Day Dreams

US (1928): Comedy
23 min, No rating, Black & White

Silent slapstick comedy rarely encompassed visual elegance, but in England an oddly assembled group-the director Ivor Montagu (known to film scholars as the translator of Pudovkin), the writer H.G. Wells, and the heroine Elsa Lanchester, assisted by pudgy young Charles Laughton as the mock villain, and absurdly lean Harold Warrender as the mock hero-produced this little (23-minute) triumph of "advanced" editing and Art Nouveau decor, within the slapstick form. Wells' story-a servant girl fantasizes herself in the throes of aristocratic passions, as a great actress, as a leader of fashion, etc.-has more sly wit than the later, more labored variations on the same theme. DAY DREAMS is the sort of inventive, playful use of the medium that makes you want to go right out with your friends and make a movie.

Day for Night

France (1973): Drama
120 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as LA NUIT AMÉRICAINE.

François Truffaut made this tribute to the conventional movies that once gave him pleasure, and apparently still do. He himself plays a director who is shooting an American-financed film called "Meet Pamela," with Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Jacqueline Bisset, and Valentina Cortese. DAY FOR NIGHT, unfortunately ordinary in its approach to character, is very childlike-filled with a deeply innocent love of the magic of moviemaking. There's not much to it, though it's graceful. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

A Day in the Country

France (1946): Romance
40 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE.

Jean Renoir's 37-minute film from a de Maupassant story is one of the two or three greatest short-story films ever made-a lyric tragedy that ranks with his finest work. Visually, it recaptures the Impressionist period; in tone, it accomplishes a transformation from light nostalgic comedy to despair. In the late 1800s a merchant (Gabriello) takes his family for an outing on the banks of the Marne; there, his wife (Jeanne Marken) and his innocent young daughter (Sylvia Bataille) are seduced-the one delightedly, the other tremblingly, like a captured bird. Renoir himself plays the role of an innkeeper. Cinematography by Claude Renoir and Jean Bourgoin; music by Kosma. Originally this film was part of the three-part picture WAYS OF LOVE. In French.

The Day of the Dolphin

US (1973): Drama
104 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The most expensive Rin Tin Tin picture ever made, with a gimmick the Rin Tin Tin pictures never stooped to: the dolphins here are dubbed with plaintive, childish voices and speak in English. Mike Nichols directed this elaborate exercise in anthropomorphic tearjerking, which turns the dolphins into fishy human babies. George C. Scott is the godlike dolphin trainer, whom they call Pa. The movie is about a plot to assassinate the President by using the dolphins Scott has trained as bomb carriers; the star dolphins-Alpha and Beta-foil this attempt, just as Rin Tin Tin would have done. But this isn't a happy movie: Nichols and the writer, Buck Henry, who adapted the Robert Merle novel, exploit Watergate and the political assassinations of recent decades for a despairing attitude toward corruption. The picture ends with the bawling-baby Alpha protesting love for Pa while Scott tells the pair that they must trust no man, and forces the whimpering babies to leave their home forever. The moviemakers who put out the Rin Tin Tin pictures didn't take themselves so seriously that they felt the need to break kids' hearts-this movie sends kids out destroyed. It's preposterously ill-conceived. With Trish Van Devere, Fritz Weaver, and Paul Sorvino. Cinematography by William A. Fraker; music by Georges Delerue. Avco-Embassy.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Day of the Locust

US (1975): Drama
144 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

John Schlesinger's overblown version of Nathanael West's novel is a mosaic that never comes together. Waldo Salt attempted the next-to-impossible job of adapting the novel-an aesthete's view of society, set in Los Angeles in the 30s, in which the culturally debased people bring on the apocalypse. There wouldn't be much to remember from the movie if it weren't for a few of the performers-Burgess Meredith as an old vaudevillian, Billy Barty as a macho dwarf, and William Atherton in the thankless role of the artist Tod. With Karen Black, Donald Sutherland, Geraldine Page, Lelia Goldoni, Richard A. Dysart, and Bo Hopkins. Cinematography by Conrad L. Hall; production design by Richard MacDonald. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Day of Wrath

Denmark (1943): Drama
110 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as VREDENS DAG.

