03/05/2012 06:25 am ET

The Tao of Hoffman

“And just how long have we got the magic?”

It’s fall in Britain. Above a manor house in Buckinghamshire, the skies are ashen. In the surrounding woods, leaves rustle with a suggestion of coming night and winter’s arrival. The words are the fairly typical remarks of a film director to his cinematographer. The magic is that last hour of light, before it becomes impossible to continue filming. Magic hour, golden hour, this is the time.

What’s not typical is that the speaker is Dustin Hoffman, directing his first feature film at 74, unless you count an abortive crack at “Straight Time” (1978). That film he handed over to someone else, while continuing to play the lead, a career criminal newly released from jail.

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