Diane Keaton as Theresa Dunn, the teacher who cruises singles bars and is murdered by a man she picks up. Richard Brooks, who adapted the novel by Judith Rossner and directed, has laid a windy jeremiad about our permissive society on top of fractured film syntax. He's lost the erotic, pulpy morbidity that made the novel a compulsive read; the film is splintered, moralistic, tedious. With Tuesday Weld, William Atherton, Richard Kiley, Alan Feinstein, Richard Gere, and Tom Berenger. Cinematography by William A. Fraker. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down..
Peter O'Toole, looking pale-blue eyed and pale-pink skinned, is the only Englishman among the officers of the Patna who save themselves, leaving the passengers (400 Moslems) to drown. But the ship survives, and Jim, devoured by the shame of his cowardice, faces an investigation. Written and directed by Richard Brooks, this adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel is hugely ambitious and almost totally unrealized. Brooks didn't find a way to dramatize the themes; the narration tells us what the movie is meant to be about, and the characters (such as the ones played by Curt Jurgens and Eli Wallach) discuss their own character defects, and have literary-sounding exchanges. Trying to be a saint in order to expiate his guilt, Jim seems weak when he should be strong. O'Toole's wide-eyed stare is too mannered, and he has a special problem: he already played Lord Jim when he did LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, so this seems repetitive. (After a stretch, though, you do begin to feel for his Jim.) The talk of destiny and fate seems a mistake (it always seems a mistake). The film is most effective as a simple adventure story-the account of a revolutionary uprising by hideously mistreated natives. With James Mason, whose well-paced delivery and sheer professionalism help his scenes, and Jack Hawkins, Paul Lukas, Akim Tamiroff, Daliah Lavi, Marne Maitland, Christian Marquand, and many others. Cinematography by Freddie Young; music by Bronislau Kaper. Columbia.
This satire on teenage culture, modern education, psychoanalysis, and what have you was the best American comedy of its year, and yet it's mostly terrible. The picture is bright and inventive, but it's also a hate letter to America that selects the easiest, most grotesque targets and keeps screaming at us to enjoy how funny-awful everything is. Finally we're preached at for our tiny minds and our family spray deodorants. Tuesday Weld has a wonderful blank, childlike quality as a Los Angeles high-school student who lusts after cashmere sweaters and wants everybody to love her. The director, George Axelrod, drew upon the novel Candy, which he beat to the movie post, as well as WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT? and the Richard Lester movies; there is eating à la TOM JONES and there are other tidbits from all over, even from NIGHTS OF CABIRIA. Roddy McDowall plays a genie; Lola Albright is spectacularly effective as Tuesday's cocktail-waitress mother; and Ruth Gordon does her special brand of dementia. Several of the other performers-Max Showalter (sometimes known as Casey Adams), Sarah Marshall, Martin West-are in good form until they're made to slaver and shout. Also with Harvey Korman, Lynn Carey, Martin Gabel, and Joseph Mell. From Al Hine's novel, adapted by Larry H. Johnson and Axelrod. United Artists.
This elegant record of the interrelations of man, animal, bird, and volcano was made by an international group of cameramen and scientists (international is a euphemism for German) under the sponsorship of Leopold of Belgium. The finest African documentary of its period, it has one truly superb sequence-young Watutsi girls performing a ritual dance in imitation of the courtship of the Crowned Cranes. The film could do with more facts and fewer of the poetic legends that Orson Welles and William Warfield narrate.