It has been said that Carl Dreyer's art begins to unfold just at the point where most directors give up, and this psychological masterpiece, suggesting a fusion of Hawthorne and Kafka, is proof. In 1623, the young second wife of an austere pastor desires his death because of her love for his son; when she tells the pastor of her feelings, he suffers a stroke and dies. Accused of witchcraft, she becomes what she and her accusers believe a witch to be, and as she is trapped, and all possibility of hope is stripped away from her, the viewer's identification with her fear becomes unbearable; then Dreyer dissolves our terror as she is purified beyond even fear. The most intense, powerful film ever made on the subject of witchcraft, it explores the erotic tensions of the "'witch" and her accusers. With Lisbeth Movin as the wife and Anna Svierkier as Marthe, the old woman who is arrested and burned at the stake in the great early sequences. Based on the play Anne Pedersdotter by Wiers Jensen; the musical arrangements of the "Dies Irae" (which gives the film its title) and the other fateful hymns are by Poul Schierbeck. Not shown outside Denmark until after the war; opened in the U.S. in 1948. In Danish.

Days and Nights in the Forest

Bengal (1969): Romance/Drama/Comedy
120 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as ARANYER DIN RATRI.

On the surface, this Satyajit Ray film is a lyrical romantic comedy about four educated young men from Calcutta, driving together for a few days in the country, and the women they meet. The subtext is perhaps the subtlest, most plangent study of the cultural tragedy of imperialism; the young men are self-parodies-clowns who ape the worst snobberies of the British. A major film by one of the great film artists, starring Soumitra Chatterji and the incomparably graceful Sharmila Tagore. In Bengali.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Days of Heaven

US (1978): Drama
95 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Terrence Malick wrote and directed this story of adultery, set principally in the wheat fields of the Texas Panhandle just before America entered the First World War. It's both a nostalgic and an anti-nostalgic vision of the American past. The landscapes are vast and lonely, with the space in the images strained and the figures tilted; the characters are monosyllabic-near-mute. What is unspoken in this picture weighs heavily on us, but we're not quite sure what it is. The film is an empty Christmas tree: you can hang all your dumb metaphors on it. Richard Gere plays Bill, who works in a blast furnace in Chicago; he gets into a brawl with the foreman and heads south, taking his girl, Abby (Brooke Adams), and his 12-year-old sister, Linda (Linda Manz), with him. They find work in the fields of a wealthy young farmer (Sam Shepard), who falls in love with Abby. When Bill learns that the farmer may be dying, he encourages Abby to marry him-so that she can soon be a rich widow. The movie is oblique, except for the narration, which is by Linda; she's a little-girl wise guy, and all the humor in the film comes from her laconic remarks, but she's also precociously full of the wisdom of the ages, and at times her illiterate poetry is drenched in wistfulness and heartbreak. Shot by Nestor Almendros, with additional photography by Haskell Wexler, the film is a series of pictorial effects-some of them, such as a train passing over a lacework bridge, extraordinary-but the overpowering images seem unrelated, pieced together. The movie suffers from too many touches, too many ideas that don't grow out of anything organic. It's an epic pastiche. Though the irregularly handsome, slightly snaggletoothed Shepard has almost no lines, he makes a strong impression; he seems authentically an American of an earlier era. But Gere, with his post-50s acting style and the associations it carries of Brando and Dean and Clift and all the others who shrugged and scowled and acted with their shoulders, is anachronistic. Shot in Alberta, Canada. Released by Paramount.

The Dead

US (1987): Drama
83 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Working in a mood of tranquil exuberance, the 80-year-old John Huston made a great warm, funny movie out of the great story that James Joyce wrote at 25. Huston never before blended his actors so intuitively, so musically. The party that the Morkan sisters and their fortyish niece give in their Dublin town house on January 6, 1904, the Feast of the Epiphany, suggests the Chekhov production of your dreams, or maybe one of Satyajit Ray's triumphs. The cast is glorious: Donal McCann is Gabriel; Anjelica Huston is Gabriel's wife, Gretta; Donal Donnelly is Freddy; Marie Kean is Freddy's mother; Cathleen Delany is Aunt Julia; Helena Carroll is Aunt Kate; Ingrid Craigie is Mary Jane; Dan O'Herlihy is the Protestant Mr. Browne; and Frank Patterson is the tenor who sings "The Lass of Aughrim." Screenplay by Tony Huston; cinematography by Fred Murphy; score by Alex North. Vestron.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Dead End

