The Incredible Shrinking Man

US (1957): Science Fiction
81 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

B-budget science-fiction and simple stuff, but with more consistency and logic than usual, and with some rather amusing trick photography. And after all these years of the hero escaping every kind of disaster and atomic monster, it's fun to have him wind up as a twinkle in God's eye. With Grant Williams. Directed by Jack Arnold, from a script by Richard Matheson. Universal.

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

US (1981): Science Fiction/Comedy
88 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An amiable, sloppy, light satirical fantasy starring Lily Tomlin as Pat, a sweetly loony happy housewife in a pretty-poison dream world. The film is an idyll of consumerism. Everything in the suburban development where Pat lives with her advertising-man husband (Charles Grodin) and their two children has a muted artificiality; the style is Necco Deco-a sort of plastic lyricism. The whole family is a little benumbed-like the people in TV commercials, who don't react to anything that doesn't roll on or come in an aerosol can or make the floor shine. Then Pat starts to shrink (because of exposure to the chemicals in the products that the family delights in). Directed by Joel Schumacher, from a script by Jane Wagner (which retains only a few incidents from the Richard Matheson novel that was the basis of the 1957 sci-fi film THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN), the picture loses much of its stylized originality when it sets up a good-guys-versus-bad-guys conflict in order to give us a rooting interest in the outcome. But even when it turns into a gimcrack farce it's offhand and likable. Pat, imprisoned in a hamster's cage, finds a friend in a zonked lab technician (Mark Blankfield), and she becomes the beloved of a gorilla named Sidney (played by Rick Baker). It should be a great movie for kids; it's full of toys. With Ned Beatty, Henry Gibson, Elizabeth Wilson, and John Glover. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Independence Day/Follow Your Dreams

US (1983): Drama
110 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

A fine, quiet movie about the small-town youth of a woman artist whose desperation takes the form of affectations and pretensions. Kathleen Quinlan plays the part with a delicate fierceness-this heroine challenges herself to become what she's almost sure she could be. The script is by the novelist Alice Hoffman, who has shaped the story around the risk-taking heroine and her boyfriend's sister (Dianne Wiest), a battered wife, clammy with fear, who revenges herself on her husband in the grand manner. It's a funny thing about Wiest's performance-you keep expecting it to turn into something trite, but pretty soon you're forced to admit you've never seen anything like it. Wiest has hold of an original character and plays her to the scary hilt. Directing his first movie, Robert Mandel keeps the whole cast interacting satisfyingly. With David Keith as the boyfriend, Josef Sommer, Frances Sternhagen, Cliff DeYoung, Richard Farnsworth, Brooke Alderson, and Bert Remsen. Designed by Stewart Campbell; cinematography by Charles Rosher; music by Charles Bernstein. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

US (1989): Adventure
127 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This mediocre third film in the Indiana Jones trilogy-a reprise of the first, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-is a mixture of cliff-hanger and anti-Nazi thriller and religious spectacle. It's enjoyable, but familiar, and the action lacks the exhilarating, leaping precision that the director, Steven Spielberg, is famous for. The only real spin is in the slapstick teamwork of Harrison Ford as the archeologist-adventurer Indy and Sean Connery as Indy's father, a medievalist who's too engrossed in his studies to pay much attention to his daredevil son's triumphs. The Ford-Connery clowning can distract you from the doldrums of punches and chases and plot explication (this time the Nazis are after the Holy Grail, which, in this account, confers everlasting life). With River Phoenix playing Indy as a boy, Alison Doody, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, and Julian Glover. The screenplay, by Jeffrey Boam, is based on a story devised by the producer George Lucas and Menno Meyjes. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

