Little Murders

US (1971): Comedy
110 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Jules Feiffer's 1967 play was a wisp of a satirical comedy about the American adjustment to random violence-to assassinations on the national level and on the level of local snipers. In this movie version, which Feiffer also wrote, and which was directed by Alan Arkin, the dialogue has comic authority, and there are some strong scenes of rabid farce, yet things keep going out of kilter and the humor slides into something ugly and slightly rancid. The film seems to be a collection of ideological points-it's pious about its anti-Establishment attitudes. With Elliott Gould as the catatonic hero-a saintly dropout; and Marcia Rodd, Vincent Gardenia, Elizabeth Wilson, Lou Jacobi, Jon Korkes, Doris Roberts, John Randolph, and Arkin, and Donald Sutherland in a funny turn as an all-accepting minister. Cinematography by Gordon Willis; produced by Jack Brodsky. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

A Little Night Music

US (1978): Musical
124 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

You know what you're in for near the beginning, when the hero (Len Cariou) is greeted with "Good afternoon, Lawyer Egerman." This film is a cut above SONG OF NORWAY (1970) and THE BLUE BIRD (1976), but it's in that general sylvan-settings category. It's an adaptation of the Broadway show, which was a reworking, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler, of Ingmar Bergman's SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT. What was lyrical farce in the Bergman film has now become clodhopping operetta. This picture has been made as if the director (Harold Prince) had never seen a movie. With Diana Rigg and Lesley-Anne Down, who manage to get a performance rhythm going in some of their scenes, and with Elizabeth Taylor. New World.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

The Little Prince

UK (1974): Musical/Dance
88 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The Saint-Exupéry book, the first of the modern mystic-quest books to become a pop hit, is a distillation of melancholy, and it comes close to being self-glorifying, masochistic mush. Possibly something might have been made of the material if Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote the movie script, along with the lyrics for Frederick Loewe's music, had a more delicate feeling for spiritual yearning. The director, Stanley Donen, is handicapped by the intractably graceless writing and by the Big Broadway sound of the Lerner-Loewe score. Bob Fosse's snake-in-the-grass dance number is the film's high spot, and Gene Wilder, as a red fox, triumphs over some of his material. As the child Prince, Steven Warner holds the screen affectingly; as the author-aviator, Richard Kiley is pleasant enough but colorless. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Little Shop of Horrors

US (1960): Horror/Comedy
70 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Amateurish yet funny, in a gross way. A simpleton (Jonathan Haze) who works in a florist shop has a prize plant that becomes a voracious, blood-seeking man-eater. It cries, "Feed me! Feed me!" The film is notable for the performance that Jack Nicholson gives in a minor role; as a pain freak who is in ecstasy in a dentist's chair, he shows the comic intensity that later made him a star. Produced and directed by Roger Corman, from a script by Charles B. Griffith.

Little Shop of Horrors

US (1986): Musical/Horror/Dance/Comedy
88 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Jivey, senseless fun. This musical is taken from the off-Broadway show that was based on Roger Corman's 1960 quickie-a junky travesty of sci-fi genetic-mutation pictures (from a script that Charles B. Griffith threw together). Rick Moranis plays Seymour, the assistant in a skid-row flower shop, circa 1960, who tends the ravenous little flowering cactus that he names after the sexpot clerk Audrey (Ellen Greene). Her steady date is a sadistic biker-dentist (Steve Martin), and Bill Murray plays this brute's pain-freak patient. The Martin-Murray sequence is a classic encounter: a piece of transcendent slapstick. Levi Stubbs provides the deep, rumbling basso of Audrey II, and Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, and Michelle Weeks are the streetwise teenage girl group who serve as a Greek chorus, commenting on the action. Also with Vincent Gardenia, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and James Belushi. The director, Frank Oz, keeps the action right smack in front of your face and the movie is nothing but blown-up cartoon-style friskiness, but it makes you feel as inexplicably sappy and contented as a kid used to feel on Sunday morning lying on his stomach reading the funnies. Only, this is bigger, brasher, with its own kind of higgledy-piggledy ecstasy. The script and the lyrics are by Howard Ashman; the music is by Alan Menken. Produced by the Geffen Company; released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Little Women