US (1937): Crime
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The setting of Sidney Kingsley's once celebrated play is a dead-end street on the East River, where an expensive apartment house towers over the slums; the play is about the confrontations of rich and poor, and it features a gang of street-wise kids and a gangster, bred there, who comes back for a visit. (The film was advertised as "Dead End, Cradle of Crime.") The movie has the ambiance of Broadway social consciousness of the 30s, which, like the beautifully engineered plot, is highly entertaining. Humphrey Bogart is the gangster-Baby Face Martin-with Allen Jenkins as his sidekick, Claire Trevor as his old girlfriend who has turned whore, and Marjorie Main (before her Ma Kettle days) as his mother. The contrasting characters of the poor and honest lovers are played by Sylvia Sidney and Joel McCrea (who is almost tempted away by Wendy Barrie). And the thieves who steal the picture are the Dead End Kids: Gabriel Dell, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, and Bernard Punsley. Directed by William Wyler; cinematography by Gregg Toland; screenplay by Lillian Hellman. A Samuel Goldwyn Production; released by United Artists.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

US (1982): Crime/Comedy
89 min, Rated PG, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Steve Martin stars, as a private eye, in this spoof of detective movies; it splices together footage of Martin and footage from films of the 40s, such as WHITE HEAT and THE GLASS KEY and DOUBLE INDEMNITY-putting him right into scenes from the movie past. The director, Carl Reiner, worked with dedicated craftsmen and achieved a smooth composite; even the sound levels were carefully matched. Reiner and the others must have become so proud of their workmanship that they didn't register what a monotonous, droning feat they were engaged in. They smoothed out their one big chance for comic friction-the contrast between old and new. Martin has a few good silly gags, but you may find yourself fighting to stay awake and losing. With Rachel Ward as the curvy, low-voiced femme fatale, and Reni Santoni. Written by Reiner (who also appears), George Gipe, and Martin. The cinematography is by Michael Chapman; the production design is by John DeCuir. The costumes are by Edith Head; it was her final film. Universal.

Dead of Night

UK (1945): Horror
102 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Michael Redgrave plays a schizophrenic ventriloquist tormented by his dummy, and his overpowering performance-a small work of art-lifts this five-part English production above the elegant, sophisticated entertainment it aspired to be. The individual stories are meant to accumulate in intensity, until the trap closes in the surreal climax-an encompassing ghost story. When the film was first shown in this country, two of the stories were omitted, and though these were the weakest sequences, the omission made the climax partly unintelligible. The complete version begins with Mervyn Johns's arrival at a country house and proceeds through these five episodes: Antony Baird and Miles Malleson in "room for one more;" Sally Ann Howes in the murdered child sequence (good material poorly done); Googie Withers and Ralph Michael in the story of the mirror that reflects the crime of an earlier century; Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in the golfers' story told by Roland Culver (which is pretty awful); Michael Redgrave as the ventriloquist, with Hartley Power as his rival and Frederick Valk as the psychoanalyst; then the nightmarish summation. John Baines and Angus MacPhail did the screenplay, using stories by H.G. Wells, E.F. Benson, and themselves; the master writer of English film comedy, T.E.B. Clarke, did the additional dialogue. Directed by Robert Hamer (the mirror story), Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton, and Alberto Cavalcanti (the ventriloquist sequence). Score by Georges Auric.

Dead Poets Society

US (1989): Drama
128 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Robin Williams gives an astonishingly empathic performance as an eager, dedicated prep-school teacher in the late 50s. This teacher talks to his boys about the passions expressed in poetry and helps them release their creative impulses. But the movie shifts from one genre to another: the dedicated teacher gives way to the sensitive, misunderstood kid. The link is that one of the boys, soaring on his new confidence, lacks the shrewdness and courage to deal with his rigid, uncomprehending father, and makes a disastrous move. The shift in genres sidelines the one performer who sparks the viewer's imagination and substitutes a familiar figure: the usual romantic victim to identify with. Directed by Peter Weir, from a script by Tom Schulman, the picture is an example of conservative craftsmanship: it draws out the obvious and turns itself into a classic with a gold ribbon attached to it. Despite the film's elegiac tone the perception of reality here is the black and white of pulp fiction. The young actors are presentable-even admirable-but they're all so camera-angled and director-controlled that they don't have a zit they can call their own. With Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, and Kurtwood Smith and Norman Lloyd. Touchstone (Disney).
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Dead Reckoning

