A tame sort of porno-wheeler with Joe Namath saving high-fashion writer Ann-Margret from rape by his outlaw-motorcycle gang, led by Moon (William Smith). Namath has a light, high voice, and he's generally mild and camera-shy-he's rather sweet, in the manner of sub-teen favorites. There's no explanation for what this clean-cut fellow is doing among the crude pack. The film has its visual quirks: the gang's girls make the sexual overtures to the men, and these bouts lead to quick dissolves, but when Namath lands hard-to-get Ann-Margret they roll and roll while the camera makes lyrical hay. The movie is too silly to be offensive; it contains ads for pleasures such as Kraft Cheese and the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Directed by Seymour Robbie (in extenuation, it's his first); produced by Allen Carr and the scenarist Roger Smith. Avco-Embassy.
A great movie musical. Taking its form from political cabaret, it's a satire of temptations. In a prodigious balancing act, Bob Fosse, the choreographer-director, keeps the period-Berlin, 1931-at a cool distance. We see the decadence as garish and sleazy; yet we also see the animal energy in it-everything seems to become sexualized. The movie does not exploit decadence; rather, it gives it its due. With Joel Grey as our devil-doll host-the master of ceremonies-and Liza Minnelli (in her first singing role on the screen) as exuberant, corruptible Sally Bowles, chasing after the life of a headliner no matter what; Minnelli has such gaiety and electricity that she becomes a star before our eyes. From Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin stories, via the play and movie of I AM A CAMERA, and the Broadway musical Cabaret, which has been adapted for the screen by Jay Presson Allen, with the assistance of Hugh Wheeler. The metallic songs, by John Kander and Fred Ebb, have a distinctive acrid flavor. With Michael York, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson, and Fritz Wepper. Shot in West Germany; cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. Produced by Cy Feuer, for Allied Artists release.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.
Bette Davis in her first wickedly sexy role, trying to tempt Richard Barthelmess away from virtue (Dorothy Jordan). The melodrama about the cheating Southern planters is naïvely socially conscious, but Davis has a lot of fresh impact. Michael Curtiz directed; with Henry B. Walthall, Clarence Muse, Hardie Albright, David Landau, Tully Marshall, and oily, villainous Berton Churchill. The script by Paul Green was adapted from H.H. Knoll's novel; produced by Hal B. Wallis, for Warners.
This was the first film Vincente Minnelli directed and his approach was fresh and enthusiastic. It's a joyful, stylized treatment of faux-naïf Negro folklore, with an all-black cast, and it's one of the best musicals ever made in this country. It becomes even better with the years: now, it's easier to ignore the weaknesses in the script, because it's so exciting to see legendary artists, such as Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, and Bubbles (John William Sublett), as they were in the 40s. The slinky dancing of Bubbles (to the song "Shine") is a high point; so is Ethel Waters singing "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe," and so is Lena Horne on "Honey in the Honeycomb." The cast includes Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Rex Ingram, Kenneth Spencer, Mantan Moreland, Willie Best, Duke Ellington and his orchestra, and the Hall Johnson Choir. The script by Joseph Schrank is based on the stage musical, with book by Lynn Root, lyrics by John Latouche, and music by Vernon Duke. Only three of the songs in the movie are from the original score; the others are from a variety of sources. Produced by Arthur Freed, for MGM. .
