Review: The Storms of Jeremy Thomas is a Road Movie Through an Accomplished Filmography

You may not know the name Jeremy Thomas in the realm of movie-making, but you likely know the film he’s responsible for, primarily as a producer of works by the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci, David Cronenberg, Takashi Miike and Nicolas Roeg. Filmmaker and visual essayist Mark Cousins (The Eyes of Orson Welles; The Story of Film: An Odyssey) spends several days with the man he calls “the prince." That's because he was basically born into film royalty and never had to worry about money, giving him time to focus on his passion for the arts and setting up more artistically inclined directors, allowing them to make the works they want without interference. The results include in some of the most acclaimed and divisive works of the latter decades of the 20th century, like the nine-time Oscar-winner The Last Emperor, which Thomas produced when he was still in his 30s. But he also produced Cronenberg’s Crash, which had massive walkouts at Cannes and critics calling for his head.

The Storms of Jeremy Thomas equates the subject’s passion for great film with the electricity in storms, and the filmmaker’s claim is backed by the likes of Thomas’s collaborators Debra Winger and Tilda Swinton, who provide no small amount of insight into what makes Thomas unique in the cinematic world and as a person. The filming takes place primarily on a five-day drive from England to the Cannes Film Festival, which Thomas makes every year, during which he makes random stops along the way—traveling with no agenda is his favorite way to get from Point A to Point B. The pair also spend most of Thomas’s time in Cannes together (circa 2019) as he acts as hype man for his productions and “fishes” for new ideas and filmmakers with whom he might work.

But the bulk of the film has Cousins using clips of Thomas’s works to illustrate points he’s trying to make about the producer’s attitudes about sex, politics, stardom, creativity, and success. It’s sometimes difficult to envision what success looks like to a man who seemingly has more money than god, but with sequences shown from works like The Sheltering Sky, Bad Timing, 13 Assassins, Naked Lunch, The Hit, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Sexy Beast, The Dreamers, Dom Hemingway, Fast Food Nation, recent Oscar nominee Kon-Tiki, and last year’s masterful EO, Cousins doesn’t have much trouble making his case for any of the theories he has about themes in Thomas’s works. The filmmaker’s line of questioning, logic, and narrating can be a bit much sometimes (par for the course in his work), but his knowledge and mastery of the craft is undeniable.

In the end, the work becomes a road movie, much like those Thomas tends to admire so much. And it’s never a bad thing to be reminded of so many worthy achievements in cinema, most of which are well worth revisiting with fresh eyes.

The is now playing in Chicago at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.