US (1984): Adventure
118 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In this follow-up to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Steven Spielberg creates an atmosphere of happy disbelief: the more breathtaking and exhilarating the stunts are, the funnier they are. Nobody has ever fused thrills and laughter in quite the way that he does here. Momentum has often been the true-even if not fully acknowledged-subject of movies. Here it's not merely acknowledged, it's gloried in. The picture has an exuberant, hurtling-along spirit. Spielberg starts off at full charge in the opening sequence and just keeps going, yet he seems relaxed, and he doesn't push things to frighten us. The movie relates to Americans' love of getting in the car and taking off-it's a breeze. Harrison Ford is the archeologist-adventurer hero; Ke Huy Quan plays his child sidekick Short Round; and Kate Capshaw is the gold-digger heroine. The plot involves them with an odious boy maharajah and with Mola Ram (an anagram for Malomar), the high priest of a cult of Kali worshippers who come right out of the 1939 adventure comedy GUNGA DIN. This is one of the most sheerly pleasurable physical comedies ever made. A Lucasfilm Production, from a story idea by George Lucas, and a script by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. The score by John Williams is too heavy for the tone of the film, and it's too loud. With Amrish Puri as Mola Ram, and Dan Aykroyd in a half-second joke. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Indiscreet

US (1958): Romance/Comedy
100 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Rather tired. One of those would-be fluffy comedies written by Norman Krasna. Cary Grant, an American diplomat abroad, pretends to be married so that Ingrid Bergman, an actress with whom he's having an affair, won't get matrimonial ambitions. Of course, he's found out, and the wheels grind on to a happy ending. Stanley Donen directed; Cecil Parker and Phyllis Calvert round out the cast of people who are a little overage for the childish pranks. Released by Warners.

Indiscretion of an American Wife

Italy-US (1953): Drama
63 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

The clashing temperaments of the producer, David O. Selznick; the director, Vittorio De Sica; and the stars, Jennifer Jones (at the time Mrs. Selznick) and Montgomery Clift, resulted in a very odd (and commercially unsuccessful) love drama, which was shot between many a midnight and dawn at Rome's railway station. De Sica had wanted to film a small-scale Cesare Zavattini story about a love affair that doesn't work out, but agreed to set it in the then new $35 million colossal railway station to satisfy Selznick's desire for grandeur. The film is remarkable chiefly for the way De Sica used Clift: something weak-willed-almost oozingly soft-came through in his performance, and it is impossible to tell how much of this was intended by the actor or the director. It is unlike Clift's work in any other movie. With Richard Beymer and Gino Cervi. Truman Capote worked on the dialogue.

The Informer

US (1935): Drama
91 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Victor McLaglen in his Academy Award-winning role as Gypo Nolan, the Dublin drunkard who turns stool pigeon and betrays his friend (Wallace Ford) to the police for the reward. The period is 1922, during the Sinn Fein rebellion. This John Ford film, taken from Liam O'Flaherty's fine novel, is perhaps too pure and diagrammatic for modern tastes-Gypo's frenetic, desperate squandering of the reward money, his spasms of fury, of pleasure, of terror, are more clarified than we require now. But if the scenarist, Dudley Nichols, and the director clinched their points, they also had the discipline to keep the work all of a piece-naïve yet powerful. (They also won Academy Awards.) It is part of Hollywood legend that Ford got McLaglen boozed up so that he was bewildered and couldn't do his usual brand of acting-and it's probably true. With Preston Foster, Heather Angel, Una O'Connor, Margot Grahame, Joe Sawyer, and J.M. Kerrigan. The score is by Max Steiner. (Remade, with a black cast, as UP TIGHT in 1968 by Jules Dassin.) RKO.