The audience, confined in the madman's universe, sees what the madman sees: distorted perspectives, eerie painted lights and shadows, an angular, warped world of fears and menace. The sets are used expressionistically to convey the madman's thoughts, to intensify the characters' emotions, and to emphasize the meanings of the action. This film is so entrenched in the "masterpiece" classification that a few cautionary remarks should be added, lest your initial reaction be disappointment: you may be delighted that the flats express something, because most of the actors don't; you may find that the decor, which is highly experimental in terms of space and distance but is derivative from the stage use of Expressionism, is a monotonous zigzag (too many hooks and no fish). CALIGARI, the most complete essay in the decor of delirium, is one of the most famous films of all time, and it was considered a radical advance in film technique, yet it is rarely imitated-and you'll know why. Werner Krauss is the nightmare image of a psychoanalyst-the hypnotist Caligari-with, in his cabinet, the somnambulist Cesare, played by the extraordinary tall, thin, young Conrad Veidt. The cast includes Lil Dagover, and Friedrich Feher as the student-inmate. Produced by Erich Pommer; directed by Robert Wiene. The scenario by Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz was originally intended as an attack on irrational authority, but the meanings got turned around; the art direction is the work of three painters-Hermann Warm, Walter Reiman, and Walter Röhrig. The Nazis labelled the film "degenerate art." Eisenstein, who, in his own way, agreed, called it "this barbaric carnival of the destruction of the healthy human infancy of our art." (A 1962 American film used the same title, but has no other connection with the original.) Silent.
A movie adaptation of the kind of Broadway play that drives you to the movies. Full of forced, unnaturally fast quips that one might, in a state of extreme exhaustion, find fairly funny. With Walter Matthau as a dentist, Ingrid Bergman as his assistant, and Goldie Hawn, whom God must have sent to us. But why didn't He provide her with better material? (She plays the dentist's mistress.) Also with Jack Weston and Irene Hervey. Directed by Gene Saks, from I.A.L. Diamond's script, based on Abe Burrows' play, which was adapted from a French play. Columbia.
The reserved, aloof Caddie (played by the lovely, toothy Helen Morse) is a young Australian housewife who, in 1925, leaves her husband, taking their two small children with her; penniless, she goes to work as a barmaid. The picture often has the charm of photographs of the past, but that's all it has. Taken from a woman's pseudonymous autobiography, the movie doesn't dramatize Caddie's life; she just stays on her treadmill, and we never learn anything of how she feels. The audience has every reason to think, Why was a movie made about her? Every time we get interested in someone who crosses Caddie's path-the snappy barmaid Josie (Jacki Weaver), the brash, flippant bookie Ted (Jack Thompson, who gives the film a burst of energy), the shy peddler Sonny (Drew Forsythe)-and some interaction seems possible, the character promptly drops out of the picture, never to return. With Takis Emmanuel as the boring, gentlemanly Greek. Directed by Donald Crombie, from Joan Long's adaptation.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.
Despite its resonant title, Shaw's play is a minor comedy-a slight, sly conceit-and it was blown up out of proportion in this extravagant, Shaw-adoring version directed by Gabriel Pascal, from Shaw's script. The pomp overpowers the parody and the playfulness. Vivien Leigh romps about as the cruel, deceiving kitten who is to become a passionate, tragic queen, while Claude Rains-as her lover and mentor, the amused, dispassionate Caesar-displays a world-weary wisdom that is more smugly shallow than Shaw could have intended. When Rains played a small part he sometimes gave the impression that he was carrying a movie, but here his equanimity and his impish grin aren't enough. It's lucky that Leigh has such an amusing dingaling quality-she lightens portions of this overstaged production. With an entertaining celebrity-show cast that includes Flora Robson, Stewart Granger, Francis L. Sullivan, Basil Sydney, Michael Rennie, Cecil Parker, Stanley Holloway, Leo Genn, Anthony Harvey, Jean Simmons, Esmé Percy, and the invaluable Ernest Thesiger. Music by Georges Auric; cinematography by Freddie Young, Robert Krasker, Jack Hildyard, and Jack Cardiff; decor and costumes by Oliver Messel and sets by John Bryan.
