Pacific Heights

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

It's supposed to be a thriller, but it's more like an executive decision to make a thriller. The director, John Schlesinger, has his professionalism--it shows in the clean, efficient staging. But the fun is missing: he scares you only by making you nervous. Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine are the San Francisco lovers who fix up a Victorian house (on Potrero Hill); Michael Keaton is the sicko scam artist who takes over one of their two rental units and calls the police when they try to evict him. It's a drag that we're expected to identify with the dull young couple; the tenant with the perverted legalistic mind and the fiendish cupid's-bow smile provides the only gleams of interest. A promising cast--it includes the uncredited Beverly D'Angelo, and Laurie Metcalf, Dorian Harewood, Carl Lumbly, Mako, Tracey Walter, Dan Hedaya, Luca Bercovici, Guy Boyd, and Tippi Hedren as rich Florence--is all but thrown away. The screenplay is by Daniel Pyne; the cinematography is by Amir Mokri. A Morgan Creek Production, released by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Padre Padrone

Italy (1977): Drama
114 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

The Taviani brothers, who wrote and directed this film version of Gavino Ledda's 1974 autobiography, have learned to fuse political commitment and artistic commitment into stylized passion. Ledda's story is about how he was enslaved as a child, imprisoned in a sheepfold, and forced to tend the family flock, and of how he fought his way out of the isolation and silence--how he struggled for words. The spirit of the film isn't naturalistic--it's animistic. And the Tavianis' technique is deliberately barbaric; their vision is on the nightmare side of primitivism, where the elements themselves are the boy's enemies. The grotesquely natural cruelty is mythological--almost rhapsodic. Though made in 16 mm, for Italian television, this extraordinary work--pungent and carnal, and in faintly psychedelic Romanesque color--took the two top prizes at Cannes (the Golden Palm and the International Critics' Prize). With Saverio Marconi, Omero Antonutti, Margella Michelangeli, and Ledda, as himself, at the beginning and the end. In Italian.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Paisan

Italy (1946): War
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Roberto Rossellini made this episodic film after his breakthrough with OPEN CITY the year before. Each of the six parts has a story and deals with an aspect of the war that had just ended. The present-tense semi-documentary visual style is innovative, the content less so. Some of the stories have a tidy O. Henry finish, and there's a lot of sentimentality, though the film gives the impression of being loose and open. The script by Federico Fellini and Rossellini was based on stories they and others had written. (The Florence episode is by Vasco Pratolini, who isn't credited.) With Maria Michi and Gar Moore in the Roman episode, and Dots M. Johnson as the black soldier in Naples. Cinematography by Otello Martelli. In English, French, Italian, and German.

Pal Joey

US (1957): Musical/Comedy
111 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Blighted Hollywoodization of the musical by John O'Hara, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart, with the score purified along with Joey's character. The heel-hero--a hoofer in the Broadway version--is now a crooner, in line with the talents of Frank Sinatra. His singing helps things along, and he also does the only acting, though Kim Novak's vacuity is rather touching and isn't as laborious as Rita Hayworth's performance. (It is said that the studio was out to break Hayworth; she certainly doesn't seem to be getting a fair shake here.) This sad botch was directed by George Sidney; choreography by Hermes Pan. The songs include "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Bewitched," "The Lady Is a Tramp," and "There's a Small Hotel." With Elizabeth Patterson and Barbara Nichols. Script by Dorothy Kingsley, based on O'Hara's stage version of his stories in The New Yorker, written as a series of letters, signed "Your Pal Joey." The singing voice of Novak was dubbed by Trudy Erwin; Hayworth's singing was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer. Columbia.

Pale Rider

US (1985): Western
113 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Clint Eastwood's art Western, shot in art color--shades of dirt, with gray, brown, and black trimmings, and interiors so dark you can barely see who's onscreen in the middle of the day. Eastwood himself, a ghost who materializes as the answer to a 14-year-old girl's prayer for a miracle, seems to be playing some spectral combination of Death, Jesus, Billy Jack, and the Terminator. Set in the California Sierras during the gold-rush era before the Civil War, the movie is full of recycled mythmaking (SHANE, HIGH NOON, and Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns), but Eastwood goes through his motions like someone exhumed, and in his directing he numbs out what he borrows. There isn't a gleam of good sense anywhere in this picture. With Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Richard Dysart, Christopher Penn, Sydney Penny, Richard Kiel, John Russell, and Doug McGrath. From a script that Eastwood commissioned from Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack, based on his own story idea; filmed in Idaho. Cinematography by Bruce Surtees. A Malpaso Production, for Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Palm Beach Story

