Freebie and the Bean (1974) – The Daily Movie Wallpaper – Laszlo Kovacs

Laszlo Kovacs on the set of Freebie and the Bean 1974

The Daily Movie Wallpaper
Wednesday, December 23, 2009


For this, the week of Christmas… I offer to you dear fans of the site, an incredible and rare behind the scenes image of legendary cinematographer, Laszlo Kovacs. It appears he is strapped into a belt and not just haphazardly sitting on a railing from way way way up high overlooking San Francisco. In addition you will find a rare press release sent out at the time this film originally came out which talks about his involvement with the film below. For fans of Richard Rush and Kovacs cinema, I hope this offers up a great added XMAS treat! It’s great to at last be able to offer up a picture of Laszlo Kovacs here. Note: Gary Kent appears to be in the bottom right of the frame. Freebie and the Bean is available on home video from the Warner Bros. Archives (here).


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The latest phenomenon among film buffs is the cinematographer whose magic is being appreciated more and more. One of the best is Laszlo Kovacs whose most spectacular work to date can be seen in Warner Bros.’Freebie and the Bean.” Here Laszlo balances on top of a San Francisco skyscraper to line up a shot. Alan Arkin and James Caan star in the outrageous action comedy produced and directed by Richard Rush. Screenplay was by Robert Kaufman from a story by Floyd Mutrux.
Warner Bros. Studio (Press Release)
One of the more recent phenomena along the circuit of international film festivals and their do-it-yourself community counterparts is the way that young audiences and critics respond with spontaneous applause at the sight of the main title credit for a select handful of cinematographers — Ingmar Bergman’s Sven Kykvist, Jean Luc Godard’s Raoul Coutard and the brilliant young Hungarian cameraman, Laszlo Kovacs, who now adds to such credits as “Easy Rider,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Five Easy Pieces” and “What’s Up Doc?Richard Rush’s Warner Bros. release, “Freebie and the Bean,” an outrageous action comedy starring Alan Arkin and James Caan.
Kovacs, who graduated from the Academy of Film and Theatre Arts in his native country, fled Hungary during the revolt of 1956, together with fellow cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who would later lense such films as “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.”
Working his way to Hollywood via a lab in a Seattle TV station, Kovacs earned a reputation in TV commercials production and secured his first feature film credits behind rented cameras on mini-budget exploitation pictures and soft core nudies being turned out outside the periphery of the Hollywood establishment.
One of these caught the eye of director Ricard Rush, who began a six picture association with Kovacs on MGM’sA Man Called Dagger.” Together , the two young filmmakers began to explore the potential of long lens rack focus photography — too often used merely as a pretty means of focusing through the daisies to discover gamboling lovers — as a storytelling technique.
They would shoot long scenes, the focus delicately adjusted to penetrate and select crowded settings to reveal continuous action or to follow a central character through a series of sharply focusing encounters. Developing this fluid style, they made a trilogy of popular motorcycle exploitation films which transcended their market and brought both to the attention of the major studios.
When Dennis Hopper was preparing “Easy Rider,” he studied the three Rush-Kovacs films — “Hells Angels on Wheels,” “Psych-Out” and “The Savage Seven” — and borrowed Kovacs to film his journey across America.
When Rush signed a major contract to make “Getting Straight” for Columbia, he insisted that he would not make the film without Kovacs, and the now-naturalized citizen was thus brought into the powerful and select IATSE cameraman’s union. Though directors were now waiting in line for his availability, Kovacs swore that he would always make himself available whenever Rush was ready to take a project before the cameras.
Freebie and the Bean” presented Kovacs with one of his most demanding assignments yet, a film of perpetual motion, virtually a non-stop chase, careening over San Francisco freeways and alleyways, ascending a moving crane to the top of a skyscraper in construction and leading or following every manner of runaway conveyance from motorcycles and squad cars to locomotives and aircraft’s, from the opening in a maze of garbage cans bearing a shred of crucial evidence to the climatic melee in the ladies room of Candlestick Park during the Super Bowl game.
Helping to lubricate the demands of the film was the fact that the picture also reunited Kovacs with stunt coordinator and second unit director Chuck Bail, another Rush veteran, who had worked on the earlier motorcycle trilogy. That experience made possible such spectacular sequences as one in which a runaway truck rolls over, slides downhill along a sidewalk and stops on cue inches from the camera lens. Only confidence born of experience makes possible such a seemingly dangerous feat.

Image Source:
Official still that was used in the original US release of the film.


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