet and Mike Nichols, Jewison learned his craft working in television. Returning to Canada in the early 1950s after a stint at the BBC, he became one of the most in-demand directors for the fledgling CBC before decamping for New York, where his work on variety shows earned him a trip to Hollywood in the last days of the old studio system to direct his first feature, the comedy 40 Pounds of Trouble, for which he was personally recruited by the film’s star Tony Curtis. After directing another three light comedies—a genre he would never abandon, even after acquiring a reputation as a director of serious dramatic fare—Jewison made his first foray into drama with The Cincinnati Kid. Skewering Cold War paranoia in the satirical comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians are Coming! earned Jewison his stripes as a bona fide Hollywood liberal (or, as John Wayne would succinctly describe him, “a pinko”), a reputation he cemented with his next project, In the Heat of the Night. Mixing a mystery plot with an exploration of American race relations, the film’s subject matter was so controversial at the time that it couldn’t be filmed in the deep South locations where the story was set.

While Jewison would make all manner of films over the next four decades, In the Heat of the Night fixed his image as a director and producer of intelligent, serious films about key social issues, akin to such predecessors as Elia Kazan. (As film scholar Bart Testa points out in his essay “Homecoming for a ‘Canadian Pinko’,” Jewison and his contemporaries were profoundly influenced by the realism and social consciousness of Kazan’s 1950s work, particularly On the Waterfront.) Though his classic Hollywood-style filmmaking distanced him from the European-influenced film-school graduates who drove the New American Cinema of the 1970s—including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma—Jewison also sought to address contemporary issues and upheavals in a more urgent, immediate manner than traditional studio production allowed. (He also maintained an indirect link to the “film brats” via Hal Ashby, his editor for much of the sixties, who would later direct such pivotal films as The Last Detail, Shampoo and Bound for Glory Jewison also produced Ashby’s directorial debut, The Landlord.) And if anything, the politics in his films—the union exposé F.I.S.T., . . . And Justice for All’s angry diatribe against the corruption of the legal system—were often more overt than in the work of his younger counterparts, if far less radical. When the New American Cinema collapsed at the end of the 1970s and the phenomenal box office success of franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones elevated formerly low-rent genres to the forefront of Hollywood production, Jewison—despite such light-hearted fare as his celebrated romantic comedy Moonstruck, one of the best romantic comedies of the 1980s—remained primarily committed to “prestige pictures,” films of intelligence, purpose and social-moral seriousness. Even more impressively, the box-office fortunes of such films as A Soldier’s Story, Agnes of God and The Hurricane proved that social consciousness and commercial success were not necessarily diametrically opposed.

Though Jewison has spent the vast majority of his career in the United States, he has always seen himself as Canadian, and was indeed decorated a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour, in 1992. Despite his Hollywood prominence and numerous prestigious awards, Jewison has always remained something of an outsider in the American film business; and as he suggests in his entertaining autobiography This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me, it is this outsider status that has allowed him to offer a different perspective on American society (Testa, for instance, argues that Jewison’s films are driven by a distinctly Canadian notion of law). At the same time, Jewison has amply demonstrated his devotion to Canadian cinema, most notably in his co-founding of the Canadian Film Centre—a training ground for emerging filmmakers whose alumni are a veritable Who’s Who of the Canadian film industry—and his early support for Bruce McDonald, who has always credited Jewison as a valued mentor. (Jewison produced McDonald’s third feature, Dance Me Outside.) Yet even as such homegrown critics as Jay Scott have accorded Jewison’s films significant attention as the work of a specifically Canadian filmmaker, later Canadian critics have usually regarded his work as prototypically American: a positive review of The Hurricane in a major Canadian daily called it “a good old-fashioned inspirational Hollywood movie.”

This selection of Jewison’s work, from one of his first major features to his most recent, shows a director who’s both keenly aware of American society and yet, somehow, outside it—a sensibility that most Canadians can recognize. It’s tempting to argue that this perspective has played a key role in Jewison’s career, and in his remarkable success—but that might be un-Canadian.

—Steve Gravestock

Notes by Steve Gravestock, Magali Simard and Lisa Goldberg.

Films in And Justice for All: The Films of Norman Jewison

…And Justice for All

Norman Jewison
A caustic, strangely underrated social satire, ... And Justice For All stars Al Pacino in one of his most memorable performances as a fiercely moral Baltimore lawyer who is forced to defend his nemesis, a strict, authoritarian judge (John Forsythe), on a rape charge.

Norman Jewison and Friends with Moonstruck

Norman  Jewison
Our series dedicated to one of the most celebrated names in Canadian film begins with an all-star introduction to our screening of Moonstruck. Director Norman Jewison will be joined onstage by Moonstruck co-star Olympia Dukakis and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, both of whom won Academy Awards for their work on the film.

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!

Norman Jewison
The film which effectively launched Norman Jewison’s career as a director-producer, this frantic, all-star comedy (featuring Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin, Eva Marie Saint, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters and Theodore Bikel) focuses on the bedlam that erupts when a Russian submarine runs aground off a New England coastal town.

A Soldier’s Story

Norman Jewison
A powerful adaptation of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Soldier’s Story is set on a Louisiana Army base during WWII, where an African-American military lawyer is sent to investigate the murder of a tough black sergeant.

The Cincinnati Kid

Norman Jewison
In one of his signature roles, Steve McQueen plays Eric Stoner, a young stud poker ace who sets out to make his name by beating the best player in the country, Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson), at a high-stakes game in New Orleans.

In the Heat of the Night

Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison's multiple Academy Award-winning thriller takes place in a small Mississippi town, where a redneck sheriff (Rod Steiger) and a black Philadelphia homicide detective (Sidney Poitier) are forced to cooperate on a murder investigation.

Agnes of God

Norman Jewison
One of Jewison’s most critically lauded and elegantly mounted productions, this powerful adaptation of the play by John Pielmeier stars Jane Fonda as psychiatrist Martha, a lapsed Catholic who is assigned to examine troubled novice Agnes (Meg Tilly), who may have killed her newborn baby.

The Thomas Crown Affair

Norman Jewison
A slick, plush and ostentatiously stylish entry in Jewison’s oeuvre, this cat-and-mouse romance/caper film follows a fabulously wealthy and terminally bored playboy who decides to amuse himself by pulling an elaborate, carefully orchestrated robbery.


Norman Jewison
Jewison’s only foray into science fiction depicts a hyper-regimented, corporate-controlled future society where the violent urges of the masses find their outlet in Rollerball, a fusion of roller derby, football, backyard brawling, hockey and motocross.

The Hurricane

Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison’s third exploration of race in America is also his most epic, stretching from the mid-fifties to the late eighties as it follows the dramatic, true-life story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Denzel Washington), a New Jersey prizefighter who was imprisoned on a fabricated murder charge for more than two decades.

Jesus Christ Superstar

Norman Jewison
A counterculture touchstone as well as a substantial box-office success, Jewison’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s durable rock opera employs a trimmed-down, almost bare-bones aesthetic that was partially inspired by the director’s admiration for Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Fiddler on the Roof

Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison’s beloved, Academy Award-winning adaptation of the internationally acclaimed musical has become a classic for film and theatre lovers alike.

The Statement

Norman Jewison
When a judge and an army officer launch a new investigation into the crimes of a Vichy-era war criminal, the aged fugitive has to run not only from the law, but from a shadowy organization that has targeted him for assassination.

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