US (1933): Drama
115 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

There are small flaws-a few naïve and cloying scenes, some obvious dramatic contrivances-but it's a lovely, graceful film, and surprisingly faithful to the atmosphere, the Victorian sentiments, and the Victorian strengths of the Louisa May Alcott novel. Katharine Hepburn gives an inspired performance as willful Jo; she has a joyous tomboy abandon when she first enters Laurie's mansionlike home, and cries out, "What richness!" She strikes absurdly romantic poses, and they're enchanting. Joan Bennett is very amusing as vain, selfish, pretentious Amy; Frances Dee is Meg (she's charmingly funny when she's being proposed to by John Lodge, as the tutor); Edna May Oliver is Aunt March; Douglass Montgomery is Laurie (at times, full face, he resembles John Updike; too bad his bright lipstick makes his teeth look an uncanny white); Paul Lukas is the gentle, older man who courts Jo. The cast also includes Henry Stephenson, Samuel Hinds, Mabel Colcord as Hannah, and Nydia Westman. Directed by George Cukor, for the most part imaginatively and with unusual delicacy (the sequence with the play that Jo stages is particularly fine), and produced by David O. Selznick, for RKO. The dismal score is by Max Steiner, and Spring Byington as Marmee is sugary and sacrificial (she's a pain), and Jean Parker, as frail Beth, is not the world's greatest actress-she simpers a lot, though she's very touching when she goes to thank her gruff benefactor (Stephenson) for the piano he has sent her. Screenplay by Sarah Y. Mason and Victor Heerman. (Remade in 1949, at MGM.)

The Little World of Don Camillo

France-Italy (1951): Comedy
96 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

In a village in North Italy, an ingenuously devout and militant priest, Fernandel, and a godless Communist mayor, Gino Cervi, battle it out with guile, charm, words, and fists. Julien Duvivier directed this popular version of Giovanni Guareschi's novel; it was a big art-house success. In French.

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

US (1935): War/Adventure
109 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Sticks were driven under Gary Cooper's fingernails and set on fire, but he wouldn't betray his comrades-at-arms. This was one of the movies that put audiences into a Victorian boys'-adventure, rites-of-manhood universe where war and military service are a test of a man's courage. We're supposed to feel pride in the imperial British gallantry of the Lancers (as they put down an uprising on the Indian frontier), and at some level we do, despite our more knowledgeable, disgusted selves. The adolescent boys' fantasy atmosphere is very powerful; the director, Henry Hathaway, gives us an empathic identification with all the high-minded stuff that's going on inside Cooper and his buddy, Franchot Tone. At the same time, part of the picture's romantic charge is its underlying homoeroticism, which comes out in Cooper and Tone's comic camaraderie. And the film works on an adolescent's fear of showing cowardice by supplying a weakling character (Richard Cromwell). But if the movie is morally repugnant, it's also a terrific piece of Hollywood Victoriana. With Sir Guy Standing, C. Aubrey Smith, Douglas Dumbrille, Akim Tamiroff, Monte Blue, Kathleen Burke, Noble Johnson, J. Carrol Naish, and Leonid Kinskey. Five writers are credited; the source is a book by Francis Yeats-Brown. The cinematography is by Charles Lang, with Indian location footage shot by Ernest B. Schoedsack. Paramount.

The Lizards

Italy (1963): Romance/Drama
No rating, Black & White
Also known as I BASILISCHI.

Earlier in the year Lina Wertmüller worked as an assistant to Fellini; then she wrote and directed this film, in which she observes the loves of three aimless young men in a Southern Italian town; it's like a feminine view of the overage "adolescents" who were the subject of Fellini's I VITELLONI. It's very sensitive (especially in the fragmentary scenes that show the lives of the women) and if it doesn't come to quite enough (it lacks depth and excitement), it is still a remarkably poised and intelligent début film (beautifully shot by Gianni Di Venanzo). Despite the smooth technique, this film isn't at all commercial. It gives promise of something very different from the noisy, slam-bang theatricality Wertmüller became famous for in the 70s. Music by Ennio Morricone. In Italian.