Set in Mexico, Luis Buñuel's ruthless-almost surgical-examination of how the poor prey on one another is the most horrifying of all films about juvenile crime. The one masterwork on this subject, it stands apart from the genre by its pitilessness, its controlled passion. Buñuel doesn't treat his characters as ideas but as morally responsible human beings; there is little of the familiar American-movie cant that makes everyone responsible for juvenile crimes except the juveniles. There's no pathos in this film; it's a squalid tragedy that causes the viewer to feel a moral terror. Buñuel, whose early work fascinated Freud, creates scenes that shock one psychologically. Among them here is the mother-meat dream-perhaps the greatest of all movie dream sequences; it is disturbing long after the lacerations of the more realistic material have healed. Buñuel had intended much more in this surreal vein but he did not have a completely free hand. For example, in the scene in which one of the boys goes to beat up and kill another boy, the camera reveals in the distance a huge 11-story building under construction; Buñuel had wanted to put an orchestra of a hundred musicians in the building. The cast includes Estela Inda and Roberto Cobo; cinematography by Gabriel Figueroa. In Spanish.
The original English title, THE GREENGAGE SUMMER, is the title of the 1958 Rumer Godden novel it's based on. The remarkable and young Susannah York plays a well-brought-up (i.e., inexperienced) 16-year-old English girl who sets out with her mother and the three younger children for a summer holiday at a pension in the country; the mother takes ill and is hospitalized and the girl seems to grow up before our eyes, as she practices her wiles on a shady, dashing boarder (Kenneth More), who plays uncle to the delighted children. The film takes for granted, without any heavy breathing, the lesbian relationship of two Frenchwomen-Claude Nollier and Danielle Darrieux, the mistress of the establishment, who also has a close relationship with her star boarder, More. The girl goes from her experimental flirtation to situations that she can't control; jealous and piqued, she betrays More to the police. The director, Lewis Gilbert, handles the children skillfully (the little boy is so beautiful he brings tears of delight to the eyes), and the camera is up close to the girl, revealing her confused shades of feeling so that she seems both mysterious and stripped bare. The whole thing doesn't quite come off, though, and we're always too aware of the sensitive qualities it's aiming at. It's a reasonably good picture that misses being a really memorable one. But York, Darrieux, and More are everything they should be. With Maurice Denham, Jane Asher, and David Saire. Adapted by Howard Koch; cinematography by Freddie Young.
The original version of the James Hilton novel, directed by Frank Capra, from Robert Riskin's script-part popular adventure and part prissy, high-flown cracker-barrel sentimentality. The early trip through the icy waste is exciting, and Ronald Colman speaks in his charmingly cadenced manner, but Shangri-La, the genteel Himalayan utopia of peace, health, and eternal life, resembles, as Graham Greene pointed out, a film star's luxurious estate in Beverly Hills. With Sam Jaffe as the High Lama, Edward Everett Horton, Thomas Mitchell, Isabel Jewell, H.B. Warner, John Howard, Margo, and Jane Wyatt. Score by Dmitri Tiomkin. Columbia.
This version, produced by Ross Hunter and directed by Charles Jarrott, is in color and is padded out with a wan operetta score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It retains James Hilton's inspired gimmick-longevity-and his invincibly banal ideas, but it was a box-office fiasco. You can't help laughing at it-its Shangri-La, a cheery-goody haven where you can live indefinitely, lounging and puttering about for hundreds of years, is about as alluring as Forest Lawn. Inhabitants might be driven to slide down the mountains to the nearest Sin City. The leads-Peter Finch and Liv Ullmann-are pitilessly miscast. Finch's shrouded performance consists of a series of sickly, noble little smiles, as if to reassure himself and his fellow actors that this role, too, will pass. The generally embarrassed residents include Charles Boyer, John Gielgud, Michael York, Sally Kellerman, Olivia Hussey, Bobby Van, James Shigeta, and George Kennedy. The narrative has no energy, and the pauses for the pedagogic songs are so awkward you may feel that the director's wheelchair needs oiling. The script is by Larry Kramer; the musical numbers were staged by Hermes Pan. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.