Doris Day is at her friendliest and most likable as the tomboy heroine of this big, bouncy Western musical about Jane's romance with Wild Bill Hickok (easygoing Howard Keel). The script, by James O'Hanlon, is ingenious (until the last 15 minutes or so); the framework allows for some singing and dancing by the charming Allyn McLerie, and a good drag act. The score by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster is just fine, except that Day's main ballad "Secret Love" (or at least the way it's staged) is out of character and doesn't seem to belong in the film. Directed by David Butler. With Phil Carey, Dick Wesson, Paul Harvey, Chubby Johnson, and Gale Robbins. Warners.
In the late 1960s, Louis Malle, fed up, he said, with "actors, studios, fiction, and Paris," took off for India for a period of "total improvising." Working with a minimal crew (a cameraman and a soundman), he shot the footage out of which he made the 92-minute CALCUTTA and the 7-part PHANTOM INDIA-masterful personal documentaries. Malle himself narrates in English, and his soft, cultivated voice and observations are integral to this film, which fuses squalor, death, and beauty. It's an incomparable vision of the poetic insanity of India.
Neil Simon's four battling-couples playlets set in the Beverly Hills Hotel have been intercut, and the director, Herbert Ross, has bleached the space around the pairs of combatants to get rid of it as tastefully as possible. This look of sunstruck swank is appropriate to the two mawkish, bittersweet Wasp playlets (Jane Fonda and Alan Alda, Maggie Smith and Michael Caine), in which gallant people use bitchy wisecracks to conceal their breaking hearts. The third playlet (low-comedy Jewish, with Walter Matthau as a husband caught with a hooker by his wife, Elaine May) is directed apathetically, and the fourth (slapstick black, with Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby as vacationing doctors from Chicago) is a disaster, and not only because it has no comic rhythm. When the black doctors stumble around a flooded hotel room, crash into each other, and step on broken glass, and Cosby bites Pryor's nose, the sequences have horrifying racist overtones. (Inadvertently, the movie seems to be saying that while these black men may be educated, they're still savages.) The audience doesn't get restless, because the pairs of actors keep whacking each other with insults; at the end, there's always the loneliness, the fear, and the reconciliation. Simon and Ross turn vaudeville into mush. Produced by Ray Stark. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.
Ethel Merman gets more elbowroom than usual in Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's topical satire on the activities of a wealthy Washington hostess whom Harry Truman appoints ambassador to the sort of country where people are poor but love to yodel, and where the chorus hops around in what are alleged to be peasant dances. Merman has tedious telephone conversations with Truman about his daughter's troubles in her singing career, but the Irving Berlin score has a few songs good enough to make the whole apparatus tolerable. Chief among them is the duet "You're Just in Love," sung by Merman with Donald O'Connor, who works surprisingly well with her-he's so ingratiating he lightens her a bit. (He also gets in some dancing.) George Sanders, in one of his rare singing roles, has a voice and personality weighty enough to make him a fit romantic partner for the lady. With Vera-Ellen (dubbed) as a princess who's anxious to marry O'Connor, quite clearly a commoner; and Walter Slezak, Billy De Wolfe, Helmut Dantine, Lilia Skala, Steven Geray, and Ludwig Stossel. Directed by Walter Lang; adapted by Arthur Sheekman; choreography by Robert Alton. 20th Century-Fox.
One of Hollywood's colossal financial disasters. The film of the Lerner and Loewe musical (from T.H. White's The Once and Future King) got so expensively big that it went out of control; the sets and people and costumes seem to be sitting there on the screen, waiting for the unifying magic that never happens. The picture wavers in tone, but it does have good bits tucked in among the elaborate mistakes. It has a fascination; it's like a huge ruin that makes one wonder what the blueprints could possibly have indicated. It's hard to guess what the director, Joshua Logan, was aiming at. Richard Harris's King Arthur is eccentric and unfathomable in the first half, but he achieves some powerful moments later on; Vanessa Redgrave, flying high-sometimes lyrically, sometimes satirically-is a puzzling yet spectacular Guenevere. With David Hemmings as Mordred, Franco Nero as Lancelot, Laurence Naismith as Merlyn, and Estelle Winwood and Lionel Jeffries. Cinematography by Richard H. Kline. (181 minutes.) Warners.
