The Sunday Times - 20th November - Susannah Price
For someone who has made his name in Hollywood, Alan Parker has the distinct air of a man keen on biting the hand that feeds. Yet for 35 years, he's managed to get away with it.
We have all heard about the hypocrisy of La-La Land: the phoney friendships, the superficiality of it all and the self-serving enthusiasm for kicking colleagues when they're down. But it's not often that those who actually work in Hollywood are willing to talk disparagingly about the swamp and its inhabitants. More likely, the express how honoured they are to be working with producer X, or how comfy they are in the company of studio executive Y - at least until they're fired.
Parker, however, is different. Perhaps as a form of catharsis he has vented his frustrations about the business in the form of cartoons - sharp and acerbic visual put-downs he has sent to those who have crossed him or irritated him. "I made most of these drawings as a result of being pissed off at the time or to stuff it to some irksome roadblock person on the way to making my films, or to rant at the ever-present hypocrisy, pretension and deceit," he says.
As word of Parker's put-downs has spread over the years, they have become collector's items - among their subjects - which probably says a lot about thick skins and brass necks, the essential characteristics of a successful mogul.
"It was always a curiosity to see my vomited scribbles on some studio executive's wall, the very executives they were aimed at. Not that they stay up long. Studio personnel are an itinerant bunch: they come and they go, and I've made 14 films with 14 studio heads. They don't stay long in their jobs, and fade away faster than a Technicolour negative."
Parker began drawing cartoons when he was a junior copywriter at an advertising agency called Maxwell Clarke in London. His art director and boss was Gray Jolliffe, who went on to become a world-famous cartoonist, probably best known for his invention Wicked Willie. Parker has since moved on to less menial work - directing Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning - but he has retained his interest in illustration. Each of the cartoons on these pages has its own story, but the collection sums up his ambivalent relationship with Hollywood. "The cartoons here," he says, "are my chopped-off horse's head."
The Telegraph - 4th December - Oliver Pritchett
There seems to be a lot of seasonal ill-will around in the humorous books this year and some of it, like this, is most satisfying. Sir Alan Parker, the film director, is also fluent in cartooning and he has used his skills very effectively to bite the hand that signs the cheques. Spleen is vented on the Hollywood jacks-in-office, the casting couch, the showbiz party, the hookers. They are jokes about high hopes and big disappointments and there's a strong New Yorker flavour about them - and sometimes a touch of Thurber.
'Milt, it was an Oscar-winning concept, a good treatment, a so-so script, a mediocre director, a dire cast, and a rotten movie.'
The Independent - 11th December - Christopher Fowler
Finally, Alan Parker's Will Write And Direct For Food rang alarm bells from my recollection of his spindly cartoons in Screen International, but the nicely spiteful drawings are peppered with sharp asides. He described Merchant Ivory productions as "the Laura Ashley school of film-making" in one of his cartoons, but the best joke is that he'll never manage to make a film as perfect as Howards End.
Time Out Magazine - 16th November - Jonathan Derbyshire
Like many British filmmakers of his generation, Alan Parker started out in advertising. And when he was still a copywriter at an obscure agency called Maxwell Clarke (which later acknowledged its obscurity by renaming itself 'Maxwell Who?'), he began drawing cartoons. 'Will Write and Direct for Food' is Parker's third collection and, as the title suggests, aims its barbs principally at the film industry. The tone of voice is cynical and the recipients of Parker's disdain are various: students of his controversial tenure at the British Film Institute won't be surprised to see avant-garde auteurs getting it in the neck, as well as more obvious targets like studio executives and cinematically illiterate journalists. For the most part, Parker favours an uncomplicated pen-and-ink line but there are several nicely executed montages here too.
When Directors Attack - Guardian Review, October 20th 2005 - Xan Brooks
The latest production from Alan Parker is a deft satire on the madness of making movies. It opens with a sex scene, closes with a chorus of carping critics and stuffs the middle with a bonfire of crass producers, venal directors and preening stars. Names are named and reputations tarnished. All things considered, it's a lot more fun than Evita.
Now for the caveat. Will Write and Direct for Food is not a film at all, but a collection of cartoons that the Mississippi Burning director has rustled up over the past 20-odd years. Most of the work was born out of frustration. "I never draw them when I'm actually working on a film," explains Parker, sipping coffee in his London production office. "Making a film takes up all your concentration. But then a year or two can pass when you're not actually able to do your job; it's a very rare profession like that. So these periods would go by and they'd start to bug me. All I was doing was sitting in bad meetings and talking about a script that was never going to get made. And then I would do a cartoon, to get that annoyance down on the page."
Some he penned for his own amusement ("part diary, part catharsis"). Others he knocked off in anger and mailed out to the folk who done him wrong (having first made a copy for his own archive). "You can pick up the phone and shout at someone, or you can do a drawing and send that in," he says. "But there's something about getting a drawing that's more flattering than getting a rude letter or phone call. So I would find myself walking into that person's office and seeing my drawing on a frame on the wall. Not always. Other times they'd tear it up."
The most famous cartoon in the book features a withering put-down of a Merchant-Ivory movie: "God, how I hate the Laura Ashley school of film-making." While Parker explains that the gag was originally coined by his sound editor, it has proved a thorn in Merchant-Ivory's side ever since. "Well, Ismael Merchant is no longer with us," Parker says. "But I know that it has always pissed off James Ivory particularly, so that's why I'm including it again. Ivory is humourless and self-important, and that's why he gets his knickers in a twist."
It's not just Ivory who will be untwisting his undergarments. The book also targets sacred cows Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, big beasts like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and features a gaggle of thinly veiled Hollywood stars such as "Cameron" who conceals her incipient acne by wearing a cardboard box on her head. At times the humour can be almost too close to home. On the way to meet Parker, I am brought up short by one cartoon depicting a pathetic, geeky journalist preparing to interview a great director. The caption reads: "Mr Parker, I'd just like to ask you some superficial, stupid questions to augment the smart arse article I've already written."
Most directors are decent draughtsmen, Parker explains. It goes with the job, whether it involves storyboarding a movie or simply scribbling ideas down on the set. "On the other hand, a lot of directors can't draw at all. Steven Spielberg, for instance, cannot draw. He works from a storyboard drawn by someone else to his instruction. Whereas Scorsese does stickmen. There's an exhibit in the American Film Institute in a big glass case. The first square shows two stickmen standing up. The next square shows one stickman lying down. And that's the storyboard to Raging Bull." He cackles with mirth. "Whoa!" he says. "Go Marty!"
Where the book leaves Parker is anyone's guess. The director completed his five-year tenure as chairman of the Film Council in 2004. It is now three years since his last film, The Life of David Gale. In the meantime, he has written a novel (The Sucker's Kiss), sat in a lot of script meetings and had a baby with his second wife, Lisa Moran.
At the age of 61, he admits that his hunger to make movies is not what it was. Moreover, one can't help wondering if Will Write and Direct For Food might have burnt his bridges with the Hollywood establishment.
"When I finished the book, I asked David Puttnam to do me a quote for the cover," he says. "I said to him, 'Do you think some of these cartoons might have gone a bit too far?' And he said, 'Yeah. But it doesn't matter because you're never going to work again anyway." Parker bellows happy laughter. For the time being at least, he appears quite cheered by the prospect