Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 8, 2008 1:49AM

The opposite of love: Safer v. Schnabel on 60 Minutes

Rate: 10 Flag


Marley Safer and David Browning apparently dislike Julian Schnabel.  This “60 Minutes” segment from last night tries extremely hard to paint the artist/filmmaker Schnabel in the worst light possible.

I gathered two things from these tasteless 12 minutes: first of all, Safer showed up for the interview insufficiently prepared (at least in Schnabel’s mind) and because of this, the two got into a verbal battle of the egos.  Secondly, 60 Minutes is barely worth watching these days—a sad fact given that it remains one of the better news programs currently airing on network television.   

Maybe Schnabel was acting like a pompous ass with Shafer in his home, but as Schnabel’s multiple appearances on Charlie Rose's show attest, he can just as easily come across as a fascinating artist capable of delivering an excellent interview.

I know little about Schnabel’s art beyond his films—all three of which stand out as almost mandatory additions to any filmophile’s movie collection.

I saw “Basquiat” as a teenager.  The picture single-handedly sparked my still active fascination with independent cinema. 

Schnabel’s latest, “The Diving Bell and Butterfly,” easily makes my top ten list of the greatest movies ever made.

If I had watched 60 Minutes last night without having previously seen Schnabel’s films (or his conversations with Charlie Rose) I likely would have never bothered to pick up "Basquiat," "Before Night Falls," or "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

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hi edgar,
i saw the interview. have seen all his films and love them. schnabel was put on the hot seat twice. when safer brought up the art critic robert hugh, i think it caught julian off guard. it went downhill from there.

i have seen his films and so will not let this interview deter me from future work. but like you wrote, for those who don't know his work, they may have been put off by the segment. safer did mention all the awards his films made so that should speak for itself. hopefully.:)

thanks for writing this post.:)
Thanks for reading and commenting, Mary.

The segment definitely went down hill after the Hughes question, but what I want to know is, when did the Hughes question actually occur?
From the footage, it looked like Safer spent the better part of a day in Schnabel's home.

They filmed in several different locations--at least long enough to capture some rather cheesy clips (Schnabel painting in front of Safer; Safer helping Schnabel hang a painting on a wall).

I can only speculate, but I would guess that the two got off to a bad start and things only proceeded to get less civil.

Safer's "partial" intro included the words, "love him or hate him, you cannot argue that he [Schnabel] has an ego the size of Manhattan."

Those who are not artists and have no chance of greatness in their lives always envy great artists. Schnabel has his immortality.

I agree with Safer's perspective. Schnabel is a better film director than artist. Some might think there's a connection..but I fail to get any inspiration from his abstractions....and for his figurative work....why doesn't he revisit Art 101? The "oevre" remind me of swap derivatives...a cash-for-trash bamboozlement, for any who consume them.... at one mil a shot. I think his work is, in more than poor taste, considering the financial and environmental challenges we face. Let's all get back to reality.
Thanks LT.

Rich, if reality is where we need to get back to, why is 60 Minutes using a quarter of its weekly show to make a mockery of Julian Schnabel?

I'm just the messenger here. Please join me in writing the bosses at CBS.
It's sad how the media in general has so much power these days. rated.
I saw the interview and had mixed feelings. Both Safer and Schnabel came across as unpleasant. Safer is known for his skepticism about modern art.

I'm not sure about the art work, but I love the man's movies. Don't have to love the man.
Saw the interview and thot they deserved each other - but bear in mind CBS gets to edit to Morley's advantage. I agree it was a waste of time, given all the monumental issues facing us, the splashings of one more self-aggrandizing artiste don't seem all that important -- regardless of how much some fool pays for his "art".

Can you tell I share Morley's disdain of modern art and consider most of it quackery? A lawsuit was in the courts for years over a disputed Pollock bought at a garage sale for $4. If the "experts" can't tell an original Pollock from an old dropcloth, why call it art, let alone give it a million-dollar price tag?
hi edgar,
well i see many posters discussing question of art. art is subjective. i myself love the pre-raphaelites. but also love broken dishes made into mosaics(ms?)

anyway, the editors and producers cut the segment to suit them. i am thinking the hughs question was asked near the end and then cut the way cbs felt like cutting it with advertisers and audience in mind.
Edgar, I agree that 60 Minutes has fallen down lately. It used to be the highlight of my Sunday Night. Lately it's been so status quo you may as well watch CNN. It misses Mike Wallace, old-school Harry Reasoner, Dan Rather and Ed Bradley, severely.

I missed last night, but I agree that "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was an unbelievably underrated film.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read and leave a comment.

Lea, Schnabel's movies are extraordinary, and you don't have to detest the artist. If you have the time, watch the Charlie Rose interview linked in my original post. Schnabel truly is a fascinating subject.

Tom, as Mary already wrote, art is subjective. My personal opinion is that if an artist can get some rich patron to shell out a cool million for some broken plates or some violent paint swirls, then more power to him/her. I view modern art like I see hip-hop: both are "games." Duchamp was the REAL OG. I'm surprised T-Pain ain't walking around with a "The Fountain" chain (and I am a fan of both genres).

Greg, Ed Bradley is the one I really miss. He wasn't the best ever, but he was the best of his time. I wish he was still out there getting interviews. I don't remember any Tim Russert-style coronation when Ed died prematurely, which is fitting. Real journalists don't want that kind of stuff.
i watched the segment last night and didn't really see it that way at all. starting off, i like a lot of schnabel's art--film and plate paintings--and most of morley's interviews.

and lea's definitely right about morley and modern art. i thought julian came off badly at the end, but didn't see that as morley's fault. julian is well known for that ego, and he seems to revel in it. not bringing it up would be like interviewing ted turner and not mentioning the elephant in the room--or brando. (what an odd question julian posed: would you ask brando? who wouldn't?)

and i can see how the mention of a harsh critic would make julian angry, but it sure seemed like displaced anger. if you're a controversial artist--especially one who courts controversy--and interviewed for a serious profile, you don't expect the controversy to be brought up? that's ridiculous.

he sure seemed like a big baby about it. could have been editing, but i doubt it. my impression has been that the guy has a lot of talent, and is a big baby, too. and that's about how he appeared in a small part of the segment. i think for the first 80-90% though, he just came off as his pompous self, which no one could have edited in or out very well.
Thank you - I read this and looked up the interview on YouTube. I love Julian Schnabel. You can get a really nice view of his Lower-Manhattan Villa from the Hoboken side of the Hudson.

It's not often an artist is able to demand those kind of prices - more power to him. I'm always going to in favor of artists making money.
I don't get why people are expected to be all smiles and charm during interviews. I don't think Safer was out of line. Any interviewer has to ask about the criticism, right? I don't think any less of either of them.