Like parents crowing over Baby's first steps, MGM announced "Garbo talks!" (for ANNA CHRISTIE) and "Garbo laughs!" (for NINOTCHKA), but they missed out on this one, when they should have crowed "Garbo acts!" Under George Cukor's direction, she gives a warm yet ironic performance that is possibly her finest. Her Camille is too intelligent for her frivolous life, too generous for her circumstances; actually Garbo is inconceivable as a whore-her Camille is a divinity trying to succeed as a whore. (No movie has ever presented a more romantic view of a courtesan.) With the exception of Henry Daniell, as Baron de Varville, the rest of the cast does not rise to the occasion. As Armand, Robert Taylor is inept but not completely unforgivable: he had, at least, a romantic profile. As M. Duval, Lionel Barrymore is unforgivable. (Both of them are irredeemably American.) The slow, solemn production is luxuriant in its vulgarity; it achieves that glamour which MGM traditionally mistook for style. But, in spite of MGM, Garbo's artistry triumphs, and the tearjerker CAMILLE is transformed into the "classic" the studio claimed it to be. With Lenore Ulric as Olympe, Laura Hope Crews as Prudence, and Elizabeth Allan, Jessie Ralph, Rex O'Malley, and E.E. Clive. From the novel by Alexandre Dumas, adapted by Frances Marion, James Hilton, and Zoë Akins.
The grown-up Deanna Durbin in a musical Western in which she gets to sing "Californ-i-ay." Unexciting, despite the songs by Jerome Kern and E.Y. Harburg. With Akim Tamiroff, Leonid Kinskey, and some colorless, forgettable leading men; Frank Ryan directed. Universal.
Philo Vance, the cultured amateur-detective hero of S.S. Van Dine's mystery novels, speaks so ornately, with such paralyzing erudition, that his unravelling a crime often seems more trouble than it's worth. He is far more sleek and entertaining as William Powell plays him in this early Paramount talkie. This was the first of the many Philo Vance cases to be filmed (published in 1927, it was the second-and best-of the books). The story is about the murder of a blackmailing musical-comedy star, who is played by the dazzling flapper Louise Brooks, with her short straight hair and bangs; from the way she looks (she seems to incarnate Art Deco), the men she has mistreated were lucky. With Jean Arthur, James Hall, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Eugene Pallette, Lawrence Grant, Ned Sparks, Louis John Bartels, E.H. Calvert, and Charles Lane. Directed by Malcolm St. Clair; the writers were S.S. Van Dine, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Florence Ryerson, and Albert S. LeVino. (William Powell went on to play Philo Vance three more times; Basil Rathbone had a shot at it, and then Warren William, Paul Lukas, Edmund Lowe, and many others.)
A shameful low for Bob Hope. As a TV personality caught in a murder case, he delivers a steady string of sour, wheezing one-liners. Eva Marie Saint is mired in this one, along with Chief Dan George and Keenan Wynn. The cast includes Ralph Bellamy, Forrest Tucker, Anne Archer, and Doodles Weaver, with guest appearances by John Wayne, Flip Wilson, Bing Crosby, and Johnny Carson. Directed by Paul Bogart (who also plays Dr. Kaufman), from a script by Arthur Marx and Robert Fisher, taken from the Louis L'Amour novel The Broken Gun. Produced by Bob Hope; released by Warners.