Original and pleasantly snappy. It lacks the fullness of a major comedy, but Albert Brooks, who stars in it and directed, is on to something: satirizing the upper middle class from within, he shows the nagging terror along with the complacency. And he keeps you laughing fairly steadily. As David, an LA advertising whiz, he's an only slightly exaggerated specimen of a large number of rising young businessmen and professional men-the insecure successes, the swollen-headed worriers. He's an anxious wreck who tortures himself and his wife over every detail of his existence. With her little-girl breathiness and her look of panic, Julie Hagerty is an ideal choice for the timid, depressed woman who puts up with him. The picture is about what happens when these two buy a luxury motor home, and, with the security of a nest egg of roughly $145,000, set out to find themselves and get in touch with the real America. With Garry Marshall as the pit boss of the Desert Inn Casino, and Art Frankel and Michael Greene. The script is by Brooks and Monica Johnson. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.
Charles Jackson's novel about a well-brought-up, frustrated, dipsomaniacal writer who goes on a five-day binge that lands him in Bellevue was turned into an unusually daring popular melodrama by the writing team of Charles Brackett (who produced) and Billy Wilder (who directed). As the star, Ray Milland, reprieved from his usual lightweight leading-man roles, surprised the public with his tautness and irony. The picture lacks fluidity, and the slowly paced scenes seem overcalculated, with each colorful character and tense vignette standing out too sharply; everything is nailed down to a meaning for us. The whole thing is short on imaginative resonance; what it has is the Brackett-and-Wilder specialty-a distinctive cruel (and sometimes cruelly funny) edge. And there are some famous sequences: the hero's lust for a drink during "Libiamo," the opening aria of La Traviata; his long, plodding walk along Third Avenue in an attempt to hawk his typewriter when the pawnshops are closed for Yom Kippur. With Frank Faylen as a spiteful, supercilious male nurse, Howard Da Silva as a harsh-voiced bartender, Jane Wyman as a Time researcher, Doris Dowling as the girl who says "natch," Phillip Terry as the hero's brother, Clarence Muse, and Lillian Fontaine. Filmed partly on locations in New York, such as Bellevue. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Actor, Screenplay. Paramount.
This avant-garde effort (by Dr. James S. Watson and Melville Webber) certainly didn't point movies in any direction that sensible people wanted to follow, but it keeps coming back, so perhaps it has attained some sort of classic status. It's a symbolic interpretation of the Biblical story, with bodies writhing and swaying in poetic debauchery. 2 reels.
Lina Wertmüller's large, epic film is set mostly in a 30s brothel; there, a young country bumpkin (Giancarlo Giannini, looking like a freckled young chicken), who intends to assassinate Mussolini, falls in love and botches his plans. The movie is uneven; it often seems like a silent film, and sometimes it is extravagant and operatic. But when Wertmüller concentrates on the whores' faces and attitudes it can be very beautiful. With Mariangela Melato, Lina Polito, Elena Fiore, and Eros Pagni. Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno; music by Nino Rota. In Italian.
A rowdy burlesque of the Dracula movies, set in Manhattan, with dilapidated stuffed bats and a large assortment of gags; some of them are funny in a low-grade, moldy way, and some are even stupidly racist, but many are weirdly hip, with a true flaky wit. The scriptwriter, Robert Kaufman, will never be called a man of fine discrimination: he takes equal-almost obscene-relish in them all. Yet it's this relish-which the director, Stan Dragoti, seems to share-that fuels the movie, and, except for a wearying chase sequence toward the end, it bumps along entertainingly. As Count Dracula, George Hamilton uses the self-parody he first demonstrated in JACQUELINE SUSANN'S ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH; his Dracula is a swooningly romantic, ingenuously prurient gigolo with an indeterminate Transylvanian accent-his declaration of love sounds like "I lob you." His lady is a famous model, played by Susan Saint James; she isn't well photographed, but she has such great inflections that she hits her lines for every nuance of wacked-out comedy that's in them. And in the Van Helsing role, Richard Benjamin has some good silly moments as the model's whiny-voiced psychiatrist. With Dick Shawn as a cop, Arte Johnson as Renfield, and Ronnie Schell in a bit. Score by Charles Bernstein; from a story by Kaufman and Mark Gindes; produced by Joel Freeman, with Kaufman and Hamilton as the executive producers. A Melvin Simon Production, released by A.I.P.