US (1942): Comedy
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of the giddiest and most chaotic of Preston Sturges's satiric orgies. The romantic problems of the leads (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) get shoved aside by the secondary characters. Colbert, travelling by train, becomes involved with a bunch of drunken millionaires--members of the "Ale and Quail Club," on board with their hounds and guns--who stage an informal skeet shoot in the club car and demolish the glassware. Sturges's comic invention soars, but the picture is too wild to be sustained; still, it's a joy, despite the lulls of waggish humor. With Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, and the Sturges stock company, including William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, and Jimmy Conlin. Paramount.

Panama Hattie

US (1942): Musical/Comedy
79 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

A sad disappointment, though Lena Horne is ravishing, and when she sings you can forget the rest of the picture. The 1940 Broadway musical (which had starred Ethel Merman) underwent the usual Hollywood bowdlerization; the movie still has some energy, but only a couple of the Cole Porter songs remain. Ann Sothern is in the Merman role, supported by Ben Blue, Red Skelton, and Rags Ragland as sailors, as well as by the Berry Brothers, Jackie Horner, Marsha Hunt, Virginia O'Brien, Dan Dailey, Alan Mowbray, and Carl Esmond. The songs (from various sources) include "Did I Get Stinking at the Club Savoy!" by E.Y. Harburg and Walter Donaldson. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod; produced by Arthur Freed, for MGM.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

UK (1951): Drama
123 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Certifiably one of a kind. Albert Lewin, who produced, directed, and wrote the story and screenplay, shows more visual feeling than common sense. James Mason, in his gloomily romantic period, is, literally, the doomed sailor, and Ava Gardner (looking unspeakably luscious) is an American playgirl in evening clothes who wanders through exotic, poetic landscapes before sacrificing herself to save him. Lewin's direction is static, yet his staging is so luxuriantly mad that it's easy to get fixated on what, if anything, he could have had in mind. Sally Bowles might have called it divinely incoherent--it's as nutty-fruity as another Ava Gardner film, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, but without as much talk. The English production, shot in Spain, has a mostly British cast--Nigel Patrick, Pamela Kellino (Mason), Marius Goring, and John Laurie. Cinematography by Jack Cardiff.

Pandora's Box

Germany (1928): Drama
110 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as DIE BÜCHSE DER PANDORA.

Louise Brooks, a great--almost impersonal--beauty who set styles in the flapper period, and whose straight hair and bangs were imitated all over the world (and were used as the model for the Dixie Dugan comic strip), left Hollywood in 1928 at the height of her career and went to Germany for the role of a lifetime. G.W. Pabst had selected her to play Lulu in this film, adapted from the Wedekind plays Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora (the same source material that Alban Berg used for his opera Lulu). Pabst, one of the giants of the screen, is perhaps most famous for his treatment of sex, violence, and abnormal psychology, and Wedekind's sex tragedy provided startling material. Lulu is the sexually insatiable female, the archetype of voracious, destructive woman. She has no moral sense and no interests beyond sensuality; when a man is exhausted, she leaves him. The film is episodic; it's in an Expressionist style, with rapid cutting and surprising kinds of almost violent visual tension, particularly in the first half. For sheer erotic dynamism, the backstage scenes on the opening night of a show Lulu is in have never been equalled; the later scenes, in Marseilles, are comparatively drab. Moving through the chiaroscuro, Louise Brooks, with her straight back and strong shoulders, seems to have her own form of sexuality--preconscious yet intuitively all-knowing. She's like a cool, beautiful, innocently deadly cat that people can't keep their hands off. With Fritz Kortner as Dr. Schön, Francis Lederer as his son, Alice Roberts as the lesbian Countess Geschwitz, and Gustav Diessl as Jack the Ripper. Adaptation by Ladislaus Vajda. The German censors made extensive cuts in the film (Brooks indicated that they cut about 15 minutes); a reconstituted version was assembled a half-century later. (The Wedekind material was first filmed in 1919 with Asta Nielsen; the most recent version was probably the 1962 LULU with Nadja Tiller.) Silent.

Panic

France (1947): Thriller/Crime
100 min, No rating, Black & White

Julien Duvivier's psychological thriller is a devastatingly effective job of visual storytelling. Michel Simon is the stranger in a Paris suburb who is framed for murder; Viviane Romance and her lover, Paul Bernard, are the ones who frame him. The sordid, intriguingly nasty movie--taken, inevitably, from a Simenon novel--has some pretensions toward being a parable of sadistic injustice; on that level, it can't be taken very seriously. But in terms of how the sequences are planned, and how they build, it's an unusual, near-perfect piece of film craftsmanship. In French.

