Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Sydney Pollack, 1934-2008

Some directors are genre specialists. Pollack was a people specialist, and his skill at getting great work from good actors helped him make smart, superior love stories (The Way We Were), comedies (Tootsie), political thrillers (Three Days of the Condor), Westerns (The Scalphunters) and epics (Out of Africa) — five pictures any director would be proud to have on his resumé. As producer, latterly with Anthony Minghella, he godfathered other strong films, like this month's The Reader. Pollack was also a dependable actor, often cast (in Eyes Wide Shut and Michael Clayton, for example) as a powerful man who tried to exploit the hero's weakness. That was just the opposite of Pollack the artist: a decent, generous man who knew that film is a collaborative art and drew on the strengths of others to support his own.

Richard Corliss

See the Six Degrees of Barack Obama.