Immensely entertaining. The fourth and perhaps the most charming of the Andy Hardy series, Louis B. Mayer's make-believe vision of Middle America. There's a sweet sly joke: Judy Garland, saying softly and tentatively to Mickey Rooney, "I sing, you know." In addition to Judy (who sings "In-Between"), the girls in Mickey's life include the teenaged Lana Turner, and Ann Rutherford and Cecilia Parker, as his sister. Lewis Stone is Judge Hardy, and Fay Holden his wife. George B. Seitz directed, from William Ludwig's script. The songs include "It Never Rains But It Pours." With Gene Reynolds and Raymond Hatton. MGM.
A neat little thriller, featuring Basil Rathbone as a cold-eyed killer with charming drawing-room manners. This variation on the Landru theme is taken from Frank Vosper's play, based on Agatha Christie's Philomel Cottage. The opening is stage-bound and too leisurely, but by the time the killer's bride (Ann Harding) realizes what she has married, and sits down to dinner with her husband knowing that the servant has been sent off, the doors are locked, and they are alone together in a remote cottage, it is very scary. Made in England, with Rowland V. Lee directing. (A remake in 1947 featured John Hodiak.)
Wide-eyed Audrey Hepburn as the Parisian schoolgirl whom Elisabeth Bergner played in ARIANE. A student of the cello, this Ariane falls in love with an aging American roué ensconced in the Paris Ritz-Gary Cooper, looking as if he knows how unappealing he is in the role. The director, Billy Wilder, and his co-scenarist, I.A.L. Diamond, have made her the daughter of a detective (Maurice Chevalier), who is then hired by Cooper to investigate her. It's all meant to be airy and bubbly, but it's obvious, overextended (2 hours plus), and overproduced. It was shot in France, and much of it is location work, but the art director, Alexander Trauner, built the first floor of the Paris Conservatoire in a studio, as well as the second floor of the Ritz full-scale, with actual, operating elevators. For the performance of Tristan and Isolde, Wilder engaged 960 extras in full evening dress. At the end, there's a fine view of a smoking, chugging locomotive in a splendid, vaulted railroad station-and for a moment one wonders if this, too, is a set. Allied Artists.
A low-key sexual reverie from Belgium about young Harry, who loves women but is rejected by them, and is able to show his tenderness only to a corpse. Adapted from Charles Bukowski's tales, principally "The Copulating Mermaid of Venice, California," this is a Flemish-language art film with its own erotic tone-faintly ironic, faintly queasy. Its softness gets to you. The 31-year-old director, Dominique Deruddere, made the final episode, which is set in 1976, as a half-hour short, and then (with his co-writer, Marc Didden) worked up the two episodes of Harry's earlier life, set in 1955 and 1962, in order to make a feature-his first. The final necrophiliac section is too poetic-it's just a few tones away from being a parody of an adolescent fantasy. (It might work better without the prehistory that explains it so neatly.) But the middle episode-Harry's high-school graduation dance and his torment over being covered with acne and boils and pustules-has a masochistic potency, and some humor and rage. The band plays American pop tunes, such as "Love Hurts," and the girl vocalist has a wonderfully vacuous, self-absorbed sexiness. This is a movie for people with a perverse sense of humor or a persistent sexual acne. With Geert Hunaerts as Harry at 12, and Josse De Pauw as Harry at 19 (a bit like the young Alec Guinness) and at 33 (a bit like Nicol Williamson).
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.
Far from sophisticated, but this Grace Moore hit has a sprightly good humor that helps to redeem the tale of a racketeer (Leo Carrillo) who has a passion for music and falls in love with a poor, unknown soprano; builds a café ("La Margerita") in her honor; and eventually arranges for her to sing La Bohème at the Met. The movie drips a few too many tears, but it features such curiosities as a mockup of the old Met, an impersonation of Gatti-Casazza, and the quartet from Rigoletto expanded for 40 voices. Victor Schertzinger wrote the story, directed, and had a big hand in the music. With Luis Alberni, Douglas Dumbrille, and Spring Byington. Columbia.