Local Hero

UK (1983): Comedy
111 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A magical comedy by the Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth, who observes the people in the movie as if they were one-of-a-kind creatures in a peculiarly haphazard zoo. The story (which involves a rabbit that doesn't turn into anything but a dinner) is about an American mergers-and-acquisitions executive-played by Peter Riegert-who is sent to Scotland to buy a fishing village and experiences something new to him, happiness. He never formulates his infatuation with the villagers, the crescent of beach, the glistening bay, the starlight, and the good, dark beer; we see the effect it all has on him in his wistful, stupefied face. Forsyth is rarely explicit about anything-the picture is like one of those lovely Elizabethan songs that are full of tra-la-la-la-la-las. Denis Lawson-the most relaxed actor of a large, relaxed cast-is Gordon, the village innkeeper, pub owner, accountant, unofficial mayor, and great lover, and he makes each of Gordon's functions funny in a suavely different high style. (Each has its own form of self-satisfaction.) Burt Lancaster brings an imperial, romantic aura to the role of Riegert's boss-an oil tycoon whose penthouse includes a private planetarium. Also with Peter Capaldi as Danny, Jenny Seagrove as the marine biologist who seems to live in the water and has a hint of iridescence about her, Fulton Mackay as the hermit, Chris Rozyki as the Russian, and Jennifer Black as Gordon's bride. The opening sequence, set in a Houston skyscraper, is heavy-handed and coy, and most of the other Houston scenes falter, but the rest of the film has an original, feathery charm. The score is by Mark Knopfler. Produced by David Puttnam, for Goldcrest; released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Lola

France (1961): Drama
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

This first film by Jacques Demy is like an adolescent's dream of romance, formed from old movies. Lola (Anouk Aimée) is simple and open, an untalented and not too bright cabaret dancer, a vulnerable, sentimental girl. The film gives us life rose-tinted-a lovely, quirky mixture of French-movie worldliness circa 1939 and the innocent cheerfulness of the Gene Kelly-Frank Sinatra MGM musicals of the 40s (ANCHORS AWEIGH, ON THE TOWN), with their generous, shy sailors, kind to kids and looking for love. Demy gently mocks romantic movie effects, which he employs more romantically than ever. Characters suddenly get rich or are stranded on an island, and Lola's dreams come true-and not just her dreams but her illusions. This is a poetic world in which illusions are vindicated. Lola, abandoned by her sailor lover, brings up their son in the best sentimental, goodhearted-bad-girl movie tradition, believing all the time that her man will return, and, because she sustains her faith in this illusion, he does return, fabulously rich and still in love with her, and they drive off into a bright future as the other cabaret girls weep in unison at the soul-satisfying beauty of it all. Lola, in top hat and boa for her nightclub act, is herself a quotation-an homage to Dietrich's "Lola Lola" of THE BLUE ANGEL, but only to the effervescent and harmless half. (In Demy's 1964 THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, the melancholy diamond merchant who sings "Once, I Loved a Woman Named Lola" is played by the actor who was the young drifter who loved her and lost her in this film, and Demy continued the story of Lola in his 1969 American film MODEL SHOP.) With Marc Michel and Elina Labourdette; cinematography by Raoul Coutard; score by Michel Legrand. In French.

Lola Montes/Sins of Lola Montes

France (1955): Drama
110 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This ambitious phantasmagorical treatment of the scandalous life of the 19th-century courtesan and dancer Lola Montès is a reflection on the ephemeral nature of fame, beauty, and pleasure. It was the last film completed by Max Ophüls; as he lay dying, his producers were shortening and re-editing his version (it was cut from 140 minutes to 110 to 90) in the hope of recouping their investment, which had been large. (The film was shot in CinemaScope and color and was made on an opulent scale.) But even in a restored form, it's disappointing-poorly acted and too shallow for its melancholy tone and its rich decor and elaborate structure. Lola (Martine Carol), far past her prime, is seen being exhibited and humiliated in a circus in New Orleans; the ringmaster-Peter Ustinov-tells the audience that it will see Lola's life story, and her early conquests and adventures are shown in flashbacks. Regrettably, Martine Carol couldn't manage to look young enough for Lola's radiant early days, and she was too bad a dancer even to play a bad dancer-she was a non-dancer. There is nothing unusual about her Lola-nothing that would explain why men are going mad over her. The center of the movie seems to be missing, and this isn't just the fault of the actress. The swirling, rococo camera movement at the circus is surprisingly elegant (though presumably the circus is meant to be tawdry). The movement suggests that this rather dumpy little woman has had an extraordinary emotional life, yet nothing seems to happen in those flashbacks-which don't gain in depth from our knowing what Lola has come down to. And she loiters so long with the king in Bavaria that one wants to give her carriage a push. What makes this folly so poignant and so painful to watch is that its virtuoso director didn't allow himself any middle ground: the film had to be his greatest masterpiece to be any good at all. According to his script girl, he died knowing he had failed. (The film was also one of the worst box-office disasters of its era.) With Anton Walbrook as King Ludwig I, Oskar Werner, Ivan Desny, and Will Quadflieg as Liszt. Ophüls and three others worked on the shockingly empty script, adapted from a French best-seller by Cecil St. Laurent. Sets by Jean d'Eaubonne and Willy Schatz; costumes by Georges Annekov; cinematography by Christian Matras; music by Georges Auric. In French.

