The Storms of Jeremy Thomas

Writer/director/film historian Mark Cousins ("The Eyes of Orson Welles," 'The Story of Film' series) recalls sitting at an outdoor luncheon at the Cannes Film Festival when thunder began to rumble and everyone picked up their plates and ran inside – except one.  Iconoclastic British producer Jeremy Thomas just sat there and said ‘Isn’t this wonderful?’  That was all Cousins needed to hear to hit on his theme for “The Storms of Jeremy Thomas.”

Laura's Review: B

Thomas reached a peak in 1988, winning the Oscar for “The Last Emperor,” but the producer has been responsible for some of the most envelope pushing and artistically significant films since his start in the late 70’s, working repeatedly with such filmmakers as Nicolas Roeg, David Cronenberg and Bernardo Bertolucci, recently shepherding such films as Takashi Miike’s “First Love” and Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO.”  He expresses a fondness for “Naked Lunch’s” talking anus, the prop of which we see sitting on an end table in his home.

He also has a love of cars, his garage housing some real beauties.  Thomas habitually makes a 5 day trip out of driving to Cannes with a friend or two and in 2019, the year he brought “First Love” to the festival, his companion will be Cousins, who turns this film into a road trip analysis of the producer’s career.  Talk of cars elicits clips from “Dom Hemingway” and Cronenberg’s “Crash.”

If you’ve seen any of Cousins’ work before, he has a tendency to occasionally wax poetic, and his comparison of his subject to a ‘prince’ who walks in the woods is a bit daft.  He uses it because Thomas was born into England’s version of Hollywood ‘royalty,’ his father and uncle the men behind the ‘Doctor’ and ‘Carry On’ comedies, which brought the family wealth.  As a young boy, Jeremy was chauffeured to school whereas Cousin’s dad, he tells us, was a mechanic. 

While Cousins places cameras all around Thomas’s car, giving us multiple perspectives on its interior and passing scenery, he address three main aspects of Thomas’s films – Sex, Politics and Death (Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” figures prominently in the first two, Roeg’s “Eureka” in the last).  Having crossed paths with Debra Winger presenting “The Sheltering Sky” in Rome, she is one of his main talking heads, expressing great affection for the man, but it is Tilda Swinton, who starred in Thomas’ “Young Adam,” who proffers the film’s most trenchant observations, calling Thomas ‘rock ‘n roll’ and discussing his ‘very English qualify of transgression.’

While the journey ends in Cannes, the documentary does not, Cousins tailing the producer while, jumping from his Death theme, gets him to talk about stars who will never die (Bowie, Marlon Brandon and Jack Nicholson are all convincing subjects, Roeg’s wife Theresa Russell less so).

“The Storms of Jeremy Thomas” is a doc for cineastes, stuffed with numerous clips (“Bad Timing,” “13 Assassins,” “The Hit,” “The Brave,” “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” “Sexy Beast” and more from the producer’s 74 credits).  Cousins’ approach doesn’t always work (a word association game adds little), but he does deliver an informed portrait of an indie movie legend.

Robin's Review: B

For many years, producer Jeremy Thomas has made the five day car journey from London to Cannes for that city’s famous film festival. He usually invites one or two friends to join him and, this time, filmmaker Mark Cousins goes along for the ride as they discuss “The Storms of Jeremy Thomas.”

First and foremost, this loving homage to Thomas by Mark Cousins showcases and chronicles the man’s vast filmography of works. Just to mention a few of the 86 films he is credited as producer and executive producer, in no particular order, for “The Last Emperor (1987),” “The Dreamers (2002),” “Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980),” “Naked Lunch (1001,” “Sexy Beast (2000),” and “Crash (1996).” Take a look at the complete list and it is astounding how many films he had his hand in the making.

Cousins ties all of Thomas’s films together in chapters titled, “Cars,” “Sex,” “Politics,””Death,” “Cannes” over five days, and, finally “Endings,” The five-day journey to the final destination is peppered with scenes from many of Thomas’s films and varied discussion of them and other things. “The Trip” movies make road trips far more amusing, but the journey is just the shell to learning about Jeremy Thomas.

Once we get to Cannes and the film festival, things change gears as Thomas, with a film in competition, is feted and followed and cared for with Cousins’s camera a constant fly on the wall following the producer through the festivities, press conferences and red carpet walks.
To me, the most impressive part of “The Storms…” is the time given to showing, sometimes repeatedly, excerpts from many of the classic films from a prolific producer.

Cohen Media released "The Storms of Jeremy Thomas" in select theaters on 9/22/23, expanding in subsequent weeks.  Click here for play dates.