Inherit the Wind

US (1960): Drama
127 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee, a young high-school biology teacher named John T. Scopes instructed his class in Darwin's theory of evolution in order to test a state law forbidding the teaching of anything that "denies the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible." At his trial-the famous Monkey Trial-the great orator William Jennings Bryan, a Bible-thumping fundamentalist who had three times been a candidate for the U.S. Presidency, served as prosecutor; the famous criminal lawyer and agnostic, Clarence Darrow, represented the defense; H.L. Mencken reported the case. This semi-fictionalized version of the events was adapted from the Broadway play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, and produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, for United Artists release. Padded and heavily made up, Fredric March does an embarrassingly hollow imitation of the portly Bryan. Spencer Tracy, whose girth made him the more likely candidate for the role, is cast instead as the lean Darrow, and he plays the part in his patented wise, humane, meant-to-be-irresistible manner. Scopes (Dick York) is portrayed as a man torn between his principles and his love for the local preacher's daughter (Donna Anderson). The movie presents the fundamentalists as foolish bigots, then turns around and tries to make peace with them by coming out against Mencken's satirical outlook (which is equated with cynicism). This Mencken (Gene Kelly) is a brash, hollow, lip-curling villain and Bryan and Darrow join forces to denounce him-"Where will your loneliness lead you? No one will come to your funeral!" The case itself had so many dramatic elements that the movie can't help holding our attention, but it's a very crude piece of work, totally lacking in subtlety; what is meant to be a courtroom drama of ideas comes out as a caricature of a drama of ideas, and, maddeningly, while watching we can't be sure what is based on historical fact and what is invention. With Florence Eldridge, Harry Morgan, and Norman Fell.

The Inheritor

France (1972): Thriller
83 min, No rating, Color
Also known as L'HÉRITIER.

There's so much going on in this talky thriller-flashbacks and crosscutting, plus gadgetry and split-second cityscapes-that you're never allowed any peace. It's a traffic jam of a movie. The director, Philippe Labro, has flash and expertise, but the story (centering on Jean-Paul Belmondo as the inheritor of steel factories and a weekly newsmagazine) is just a glamour fantasy, synthesized from the Bond pictures and the Costa-Gavras political melodramas. It's more exhausting than entertaining. With Carla Gravina, Jean Rochefort, and Charles Denner. Cinematography by Jean Penzer. In French.

Innerspace

US (1987): Fantasy/Comedy
120 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

With Dennis Quaid as a germ-size Navy test pilot floating around inside the bloodstream of a fretful hypochondriac supermarket clerk, played by Martin Short, this sci-fi buddy-buddy comedy sounds stupid-crazy-funky, and at its best that's what it is. But mostly it gets by on being good-natured enough for you to accept its being clumsy and padded and only borderline entertaining. The director, Joe Dante, made his reputation by the subversion of cuddly themes. Here, working from a script by Jeffrey Boam (and Chip Proser) that's a synthesis of the 1966 FANTASTIC VOYAGE and the 1984 ALL OF ME, he seems to be slogging through pages of plot, dutifully trying to set up the mechanics for the gags to pay off. And a lot of the time he's setting up the emotional apparatus to give the movie "heart." Luckily, Quaid comes through even though it's an almost totally encapsulated performance; he may be the only actor who can be infectiously free and breezy while scrunched up inside a pod. The blitheness of Meg Ryan, who's the heroine, gives the picture a lift. And Short has a drunken dance scene in which he's like an insect in convulsive ecstasy. With a large cast that includes Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, and Ken Tobey. A Steven Spielberg Production, for Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Innocent

Italy (1976): Drama
115 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as L'INNOCENTE.

For its first half, this Visconti film, based on the 1892 D'Annunzio novel, is a steamy comedy of manners that seems an almost perfect preparation for a tragicomedy of jealousy, and Visconti's work is masterly in its expressive turn-of-the-century decor, and in its control. Tullio (Giancarlo Giannini), an aristocratic liberal, has become sexually indifferent to his innocent, round-cheeked, country-mousy wife (Laura Antonelli), and has turned to a liaison with an ardent, glittering countess (Jennifer O'Neill). But when this gentle wife becomes interested in another man, he falls passionately in love with her. In the second half, the picture runs out of steam and turns into a ponderous melodrama. Giannini is far from ideally cast, but he seems acceptable until he remembers to act; toward the end he's all over the place acting. Antonelli gives the picture some amusing sexual suspense. At first, she's like a placid ingenue, except that she has furtive yearnings-naughty thoughts. When she's finally nude, in bed, and aroused, she heaves and writhes so prodigiously she's like a storm-tossed sea. It's the kind of passion you learn in a circus: she's a horizontal belly dancer. Visconti had finished shooting this film when he died in 1976, but he did not complete the editing, and perhaps the maundering second half is partly the fault of others. With Marie Dubois as the Princess, Marc Porel as the novelist, Rina Morelli as Tullio's mother, Claude Mann as the Prince, and Massimo Girotti and Didier Haudepin. From a script by Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Enrico Medioli, and Visconti; cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis; art direction by Mario Garbuglai; costumes by Piero Tosi. In Italian.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Innocent Bystanders