Doris Day as Ruth Etting. A lot of people were deeply impressed with this melodramatic, musical bio, which tries for an authentic show-business tawdriness; it's certainly better than most movie bios of popular entertainers, but that's not saying all that much. Doris Day is a little less butch than usual, though you can't tell what makes her Ruth Etting a star. (From the evidence of her movie appearances and her records, the young, soft, and sensual Ruth Etting was just about the opposite of this cold woman.) The script by Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart is several notches above the usual, and James Cagney brings frightening strength to his role as the singer's vicious lover. Their relationship is horrifying, yet your sympathy may go out to the scummy little guy beating her up. Some good songs, including "Mean to Me" and "Ten Cents a Dance." With Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith, Tom Tully, Harry Bellaver, and Richard Gaines. Directed by Charles Vidor; produced by Joe Pasternak, for MGM. CinemaScope.
One of the big-star pictures nobody ever talks about. Not for the first time, Joan Crawford appears as an heiress. Clark Gable and Franchot Tone are antic reporters pursuing her, and there are international spies. The whole movie is on the run-London, the Riviera, Fontainebleau, Continental trains, and airplanes. Joseph L. Mankiewicz produced and W.S. Van Dyke directed, from a script that John Lee Mahin and others worked on. You can see how hard everybody is trying to make this a slick sexy hit. With Mona Barrie, Ivan Lebedeff, William Demarest, and Reginald Owen. MGM.
In 1947 Evelyn Waugh went to Hollywood to clear up censorial objections to the script for his Brideshead Revisited; after seven weeks he simply withdrew the book and went back to England. Out of his experiences he wrote the essay "Death in Hollywood" on Forest Lawn Memorial Park, and in 1948, The Loved One, a short satirical novel about one of the last outposts of empire-the British colony in the movie business and its renegade poet who goes to work in a cemetery for pets. Bought for the movies, the novel became a Hollywood legend through the efforts of various writers (including Luis Buñuel and Elaine May) to get an acceptable film script out of material that was considered too naughty and macabre for the screen. By the time Tony Richardson was signed to direct the film, from Christopher Isherwood's script, movies had changed so much that Terry Southern was brought in to juice the material up. (Waugh tried, but was unable, to withdraw THE LOVED ONE.) From the look of the film Richardson shot every plausible idea that came to him, and then, as the footage had no flow, no development, he choppd it up and slapped it together hard, trying to use overlapping sound to plug up the holes. But it's funny anyway. Although the picture has lost its center (the poet-played by Robert Morse-has become as quirky and crazy as everybody else), some of the fragments are good and jagged. This botched picture is a triumphant disaster-a sinking ship that makes it to port because everybody on board is too giddy to panic. Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton-who might seem the world's most unlikely married couple-are quite amazing together; Rod Steiger is an embalmer; Ayllene Gibbons is his bedridden fat mother (who has orgasms from looking at the food in TV commercials); Jonathan Winters is a charlatan; and Liberace is a casket salesman. Also with James Coburn, John Gielgud, Robert Morley, Roddy McDowall, Anjanette Comer, Tab Hunter, Lionel Stander, and Paul Williams, as a child scientist. Cinematography by Haskell Wexler. (Brideshead Revisited was finally turned into an 11-part TV series in England, in 1981.) MGM.
Broadly played, in the 50s telegraphing-every-thought comic style. It was a big hit. Doris Day is an ethical advertising woman; Rock Hudson is a smart, unscrupulous advertising man-a roué. He knows how to manipulate dumb-broad sexpots, such as a Southern-belle redhead (Edie Adams, bulging like Marilyn Monroe) and he knows how to goad Day, who's a virgin. As Hudson's neurotic ad-agency boss, Tony Randall uses a lot of vocal tricks, and gives the movie some energy. Also with Jack Oakie in a cameo as a tycoon who plays the bull fiddle, and Jack Kruschen and Jack Albertson. Directed by Delbert Mann, from a script by Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning. Universal.
