Ed Wood

Director: Tim Burton

Tim Burton’s marvellous Ed Wood is a paradox, a sunny, good-humoured chronicle of failure and ignominy. Long ago described as the ‘worst director in the world’ for movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood worked on the fringes of Hollywood in the 1950s and made a series of very bizarre, no-budget films that were first treated with derision but later championed by cultists. Burton’s portrait of the director is both sympathetic and very funny. What the film celebrates is Wood’s enthusiasm and self-belief in the midst of abject poverty. There’s a wonderful scene of a chance encounter between Wood (played by an excellent Johnny Depp) and his cinematic idol, Orson Welles (Vincent d’Onofrio), who admits to having his own difficulty in finding money to make films. The disparity between Wood’s talent and that of Welles is comical, but Burton doesn’t treat it as simply that. As in the rest of the film, Wood’s sometimes lunatic intent and belief is portrayed as both genuine and funny. The same attitude is evident in the film’s depiction of Wood’s relationship with ageing horror star Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau in an Oscar-winning performance). Some would claim that Wood exploited the ailing, morphine-addicted Lugosi, but Burton sees the relationships as one based on mutual need and respect.
U.S.A., 1994. Black and white. Dolby stereo SR. 127 mins.

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