Adrian Lyne: Magnificent Obsessions

But Flashdance opened big in the spring of 1983. At the time, MTV was really starting to clog the airwaves, and Giorgio Moroder was everywhere. The movie not only mined both those veins but spoke in a language that remedial English students could understand. "If your dream dies, you die," says the Beals character. "span class="pullquote right">It also had more gloss than a Revlon commercial, plenty of bouncing butts, and it created a fashion craze-the torn, oversized sweatshirt worn off the shoulder. Lyne, who says he adores fashion photography, takes credit for that one.

Lyne likes to stand in the back of theaters listening to, and sometimes tape recording, audience reaction. "They came out of Flashdance glowing," he says. "It was a fabulous feeling. After that, I was offered A Chorus Line, but that would have been the obvious choice, and I didn't want to be pigeon-holed as a director of musicals."

Instead, he took on 9 1/2 Weeks, a story about a kinky, sadomasochistic affair. It starred Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, and it proved too hot for the ratings board. Certain scenes were cut for the American version, and the film did badly. Lyne says, "In America, and in England, people have a problem with sexuality in public. Men don't want to go to the theater and have a hard-on while they're sitting next to their wives. At one screening, people were so enraged that I didn't want to be around when the lights came on, so I went up and hid in the projection booth. It was as if they were threatened by it personally. They will rent the tape, though. Which they did in droves."

I say to Lyne that while 9 1/2 Weeks had the best looking jello I'd ever seen on the screen, I didn't feel much heat between Rourke and Basinger.

"If I had it to do over again," he says, "I'd recut it. I think I may have been influenced too much by Flashdance."

"How would you recut it?"

"I'd take out some of the music. There are too many tunes." I wait for Lyne to go further, to suggest some other changes he might make, but he doesn't. The problems with the movie aren't limited to the surfeit of tunes. I'm thinking, for instance, of the scene in which Basinger does a beautifully choreographed striptease for Rourke. As she shimmies through the sleek apartment-and as Joe Cocker throbs on the soundtrack-it's a feast for the eyes and ears. But by making it a visual, and aural, tour de force, Lyne empties the scene of content. Basinger, in a sense, goes past Rourke and performs directly for us, the film audience. When Lyne cuts to Rourke for reaction shots, Rourke looks like he's wishing he was in his trailer. And no wonder. He has nothing to play. His presence is a mere formality, an excuse for Basinger to strut her stuff.

Before Lyne began directing features, he directed television commercials. In commercials, there are often two characters who pretend to interact. But their relationship is a pretense. They aren't there to reveal private truths. They are there to sell a product. Likewise, in Lyne's films, the characters who happen to be on the screen together don't so much interact as they facilitate. They're in completely different orbits. They share nothing but floorspace. Instead of selling us a product, Lyne is selling us Basinger, Beals, and company. When I charge Lyne with this misdemeanor, his retort is, "If you do a stylized picture, you sacrifice a certain intimacy. But what you lose in intimacy, you gain in ... "Lyne pauses, thinks." ... I don't know what you gain. I do know that when you play music like that Joe Cocker song, you've abandoned reality. If I were to recut that scene, I'd eliminate the big Joe Cocker song, and just have a little tinny noise off the record player."

Again I wait for more. Again, there is no more. I conclude that Lyne is either not quite sure how to create intimacy in a scene or else it's not important to him. Surprisingly, however, it is important to him when he watches other people's movies. He didn't like Dick Tracy, because he "didn't care about the characters." In Blade Runner, he thinks Ridley Scott "missed the opportunity" to make the relationship more poignant. "It was his choice to direct Harrison Ford as a stylized Bogart type. I would have made him more real."

I ask Lyne about directors he admires. "Almodovar," he says. "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is the sweetest of love stories. Kubrick's Paths of Glory is one of my ten best. Truffaut I admire enormously-he liked to make movies about people with shortcomings. I do, too. I think it should be possible to make movies about people who are not necessarily perfect. I think vulnerable characters are more interesting than heroic characters. I had to convince Michael Douglas of this, because in Fatal Attraction his character essentially gets beat up for two hours."

Fatal Attraction, like 9 1/2 Weeks, was a script that had been all over town, and nobody would touch it. Lyne says, "There was no reason to think it would do better than Jagged Edge, which was not very successful." What attracted Lyne? "It was a page turner."

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