In the year he died, Sacha Guitry, who was 72, made a couple of films. This sly detective comedy, which he wrote and then directed from a wheelchair, is one of them. The old master of casual, ironic wit had intended to play the leading role himself, but old age had at last caught up with him, and he appeared only in a bit part. In 1936, in Guitry's THE STORY OF A CHEAT, the narrator provided a cynical and witty counterpoint to the action. (The technique was to become familiar to a later generation through the English comedy KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS.) This approach, to which Guitry returned in LOVERS AND THIEVES, permitted him to treat the film medium with nonchalant intimacy-there are freakish interruptions, changes of subject and pace. He teases the classic unities as well as the classic virtues: in his offhand way, he seems to say, "Look how easy it is to make a movie-one just begins and then improvises." He directed an extended romantic sequence that is one of the most impudent ever filmed: Magali Noel, the enchanting, stylish murder victim, loathes her husband so much that she and her lover make love all over Paris, so that everyone will know the husband is a cuckold. The lover, who is also the narrator (Jean Poiret), inadvertently commits a murder for which an innocent thief (Michel Serrault) is sent to prison. Conscience-stricken, the lover takes over the occupation of the thief. But all this is only the loose framework; Guitry makes a sortie into a great loony bin, provides an audacious painting theft, and stops everything while a mad beatnik (Darry Cowl) addresses a courtroom. It's a fresh, lovely movie. Clément Duhour helped on the directing. (Jean Poiret later wrote the play La Cage aux folles and Michel Serrault appeared in it as the female impersonator, on the stage and in the movie.) In French.
Julien Duvivier's lavish satire on the triumph of business values over bourgeois morals was only a moderate success in the United States. Perhaps art-house audiences, still recovering from the anguish of GERVAISE, were reluctant to face more Zola. But, Mendelian that he was, Zola allowed the Rougon-Macquart series one sport: an unscrupulous young fortune hunter from the provinces who climbs to respectability over the beds of satisfied bourgeois ladies. Duvivier's re-creation of Paris in the overstuffed 1880s is one of the most unusual historical evocations in movies: ugly, ludicrous, conspicuous expenditure dominates the enormous apartment house, the shops, the streets. In the best sequence, a group of merchants gather to discuss a matter of honor and load themselves with food and drink. Duvivier keeps his balance on the tightrope over the dangerous material-human mediocrity, bad taste, the middle-class man as animal-but sometimes you may get the feeling that the tightrope is suspended much too low. Gérard Philipe is the dimply, curly-haired seducer, the man who accepts venality so simply and instinctively that he has no need of hypocrisy. With Danielle Darrieux, Dany Carrel, Anouk Aimée, Claude Nollier, Henri Vilbert, and Jane Marken. In French.
An elaborate ballet-drama of romantic tragedy. Ludmilla Tcherina dances the role of a doomed, demented girl, and then finds that life has cast her in the same role. More than a bit much, with dialogue such as "What good is my body if you cannot have my soul?" (Especially silly, because Miss Tcherina isn't much of a dancer but has a sensational body.) The director, Raymond Rouleau, is in love with colored lights. Cinematography by Claude Renoir; music by Mikis Theodorakis. In French.
Two young understudies for the stars making a film of Romeo and Juliet fall in love and, as star-crossed as Shakespeare's lovers, they re-enact the drama. The film's sensuous, poetic elegance contrasts with the seamy elements it encompasses (the aging film stars, the young girl's decadent, fascistic family). You may feel you've been made too aware of the film's artistic intentions, and the romanticism can drive you a little nuts. Serge Reggiani and Anouk Aimée are the lovers. Directed by André Cayatte; screenplay by Jacques Prévert. With Martine Carol, Pierre Brasseur, Marcel Dalio, Marianne Oswald, and Louis Salou. Photographed in Verona and Venice by Henri Alekan. In French.