The Panic in Needle Park

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

Boy (Al Pacino) meets girl (Kitty Winn), but he is a heroin addict and she becomes one. The New York-set movie doesn't tell you much you don't know. Worthy, but a drag--despite the many incidents, it feels undramatic. It shows a lot of care, though. It has an authentic look and a thoughtfully selected cast that includes Richard Bright, Alan Vint, Kiel Martin, Michael McClanathan, Raul Julia, Warren Finnerty, Paul Sorvino, Sully Boyar, and Joe Santos. Directed by Jerry Schatzberg, from the script by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, based on a novel by James Mills. Cinematography by Adam Holender; produced by Dominick Dunne. 20th Century-Fox.

Panic in the Streets

US (1950): Drama
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Elia Kazan took a fairly conventional thriller script and made a tense, high-powered movie of it. Seeing this film, one wouldn't know that he had ever worked in the theatre: everything is kept moving, in a feverish, seething way, yet the performances are never sacrificed to the action. The setting is the New Orleans waterfront; a murder victim is discovered to be carrying plague, and a Public Health doctor (Richard Widmark) and a city detective (Paul Douglas) hunt for everybody who came into contact with him. Mean Jack Palance (then billed as Walter Jack Palance) and frightened, sweaty Zero Mostel are the thugs they're after. With Barbara Bel Geddes, who is exceedingly likable as Widmark's wife, Tommy Rettig as their son, and Alexis Minotis. The writers involved were Richard Murphy, Edward and Edna Anhalt, and Daniel Fuchs; Joe MacDonald shot the picture in and on actual bars and wharfs. 20th Century-Fox.

The Paper Chase

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

Blurry Timothy Bottoms, who looks like a romantic anarchist who has lost his bombs, as a first-year law student at Harvard, and John Houseman as the professor he idolizes. Bottoms meets the professor's daughter (Lindsay Wagner), who's derisive about everything, and he becomes confused about why he's studying. The picture, written and directed by James Bridges, tries to be thoughtful and provocative, but it has nothing to say. Houseman shines because he's the only one who suggests that he was formed by experience. He brings it his air of eminence, and the film led to a TV series featuring him. Cinematography by Gordon Willis; music by John Williams; based on a novel by John Jay Osborn, Jr. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Paperback Hero

Canada (1973): Drama
94 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

There is an idea behind this Canadian film, set in Saskatchewan: it's an attempt to show how a small-town hockey hero and womanizing brawler (Keir Dullea) is destroyed by his fantasy that he's a mythic hero figure as big as the hero of "Gunsmoke." And the Western Canadian prairie country is an unusual locale. But the film is feebly written, and the director, Peter Pearson, can't do anything with the scenes involving a college girl (Dayle Haddon) who speaks what are clearly meant to be bitter truths. The film was very successful in Canada, where its view of prairie life and of living on American fantasies probably strikes nerves. Here, the film's intentions look wobbly: for example, Pearson's periodic reliance on cut-in reaction shots of the townspeople is an amateurish embarrassment. The film also makes passes at the soft-core porno market in scenes between Dullea and Elizabeth Ashley (his long-suffering, still hopeful girlfriend), but though these scenes are fairly explicit they are so unerotic that it's difficult to know why they're there at all.

Papillon

US (1973): Prison
150 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A methodical, pointlessly gruelling movie in which Steve McQueen keeps trying to escape from Devil's Island and fellow-convict Dustin Hoffman keeps financing his attempts. There isn't a laugh in its 2 hours. The moviemakers have approached the subject of Papillon (a French safecracker who was sentenced to prison for life for killing a pimp and who, 30-odd years after he broke out, trumped up his adventures into a best-seller) as if they were making an important historical biography--about a pope, at the very least. The material has been treated not as if it were an escape story but as if it were the escape story. This is a movie Mount Rushmore, though it features only two heads. If ever there was a wrong actor for a man of great spirit, it's McQueen; as Robert Mitchum once remarked, "Steve doesn't bring too much to the party." He seems to inspire Hoffman to underplay, too. Theirs is the only emotional bond in the movie, and there's hardly any emotion in it. Directed by the immaculately literal-minded Franklin Schaffner; the script, by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple, Jr., is based on the book by Henri Charrière. With Anthony Zerbe and George Coulouris. Cinematography by Fred Koenekamp; music by Jerry Goldsmith. Allied Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Paradine Case