US (1947): Mystery
100 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A forgettable Bogart melodrama that was already familiar when it came out; it had been synthesized from several of his hits, with Lizabeth Scott's role processed out of Mary Astor and Lauren Bacall routines. Scott double-crosses a friend of Bogart's, and as he takes her to the authorities he snarls, "You're going to fry." "Ah," she says yearningly, flaring her nostrils, "can't we put this behind us? Don't you love me?" He sneers heavily, though you can see that deep down under he loves her. She fries. John Cromwell directed; with Morris Carnovsky, Wallace Ford, and William Prince. Columbia.

Dealing: or The Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues

US (1972): Comedy
99 min, Rated R, Color

A good idea for a comedy-thriller, gone slack. Michael and Douglas Crichton's glib, clever novel about educated young hustlers in the collegiate marijuana-dealing business is treated with droopy solemnity by the director, Paul Williams. More than half an hour passes before the plot mechanism is set in motion, and the movie never recovers from this initial lassitude. Robert F. Lyons (Elliott Gould's crazy buddy in GETTING STRAIGHT) is engaging as a sallow, runty Harvard law student (he's best when he follows a girl-Barbara Hershey-and almost walks into a door), and John Lithgow is a cherubic rich boy who has become a new-style mobster. The Harvard-Boston scene is mostly dubbed by Toronto. Warners.

Death in Venice

Italy (1971): Drama
130 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

The beginning-with the boat carrying the weary, over-disciplined Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) to Venice-is magnificent. It's like a series of views by Boudin, only more voluptuous. But sometimes a picture's triumphs work against it more than its failures do: How can the director, Luchino Visconti, surpass this long virtuoso opening-how can he organize the movie so that it has balance and proportion? Once Aschenbach falls in love with the androgynous 14-year-old boy Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen) and dyes his hair and rouges his cheeks, the picture seems to end over and over again. In the Thomas Mann short novel, Aschenbach (who was based on Mahler) was made a writer; Visconti (and his co-writer Nicola Badalucco) turn him into a composer, and use Mahler's Third and Fifth Symphonies on the sound track. That works well, but Visconti over-elaborates the story, adding flashbacks with discussions about art and adding a character (Alfred, played by Mark Burns), who's a disastrous intrusion. After a while the languor experienced by Aschenbach is experienced by the audience as plain pokiness. And though it isn't Bogarde's fault, this English actor (made up to suggest Mann) diminishes the whole conception; he's not a stiff, overworked German-he just seems dull and prissy, and there's no real horror in his painted face or his ridiculous behavior. There are superb visual contributions by the cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis, the art director Ferdinando Scarfiotti, and the costume designer Piero Tosi. (The time is 1911.) The cast includes the sumptuously turned out Silvana Mangano as Tadzio's mother, and Franco Fabrizi, Romolo Valli, Marisa Berenson, and the ravishing Carol Andre as the whore Esmeralda. Some of the post-synching is very poor. Released by Warners.

The Death Kiss

US (1933): Mystery
75 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

The ultimate in forgettable murder mysteries. The cast (Bela Lugosi, Mona Maris, David Manners, Adrienne Ames, Vince Barnett) makes it sound promising, and so does the setting for the murder (a movie studio). But the script is a bummer, the direction by Edwin L. Marin is dismal, and Lugosi is given nothing to do. He just glowers. From a novel by Madelon St. Dennis.

Death of a Cyclist

Spain (1955): Drama
86 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as MUERTE DE UN CICLISTA and AGE OF INFIDELITY.