UK (1973): Spy
111 min, Rated PG, Color

Misleading title; it's a labyrinthine spy thriller and a revolting example of the constant use of brutality (plus a dash of sexual sadism) to rouse the audience from the apathy brought on by the familiarity of the material. The massively built Stanley Baker is impressive as the tired British secret agent, but he can't save this picture; it's just one noisy beating after another. The major resource of the director, Peter Collinson, appears to be loud karate chops. The members of the M.P.A.A. Rating Board who gave it a PG must have grown calluses on their brains. With Geraldine Chaplin, Dana Andrews, Vladek Sheybal, and Donald Pleasence, who is probably as weary of playing an icy bastard as the audience is weary of watching him. Screenplay by James Mitchell, based on the novel by James Munro.

The Innocents

UK (1961): Horror
100 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Directed by Jack Clayton and photographed by Freddie Francis (in CinemaScope, in black and white), this version of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is one of the most elegantly beautiful ghost movies ever made. It features a scary, intense performance by Deborah Kerr, as the governess who sees demonic spectres and forces one of her two charges-the little boy Miles (Martin Stephens)-to confront them. Both Kerr and Michael Redgrave, as the gent who hires her, have just the right note of suppressed hysteria in their voices. The settings-the house, the park, the lake-are magnificent, and the script by William Archibald, Truman Capote, and John Mortimer offers the pleasures of literacy. The filmmakers concentrate on the virtuoso possibilities in the material, and the beauty of the images raises our terror to a higher plane than the simple fears of most ghost stories. There are great sequences (like one in a schoolroom) that work on the viewer's imagination and remain teasingly ambiguous. With Pamela Franklin, Megs Jenkins, Peter Wyngarde, and Clytie Jessop. Music by Georges Auric. Released in the U.S. by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book I Lost it at the Movies.

Inserts

UK (1976): Drama
99 min, Rated X, Color, Available on videocassette

The script, by the young writer-director John Byrum, is a long one-act play, reminiscent of Michael McClure's The Beard. The action takes place on one set, which represents a house in Hollywood around 1930, where The Boy Wonder (Richard Dreyfuss), a once-famous director whose genius burned out, now shoots stag movies. The picture should be more fun than it is; the plot devices don't add up to much, and Byrum likes his own worst lines so much that they're repeated. He falls back on absurdism by necessity. With Jessica Harper, Bob Hoskins, and, as the stag-movie star, Veronica Cartwright, who flings herself into her role in the dissolute, romantic manner of Jeanne Eagels. She's a grown-up talent in a kid's show. Produced by Davina Belling and Clive Parsons. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Inside Daisy Clover

