Tropic of Cancer

US (1970): Drama/Biography
87 min, Rated X, Color, Available on videocassette

A trivial but entertaining sex comedy derived from the Henry Miller novel about expatriates in Paris. This series of vignettes and fantasies, with bits of Miller's language rolling out, may be closer to Russ Meyer's THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS than to its source, but at least it isn't fusty. It makes you laugh. With Rip Torn, Ellen Burstyn, James Callahan, David Bauer, Magali Noel, and Ginette Leclerc. There's a glimpse of Henry Miller standing in front of a church. Directed by Joseph Strick; written by Strick and Betty Botley. (The story is updated.) Released by Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Trouble in Mind

US (1985): Romance/Crime
111 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Written and directed by the gifted high-flyer Alan Rudolph at his most art-conscious, this is a reworking of what he did much better in CHOOSE ME. The mixed-up lovers have been replaced by mixed-up gangsters, and what was comic and lyrical is now fatalistic. He's got the film noir bug, and the picture is a pile of poetic mush set in some doom-laden, vaguely universal city of the past and/or the future. (It was shot mostly in Seattle.) As Hawk, Kris Kristofferson is supposed to be the gallant Bogart hero living in an evil semi-fascist era. Joe Morton is a bitter, ironic crook called Solo who recites verses; Keith Carradine is a greedy young hood named Coop, who appears in a series of ever more gross and gooey pompadours--punk-fop styles, with matching cosmetic jobs and earrings; and the actor known as Divine plays Hilly Blue, an epicene gangster who's made up to look like a plump plucked chicken. Geneviève Bujold is Hawk's old flame Wanda, who runs the café where the gangsters plan their heists, and Lori Singer is Georgia, the country girl whom Coop brings into this moody stew. Rudolph probably aimed to create a glamorous, funky trance-world, but his control fails him; the scenes often start with a shimmer that makes you feel hopeful, but they become stagnant, and you have no way of knowing how to interpret the flossy hipster-philosopher babble that the characters speak. With John Considine (who's rather funny), Antonia Dauphin, George Kirby, and, in a bit, Allan Nicholls. The lushly beautiful cinematography is by Toyomichi Kurita; the score is by Mark Isham, with songs performed by Marianne Faithfull.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Trouble in Paradise

US (1932): Comedy
83 min, No rating, Black & White

Perhaps the most shimmering of the romantic comedy collaborations of the director Ernst Lubitsch and the writer Samson Raphaelson, this film is a make-believe world of the 30s preserved intact. Herbert Marshall is so adept at the silky tricks written into his lines that he creates a hushed atmosphere. He plays a career jewel thief and, as his partner, Miriam Hopkins, quick and darting, always has her feelers out, along with her kittenish claws. These two are accomplished seducers, and in this movie witty seduction is indistinguishable from love itself. Kay Francis is the wealthy widow whose face takes on a yearning expression once she sees Marshall; desire makes her warm and languid. The movie is full of suave maneuvers and magical switcheroos; in its light-as-a-feather way, it's perfection. With Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Greig, Leonid Kinskey, Luis Alberni, Nella Walker, and Tyler Brooke as the singing Venetian garbageman. Remotely based on a Hungarian play by Aladar Laszlo. Paramount.

The Truck

France (1977): Drama
No rating, Color
Also known as LE CAMION.

Marguerite Duras's control of film technique here suggests that she has become a master. But there's a joker in her mastery: though her moods and cadences and her rhythmic phrasing, with its emotional undertow, might seem ideally suited to the medium, they don't fulfill moviegoers' expectations. There are only two people in this film: Duras herself and Gérard Depardieu, and they sit at a round table in a room in her home, and never leave it. Serene, half-smiling, she reads aloud the script of a film in which Depardieu would act the role of a truck driver who picks up a woman hitchhiker. The film alternates between sequences in the room and sequences of a rolling truck, seen always at a distance. Each time Duras cuts from the room to the truck, we're drawn into the hypnotic flow of the road imagery--we half-dream our way into a "real" movie--and each time she pulls us back into the room we feel an emotional wrench, a rude awakening. Duras makes us aware of our mechanisms of response, and it's tonic and funny to feel the tensions she provokes. Her picture has been thought out with such supple discrimination between the values of sound and image that you could almost say it's perfectly made--an ornery, glimmering achievement. Cinematography by Bruno Nuytten. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

