Monday, May 29, 2017

Auteur Watch - Al Freeman Jr.

Welp, that's how it happens sometimes.  You've got a career that spans 50 years, and all you get for it is this lousy t-shirt... a t-shirt that says your IMDb Top 4 on it.  And mostly the grandpa roles, of course.  So far, the only one I've actually seen is his turn as Elijah Muhammad in Malcolm X, as have you.  I don't get to the video store as often as I used to, and now they're a non-profit, for God's sake!
But if you take more than a perfunctory look at his IMDb résumé, you'll find the two directorial titles there.  It all started in 1968... you remember 1968, right?  Big sea change in the country, the Hippie movement at its peak, and Freeman Jr. had busted his ass for 10 years in the proverbial actor mines, so why not try directing?  I mean, when you've been directed by amateurs like Josh Logan, well... hell, why NOT me?  How hard is it to sit in a chair and tell others what to do?  Well, as it turns out, on the likes of the set of a soap opera... plenty.  Back to acting you go.
But then, time passes, the right project comes along, and the bug bites anew.  A nice fresh, deep bite, which takes about three months to scratch.  You know, principal photography and what not.  The project?  A hostage pic called A Fable.  I know, very judgmental of me.  It's more of a metaphor about the fluctuating state of American Imperialism in the 20th Century, but I was just going by the plot description.  A guy goes into a house and takes the family hostage.  Makes for a great Broadway play, because you can have all the action on one set, and can be quite convenient for a major motion picture, even if there are limited opportunities for David Lean-style visual grandeur.  Incidentally, the screenplay was based on a play by Amiri Baraka.  He was married to Amina Baraka, which would lead to the occasional faux pas when they were at a party with strangers.  But this is mid-2017 we're talking about here.  I can't vouch for what people want to see, but A Fable probably ain't it.

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