Whether an artist is ahead of his own time with his themes can only be determined in retrospect.

For Barry Levinson, this judgment can now be made clearly.

In 1988, when he wanted to direct the drama "Rain Man," about two unlikely brothers, the film studio MGM tried to convince him to do a "more uplifting, cheesier, more unbelievable ending," as Levinson revealed years later.

But he insisted that the autistic man, played by Dustin Hoffman, gets on a train without a forgiving gesture to say goodbye to his reformed yuppie brother, Tom Cruise.

The film failed the test audience, and autism did not seem a suitable subject for a feature film.

The fact that Levinson did not allow himself to be changed in terms of form or content paid off.

The stars came because of the brilliant dialogues

Maria Wiesner

Editor in the society department at FAZ.NET.

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Levinson's name stayed with that success, though he went on to make numerous other similarly starred films thereafter;

the big names came for his brilliant dialogues and he then spurred them on to their best.

The personal or psychological aspects loved by Stars are not really his specialty;

Politics and power drove him more.

This is the story of both the Vietnam War drama "Good Morning, Vietnam" (which he was personally persuaded to do in 1987 by Robin Williams, who played the leading role of a war-critical radio DJ) and four films that paint a portrait of his hometown of Baltimore - including "Avalon". (1990), in which Armin Mueller-Stahl plays a Jewish-Russian immigrant, based on Levinson's grandfather.

The fact that he was ahead of his time with his socio-political issues can be seen in the Michael Crichton film “Revelation” (1994), in which Demi Moore and Michael Douglas used seduction techniques (and the allegation of sexual harassment) for professional advancement.

In the political satire "Wag the Dog" he had Robert De Niro stage a fictitious war as a spin doctor in order to distract the press from the American president's sexual escapades.

When the film premiered, reality caught up with fiction: Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky seemed like a Levinson work.

When he gave Robin Williams a leading role again in 2006 and made him US President as a windy TV presenter in “Man of the Year”, the critics found the story unbelievable.

We know better since Donald Trump.

Barry Levinson turns eighty this Wednesday.

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