STOLOFF -- A MAN OF VISION
all began for me with Robert Niemis (as yet un-published) book entitled
Wayfaring Stranger: A Biography Of Tim Buckley. It
was in Doctor Roberts detailed manuscript that I first learned of the existence
of the movie Why?
interest in seeing the movie Why? resurfaced after reading David Brownes
magnificent book Dream Brother
The Lives And Music Of Jeff And Tim Buckley.
read that this movie was a project funded by Technicolor, an experiment to see
how a movie shot on videotape and transferred to 35mm film would look on the big
screen. The cameras were extremely cumbersome, so Technicolor built a set right
next door to their headquarters for everyones convenience.
began researching the author and I came up with an interesting discovery. In 1971
Stoloff made another psychodrama entitled The 300 Year Weekend for ABC
pictures. The press release said that the movie was a gripping, emotional drama
about ten people engaged in a grueling, three-day group therapy session.
producer, director, writer and editor, Victor Stoloff has actively engaged in
producing feature motion pictures and television programs throughout the world...
starred William Devane and a cast of actors that I had never seen before, or since.
I bought the movie and low and behold, I found the prototype for the movie Why?.
Now, I wanted to meet and interview Victor Stoloff.
in the Spring of 2001, I was very fortunate to have a lengthy telephone conversation
with Victor about the movie. We also talked about Victors writing and directing
career, which extended over six decades. Two weeks later, after a few more telephone
conversations, Victor invited me to his west side apartment that overlooks the
rooftops and glittering lights of Broadway in New York City.
sat and talked for quite some time about an array of topics. I brought my notes
and my camera along with me. Victor graciously reminisced about his collaborations
with a number of the actors, actresses, directors and producers that he worked
with throughout his career. We even talked about a little fling that Victor once
had with Rita Hayworth, my favorite forties pin-up gal. I was simply in
awe of this eighty-nine year old gentleman who exuded such a strong sense of being.
time of our chat, Victor was recuperating from a nasty spill that almost left
him for dead. He told me that he was still involved in various projects and was
even lecturing on a regular basis at Saint Johns University in New York
just prior to his accident. It was a sheer delight chatting with Victor, especially
when we got around to talking about Tim Buckley and the movie Why?.
my disappointment, Victor explained that we would be unable to view the movie
that afternoon because his VCR was not compatible with the one-inch master copy
of the videotape that he had in his possession. So, we just continued to talk
about Victors memories of the film, which he wrote and directed back in
talked about the improvised script and the people in the cast. He told me the
story about the time in which Tim curled up on the floor like a heroin addict
in need of a fix. He thought it was for real, but I suggested that maybe Tim was
improvising for him without Victor knowing it. To me, it would seem that improvisational
acting would be right up Tims alley. Victor disagreed with my assessment.
a lot of what was said in the movie was true.
However, without talking to each person involved, it is impossible to know where
the lines were drawn between fact and fiction...
asked him why he didnt have Tim sing the movies introductory song,
and Victor just lifted his eyebrows as if to say: Who knew?. Victor
did show me the record album that Tim had given to him. It was Tims first
album. I bet that if Tim had given him a copy of Blue Afternoon, then perhaps
Victor would have asked him to write and sing the introduction. A poor album choice
on Tims part, Id have to say.
the movie, Linda Gillen mentions Tims/Glens Happy-Sad album
and holds it in her hand for a brief moment. However, no one played that album
for Victor to hear. Too bad.
talked about Tims shyness at times. He pointed out how well Tim spoke to
the camera, and how the camera loved him. He also talked about Tims timing
and his body language.
general, Victor is not happy with the movie. He finds the film a bit embarrassing
to watch. I hadnt seen the movie yet, so I couldnt agree or disagree
with Victors feelings.
the clock struck four in the afternoon, I realized that it was suddenly time to
go. I thanked Victor for his hospitality and he told me that we could watch the
movie together the next time we met.
next day I called Victor to thank him again, and he told me that I could take
the movie home with me to watch. We arranged to meet again the following morning.
approximately 11 a.m. when I arrived at Victors building and then sat anxiously
in the lobby while awaiting his arrival. I was dying from the uncertain anticipation
of what his response would be to the sixty-four thousand dollar question that
I was about to ask, regarding the possibility of my copying the tape.
the elevator door opened, Victor Stoloff stepped out and into the lobby wearing
a trench coat and carrying the holy grail of cult videos in his left hand.
the moment of truth had finally arrived. We exchanged pleasantries and he gave
me the tape. I put the movie in my bag and took a deep breath and asked the magic
question. Would it be alright with you if I made a copy of the tape for
the members of the Tim Buckley Discussion Forum? No, Victor
said. I immediately felt a sharp pain in the pit of my stomach. So, I took another
deep breath and asked: Would it be okay if I just used the Tim Buckley footage
on my website?
looked deep into my eyes, as if he was looking into my soul, when he said: Alright,
you can use Tims and O.J.s scenes, but please dont circulate
said that there were legalities involved, and I accepted his explanation without
question. I could have left Manhattan without his permission to copy the tape
and I would have been devastated. It would have been a long, sad drive back to
Long Island. But instead, it was a magnificent day for me, and all Buckley fans
as well. Victor Stoloff really came through and he gave my spirits a major lift.
Ill never forget that morning.
I arrived back at my photography studio, I immediately called my editor and told
him that I was coming by his editing suite to make both a Digital Master and a
VHS copy of the movie. After that, I went home and popped the VHS version into
my VCR. The long wait was finally over.
movie begins with six young people sitting around a table on someones patio,
overlooking a lake with mountains in the background. The participants are discussing
in character how they came to being involved in the ensuing group therapy sessions.