True Believer

US (1989): Mystery/Crime
103 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A nifty thriller--fast and tense--about a Manhattan lawyer (James Woods) who was a hero of the counterculture but is now defending drug dealers and getting paid in cash. When he's goaded by his new law associate (Robert Downey, Jr.) into taking on a murder case, his eyes widen at the bare possibility that the man he's defending might be innocent. The movie makes us share the lawyer's energy and charge as he investigates the crime. He doesn't want to sleep: he lives off the excitement of having a cause. It's a pick-me-up of a movie. Nothing great, nothing terribly distinctive, but the aliveness of the texture can quicken your senses and keep you fascinated. Directed by Joseph Ruben (DREAMSPACE, THE STEPFATHER), from a script by Wesley Strick. With Yuji Okumoto, Margaret Colin, Kurtwood Smith, Tom Bower, Luis Guzman, and Miguel Fernandes. The cinematography, by John W. Lindley, has a tabloid harshness, and the editing, by George Bowers, doesn't let you feel you're ahead of the story. (The interiors were shot in San Francisco and Oakland.) Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

True Confession

US (1937): Comedy
85 min, No rating, Black & White

It rarely turns up, though it's one of the most affable of Carole Lombard's screwball comedies. She plays an extravagant, compulsive liar--a young wife whose confession to a murder fools even her prim lawyer-husband (Fred MacMurray). John Barrymore, who had brought out Lombard's slapstick talent in TWENTIETH CENTURY, plays an eccentric, tippling criminologist and swipes the picture; "She'll fry," he chuckles to himself during her trial. The characters of the husband and wife are too simplified and their comic turns too forced, but the general giddiness and Barrymore keep the picture going. The director, Wesley Ruggles, was one of the original Keystone Cops; Claude Binyon adapted the play by Louis Verneuil and Georges Berr; cinematography by Ted Tetzlaff. With Una Merkel, Edgar Kennedy, Lynne Overman, Porter Hall, and Fritz Feld. Paramount.

True Confessions

US (1981): Crime
108 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The idea is to take the lovable Irish brothers of 30s movies--the cop and the priest--and turn them inside out. Robert Duvall plays an LA police detective who finds evidence linking his brother (Robert De Niro), a monsignor who is chancellor of the Los Angeles archdiocese, to corrupt business deals and, indirectly, to the murder of a hooker. Repelled by the hypocrisy, the detective brings his brother down. But the movie is in a stupor; everything is internalized. Duvall is locked in, and De Niro is in his chameleon trance--he seems flaccid, preoccupied. The director, Ulu Grosbard, dulls out the material, and the writers--John Gregory Dunne, who wrote the 1977 novel that the film is based on, and his wife, Joan Didion, who collaborated with him on the script--carry their hardboiled detective fiction to a virtually abstract level. You have to put up a struggle to get anything out of this picture. What we need to know--what the movie is supposed to be about--is what the brothers are mulling over on their silent, troubled walks alone and together (and still alone). With Kenneth McMillan, who gives the only performance with any juice in it, and Charles Durning, Ed Flanders, Burgess Meredith, Cyril Cusack, Rose Gregorio, Jeanette Nolan, and Louisa Moritz. Produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, for United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

True Heart Susie

US (1919): Comedy
87 min, No rating, Black & White

A lovely, simple pastoral romance--one of the most charming of all D.W. Griffith films. Close to perfection, on a small scale. Lillian Gish is Susie, Robert Harron is William, and Clarine Seymour is Bettina, William's pleasure-loving bride, who sneaks out to a party and can't get back into her house. Scott Fitzgerald must have seen this film before he wrote "Babylon Revisited." Silent.

