Pollack and Polanski

In Features by Samuel Love

Sydney Pollack and the controversial Roman Polanski have given us some of cinema’s most acclaimed classics, and two books released earlier this year from Applause delve deeper into key entries in these acclaimed directors’ filmographies.

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, Pollack’s beloved romance The Way We Were starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand probably isn’t the sort of film you’d expect to get a compelling, tell-all making of book. And yet, the film proves to have a truly fascinating production history. While there’s nothing quite as explosive as you’d find in, say, Hearts of Darkness (the cult documentary exploring the madness behind the camera during the Apocalypse Now shoot), there’s enough here to make The Way We Were: The Making of a Romantic Classic a genuine page turner. 

Over seven books, including the successful Streisand bio The Importance of Being Barbra, Tom Santopietro has earned a reputation for impeccably-researched and engrossing studies of cinema and stardom. He combines both here, discussing The Way We Were’s enduring legacy in cinema history, alongside Streisand’s essential part in it. While the film itself sweeps us off our feet with its romance, Santopietro’s study does the same with its subjects’ love for the project. Against the odds, a determined group of collaborators come together to make one of cinema’s greatest love stories and we’re along for the ride. It’s a wonderful book filled with wonderful Hollywood anecdotes and fascinating filmmaking insight. A real gem.

Next up, Jordan R. Young discusses the early years of a controversial auteur. Whilst it’s certainly debatable whether or not Polanski should be discussed or analysed in any capacity, the book itself deserves a fair look.

Roman Polanski: Behind the Scenes of His Classic Early Films does exactly what it says on the tin. This book, focusing mainly on Polanski’s 1966 black comedy Cul-de-Sac starring Donald Pleasence, offers a fascinating story of the young filmmaker and his troubled early productions. Well-written and packed with incredible research as a result of years of interviews with casts and crews, this is a book that has been put together with a genuine interest and respect for its subject’s craft. 

But, it’s a shame that reading the book comes with the unshakeable discomfort, from knowledge of Polanski’s future crime. It’s difficult to get behind the filmmaker and ‘enjoy’ (so to speak) the story of his working when we know he’s a shit. Still, it’s an excellently written book and offers valuable insight into the early work of a developing filmmaker.

Roman Polanski: Behind the Scenes of His Classic Early Films and The Way We Were: The Making of a Romantic Classic are available now from Applause