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Inside Henry Jaglom's 'Hollywood Dreams'

7 Mar, 2008 By: Billy Gil

Henry Jaglom

Writer-director Henry Jaglom, who made his name directing such legendary actors as Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Orson Welles in films about raw emotion, returns with Hollywood Dreams. The title hits DVD from TLA Releasing May 6 (prebook April 8) at $19.99, and includes commentary with Jaglom and star Tanna Frederick, as well as a making-of featurette.

Jaglom's first film, A Safe Place, came out in 1971. Since that film, which stars Tuesday Weld as a woman who confuses the past and present and fantasy and reality, Jaglom has continued directing films about difficult subjects, many of them centered on women's issues — 1990's Eating dealt with eating disorders, and 2005's Going Shopping dealt with shopping addiction.

As with many Hollywood outsiders, Jaglom's films are highly controversial. The documentary Who Is Henry Jaglom? (streeting on DVD March 25 from First Run Features) shows feminist thinkers debating whether Jaglom's films are enlightened (he calls himself a “male lesbian” at one point) or misogynistic and misguided.

“Orson Welles had a theory about that,” Jaglom said of the mixed response to his films. “He said, ‘It is not so much that you show the external events of people's lives, but the internal feelings of people's lives. You don't feel that you're watching them as much as you're eavesdropping. Some people get extremely uncomfortable.’

Hollywood Dreams offers discomfort in the sometimes-jarring performance of Frederick, whose depiction of an actress desperate to make it in Hollywood is both sincere and over-the-top, akin to Naomi Watts' celebrated performance in David Lynch's Mullholland Dr. Much like that performance — and that film — Frederick has seen both praise (Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times called it “a performance that's as startling as it is touching”) and derision (Lael Loewenstein of The Los Angeles Times said “we're meant to find her quirks charming, not abrasive and obnoxious”).

Indeed, Jaglom has found his newest muse with the polarizing actress, who seemingly has come out of nowhere.

“I was in rehearsals for a play and doing the actor routine of working for three different restaurants and picking up odd jobs,” Frederick said of her time in Los Angeles, prior to meeting Jaglom. “In rehearsals this guy came back and said I just worked on this Henry Jaglom film. He said, ‘Write him a letter.’

Based on the lore that Jaglom would respond to anyone who wrote him a later saying they loved his films, Frederick did just that, saying she loved his 1997 film D?j? Vu — a film she'd never seen. Jaglom bought it, and Frederick didn't tell him about the ruse until she'd already endeared herself to him and they'd begun working together.

Perhaps against type — Jaglom is criticized for being aggressive and exceedingly difficult by commentators in Who is Hengry Jaglom? — Jaglom didn't mind the ruse. Mostly he's excited about his new discovery of an actress, and will soon release another film starring Frederick, called Irene in Time.

“[She's] a gold mine,” Jaglom said, crediting Frederick with re-spurring his creative drive. “[After she becomes famous] I count on her to be good enough and smart enough to throw me a bone.”

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