Lolita

UK (1962): Drama
152 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Wild, marvellously enjoyable comedy, adapted from Nabokov's novel. James Mason is the lover of little girls, the smiling, obsequious, phony Humbert Humbert; Shelley Winters is Charlotte Haze, the culture vulture rampant; Sue Lyon is her sexy daughter, Lolita; and Peter Sellers (at his most inspired) is Quilty, Humbert Humbert's walking paranoia. Stanley Kubrick directed. MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book I Lost it at the Movies.

The Lonely Guy

US (1984): Comedy
90 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Thrown out by his girlfriend, Steve Martin falls into a subculture of Lonely Guys, a secret society of men who recognize each other. (It's like the closeted gay subculture of the 50s.) Adapted from Bruce Jay Friedman's 1978 The Lonely Guy's Book of Life, this comedy has some wonderful gags and a lot of other good ideas for gags, but it was directed by Arthur Hiller, who is the opposite of a perfectionist, and it makes you feel as if you were watching television. Steve Martin has his moments, though, and he and Charles Grodin (as a veteran Lonely Guy) do a series of partly improvised sketches; they're a great manic-depressive team-Martin is starry-eyed and hopeful, Grodin is droopy and negative. With Judith Ivey, Steve Lawrence, Robyn Douglass, and pointless guest appearances by Loni Anderson, Merv Griffin, and Dr. Joyce Brothers. The adaptation is by Neil Simon; the script is by Ed Weinberger and Stan Daniels. The atrocious cinematography is by Victor J. Kemper. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Lonely Hearts

Australia (1981): Comedy
95 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This movie is very casually strung together. It's an Australian variant of the comfy-cozy Ealing comedies of the 50s, but it doesn't have their precise construction-it moves from one small slapstick diversion to the next. As the timid, sexually repressed heroine, Wendy Hughes is lovely in the standard fine-actress-playing-dowdy-aging-virgin performance. As the piano tuner who courts her, Norman Kaye has a furtive, childlike prankishness, and that's what keeps the movie alive. The core idea is moist, but the film's humor is dry and sometimes darting and sneaky. Directed by Paul Cox, who wrote the script with John Clarke, the film has a cheerless look and dreary, crabbed cinematography. You have to settle for the flyspeck jokes, and the acting; it's all mildly satirical, mildly romantic, and mildly engaging. With Jonathan Hardy as the piano tuner's amiable, innocent brother-in-law and Jon Finlayson as the flamboyant director of an amateur theatrical group.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

UK (1987): Romance
116 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

A spinster in spite of her sensual nature, Judy Hearne, who lives in Dublin, is all pretension. Everybody sees through her, and she knows it, but she can't get rid of her own mealymouthed phoniness: it's ingrained in her. Maggie Smith, who plays the part, lets you read every shade of feeling in Judy's face; she makes you feel the ghastliness of knowing you're a figure of fun. Taken from Brian Moore's novel (a work of surpassing empathy written in 1955, when he was only 27), the movie, directed by Jack Clayton, is a phenomenal piece of work. It's about Judy's misunderstanding the attentions of her landlady's brother (Bob Hoskins) and thinking herself to be in the midst of a romance; it's about her isolation, her secret drinking, and her rage against the Church for her wasted life. There has probably never been another movie in which a woman rejected the Church fathers' ready-made answers. Maggie Smith and Wendy Hiller (who plays Judy's tyrannical aunt) are magnificent together, and the cast includes Ian McNeice, who, as the landlady's son, gives the film a baroque touch that helps offset the shallow, virtuous ending, Marie Kean as the landlady, and Rudi Davies as a young slavey. The adaptation is by Peter Nelson.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Long Ago Tomorrow