True Stories

US (1986): Comedy
111 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This first feature directed by David Byrne, of Talking Heads, is laid out like a musical-comedy documentary about a town, except that the town--Virgil, Texas--is imaginary. Byrne, the narrator and observer, introduces us to the townspeople, who are about to take part in the pageantry of the Texas Sesquicentennial with their own "Celebration of Specialness." Byrne is looking for a true mythic image of America; Virgil is Our Town, it's Anytown, U.S.A., and the movie is about banality and eccentricity and consumerism--it's about the manners and mores of the shopping mall, where fashion shows are staged and miming contests are held to see who is best at lip-synching to records. In his polite, formal, and slightly ghostly matter-of-fact way, Byrne is trying for something large scale: a postmodern NASHVILLE. Byrne sets up the material for satirical sequences, yet he doesn't give it a subversive spin. His unacknowledged satire is like a soufflé that was never meant to rise. But, working with the crack cinematographer Ed Lachman, Byrne shows a respect for pared-down plainness, and after a rather shaky opening the characters themselves begin to engage us--especially John Goodman as the big, friendly bachelor with a "Wife Wanted" sign on his lawn, who gets to sing the film's anthem, "People Like Us." Jo Harvey Allen is terrific as a crackpot liar, and Tito Larriva's high-speed dancing has a comic dazzle. Singing "Papa Legba," Roebuck ("Pops") Staples has a juicy richness about him; when he's onscreen a viewer can be completely happy. Also with Swoosie Kurtz, Spalding Gray, Annie McEnroe, and Alix Elias. The nine songs by Byrne are conceived as rock or country, Tex-Mex or gospel, depending on which character sings them. The Heads provide the instrumental work, and can be heard now and then on the words; it's their voices that the lip-synchers weave and sway to. The script is by Byrne, Beth Henley, and Stephen Tobolowsky. An Edward R. Pressman Production, released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Truth About Women

UK (1958): Comedy
98 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

This English comedy was directed by Muriel Box, who also wrote it, with Sydney Box; it wobbles in both departments. You may long to sit back and look at many of your favorite actors and actresses, sumptuously costumed by Cecil Beaton, as they act out a series of anecdotes about ladies and love, but the picture is deadly. With Julie Harris, Diane Cilento, Mai Zetterling, Eva Gabor, Catherine Boyl, Jackie Lane, Elina Labourdette, and Ambrosine Philpotts (as the mother in ROOM AT THE TOP she delivered a remark that she is peculiarly fitted to deliver: "Where do some of these people get their names?"), and Laurence Harvey, Christopher Lee, Roland Culver, Marius Goring, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Michael Denison, Derek Farr, Griffith Jones, and the irreplaceable Ernest Thesiger. It's amazing that with all those talented people nothing happens on the screen. Cinematography by Otto Heller.

Tunes of Glory

UK (1960): Drama
106 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An English film starring Guinness and John Mills as two colonels in a peacetime Scottish regiment who are out to destroy each other. There are times when the two virtuoso performances are completely overpowered by the clumsy staging, but the acting and the unusual theme help to compensate for the muddy exposition and mediocre film techniques. It's an ugly-looking movie, though. Ronald Neame directed, from James Kennaway's script, based on his own novel. With Susannah York, Kay Walsh, Dennis Price, Gordon Jackson, Duncan Macrae, and John Fraser.

The Turning Point

US (1977): Dance
119 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

This is a 40s women's picture (like OLD ACQUAINTANCE, in which a noble Bette Davis and a catty Miriam Hopkins played scrapping lifelong friends) transferred to a backstage-ballet milieu, with Anne Bancroft as a gallant, aging ballerina and Shirley MacLaine as her friend and rival, who quit to raise a family. The script is by Arthur Laurents, who writes sodden expository dialogue in which these two are forever revealing truths to each other. We get a glimpse of something great in the movie--Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing--and these two harpies out of the soaps block the view. In his screen acting début, Baryshnikov plays a Russian dancer with whom MacLaine's young aspiring-ballerina daughter (Leslie Browne) falls in love; this swoony romance helped to make the film a box-office hit. Herbert Ross directed, unexcitingly; there's no visual sweep, no lift. The effort here is to domesticate ballet--to remove the taint of European decadence; most of the characters are so heartland ordinary that they disinfect one's imagination. With Tom Skerritt, Alexandra Danilova, Anthony Zerbe, Martha Scott, Lisa Lucas, Phillip Saunders, James Mitchell, Marshall Thompson, Daniel Levans, Starr Danias, and Suzanne Farrell, Peter Martins, Antoinette Sibley, Marcia Haydée, Richard Cragun, Lucette Aldous, Martine Van Hamel, and other dancers. Nora Kaye was the executive producer; Robert Surtees was the cinematographer. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Turtle Diary