The bored young wife of a wealthy industrialist and her university-professor lover run down a bicyclist, and, fearing exposure of their relationship, leave the victim to die. In the aftermath, the hit-and-run accident destroys them both. This attack on the Spanish upper classes, which was condemned in the Falangist press, took the Critics' Award at Cannes and the director, Juan Bardem, became the hero of Spanish students. Bardem uses his melodramatic story as a way of showing the rich at their cocktail parties and racetracks and cabarets, and showing their indolence and greed and moral emptiness. His editing is rather too flashy, in an out-to-outdo Orson Welles manner, but what really weakens the movie is that Bardem seems unable to endow his actors with distinct personalities. The beautiful Lucia Bose doesn't seem to have enough imagination to commit adultery, and you can't tell her husband and her lover apart. In Spanish.

Death on the Nile

UK (1978): Mystery
140 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Anthony Shaffer's adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1937 novel has wit and edge and structure-too much structure, as it turns out, for the methodical pacing of the director, John Guillermin. The movie is fatally perfunctory about emotion, atmosphere, suspense. But if the overall effect is disappointing, from moment to moment the details are never less than engaging, and are often knobby and funny. The steamer, full of victims and suspects, has a passenger list that includes Maggie Smith, in a triumphantly mannered performance, as a spinsterish nurse-companion, and Angela Lansbury, in a superlative caricature, as a wreck of a vamp. (She's all curves, satin turbans, amber beads that hang to her crotch, and drizzling clouds of chiffon and fringe; she's whooping it up one moment and sagging from booze the next.) Peter Ustinov is an ideal fatuous, vain Hercule Poirot. With Mia Farrow, whose pale-pink eerie sprite face takes the light as delicately as any face in movies, and Bette Davis, I.S. Johar as the Indian manager of the cruise ship, Simon MacCorkindale, Jon Finch, Jack Warden, David Niven, Olivia Hussey, Harry Andrews, Jane Birkin, and, regrettably, the inexpressive Lois Chiles (who sounds dubbed or vaguely ventriloquial, like a transsexual) and George Kennedy (who gives his usual blustering, overscaled performance). Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Death Race 2000

US (1975): Science Fiction/Action
78 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Low-budget sci-fi, from an often amusing suspense script by Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith, directed by Paul Bartel in his ingratiatingly tacky, sophomoric manner. Bartel seems to have an instinctive kinky comic-book style; the picture zips along, and there's a flip craziness about it-it's an ideal drive-in movie. In the role of a legendary driver in a killer race-points are scored for every pedestrian run down-David Carradine has star presence, and his easy, confident manner gives the film some class; he's very elegant in his black leather clothes and black leather cape. Sylvester Stallone is rather funny as the slobbish, stupid villain, who's always expostulating in anger or disgust. With Louisa Moritz as the crude dumb blonde, and Simone Griffith. Produced by Roger Corman.

Deathtrap

US (1982): Mystery
116 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

This movie is for people who dream of seeing SLEUTH again-there must be at least one or two of them. It's set in the East Hampton home of a once successful playwright (Michael Caine) who specializes in thrillers; he plans to murder a former student (Christopher Reeve) and steal his flawless play Deathtrap. Ira Levin's wisecracking whodunit, which was a hit on Broadway, is all twists and reversals, and it's designed to be played frivolously and artificially, by slick, easy actors. But the director, Sidney Lumet, and the screenwriter, Jay Presson Allen, have decided to make the movie version as realistic as possible. What this comes down to is a broad, obvious movie that looks like an ugly play and appears to be a vile vision of life, and, at the end, the staging and editing are so quick and muddled that you can't be sure what's happening. Except for the shouting, which has become de rigueur in a Lumet film, the actors don't disgrace themselves. But their skill gives one no pleasure. With Dyan Cannon, Irene Worth, and Henry Jones. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Deception

US (1946): Romance/Crime
112 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Blissfully foolish-a camp classic. Alex Hollenius (Claude Rains) is the greatest composer in the United States; his febrile mistress (Bette Davis) can escape him only by shooting him. Considering that he has set her up in the finest apartment in Manhattan, swaddled her in ermine, drenched her in champagne, and taught her to play the piano with a skill approximating that of Arthur Rubinstein, some might regard this as rank ingratitude. But he's a venomous genius, and an epicure besides, and given to wearing velvet jackets. He treats the cellist (Paul Henreid) whom she loves very shabbily-badgering him until he gets so nervous that he can hardly handle a bow. Irving Rapper, who had directed this trio in NOW, VOYAGER, let them run rampant this time, especially the leering Rains, who outdoes Davis in bravura. (She doesn't look young or glamorous, either; she's a rather puffy-faced femme fatale.) John Abbott and Benson Fong are also in the cast. Erich Wolfgang Korngold did the music, with Shura Cherkassky dubbing Davis's "Appassionata." John Collier and Joseph Than adapted the Louis Verneuil play Monsieur Lamberthier, which had been filmed in 1929, as JEALOUSY, with Jeanne Eagels and Fredric March. Warners.