UK (1970): Drama
100 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Doomed love between paraplegics, who must go through considerable wheelchair wiggling even to kiss. For people who want to be turned on by the sadness of it. With Malcolm McDowell and Nanette Newman; directed by Bryan Forbes.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Long Day's Journey Into Night

US (1962): Drama
136 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

This portrait of the artist as an Irish-American has the worst American failings: it's obvious, sprawling, yet crabbed. But if you respond at all, you may go all the way to exaltation. Perhaps just because of its naked familiarity, its grinding, ludicrous wrestling with expressiveness, JOURNEY is, at last, an American family classic; the usual embarrassments are transcended, and the family theme is raised to mythic heights. This is the best film ever made from an Eugene O'Neill play (and it's O'Neill's greatest play). Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, Jr., and Dean Stockwell are the quartet. Hepburn's transitions here-the way she can look 18 or 80 at will-seem iridescent. She surpasses herself: the most beautiful screen comedienne of the 30s and 40s becomes our greatest screen tragedienne. Sidney Lumet directed; Boris Kaufman did the cinematography. The complete film runs 170 minutes; frequently, a version 34 minutes shorter is shown, which seriously damages the structure and omits several of Robards' finest scenes. Produced by Ely A. Landau; released by Embassy Pictures.

The Long Goodbye

US (1973): Crime
112 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In his novel, set in 1953, Raymond Chandler situated his incorruptible knight Philip Marlowe in Los Angeles, the city famed as the place where you go to sell out. And Chandler wrote to his agent that what he cared about in this book was "how any man who tried to be honest looks in the end either sentimental or plain foolish." Chandler's sentimental foolishness is the taking-off place for Robert Altman's heady, whirling sideshow of a movie, set in the early 70s LA of the stoned sensibility. Marlowe (Elliott Gould) is a wryly forlorn knight, just slogging along; still driving a 1948 Lincoln Continental and trying to behave like Bogart, he's the gallant fool in a corrupt world-the innocent eye. Even the police know more about the case he's involved in than he does. Yet he's the only one who cares. Altman kisses off the private-eye form as gracefully as BEAT THE DEVIL parodied the international-intrigue thriller. Less accidental than BEAT THE DEVIL, this picture is just about as funny, though quicker-witted and dreamier, in soft, mellow color and volatile images. Altman tells a detective story all right, but he does it through a spree-a high-flying rap on Chandler and the movies and LA. The film drives you a little crazy, turns you on the way some musicals (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, CABARET) and some comedies (M*A*S*H, parts of BANANAS and EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK)) do. Gould gives a loose and woolly, strikingly original performance. With Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Jim Bouton, Henry Gibson, Jack Riley, and Ken Sansom. Vilmos Zsigmond is responsible for the offhand visual pyrotechnics (the imagery has great vitality); John Williams' score is a witty series of variations on the title song; the script is credited to Leigh Brackett, but when you hear the Altman-style improvisatory dialogue you know you can't take that too literally. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Long Hot Summer

US (1958): Drama
117 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

This amalgam of Faulkner's stories "Barn Burning" and "Spotted Horses" (which is part of his novel The Hamlet) turned out to be highly commercial and hugely entertaining. The setting is a Mississippi town run by Will Varner (Orson Welles); Paul Newman plays Ben Quick, the stud drifter who comes into town and makes a deal with Varner to marry his tough-minded, virgin schoolteacher daughter (Joanne Woodward). Ben Quick is one of those arrogant-on-the-outside, vulnerable-on-the-inside roles that Newman could do better than any other movie actor, and he and Woodward have some electric, strong scenes together. Martin Ritt directed from a crackerjack popular screenplay by Irving Ravetch and his wife, Harriet Frank, Jr. (In 1945 Faulkner had worked on a screen treatment of "Barn Burning" but nothing came of it.) With Angela Lansbury, Lee Remick, Anthony Franciosa, and Richard Anderson. 20th Century-Fox. CinemaScope.