Though it sticks fairly closely to Terry Southern's and Mason Hoffenberg's book, which was an erotic satire, it isn't erotic. It's a shambles, and the idea of Candide as a teenage American girl who believes what men tell her-she's a born dupe whose innocence serves as an aphrodisiac-wears down fast. But there are funny sections: Marlon Brando's Grindl the Guru episode (especially under the covers), Richard Burton's parody of Dylan Thomas (though it does go on), and the bloody hospital sequence with James Coburn as Dr. Krankeit. This spoof of surgery is a bad sick joke and you know you should want it to end, because it's wicked and crude, but you're laughing helplessly. As Candide, Ewa Aulin lacks the necessary dewy freshness and isn't, and can't act, American; she sounds rather like Peter Lorre in his pussycat roles. With Walter Matthau, John Astin, and John Huston. There are also appearances by Charles Aznavour, Ringo Starr, and Elsa Martinelli who seem to be looking for a friend to tell them what they're supposed to do. There was a director-Christian Marquand-but the movie doesn't look directed; one has visions of the editor holding his head-his brain slipping through his fingers-as he tried to figure out how to put this stuff together. Adapted by Buck Henry; the cinematography is by Giuseppe Rotunno.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Going Steady.
In this heavy whimsey taken from an Oscar Wilde story, Charles Laughton is atrociously coy and florid. As the ghost of a man who was a coward, he's doomed to flutter about until his descendant, Robert Young, proves himself brave. With Margaret O'Brien in a prominent part, and Peter Lawford, Una O'Connor, Mike Mazurki, Rags Ragland, and William Gargan. Directed by Jules Dassin, who clearly lacks the requisite light, comic tone; was some executive punishing him? From a script by Edwin Blum. MGM.
The 25-year-old Errol Flynn has the smile and dash to shout "All right my hearties, follow me!" as he leaps from his pirate ship to an enemy vessel. As young Dr. Peter Blood, who is sent into slavery for treating a wounded rebel, he speaks with an Irish lilt and draws his sword against Basil Rathbone on a Caribbean beach. This happy swashbuckler, based on a Rafael Sabatini novel, was adapted by Casey Robinson and directed by Michael Curtiz. (The exteriors were actually Corona, Laguna Beach, and Palm Canyon near Palm Springs.) The cast includes Olivia De Havilland, Ross Alexander, Lionel Atwill, Guy Kibbee, Henry Stephenson, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh, Donald Meek, David Torrence, Pedro de Cordoba, Jessie Ralph, J. Carrol Naish, E.E. Clive, Halliwell Hobbes, and Holmes Herbert. The cinematography is by Hal Mohr. A Cosmopolitan Production, for Warners.
Alec Guinness leads a double life, and acts out one of the most common fantasies of Western man: as the captain of a ferry steamer, he alternates nights between a cozy middle-class cottage with homebody wife Celia Johnson on the Gibraltar end, and a torrid, opulent apartment with passionately exuberant wife Yvonne De Carlo on the Morocco end. "Two women," he says, "each with half of the things a man wants," and happily split between two lives and two wives, he doesn't realize that he is satisfying only half of each wife's desires. This comedy never quite finds its style, but the two wives are better than any man (or the film) deserves. With Charles Goldner, Miles Malleson, Bill Fraser. Directed by Anthony Kimmins, written by Alec Coppel and Nicholas Phipps.
One of MGM's powerhouse moralizing "family" entertainments, it's beefy and rousing, with almost guaranteed tears and laughter for children. Freddie Bartholomew plays the rich brat who learns about life from the fishermen of the Gloucester fleet, especially from Spencer Tracy (as a Portuguese) and with a little help from Mickey Rooney. Victor Fleming keeps the handsome production in motion; the Kipling novel was reworked-sugared-by experienced hands: John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly, and Dale Van Every. (The film can leave kids upset, though: the father figure dies.) With Melvyn Douglas, the inevitable Lionel Barrymore, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, Leo G. Carroll, and Jack La Rue, cast against type as a priest; the score is by Franz Waxman. Academy Award for Best Actor (Tracy). (The entire picture was shot on a sound stage, and it looks it.)
