I bought an advance ticket last week to see the rarely shown film Puzzle of a Downfall Child, which screened this Monday at Film Forum. I knew it was going to be sold out - this was a one-off screening with director Jerry Schatzberg in attendance. As I walked in, a slide show was playing of Schatzberg's fashion photographs from the 60's, to a soundtrack that included a rare outtake of Bob Dylan's Visions of Johanna, followed by Jimi Hendrix's Castles Made of Sand. Well, it set the scene quite perfectly - Schatzberg photographed Dylan for the cover of Blonde on Blonde, as well as Hendrix, and quite notably the Rolling Stones in 1966 dressed in drag for the cover sleeve of Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing in the Shadow, a photo he spoke about later that evening.
Puzzle of a Downfall Child was Schatzberg's first film (1970). It featured Faye Dunaway in an extraordinary performance as a supermodel from the 60's, flash-backing her way through a nervous breakdown. Schatzberg showed photographs of his favorite model - Anne St.Marie (see below) - whom he based Faye Dunaway's character on (through a series of tape recorded reminiscences he did with St.Marie - a recurring motif in Puzzle). The cast includes the wonderful Viveca Lindfors and Roy Scheider. Shown rarely on TV and hardly ever in theaters - Schatzberg revealed that there is only one known print in existence, the one we saw Monday. It is still not available on DVD. My friend, photographer Roberta Bayley swears by this film. And this was the first chance I had to see it. Indeed, you will never see a film like this one.
model Anne St.Marie photographed by Schatzberg
As if seeing this film wasn't enough, we were treated to a talk with slides by Jerry Schatzberg after the film. He spoke amongst other things, about his second film, Panic In Needle Park - which was Al Pacino's first. We learned that it was a clip from Needle Park that secured Pacino the job on The Godfather. There was also talk of his films Scarecrow (with Pacino and Gene Hackman), Seduction of Joe Tynan, (with Alan Alda) and Reunion (written by Harold Pinter). Underrated as a director in America, beloved for the same in France, Jerry Schatzberg is just one suave cool modest New Yorker.
Jerry Schatzberg at Film Forum
As far as my connection to Jerry Schatzberg goes, it's mostly photographic. I have to admit that it took me years to realize what a big influence his inner sleeve photos from Blonde on Blonde had on my mid 70's CBGB photographs. High contrast, black & white natural low-light grainy photographs, that I stared at endlessly back in 1966, at first to understand Dylan, but by osmosis over time it was Jerry Schatzberg that I learned from.
All photos © Jerry Schatzberg