Long Pants

US (1927): Comedy
58 min, No rating, Black & White

This Harry Langdon comedy, directed by Frank Capra, wasn't up to THE STRONG MAN of the year before; it has its dull side, but it has some inventive moments. Langdon, with his ineffectual, fluttering gestures, is a creepy mixture of the infantile and the effete. He isn't funny, exactly-he's fixating. Here, he plays a meek small-town adolescent who yearns for romance and finds it with his first pair of long pants. When he sees the scheming dame he falls for, she's sitting in an open car, and he circles around her on his bicycle, helplessly infatuated and trying to impress her by trick riding. He leaves his family and the girl next door and follows this vamp (Alma Bennett) to the city. (She turns out to be nothing less than a murderer.) Frankie Darro plays Harry as a small boy. Written by Arthur Ripley. Distributed by First National. Silent.

The Long Voyage Home

US (1940): Drama
105 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of the finest of all the movies that deal with life at sea, and one of the most successful of all attempts to put Eugene O'Neill on film-perhaps because the director, John Ford, and the adaptor, Dudley Nichols, were so free in their approach to O'Neill's material. The young Mildred Natwick has a memorable scene in a café with John Wayne, and Barry Fitzgerald's return to the ship (shrunken and chastened) is a truly great moment. Gregg Toland did the cinematography (which includes some early experiments in deep focus); with Thomas Mitchell, Wilfrid Lawson, Ward Bond, John Qualen, and Joe Sawyer. Produced by Walter Wanger; released by United Artists.

The Longest Yard

US (1974): Sports/Comedy
123 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Burt Reynolds, as a sellout quarterback turned superstud gigolo, lands in prison; he rediscovers his manhood through helping a bunch of convicts fight for theirs. The picture is a brutal bash, but the laughter at the brutality has no meanness in it; everybody knows that the blood isn't real. Robert Aldrich directed this comic fantasy, centering on a football game between crazily ruthless convicts and crazily ruthless guards; for all its bone-crunching collisions, it's almost irresistibly good-natured and funny. With Ed Lauter, Eddie Albert, and Bernadette Peters. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Look Back in Anger

UK (1958): Drama
99 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The English "angry young man" bursts onto the screen-an intellectual "wild one" and "rebel without a cause"-delivering some of the most electrifying dialogue of the era. Jimmy Porter (Richard Burton) is a blazingly articulate hero with passion and power, and no place in life, or cause or goal. He is an artist with no art to practice. As rancorous as Hamlet, he rages at his pale, zombie-like wife (Mary Ure), at his foxy mistress (Claire Bloom), at his good friend (Gary Raymond), and at all the dismal English life around him. The movie is uneven, and, at the end, damp and foggy as a postwar WINTERSET. But it has fire. Jimmy paces like a tiger caged in the welfare state, and even if you think that the movie is basically incoherent and that he's an exhibitionist whose scorn of the heritage of the previous generation is infantile ranting, you'll have to admit that he has a voice-his abusive shouts and epigrams have the authentic ring of drama. British understatement is gone; the case is marvellously overstated. And Claire Bloom gives a wickedly smart performance; in her own way she's as sensual and knowing as Simone Signoret is in her much more sympathetic role in ROOM AT THE TOP. Also with Edith Evans, George Devine, and Donald Pleasence. Directed by Tony Richardson, from Nigel Kneale's adaptation of the landmark play by John Osborne, it's something of a mess, but this mess-and THE ENTERTAINER, also a mess-are possibly the most exciting films to have come out of England in this period. Cinematography by Oswald Morris.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book I Lost it at the Movies.

Looker

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

Pseudo-scientific piffle about the machinations of the head of a conglomerate, played by James Coburn in the desiccated-amoral-old-bastard manner of John Huston. This rascal's laboratories are developing computer-generated images to make hypnotic TV commercials for political as well as economic use. To the rescue of civilization as we know it comes Albert Finney, like a lame tortoise; boredom seems to have seeped into Finney's muscles and cells-he's sinking under the weight of it, and the only part of him still alert is his wiry hair. He plays an eminent plastic surgeon who has "perfected" several women models according to mathematically correct specifications supplied by Coburn's lab; a couple of them come to mystifying violent ends-which are, unfortunately, still mystifying when the picture is over. (We never learn why the models were marked for destruction.) Written and directed by Michael Crichton in his untouched-by-human-hands style. The picture seems ingenious at the start, but Crichton can't write people, and he directs like a technocrat. This is the emptiest of his pictures to date. With Susan Dey, Dorian Harewood, Leigh Taylor-Young, Terri Welles, Darryl Hickman, and Terrence McNally. A Ladd Company Release, for Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

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