US (1965): Drama
128 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Natalie Wood plays the heroine, a teenage singing movie star (fill in Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, et al.), in Robert Mulligan's film, based on Gavin Lambert's adaptation of his own novel. The people who make Daisy a star seem to have some terrible secret that we're never let in on; the movie is full of lurking evil that seems unrelated to anything. It's an inside-Hollywood movie with a gothic atmosphere. It's short on characters, detail, activity, dialogue, even music; it's so determined to be stylish and knowing that, rather than risk banality, it eliminates almost everything. What's left are sinister, funereal pauses and a few ghoulish people, such as the head of the studio (Christopher Plummer, whose performance mightn't be so maddening if it were just speeded up). Even the showy recording-room sequence, with the heroine breaking down while post-synching a song with her image on a large screen, doesn't work right-it's too showy. The film seems to be working against itself-cynical yet sentimental, it rarely achieves a satisfying emotional tone. Natalie Wood's way of acting teenage is to be like a brassy Tom Sawyer. As the young star's no-good, vaguely homosexual husband (one of the most cryptic roles ever written), Robert Redford gives the only fresh performance. With Ruth Gordon as Daisy's mother, and Katharine Bard, Roddy McDowall, and Harold Gould. Produced by Alan J. Pakula; choreography by Herbert Ross; art direction by Robert Clatworthy; music and songs by André Previn, with lyrics by Dory Previn. Warners.

Interiors

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

The people in this serious Woody Allen film are destroyed by the repressiveness of good taste, and so is the picture. It's a puzzle movie, constructed like a well-made play from the American past (such as Craig's Wife), and given the beautiful, solemn visual clarity of a Bergman film, without, however, the eroticism of Bergman. INTERIORS looks like a masterpiece and has a super-banal metaphysical theme (death versus life). The problem for the family in the film is the towering figure of the disciplined, manipulative, inner-directed mother (Geraldine Page). She is such a perfectionist that she cannot enjoy anything, and the standards of taste and achievement that she imposes on her three daughters (Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, and Kristin Griffith) tie them in such knots that they all consider themselves failures. (Alvy Singer, the role Woody Allen played in ANNIE HALL, was just such a compulsive, judgmental spoilsport, and Allen's original title for that film was Anhedonia-the lack of the capacity for experiencing pleasure.) The mother's impoverished conception of good taste is sustained in the style of the film. It's a handbook of art-film mannerisms; it's so austere and studied that it might have been directed by that icy mother herself-from the grave. Woody Allen's idea of artistic achievement (for himself, at least) may always be something death-ridden, spare, perfectly structured-something that talks of the higher things. People who watch this movie are almost inevitably going to ask themselves, How can Woody Allen present in a measured, lugubriously straight manner the same sorts of tinny anxiety discourse that he generally parodies? With E.G. Marshall, Maureen Stapleton, Richard Jordan, and Sam Waterston. Cinematography by Gordon Willis. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Intermezzo

US (1939): Romance
70 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

David O. Selznick, who arranged this début for Ingrid Bergman in English-speaking films, wasn't going to take any chances; it's a remake of a picture she'd already had a hit with in Sweden, in 1936. Selznick even retained the same slurpy "haunting" theme music. Leslie Howard is the wan and renowned violin virtuoso, afflicted with the boredom of fame and of domestic bliss with his beloved, understanding wife (Edna Best). He falls in love with Bergman, his daughter's piano teacher. Handsome and eager, she's a brilliant young pianist who becomes his accompanist. On a tour of the concert halls of Europe, the two combine business with passion, though at last the finer overtones of conscience separate them. The crisis occurs in a picturesque Mediterranean village-Selznick saw to it that the romantic upheavals of such artistic people got the smartest settings-and there are snacks of Brahms, Liszt, and Grieg to fill out the plump cultural tone. The film's only real claim on anyone's attention is Bergman, whose natural look (full eyebrows, and even a shine on her nose) seemed revolutionary at the time. The first director, William Wyler, was replaced by Gregory Ratoff, and the first cinematographer, Harry Stradling, was replaced by Gregg Toland. With John Halliday, Cecil Kellaway, Enid Bennett, Ann Todd, and Douglas Scott. The script by George O'Neil was based on the Swedish script by Gösta Stevens and Gustaf Molander; the virtuoso violin work was dubbed by Toscha Seidel, the piano work by Norma Drury. (This drippy thing was remade again in 1968 with Oskar Werner, and in 1980 it was loosely adapted for the film HONEYSUCKLE ROSE.)