The Decline of the American Empire

Canada (1986): Drama
101 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as LE DECLIN DE L'EMPIRE AMÉRICAIN.

The French-Canadian writer-director Denys Arcand takes on the subject of sex in a period of social change, without the binding ties of family and religion or strong commitment to the future. The eight principal characters-aging middle-class intellectuals connected with the History Department of a Montreal university-no longer believe in postponing pleasure. On this Friday afternoon in autumn, the women, who need to keep in shape in order to appeal to men, work out together at a gym in the city while the men, gathered at a lakeside cottage, prepare trout coulibiac for a festive dinner. Both groups talk about sex, and when they're together in the long evening they go on talking about sex, but more discreetly-with less bawdiness and bravura. Arcand isn't out to expose these people as spiritually empty; he's trying to present a truthful look at how they live. And he's a highly skilled filmmaker: he slips in flashbacks without breaking the flow of talk or jostling the ravishing natural changes in the light at the lake. There's nothing weighty in his approach; it's a lovely, very unassuming picture, yet there is enough drama so that by the end a subtle shift in all the relationships is necessary. And the foreground action and the flashbacks that had been providing the background begin to merge. The film is structured like a concerto for nine instruments. (A ninth character, an outsider, joins the group at the dinner table.) With Dominique Michel, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Geneviève Rioux, Pierre Curzi, Rémy Girard, Yves Jacques, Daniel Brière, and Gabriel Arcand. Cinematography by Guy Dufaux. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Deer Hunter

US (1978): War
183 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A romantic adolescent-boy's view of friendship, with the Vietnam War seen in the Victorian terms of such movies as THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER and FOUR FEATHERS-as a test of men's courage. This is the fullest screen treatment so far of the mystic bond of male comradeship. Without sharing the film's implicit God-and-country, flag-on-the-door political assumptions, one can see that, even with its pulp components and its superman hero (Robert De Niro, as a Pennsylvania steelworker), it is not merely trying to move people by pandering to their prejudices. It is also caught in its own obsessions. And because the director, Michael Cimino, plays them out on such a vast canvas, the film has an inchoate, stirring quality. It has no more moral intelligence than the Clint Eastwood action pictures, yet it's an astonishing piece of work, an uneasy mixture of violent pulp and grandiosity, with an enraptured view of common life-poetry of the commonplace. With Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, John Savage, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren, Shirley Stoler, Rutanya Alda, and Amy Wright. Screenplay by Deric Washburn; story by Cimino, Washburn, and others; music by Stanley Myers; cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Walken), Sound, Editing (Peter Zinner). Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Defence of the Realm

UK (1985): Political/Thriller
96 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An English political thriller-quick, hushed, intelligent, complicated. An amoral young Fleet Street journalist (Gabriel Byrne) goes after a scoop, gets some hot tips, and writes stories that destroy the career of an Opposition leader, a Labour M.P. (Ian Bannen). Then he discovers that the tips he acted on were phonies, engineered by the Tory government. The movie is just about all plot, and you don't have time to think about what's going on-you're locked into just finding out what it is. Though the story is fictional, the picture is probably the closest English equivalent to ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, but the atmosphere is much darker and more oppressive. This is a new-style acrid thriller, an Orwellian coffee jag rather than a Graham Greene entertainment. An example of paranoiac realism, it infuses cinéma vérité shooting with a spirit of grim fantasy. It has everything but the basic storytelling astuteness to give you a good time; after a while, you feel charred. Directed by David Drury, from a script by Martin Stellman; cinematography by Roger Deakins. With Denholm Elliott, Greta Scacchi, Bill Paterson, Robbie Coltrane, and Fulton Mackay.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

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