US (1948): Drama
116 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

There are few thrills in this big misconceived courtroom thriller, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and ornately produced by David O. Selznick. Talky and stiff, the film never finds the passionate tone that it needs. The story (taken from a Robert Hichens novel) is about a barrister (Gregory Peck) who louses up a murder case because he falls in love with the defendant, his mysterious client, Mrs. Paradine (Alida Valli). The judge is played by Charles Laughton, and Ethel Barrymore (looking very elegant) is his sensitive, mistreated wife. Also with Ann Todd, Louis Jourdan, Charles Coburn, Isobel Elsom, and Leo G. Carroll, who are mostly miserably miscast. The characters and their problems don't make much imprint on a viewer; if you can't remember whether you've seen the picture or not, chances are that you did and forgot it. The script was pinned on Alma Reville, but probably her husband (Alfred Hitchcock) and James Bridie and David O. Selznick himself also struggled with it. Cinematography by Lee Garmes; music by Franz Waxman. Selznick International.

Paramount on Parade

US (1930): Documentary
77 min, No rating, Black & White

A lavish "all-star" musical revue, directed by Dorothy Arzner, Ernst Lubitsch, Rowland V. Lee, Edward Sutherland, and others, and supervised by Elsie Janis. The numbers include Ruth Chatterton singing "My Marine" to a quartet that includes Fredric March; Clara Bow, with Jack Oakie and Skeets Gallagher, in "I'm True to the Navy Now;" Helen Kane as a schoolteacher singing "What Did Cleopatra Say?" to the children, who reply "Boop Boopa Doop;" Maurice Chevalier, with his practiced street-urchin charm (he was past 40, but he got by with it), doing a song number while surrounded by a troupe of girls also dressed urchin-style; William Powell as Philo Vance and Clive Brook as Sherlock Holmes in "Murder Will Out." Among the other stars are Nancy Carroll, Nino Martini, Jean Arthur, Gary Cooper, Fay Wray, Lillian Roth, Dennis King, Kay Francis, and Buddy Rogers. Shows like this, in which the studios showed off their contract players, were a form of institutional advertising that paid for itself. And these revues did actually reveal the distinctive tone and style of the studios--Paramount was the giddiest, the least self-serious.

Parents

US (1989): Horror/Comedy
82 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This first feature directed by the actor Bob Balaban is a stunning début, even though the story, which starts as a satiric comedy about the conformism of the Eisenhower 50s, lapses into gory horror-movie banality. The terrifyingly outsize Nick (Randy Quaid), a defoliation expert, and his adoring, obedient Lily (Mary Beth Hurt) are a lovely-dovey pair of married sweethearts. All's right with the world--a man's world--except for their miserable, finicky, little 10-year-old son (Bryan Madorsky), who won't eat his meat to grow up as big and strong as Daddy. He's a budding version of the counterculture hippies. The boy's scenes with Sandy Dennis, as the blowsy school psychologist, go into comedy heaven, and his moments with Juno Mills-Cockell, as his new school friend, are inexplicably flaky. The script is by Christopher Hawthorne; the art direction is by Andris Hausmanis. Vestron.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Paris Does Strange Things

France (1956): Drama
98 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Jean Renoir made this love-carnival film, set in France in the 1880s, in color and with an expensive international cast--Ingrid Bergman, Mel Ferrer, and Jean Marais. The first American audiences couldn't judge it properly, because it was released here in a botched, dubbed version called PARIS DOES STRANGE THINGS; Marais spoke in a gravelly baritone so far from his own voice that people laughed. Ferrer seemed weak even for Ferrer, and the picture had little besides Bergman's astonishing, ripe beauty to recommend it. The French version has considerably more, although it is far from a success. With Pierre Bertin, Elina Labourdette, Magali Noel, Jean Richard, and Juliette Greco. Cinematography by Claude Renoir; music by Joseph Kosma. In French.

Partner

Italy (1968): Drama
110 min, No rating, Color
Also known as IL SOSIA.