Internal Affairs

US (1990): Thriller/Crime
117 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Bad fun. This sophisticated variant of the LA cops-and-coke-and-art-world thrillers has a creepy, rhythmic quality that sucks you in and keeps you amused. (You may find yourself breaking into a grin when you recommend it to friends.) The subtext is ingeniously nasty: it's a dirty, sexy twist on the Iago-Othello relationship. The Iago is a prosperous veteran cop, played by Richard Gere, who's being investigated by two officers from the Police Department's internal-affairs division: a righteous, ramrod-straight Latino (Andy Garcia) with a beautiful blond wife, and his sane, honest partner (Laurie Metcalf). Gere slithers through the picture very dexterously. He torments the stiff-backed Othello (Garcia), boasting of his adulterous conquest of the blond wife (Nancy Travis), and manipulates him into a jealous rage. Garcia gives a one-note, glaring-eyed performance: except for his key, violent explosions (which are terrific), he's so rigid he's barely human. As Garcia's partner, a lesbian who doesn't try to ingratiate herself with anybody, Metcalf gives a strong, contained performance. Directed by Mike Figgis, whose previous feature was the 1988 STORMY MONDAY. The smart script is by Henry Bean. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Intimate Lighting

Czechoslovakia (1965): Drama
72 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as INTIMNI OSVETLENI.

A satirical folk comedy about a young cellist with the Prague symphony who takes his big-city girlfriend with him when he goes to visit a friend from his days at the Conservatoire. The musician from Prague is to be the soloist at a concert of the small-town orchestra that the friend now conducts. The director, Ivan Passer, is witty in tiny, match-flare-size details; he shows us lives that have become a negotiation of small irritants. Day-to-day living in the town is like a prolonged silent-movie comedy. (How can a man's drunken friend help him get through double doors after he's got his head stuck?) The people are frustrated in petty ways and they're so fidgety that it's no wonder they make a botch of the music; everything in their lives is the opposite of the music they try to play. You find yourself doing small double-takes as you watch this movie. It builds to a freeze frame closing gag that's so funny and so completely dotty that you're not likely to forget it. Cinematography by M. Ondrícek and J. Strecha; written by V. Sasek, J. Papousek, and Passer. In Czech.

Intolerance

US (1916): Drama
178 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

D.W. Griffith's epic celebration of the potentialities of the film medium-perhaps the greatest movie ever made and the greatest folly in movie history. It is charged with visionary excitement about the power of movies to combine music, dance, narrative, drama, painting, and photography-to do alone what all the other arts together had done. In this extravaganza one can see the source of most of the major traditions of the screen-the methods of Eisenstein and von Stroheim, the Germans and the Scandinavians, and, when it's bad, De Mille. It combines extraordinary lyric passages, realism, and psychological details with nonsense, vulgarity, and painful sentimentality. Four stories set in different historical periods are told by crosscutting, and they reach simultaneous climaxes. The cast includes Lillian Gish in the linking device; Mae Marsh and Robert Harron in the modern story, "The Mother and the Law;" Bessie Love in the Biblical story, "The Nazarene;" Margery Wilson and Eugene Pallette in "The Medieval Story," which includes the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots in 1572; Constance Talmadge, Elmo Lincoln, Seena Owen, Alfred Paget, and Tully Marshall in "The Fall of Babylon." Cinematography by Billy Bitzer and Karl Brown; Griffith's assistants included W.S. Van Dyke, Tod Browning, and von Stroheim. Silent. The prints were originally dyed in several hues, and crews of girls added extra color frame by frame; the projectionists were also instructed to throw beams of red and blue light to intensify the effects.