René Clément's original and amusing study of a compulsive seducer, a Frenchman (Gérard Philipe) at work in London on a succession of English girls, was made in two versions-French and English. KNAVE OF HEARTS so incensed the English that "nasty" and "disgusting" appeared in almost all reviews. (The Daily Mirror cried, "a story about a French wolf who comes to prey on our girls.") The reason for this hostility is the satiric treatment of English morals: the shallow French roué has a knack for spotting women's weaknesses, and he seduces the English girls (who take themselves fairly seriously) by appealing to each one's aspirations and fantasies. The English may also have resented the photographic invasion of their urban ugliness by Oswald Morris's concealed cameras; the movie catches the pubs, restaurants, busses, and rush hours of a gray and grubby city which was not visible in English movies until later films like ROOM AT THE TOP, LOOK BACK IN ANGER, and SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING broke down English reserve. Roman Vlad contributes a witty score with a little theme for each mistress (Joan Greenwood, Margaret Johnston, Valerie Hobson, Natasha Parry, et al.). The script (by Raymond Queneau and others) provides some subtle mockery of the Don Juan type; expert at playing roles to please women, the Frenchman cannot win love in his own character. (In the U.S., the film was cut and released under two titles-LOVERS, HAPPY LOVERS and LOVER BOY.)
A dreamily romantic young girl who is depressed and lost in her regimented factory milieu mistakes the casual interest of a young musician for a serious interest, and follows him to his home. The Milo Forman picture is a comedy, and yet it's too painful and desolate to be funny; it reveals a horribly petty middle-class world within the Socialist economy. With Hana Brejchova and Vladimir Pucholt. In Czech.
Among the many psychoanalyst characters are the hero Dudley Moore, his crony Wallace Shawn, and Selma Diamond, John Huston, Alan King, Stefan Schnabel, Richard B. Shull, and Alec Guinness (as the shade of a trim, urbane Sigmund Freud). The writer-director, Marshall Brickman, has a dapper, weird precision of tone that's funny, and he starts with a promising (if flimsy) situation: Moore inherits a patient, a young playwright (Elizabeth McGovern), from Shawn, who has fallen in love with her and died of guilt; of course, Moore falls in love with her, too. But Brickman's attention seems to wander away, and the dramatic tension dribbles out. The film's tasteful sprightliness keeps it from being about anything, but there are some terrific comedy performances by Anne DeSalvo, Kent Broadhurst, David Strathairn, Gene Saks, and Renée Taylor. Also with the painter Larry Rivers, his great-bird head held high, as a painter, and Ron Silver as a Hollywood star (who resembles Al Pacino). A Ladd Company Release, through Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.
A beautifully sustained piece of moviemaking by Irvin Kershner. It's an unusual American movie in that it has the sensibility and humor and feeling for character generally associated with Czech films or prewar French films. It looks at the failures of middle-class life without despising the people; it understands that they already despise themselves. There's a decency-almost a tenderness-in the way that Kershner is fair to everyone; he never allows us to feel superior to the characters. George Segal is a free-lance illustrator who makes good money but never makes enough money; he wriggles this way and that because he doesn't like his life. He's trying to do right by his wife (Eva Marie Saint) and his children, and still keep the possibility open that he could yet be a dashing, gifted artist. The new girl he longs to run away with is not very different from his wife-only younger, and not bound down by his children. Eva Marie Saint gives a stunning performance as a tough, gallant woman who doesn't have many illusions about her husband or herself, and Segal has a loose, informal sense of irony-he radiates likable human weakness. There are some wonderful scenes: the couple going to see a house that has come on the market because of a divorce, Segal just standing and looking at his two daughters through the window of a suburban dress shop-children who are simultaneously alien to their father's life and at the center of it. With Keenan Wynn, Sterling Hayden, Nancie Phillips, Janis Young, Andrew Duncan, Sherry Lansing, and Roy Scheider. Produced and written by Don Devlin, from J.M. Ryan's novel Brooks Wilson, Ltd. Cinematography by Gordon Willis; music by Bernardo Segall. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.