Two years before THE CONFORMIST, Bernardo Bertolucci made this inventive but bewildering political vaudeville--a modernization of Dostoevski's The Double, in which a young drama teacher (Pierre Clémenti) has fantasies of extending the theatre of cruelty into political revolution. Clémenti doesn't convey enough intellectuality for an audience to understand the character, who seems to be a comic-strip Artaud. Visually extraordinary, but the meaning appears to get lost in the vivid pop color, the daring tricks of style, and the profusion of great images--in one scene books are piled up in heaps on the floor of a room, like the Roman ruins outside. (It's the most Godardian of Bertolucci's films.) With Stefania Sandrelli, Tina Aumont, and Sergio Tofano. The script is by Bertolucci and Gianni Amico; cinematography by Ugo Piccone. There are versions in French and in Italian. CinemaScope.

The Party

US (1968): Comedy
99 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Peter Sellers plays a bungling actor from New Delhi who accidentally blows up an expensive Hollywood set. Intending to blacklist him, the studio head writes his name down on a slip of paper; a secretary assumes that the name is to be added to a party guest list, and so the actor arrives at the home of the studio head who wants to kill him. It's a promising beginning--too promising for what follows. Most of this Blake Edwards slapstick farce records the way the Indian innocently destroys the party, and it's too long for its one-note jokes, and often too obvious to be really funny. But it's agreeable in tone, though as it goes on, the gags don't have any particular connection with the touching, maddening Indian character that Sellers plays so wickedly well. With Claudine Longet, Marge Champion, Steve Franken, Gavin MacLeod, Buddy Lester, and Denny Miller; written by Edwards and Tom and Frank Waldman. United Artists.

Pass the Ammo

US (1988): Comedy
97 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Set in an Ozark community, this lampoon of television evangelists is a piece of rollicky backwoods Americana. It was shot in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where the civic auditorium was converted into the studios of the Tower of Bethlehem, a ministry that lays claim to an audience of 20 million people and is systematically bilking them. A young woman (Linda Kozlowski) from the hill country is trying to recover $50,000 that her family was stung for. Her fiancé (Bill Paxton) organizes what's meant to be a small, quiet robbery of the Tower's counting room but finds himself holding the congregation of a couple of thousand people hostage, and on satellite TV. The movie straggles a bit, but it has a klunky freshness, and it has a whole slew of terrifically talented actors: Tim Curry as the bratty con artist, the charismatic Reverend Ray Porter who dallies with the ladies of the choir; Annie Potts as his exhibitionist wife, Darla, who wiggles like the best cootch dancer in Heaven while delivering a sales pitch for expensive Bibles; Anthony Geary; Glenn Withrow; Dennis Burkley; Leland Crooke; and others. Directed by David Beaird, from a script by Neil Cohen and Joel Cohen (no relation). Cinematography by Mark Irwin.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

A Passage to India

UK (1984): Drama
163 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This admirable version of E.M. Forster's 1924 novel about the tragicomedy of British colonial rule was adapted, directed, and edited by David Lean, who knows how to do pomp and the moral hideousness of empire better than practically anybody else around. He enlarges the scale of Forster's irony, and the characters live in more sumptuous settings than we might have expected. But they do live. Ashcroft comes through with a transcendent piece of acting as Mrs. Moore, and Judy Davis is close to perfection as the repressed Miss Quested, who longs for adventure; they are the two women whose attempt to get to know the Indians socially results in a charge of attempted rape against Dr. Aziz, played by Victor Banerjee, a fine, fluid actor who's like a piece of erotic sculpture. If Lean's technique is to simplify and to spell everything out in block letters, this kind of clarity has its own formal strength. It may not be the highest praise to say that a movie is orderly and dignified or that it's like a well-cared-for, beautifully oiled machine, but of its kind this PASSAGE TO INDIA is awfully good, until the last half hour or so. Having built up to the courtroom drama, Lean isn't able to regain a narrative flow when it's over; the emotional focus is gone, and the concluding scenes wobble all over the place. With the exception of Alec Guinness (whose caricature of an inscrutable Brahmin is simply in the wrong movie), the cast is just about irreproachable. It includes James Fox as the dogged liberal Nigel Fielding and Nigel Havers as Ronny, and also Art Malik, Michael Culver, Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, and Sandra Hotz as Stella. Cinematography by Ernest Day; music by Maurice Jarre; production design by John Box. (2 hours and 43 minutes.) Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

The Passion of Joan of Arc

France (1928): Historical
77 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC.