A junk-food mixture of poetry, black anger, bathroom humor, routines that have come through the sit-com mill, and worn-to-the-stump faggot jokes. The action is centered on one workday in an LA car wash that is white-owned but staffed mostly by blacks. The film's specialty is yanking laughs by having adult blacks do dirtier versions of the standard pranks that naughty kids used to do in comedies. Michael Schultz directed, from a script by Joel Schumacher; the editing (by Christopher Holmes) to the music (by Norman Whitfield) was probably a big factor in the film's box-office success. With Franklyn Ajaye, Lauren Jones, Tracy Reed, Melanie Mayron, Ivan Dixon, Bill Duke, Sully Boyar, Garrett Morris, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, and brief appearances by Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Prof. Irwin Corey, and the Pointer Sisters. Cinematography by Frank Stanley. An Art Linson Production, for Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.
Fred Astaire plays a psychiatrist who was psychoanalyzed out of thinking he wanted to be a dancer; his friend, Ralph Bellamy, is in love with Ginger Rogers, who's in show business. Bellamy, who can't get anywhere with Rogers, sends her to see Fred on a professional basis-to be cured of her indifference to him. Rogers begins to fall for Astaire, but he hypnotizes her so that she'll love Bellamy; then Astaire discovers that he's in love with her himself. It sounds promising, in a chaotic sort of way, but this is one of the least scintillating of the Astaire-Rogers pictures; there's too much plot and too much leaden comedy between the dances. It doesn't have the spirit of their best films, or the Art Deco furnishings, either-the production numbers are performed in an ugly, cluttered country-club set. Astaire's profession allows for the lovely, hypnotic "Change Partners" dance when Rogers is in a trance-it's probably the film's high point. Ginger is wackily sexy-funny in some of the dance scenes, and she gets to wear big halo hats, but her timing is off, or maybe the timing of the director, Mark Sandrich, is off, because there's a lot of footage of her trying to be chipper and charming yet coming across as awfully dumb. It may be that nobody could work up much conviction in the material, written by Allan Scott, Ernest Pagano, Dudley Nichols, and Hagar Wilde. The supporting cast is also less than luminous. As Rogers's aunt, Luella Gear seems numbly confused by her feeble lines. Also with Jack Carson, Franklin Pangborn, Hattie McDaniel, Walter Kingsford, Tom Tully, Kay Sutton, and Clarence Kolb. The Irving Berlin score includes "The Yam." Technically, this was the next to last of the Astaire-Rogers RKO series, which had begun in 1933, with FLYING DOWN TO RIO, but actually it marked the end of an era; their last RKO picture, THE STORY OF VERNON & IRENE CASTLE, wasn't a contemporary musical comedy-it was a period piece, a biographical extravaganza. Produced by Pandro S. Berman, for RKO.
Directed by Francesco Rosi, this version has a clean, raw vivacity and is supremely romantic. Julia Migenes-Johnson's freckled street urchin Carmen revitalizes the story. Her strutting, her dark, messy frizzy hair-her sexual availability-attract the middle-class clod Don José (Plácido Domingo) and drive him crazy; Carmen, who's true to her instincts, represents everything he tries to repress. Rosi lets the music carry the passion; what he supplies is ideal conditions for the viewer to experience the opera as a totality. The natural settings have an extra, formal dimension: the luster of 19th-century paintings with the near-abstract clarity of 20th-century art. Rosi's handling suggests the most fluently stylized movie musicals. Collaborating with the cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis, and with Enrico Job supervising the sets and costumes, he achieves lighting so beautiful (and so evocative) that the images seem serenely right-just what the arias call for. With Faith Esham as Micaëla and Ruggero Raimondi as Escamillo. The straightforward screen adaptation is by Rosi and Tonino Guerra. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.