Jean Renoir's version of the Maxim Gorky play features those two magnetic poles of French acting-Louis Jouvet as the gambling baron who sinks to living in a flophouse, and Jean Gabin as the thief trying to climb up to a different life. Their scenes together are gems of the French film tradition. The fine cast includes Le Vigan as an actor, Jany Holt as a prostitute with aspirations toward love with sentiment, and Junie Astor, Suzy Prim, and Vladimir Sokoloff. This movie has one of those emblematic moments that people talk about for years afterward: Jouvet, having lost everything, comes away from the gaming tables and can't light his cigarette. This scene was, for the 30s, what Belmondo rubbing his lips in BREATHLESS was for the 60s. In French.
Liza Minnelli is a blond floozy-singer, and Gene Hackman and Burt Reynolds are her competing lovers; they're all rumrunners in the early 30s, and meant to be adorable. This is a big, expensive movie for people who don't mind being treated like hicks: the audience is expected to shudder with delight every time it hears an obscenity or sees a big movie-star grin. Hackman keeps a low profile and comes off better than the others, but it's not much of a contest. Reynolds does his simp act; he's willing to play a twit, but he plays it a little cute, so you'll know Burt Reynolds could never be convincing as a twit. There's nothing to be done with the role anyway, and he isn't obstreperously offensive. What is is the way Liza Minnelli is presented as a strident, selfish bitch, and is then sentimentalized, as if her viciousness and rasping out at everything were really delightful. The film specializes in fancy destruction scenes-boats exploding, burning, sinking, people shot up, blown to bits. Directed by Stanley Donen, from a script by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.
Sacha Guitry's film BONNE CHANCE, adapted by Allan Scott and John van Druten, provides a moderately naughty script for Ginger Rogers and Ronald Colman. Colman plays an artist who makes a deal with a businessman (Jack Carson) to substitute for him on his honeymoon (with Rogers, of course). The first two-thirds of the film rank with the good, lively Hollywood comedies; though the last third is too arch the spirit is still genial. With Harry Davenport, Spring Byington, and Cecilia Loftus. Directed by Lewis Milestone. RKO.
The Luchino Visconti film has been trimmed since its opening, but it's still footage in search of a style. The continuity is a splatter of choppy, confused scenes, and the relationships of the characters are never made clear. As Ludwig II of Bavaria, the supreme childish fantasist among kings, Helmut Berger is a tense, prissy-mouthed, gloomy cuckoo, and it isn't until he begins to lose his teeth (from overindulgence in sweets) that the picture becomes fitfully amusing. With Romy Schneider, Trevor Howard, and Silvana Mangano.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.
Jeanne Moreau wrote, directed, and stars in this elevated daydream about the life of an actress. The picture is delicately dissociated; it nibbles around the edges of its subject. And it shares a weakness of many other high-flown junk movies: it is less interested in pace than in culture. With Francine Racette, Bruno Ganz, François Simon, Caroline Cartier, and Lucia Bose. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.
Unlike the usual Hollywood lives of artists, this biographical movie about Vincent van Gogh (Kirk Douglas) and his loneliness and frustrated attempt at friendship with Gauguin (Anthony Quinn) is thoughtful, ambitious in a dedicated way, and remarkably free of howlers. Perhaps just because it is so concerned with fidelity to the facts it's less exciting than one might hope; something seems to be missing (a unifying dramatic idea, perhaps), but it's far from a disgrace, and the performers are never an embarrassment. The cast includes James Donald as Theo, Pamela Brown, Henry Daniell, Lionel Jeffries, Jill Bennett, Everett Sloane, Niall MacGinnis, Isobel Elsom, Laurence Naismith, Madge Kennedy, and Noel Purcell. The team of art directors worked out locations (in France and Holland) and interiors that relate to the paintings, many of which are shown. Vincente Minnelli directed for MGM, in CinemaScope and color; John Houseman produced; Norman Corwin adapted Irving Stone's best-selling biography; Freddie Young and Russell Harlan were the cinematographers; Miklós Rózsa did the music. Quinn took the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.