I’ve been busy most of today, so I’m just now getting to this story, but it’s had me smiling since I first saw it this morning.
I am a big fan of Keith Gordon’s work as a filmmaker, but I often feel like that’s a lonely position to take. He hasn’t directed a ton of films, and the ones he’s made were never really box-office hits or cultural sensations.
He’s probably better known from his days as an actor in films like “Christine” or “Back To School” or “Dressed To Kill,” where he was always incredibly effective at combining a keen intelligence with a withering sense of social grace. Watch the way he changes from pre-car Arnie to post-car Arnie sometime in “Christine,” and you’ll appreciate just how good Gordon could be at times.
As a director, Gordon made his debut with an adaptation of Robert Cormier’s “The Chocolate War,” and it’s a great little study of a battle of wills between a student at a Catholic school and everyone else, staff and students alike, during a chocolate bar sales drive. His war movie, “A Midnight Clear,” is well-observed and painful. There were four years between those two films, then another four until he made what I consider his best movie, “Mother Night,” adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel. Featuring one of the very best Nick Nolte performances, this was a criminally underseen film when it was released in 1996, and if they would just hurry up and put it out on Blu-ray, maybe it would finally get the reappraisal it deserves.
Four more years elapsed before he made “Waking The Dead,” another smart, difficult film starring Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly. And while it only took three years for him to make his next movie, it turned out to be his last so far, and his worst, the American remake of the seminal Dennis Potter work, “The Singing Detective.” I’ll give him this, though… he was ahead of the curve on the Robert Downey, Jr. comeback, no doubt in some small part because they had acted together years earlier.
So where’s he been since “The Singing Detective” happened? Working on TV. He’s directed “House” and “Dexter” and seems to be a favorite at AMC, where he directed both “Rubicon” and “The Killing.” He has not acted much, though, so it would seem that part of his career is over. I understand he’s very active as a mentor for the Sundance Labs, and that’s awesome to hear. I think he’s wildly smart, but not lucky, so maybe he’s able to pass some of his knowledge along to other filmmakers.
I am delighted to read that Christopher Nolan, for only the second time in his career, is producing someone else’s work, and it makes me like Nolan so much more than I already did to learn that he’s a Keith Gordon fan. So far, details on their proposed collaboration are thin, but according to Michael Fleming, the film will be based on a book, and it is a supernatural thriller. Having Gordon at the helm of a studio movie… ANY studio movie… is a huge deal, and when you have a producer like Christopher Nolan, my guess is that you have a better-than-average experience with that studio.
I am crossing my fingers that this is the start of a new phase in Gordon’s career. Nothing would make me happier, and I hope this also helps kickstart the drive to get his previous movies out on Blu-ray so that people can finally catch up and realize why some of us have been rooting for him as a director since the late ’80s. We’ll have more on this as it develops.