The setting of Bizet's Carmen has been changed from Mérimée's Spain to Jacksonville, Florida, and Meilhac's and Halévy's libretto has been rewritten by Oscar Hammerstein II, who provides colloquial, rather basic lyrics, but the music retains much of its excitement in this flamboyant version with an all-black cast. Dorothy Dandridge is a marvellous-looking Carmen-fiery and petulant, with whiplash hips in a hot-pink skirt. (Her singing is dubbed by Marilyn Horne.) The man Carmen destroys is played by Harry Belafonte, who seems miscast and miserable (he's also dubbed). It's somewhat frustrating to watch performers who can sing but aren't allowed to; of the principals, only Pearl Bailey sings in her own voice-she comes up with a whacking rendition of the Gypsy Song. She's pure comic energy up there in the center of the screen, and the director, Otto Preminger, seems to just stand back, enjoying her, like the rest of us. Made from a hit Broadway musical, this movie is terribly uneven-best when it's gaudy and electric, worst in its more realistically staged melodramatic moments, especially toward the end. Overall, it's an entertaining show, choreographed by Herbert Ross, featuring the dancers Carmen de Lavallade and Archie Savage, and with a cast that includes Diahann Carroll, Olga James, Joe Adams, Nick Stewart, and Brock Peters, who plays Sgt. Brown and also dubs the singing voice of Rum, played by Roy Glenn. Adapted to the screen by Harry Kleiner; art direction by Edward L. Ilou. 20th Century-Fox.
Jules Feiffer, who wrote the screenplay, had what sounds like a promising idea: to take two college roommates in the mid-1940s and follow their sexual attitudes and activities through to their middle age in the early 70s. But Feiffer rigged the case and wrote a grimly purposeful tract on depersonalization and how we use each other sexually as objects, and, in the director Mike Nichols' cold, slick style, the movie is like a neon sign spelling out the soullessness of neon. Glowering Jack Nicholson (who becomes a tax lawyer) is a jock with a big-breast fixation, and we watch him over the years yelling at his mistress, Ann-Margret, and exploding in frustration as he becomes more and more impotent, until finally he's being lied to and serviced by a prostitute (Rita Moreno). Arthur Garfunkel (who becomes a doctor) is a mild drip who goes from a dull, proper marriage with Candice Bergen to an affair with a snooty bitch (Cynthia O'Neal) and winds up with a curly-haired, teenage hippie (Carol Kane). It's a parallel history of dissatisfaction and emptiness, and as the men age the picture scores off them repeatedly and never lets them win a round. In the film's politicized morality, if well-heeled Americans have sex it must be vile, because how could they possibly know anything about love? As Mike Nichols has directed the material, the effects are almost all achieved through the line readings, and the cleverness is unpleasant-it's all surface and whacking emphasis. This surefire, hit-it-on-the-button comedy style has about the same relationship to humor that belting has to singing. An Avco Embassy-Joseph E. Levine Production.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.
It is a day in 1616; a Spanish regiment comes to a town in occupied Flanders. The cowardly burghers hide, but their charming ladies meet the challenge, and in the morning the Spaniards depart, poorer in worldly goods, richer in experience. Jacques Feyder directed this classic comedy in the styles of Bruegel and Boccaccio, and it's almost too close to perfect; it's so archly classic that it isn't really very funny. From a script by Charles Spaak. With Françoise Rosay, Louis Jouvet, Jean Murat, Alerme, Micheline Cheirel. Designed by Lazare Meerson; cinematography by Harry Stradling. (This much-honored film's sophisticated approach to sexual collaboration would, of course, have been impossible in the 40s.) In French.
