I really respect Joe Eszterhas. He has written some great films although he is best known for Basic Instinct and Showgirls. But Burn Hollywood Burn is a self fulfilling prohecy. Director Arthur Hiller took his name off the picture and it really did become an Alan Smithee film.
For those who don't know, Alan Smithee is the name the Director's Guild puts on a film which has been dissowned by its director. The film ostensibly is about a director whose name really is Alan Smithee, so when his film is taken off him and recut he can't actually take his name off the film because his name is Alan Smithee. So he steals the negative of the film. The rest of the film is about the dealings of filmmakers, actors, and studio execs trying to thrash out a deal from diametrically opposing standpoints about the film. It seems like a good idea.
The problem is that this is one big Hollywood in-joke. It's Eszterhas' diatribe on the workings of Tinsel-Town. In fact it features several studio execs, agents and producers in cameo performances. And if you are not part of that Hollywood clique then this film falls very flat. You simply will not get the jokes. Add to this the way the film is put together in a non-linear pseudo-documentary style with interview soundbites one after another and you get a dissjointed narrative that frankly any first year film student would wonder about presenting to the world.
In the end this is Eszterhas' folly. Eszterhas himself ended up cutting the film himself after Arthur Miller had downed tools; he organised all the street art opening credits and he is responsible for the soundtrack (which isn't very good though). He did actually steal a print of the film and fell out big-time with distributors Disney.
There is a curiosity value to this film, especially if you have read Eszterhas' autobigraphy Hollywood Animal (which is sensational and touching in turns). The book will explain the whole debacle. As a cutting satire on Hollywood this just doesn't fly. Better efforts are Stephen Kessler's The Independent starring Jerry Stiller, Steve Martin's Bowfinger, Altman's The Player and George Huang's Swimming With Sharks starring Kevin Spacey.
I had this film imported from the United States because it isn't available in the UK. It is cheap enough to do this for the pure curiosity value, but if you have a friend who has it then just borrow it. Sorry Joe.
Ah, the irony. A mock-documentary about a film director (Alan Smithee, played by Eric Idle) who disowns his own film, which the real life director actually disowned! Life imitating art! I cannot understand why any director would disown "Burn Hollywood Burn". Certainly, it is not exactly subtle, but was that what the director expected from the original script? Also, the opening credits go on too long. On the other hand, (a) the graffiti artwork accompanying the credits is excellent, and (b) that was the only time I felt the pace was dragging. I laughed a lot. I particularly liked the captions describing the characters, particularly the way ALL the female characters describe themselves as feminists. The cast is good. Idle is hilarious. Leslie Stefanson is hilarious and gorgeous as a groupie (and feminist). I would give this three stars for being a film I could watch without getting bored. I am adding an extra star because it was great to see people like Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Chan poking fun at themselves. (This review refers to a VHS copy bought from amazon.co.uk z-shops.)