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Monte Hellman (1929-2021) - When the director was honored by LEFFEST

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“A great cinematic artist and a minimalist poet” - these were the words of Quentin Tarantino when he handed over the Special Golden Lion, in Venice, to Monte Hellman, attributed to Road to Nowhere (2010).

Hellman, who was admitted to the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert, California a couple of days ago, died this morning.  

In a text published in the LEFFEST'12 catalog, Bill Krohn said that whenever the director was asked what his favorite film was, out of all the ones he had made, he would always answer:  “the last one”. And it was to present that last film, the award-winning Road to Nowhere, and to talk about his work, which the festival showcased through a retrospective, that Hellman was with us for several days, in that year in which we paid tribute to him.  

Like Coppola or Scorsese, Hellman started his film career with Roger Corman. He had a long love affair with European camera men and their mastery of natural light (we still quote Bill Krohn) and aroused enormous devotion in the actors with whom he worked. It was with him that Jack Nicholson's career was revived in the “existentialist westerns” The Hurricane (1965) and Duel in the Desert (1966). Nicholson, his friend, would go on to work with him on two more films. In 1997, director George Hickenlooper made the documentary Monte Hellman: American Auteur.      

A mythical and singular director, he was the author of masterpieces such as those mentioned above and also Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), certainly his most celebrated film (“the ultimate American road film and one of the great American films”, The New York Times), Cockfighter (1974, another road film), or Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out (1989), among others. He was also a cinema teacher and producer of Reservoir Dogs (1992), by Tarantino.  

In his visit to the festival in 2012, in addition to the tribute and full retrospective of his  feature films, Monte Hellman was, along with Lucrecia Martel and Rita Nunes, on the jury of the short films of the European Film Schools Meeting and gave a masterclass, through a conversation with the festival director, Paulo Branco, which can be seen here:   

Masterclass with Monte Hellman Part 1-2
Masterclass with Monte Hellman Part 2-2
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