For many of the people involved in the film, this was their first time before
the camera in a full length movie for any extended period of time.
told me that the participants were not actors per se, but just people discussing
their problems. He told each of the people involved to just open up
and tell the doctor what he wanted to know about their problems.
Victor Stoloff holds the copy of Tim Buckley given
to him by Tim in 1973
a lot of what was said in the movie was true. However, without talking to each
person involved, it is impossible to know where the lines were drawn between fact
and fiction. Therefore, it would be wrong for anyone to assume or conclude that
Tims comments were factual.
of his statements may have been based on fact, but I dont know for sure
whether or not any of his remarks were autobiographical.
· Herb Goldberg, a real-life psycho analyst, who
plays Dr. Peter Carlson the man who asks all the meaningful questions.
Jeannie Berlin (the daughter of Elaine May) plays Gail, a young single mother
of a black child born out of wedlock. She is tormented by her bigoted mothers
attitude toward her and the child.
· O.J. Simpson plays Bud, a professional
football player who has issue problems with his conservative father, who coached
Bud right into the pros.
· Cathy Bleich plays Jennifer, a pathological
liar pretending to be a teacher who has problems with the hierarchy at her school.
· Linda Gillen plays Chris, a rich/spoiled brat who is pregnant with
her boyfriends child and is also addicted to heroin.
Goldman plays Bill, a homosexual, who starts off with attitude problems and then
simmers down to tell his other tales of woe that came his way because he was gay.
· Tim Buckley plays Glen, a drummer who is upset about the break-up
of his band.
doctor asks the group to comment on the following questions:
Carlson: Focus on a recent experience when you really got pissed off at
somebody. Now, get that image clear in your head and think about what you did
Tim, as Glen, tells of how his wife reacted when he told her
of his groups demise. He feels bad because he wanted sympathy and she didnt
give it to him.
Doctor Carlson says: I want to try something with you. Close your eyes.
Now, Id like you to go way back to a time or any particular incident when
you really felt that somebody cared for you. And, theres something really
beautiful going on right now. And, that beautiful thing is making you feel very,
very warm. Its making you very, very close and very, very loved.
then tells a story of how his father captured a thief who was stealing from all
the track houses on his block. He came away from the experience with a feeling
of admiration and respect for his father.
the movie, members of the group joust and jest as they tell some pretty insightful
stories of their life experiences.
Bill asks Glen why his band broke up. Glen proceeds to tell the reasons why, and
he gets pretty emotional in the process.
I liked the movie. I thought that, considering the time period in which the movie
was made, it isnt as bad as Victor seems to think it is. The participants
told some very interesting and thought provoking stories and the camera work was
very good. Lee Garmes, an academy award winning photographer was one of the cameramen.
movie was shot with two cameras; Victor controlled the other camera.
Buckley fans would, Im sure, cherish this movie. Its a shame that
the film cannot be copied or re-released until the proper authorities give the
go-ahead. I think that Why? will eventually be distributed to the general
public because the film does have value and a degree of importance to some people.
As I type this article, the powers that be are working toward that goal. I wish
you would like to download some of Tims scenes from the movie then go to
my Tim Buckley
website and help yourself.
follows is a letter of praise sent to Victor by the United States government
States Information Agency
Washington D.C 20547
thank you for your exciting film and for your presentation here at the U. S. Information
Agency. We ran a week-long seminar on Contemporary American Affairs immediately
after you left.
As you know, the Film and Television Service of the Agency
was most enthusiastic about your use of video techniques in the Why?
production. We asked attending producers, directors, technicians and element chiefs
to give us an unsigned appraisal of your film and presentation. Here are some
direct quotes. First, the comments on Why?.
Good and most interesting.
· Excellent film. Well-done,
although a bit too long for a general audience. Surroundings somewhat opulent.
· Why? was an interesting film from several points
of view. Its technique of one setup shooting and certainly its economization were
of great merit. Quality of this limited experiment was superb.
Absorbing film which effectively demonstrated the interesting possibilities of
VTRs in acted pyscho-drama.
a few quotes on your own presentation.
· Outstanding. An example
of a mature man not afraid to experiment with new techniques.
Excellent speaker. Hollywood is catching up with the changing times in new
methods and equipment, and Mister Stolloff is a pioneer who is doing a good job.
· An excellent choice. I enjoyed his lecture very much and would
rate him very highly.
· Outstanding speaker. Candid, frank
· Good explanation as a distinguished
director. Experienced with videotape in relation to film.
hope this gives you and your colleagues in Hollywood some idea of the impact you
made on us here with your visit. As you know, the agency is moving toward videography.
Your work is the best example we have yet seen in this field. After our luncheon
and telephone conversations, I am most hopeful that further direct cooperation
can be affected between innovators like yourself and the USIA Television and Motion
Picture Agency staff.
the present, Victor, thank you again and best wishes in the New Year.
Career Management and
weeks ago, Victor Stoloff came to our home on Long Island for lunch, and together
we watched his first film entitled Desert Boy. If you read Victors
resume, then you already know that this was the first sound movie ever made in
was shot in 1937 on location in the Oasis of Siwa. It was quite impressive. The
camera work was excellent and the editing was seamless. Victor was only twenty
years old when he made the movie and now, at the age of eighty-nine, he is still
being asked to screen this groundbreaking film.
past November, Victor was a guest at the Turin Film Festival in Italy. He dined
with the ambassador of Egypt and presented Desert Boy to an enthusiastic
audience of film makers. You can view Desert Boy yourself if you ever visit the
Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Jack Brolly - February 2002