Where is My Name? By Magda Mihailescu

in 46th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

by Magda Mihailescu

“I hate the ‘film by’ credit. Why should the director get the credit? We keep been told that writers like being in the shadows. We keep hearing that behind a great director is a great writer. Why behind and not beside? A film requires team work.” We heard these words from one of the most outstanding contemporary screenwriters, the Mexican Guillermo Arriaga, during his explosive Masterclass, at the Thessaloniki festival. I watched him with the feeling of having among us a successor of A.I.Bezzerides, the hero of the documentary film Buzz by Spiro Taraviros (screened in the Greek competition), dedicated to one of the hardworking Hollywood’screenwriters in the 40’s – 60’s. Other times – the same aim: the screenwriter’s right to share the dignity of recognition. Albert Issac Bezzerides, aka Buzz, was one the real pioneers on this front. While the public is unware of his significant work, Hollywood consumed him entirely. But Buzz was not easy to swallow. The most interesting angle taken by Spiro Taraviros is his treatment of a man’s life who, through the minefield of human existence, knew, from the very beginning, his territory and courageously defended it. “Where is my name?” was Buzz’ first question, faced with the final version of They Drive by Night (by Nicholas Ray) his cinema début, based on his novel The Long Haul The stubborn immigrant, born in 1908 in a small town on the Black Sea, had to repeat many times “Where is my name?” inside Hollywood’s walls, called “The Dream Factory”, always in a mocking manner. And, in order to be as clear as possible, he gives us an ironical reason: he never, but never, had invited his wife to see his office, in Faulkner’s neighbourhood, because “You can’t bring a lady to visit a factory”. In spite of the feeling of being “a slave”, it never occured to him to quit this job.

Emotionally involved in the depiction of his hero’s portrait, mainly based on Bezzerides’ confessions, and much audiovisual material, the young film critic Spiro Taraviras tells in this long documentary, with the aid of the testimony of his subject’s children, some actors and friends, a remarkable story of man who, one day, discovered the joy of writing for cinema and, since then, he never looked back. It is extremely touching to see and hear this old but still strong man, narrating, in a unhesitating voice, how he knew the course he needed to follow. “Keep writing” was his motto all throughhis life. No matter what. He kept writing in a world of shifting sands, for such films as Thieves’ Highway (Jules Dassin, 1949), On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1951), Kiss me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955). They justified François Truffaut’s remark that Bezzerides was “Hollywood’s first film noir screenwriter”. This document about the old Hollywood production system and about one artist’s perseverance and faith in a certain vision, deserved The Greek Film Critics Association (Pekk) Award.