UK (1985): Drama/Comedy
97 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley play the two Londoners who separately develop the fantasy of liberating the three giant turtles from the Aquarium at the London Zoo and taking them back to the sea. John Irvin directed this low key, fastidious version of the 1975 Russell Hoban novel (a counterculture fable), from a script by Harold Pinter. It's like a BRIEF ENCOUNTER between turtles; the two strangers come out of their shells a bit, but not with each other. Jackson and Kingsley give their lines an especially tight-lipped, staccato reading; these two are so private and tense and minimalist that it's amusing to see how they vary their performances enough to keep going. They manage to give the middle of the movie--the weekend drive to the coast with the turtles--a balmy comic spirit of adventure. But the picture verges on the deliberately quaint, and the story has been given the same maudlin orchestration as in the novel; it's full of sad and lonely people reaching out. The awful artfulness of this stuff! With Michael Gambon, Jeroen Krabbé, Harriet Walter, Richard Johnson, Rosemary Leach, Eleanor Bron, and Pinter, in a bit in a bookstore. Cinematography by Peter Hannan. Released by the Samuel Goldwyn Company.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Twelfth Night

USSR (1956): Comedy
54 min, No rating, Color

The Russians sometimes bring an epic sweep to Shakespeare's tragedies, but the comedies don't fare too well. This attempt, in color, to capture the charm and delight of Shakespeare's Illyria gets heavily frolicsome, and the whole crew of dukes, clowns, and countesses who are entangled in his folly of mistaken sex and identity look a little overweight. The picture isn't terrible, just very literal-minded. Klara Luchko plays Viola-Cesario; Yakov Fried directed. In Russian.

The Twelve Chairs

US (1970): Comedy
94 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Mel Brooks, who wrote and directed this comedy-fable, has given himself only a small role at the beginning, and the picture never quite recovers from the loss of him. The plot, which is about three men hunting for a fortune stuffed into one of 12 chairs, is set in prerevolutionary Russia. This gives Brooks an opportunity to show his affection for the innocent nuttiness of earlier periods-such as burlesque and the mad Russian accents of early radio-but, gifted as he is, he still doesn't go beyond gag comedy. The exteriors, which were shot in Yugoslavia, have a sprightly, picturesque Grandma Moses atmosphere; the whole enterprise is a little forlorn, though. Not bad, really-just so-so. The three leads are Ron Moody, who has a great moment toward the end clutching a piece of chair; Dom De Luise; and Frank Langella, who comes across as supercilious in the witlessly written role of the handsome juvenile. Based on the same Ilf and Petrov novel as the 1945 Fred Allen picture IT'S IN THE BAG. Produced by Michael Hertzberg.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

The Twelve Chairs

US (1970): Comedy
94 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Mel Brooks, who wrote and directed this comedy-fable, has given himself only a small role at the beginning, and the picture never quite recovers from the loss of him. The plot, which is about three men hunting for a fortune stuffed into one of 12 chairs, is set in prerevolutionary Russia. This gives Brooks an opportunity to show his affection for the innocent nuttiness of earlier periods-such as burlesque and the mad Russian accents of early radio-but, gifted as he is, he still doesn't go beyond gag comedy. The exteriors, which were shot in Yugoslavia, have a sprightly, picturesque Grandma Moses atmosphere; the whole enterprise is a little forlorn, though. Not bad, really-just so-so. The three leads are Ron Moody, who has a great moment toward the end clutching a piece of chair; Dom De Luise; and Frank Langella, who comes across as supercilious in the witlessly written role of the handsome juvenile. Based on the same Ilf and Petrov novel as the 1945 Fred Allen picture IT'S IN THE BAG. Produced by Michael Hertzberg.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Twice in a Lifetime