Intruder in the Dust

US (1949): Drama
87 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Lucas Beauchamp, the "stubborn and insufferable" hero of William Faulkner's novel, is a black man who enrages the white people in his corner of Mississippi by his refusal to play nigger for them. The director, Clarence Brown, shot this movie in Faulkner's home town-Oxford, Mississippi-with the inhabitants in bit parts and in the crowd scenes. "All in all, I think it is a good movie," Faulkner said at the première, and it is a good movie-straightforward, tense, and assured. (It is perhaps Brown's finest picture.) As in the novel, inflexible Lucas (Juano Hernández), who refuses to accept condescension or patronage, is conceived as a focus of white ambivalence. The other major character is Chick (Claude Jarman, Jr.), a white boy who has made the stupid mistake of offering Lucas money as payment for hospitality and is humiliated by Lucas's stony refusal. When Lucas is arrested for murder and the townspeople get their chance to turn him into a nigger, Chick finds his opportunity to discharge his debt-by saving Lucas's life. At the very end, a false note is struck by Chick's uncle (David Brian): "It will be all right, as long as some of us are willing to fight-even one of us," and the ultimate cliché, "Lucas wasn't in trouble; we were in trouble." It's the movie that gets in trouble. But Juano Hernández's Lucas has the intensity and humor to transcend these Northern liberal platitudes. We can see that, as Faulkner put it, Lucas is "now tyrant over the whole county's white conscience." Two character actors perform with great skill: Porter Hall as the murdered man's father and Elizabeth Patterson as the little old lady who believes in doing what's right. Also with Will Geer and Charles Kemper. The screenplay is by Ben Maddow, with some tinkering by Faulkner (who also helped scout locations); cinematography by Robert Surtees. MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

US (1956): Science Fiction
80 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A B-picture classic. This plain and inexpensive piece of science fiction employs few of the resources of the cinema (to put it mildly), but it has an idea that confirms everyone's suspicions. People are being turned into vegetables-and who can tell the difference? Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, who try to cling to their animality and individuality, seem inexplicably backward to the rest of the townspeople. Some of the best lines of dialogue are voice-overs-the chatter of the dehumanized. Directed by Don Siegel, for Allied Artists. With Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates, and Sam Peckinpah (who worked on the script) in a few bits. Based on a Collier's serial by Jack Finney; the adaptation is credited to Daniel Mainwaring. Cinematography by Ellsworth Fredericks.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

US (1978): Science Fiction
115 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Undiluted pleasure and excitement. The scriptwriter, W.D. "(Rick)" Richter, supplies some funny lines, and the director, Phil Kaufman, provides such confident professionalism that you sit back in the assurance that every spooky nuance you're catching is just what was intended. This set of variations on the low-budget classic of 1956 has its own macabre originality. Set in San Francisco. With Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum, Donald Sutherland, Art Hindle, Lelia Goldoni, Leonard Nimoy, Kevin McCarthy, Don Siegel, and Robert Duvall, in an uncredited bit. Music by Denny Zeitlin; cinematography by Michael Chapman. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Italy (1970): Crime
115 min, Rated R, Color
Also known as INDAGINE SU UN CITTADINO AL DI SOPRA DI OGNI SOSPETTO.

Elio Petri's indirect way of telling a story-which gradually takes the form of a paranoid fantasy-makes the viewer apprehensive. His purpose is ostensibly political, but sometimes he becomes so sophisticated and nasty and perverse that you don't trust his purposes. Here, starting with Kafka's cryptic "He is a servant of the law and eludes judgment," he sets out to demonstrate that those in authority are above the law they are supposed to serve. He chooses for his demonstration the megalomaniac chief of Rome's homicide squad (Gian Maria Volonté), who believes he has a license to kill, and has just been promoted to a new post, in which he is to deal with political dissidents. The queasy, tense atmosphere derives not from the horror of the proposition itself but from the kinkiness of the details, such as Ennio Morricone's jangly music when the cop slits the throat of his mistress (Florinda Bolkan). The film is extremely dislikable. Petri is a highly skilled director but he doesn't use suspense pleasurably; he doesn't resolve the tensions, and so you're left in a rather foul mood. In Italian.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

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