As the teenage small-town girl looking for excitement who joins up with a carnival that's travelling through, Jodie Foster has a marvellous sexy bravado. With her long legs and knowledgeable eyes, this blooming young actress gives the picture a toehold on recognizable human experience. But the carny partners she hooks up with are played by Gary Busey and Robbie Robertson, and it's hard to know what they think they're doing. Busey is the carnival's hostile, sadistic bozo (who manipulates customers by insulting them), yet we can't see what his meanness comes out of-he seems to be an open-faced farm boy. And the heavy-lidded Robertson, who was so remarkable as himself in THE LAST WALTZ, Scorsese's concert film about The Band, acts like a burnt-out dowager here. His twitches and druggy, Garboesque expressions don't connect with anything. The lowlife carny world has been shot for funky exoticism, and the director, Robert Kaylor, overdoes it-the images are too grotesque, too ominous, too garish, and the music (by Alex North) is too insistent. There isn't enough humor and there isn't enough clarity about how things work; it doesn't help to have a carny hand say to somebody, "You still don't get it, do you?" when we don't either. There's an authentically eerie scene of Harold the 600-pound Fat Man (George Emerson) singing, and an even eerier moment when he goes out into the rain-presumably the only shower big enough for him. The dialogue, from Thomas Baum's screenplay, is often colorful, but the picture is heavy. The minute Elisha Cook, Jr., turns up as an endearing crazy, it's obvious he's going to be bumped off, and there's an ugly sequence with Jodie Foster apparently trapped by a sexual psychopath. With Meg Foster, who gives off a lot of energy, though she has nothing to do, and Kenneth McMillan and Bert Remsen. Cinematography by Harry Stradling, Jr. A Lorimar film; released by United Artists.
In the tawdry, lavish roman-à-clef genre, but of its kind fairly energetic, and the pop psychology is self-serious enough to be funny. The source is a Harold Robbins novel with a thinly disguised Howard Hughes for its playboy-hero-spoiled-rotten, rich Jonas Cord, Jr. (George Peppard). (Robert Ryan gave a far more compelling performance based on Hughes in the Max Ophüls film CAUGHT, but Peppard is just right for this picture.) The characters, synthesized from old scandal sheets, are impersonated by Alan Ladd (it was his last film), Carroll Baker, Lew Ayres, Martha Hyer, Elizabeth Ashley, Leif Erickson, Audrey Totter, Martin Balsam, Archie Moore, and Robert Cummings. Directed by Edward Dmytryk; written by John Michael Hayes; produced by Joseph E. Levine, for Paramount.
William Wyler's version of Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie is graced by one of Laurence Olivier's finest screen performances. Olivier has always given credit to Wyler for teaching him how to act in the movies when they did WUTHERING HEIGHTS together, but it's in CARRIE that he showed how much he had learned. As George Hurstwood, the manager of an elegant Chicago grog-and-steak house, who ruins himself for a pretty face (Jennifer Jones), Olivier is so impassioned and so painfully touching that everything else in the movie, including the girl whose story it's meant to be, fades into insignificance. With Miriam Hopkins as the rigidly unforgiving Mrs. Hurstwood, and Eddie Albert as a dry-goods salesman. Adapted by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. Paramount.
The best scary-funny movie since JAWS-a teasing, terrifying, lyrical shocker, directed by Brian De Palma, who has the wickedest baroque sensibility at large in American movies. Pale, gravel-voiced Sissy Spacek gives a classic chameleon performance as a repressed high-school senior whose energy is released only telekinetically, and Piper Laurie plays her deep-voiced, sexy fundamentalist mother. With John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, and William Katt. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.
Philippe de Broca's lush comedy extravaganza, full of brocades and brawls-a travesty of cape-and-sword romances that actually outdoes most of them in romanticism. Jean-Paul Belmondo is a goodhearted acrobatic thief (in the Fairbanks-Flynn tradition) operating in 18th-century Paris. He hooks up with a gypsy pickpocket named Venus (Claudia Cardinale), overthrows the nasty leader (Marcel Dalio) of the pickpocket gang, turns it into a crime syndicate, and embarks on a series of Robin Hoodish adventures, giving to the poor the fancy baubles of the rich. The film's high spirits and occasional grand gestures almost make up for its insistently antic tone. With Odile Versois, Jean Rochefort, Noël Roquevert, and Jess Hahn. In French. (A dubbed, English-language version was released under the title THE THUNDERING SWORD.)