One of the greatest of all movies. The director, Carl Dreyer, based the script on the trial records, and the testimony appears to be given for the first time. (Cocteau wrote that this film "seems like an historical document from an era in which the cinema didn't exist.") As the five gruelling cross-examinations follow each other, Dreyer turns the camera on the faces of Joan and the judges, and in giant closeups he reveals his interpretation of their emotions. In this enlargement Joan and her persecutors are shockingly fleshly--isolated with their sweat, warts, spittle, and tears, and (as no one used makeup) with startlingly individual contours, features, and skin. No other film has so subtly linked eroticism with religious persecution. Falconetti's Joan may be the finest performance ever recorded on film. With Silvain as Cauchon, Michel Simon, André Berley, Maurice Schutz, and the young Antonin Artaud--as Massieu he's the image of passionate idealism. The staging, and the cinematography by Rudolph Maté, are in a style that suggests the Stations of the Cross. The film is silent but as you often see the (French) words forming you may have the illusion that you've heard them.

Passport to Pimlico

UK (1949): Comedy
85 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

British comedy with a fine flavor and wonderful details, though the whimsey is rather self-congratulatory. An ancient royal charter ceding Pimlico to the Dukes of Burgundy is unearthed in a London shell hole, and the people of Pimlico are "just British enough to fight for our rights to be Burgundians." Margaret Rutherford is the historian who gives scholarly sanction to an independent Pimlico; Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne are the protocol-ridden bureaucrats trying to handle the crisis; Stanley Holloway and Hermione Baddeley are shopkeepers. The ingenious author, T.E.B. Clarke, got the idea from a wartime newspaper item: the Canadian government transferred title to the room in which the exiled Princess Juliana was about to bear a child to the Netherlands; in this way the child would technically be born on Dutch soil and thus be a legal heir to the throne. Henry Cornelius directed; music by Georges Auric. With Raymond Huntley, John Slater, Jane Hylton, and Sydney Tafler.

Pat and Mike

US (1952): Comedy
95 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play together so expertly that their previous films seem like warmups. The script, by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, isn't up to the best of ADAM'S RIB (1949), but the stars have achieved such teamwork that their sparring is more beautiful than punch lines. Hepburn plays a phenomenal all-around athlete, and in the course of the picture she takes on Gussie Moran, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and other professionals, touching off the comic possibilities in various sports with grace and ease. Tracy, who plays a sports promoter (with a streets-of-the-big-city accent--"cherce" for "choice") has a lighter, funnier tone than in the other Tracy-Hepburn pictures. With Aldo Ray as a sulky boxer, William Ching, Jim Backus, Phyllis Povah, Sammy White, Chuck Connors, Charles Bronson, and Don Budge. George Cukor directed--beautifully. It's as close to perfect as you'd want it to be. Produced by Lawrence Weingarten, for MGM.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

US (1973): Western
122 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Ambitious, erotic, peculiarly unrealized account of how Garrett (James Coburn) hunts down his best friend Billy (Kris Kristofferson), with Bob Dylan (who sings the score, written by him) appearing as a buddy of Billy's. Sam Peckinpah directed, from a screenplay by Rudolph Wurlitzer. With an amazing cast that includes Jason Robards, Katy Jurado, Rita Coolidge, Emilio Fernandez, Slim Pickens, Chill Wills, John Beck, Richard Jaeckel, Matt Clark, Richard Bright, Jack Elam, Harry Dean Stanton, John Davis Chandler, L.Q. Jones, Peckinpah, Wurlitzer, and Elisha Cook (Jr.). Probably nobody involved was very happy about the results; Dylan doesn't come off at all. MGM.

Pather Panchali

India (1955): Drama
112 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
(Variously translated as "Song of the Road," "The Lament of the Path," etc.)

This first film by the masterly Satyajit Ray-possibly the most unembarrassed and natural of directors-is a quiet reverie about the life of an impoverished Brahman family in a Bengali village. Beautiful, sometimes funny, and full of love, it brought a new vision of India to the screen. Though the central characters are the boy Apu (who is born near the beginning) and his mother and father and sister, the character who makes the strongest impression on you may be the ancient, parasitic, storytelling relative, played by the 80-year-old Chunibala, a performer who apparently enjoyed coming back into the limelight after 30 years of obscurity-her wages paid for the narcotics she used daily. As "auntie," she is so remarkably likable that you may find the relationship between her and the mother, who is trying to feed her children and worries about how much the old lady eats, very painful. Ray continued the story of Apu in APARAJITO/THE UNVANQUISHED and THE WORLD OF APU/APUR SANSAR, and the three films, all based on a novel by B.B. Bandapaddhay, became known as The Apu Trilogy. (Robin Wood's study, The Apu Trilogy, does the films justice.) Cinematography by Subrata Mitra; music by Ravi Shankar. In Bengali.

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