US (1985): Drama
111 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This miracle of psychobanality presents the basic story of a long-married middle-aged man (Gene Hackman, as a Seattle steelworker) who experiences a renewal of vitality when he has an affair with a younger woman (Ann-Margret), but the story is now so dressed up in the language of self-help books that the man is a life-affirming force--and not only for himself but also for his wife of 30 years (Ellen Burstyn), whom he leaves. The movie could be every errant husband's self-justifying fantasy. (And the way Burstyn overacts, a man would have to be a saint to have stayed with her so long.) Directed by Bud Yorkin, from a script by Colin Welland, the picture is like a sermon on the therapeutic value of adultery, divorce, and remarriage, given by a minister who learned all he knows from watching TV. As Hackman's intensely angry daughter, Amy Madigan brings a spark of fierceness to her performance, and a comic flair. Also with Brian Dennehy, Ally Sheedy, Stephen Lang, and Darrell Larson. Bud Yorkin Productions.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Twilight Zone-The Movie

US (1983): Science Fiction/Horror
102 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Four young directors--John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and the Australian George Miller (who made THE ROAD WARRIOR)--pay homage to the Rod Serling TV series "Twilight Zone." It's disappointing that they didn't attempt to engineer more modern and artful macabre games than the ones on the old shows; what they've given us is an overproduced remake, but with some redeeming elements. The prologue, written and directed by John Landis, and featuring Dan Aykroyd as a hitchhiker and Albert Brooks as a driver, is a beauty, but the happy rush of fright we get from it has to sustain us for a long stretch, because the first two episodes are embarrassments. The first (by Landis) is a painfully blunt sermon on the evils of racism and prejudice, starring Vic Morrow, who, along with two Vietnamese-American children, was killed in a helicopter accident during the filming; it's like an unconscious parody of the old shows, and its straightness is a deadweight on the viewer's head. The second, a lump of ironclad whimsey directed by Spielberg, is about how a group of people in a home for the aged have their minds magically refreshed; it's coy and twinkling, with gloppy rich music--it's horribly slick. The third, directed by Joe Dante, is a risky attempt at using a style derived from animated cartoons for an insidious, expressionist effect; it has an insane atmosphere--it's eccentric and unsettling, with startling good things in it. (Among them is the alert, graceful Kathleen Quinlan as a strong-willed schoolteacher.) The subject--how horrible life might be if a 10-year-old boy (Jeremy Licht) could run everything just as he liked, on the basis of what he has learned from TV--may be too fertile for the half-hour form. There are also too many different kinds of spookiness and parody buzzing around in the material. For those people in the audience whose childhood included a TV set that was always going, this half hour may reawaken all sorts of childhood feelings. But even for them it's probably better when they think it over than when they're watching it. The fourth episode, directed by Miller, from a script by Richard Matheson, is the best reason to see the movie; it's a classic shocker of the short form. Almost all the action takes place in the confines of an airliner during a storm, where a passenger, played by John Lithgow, is seated, squirming and thrashing about, sick with fear. The whole episode is about this one passenger's freaking out. Miller builds the kind of immediacy and intensity that the high points of JAWS had. The images rush at you; they're fast and energizing. And Lithgow does something that's tough for an actor to do: he shows fear without parodying it and yet makes it horrifyingly funny. With his white face all scrunched up, and anxiety burning out his brain, he takes us with him every step of the way, from simple fear to dementia to stupor. This episode is a comic orgy of terror. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Twilight's Last Gleaming

Germany-US (1977): Thriller/Drama
146 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A suspense melodrama, set in 1981, about a U.S. Air Force general (Burt Lancaster) who, because of his anti-Vietnam war attitudes, is framed on a murder charge and sent to prison. He breaks out, takes control of a nuclear-missile site, and threatens to send out nine missiles and start a nuclear war if the President (Charles Durning) and the Joint Chiefs don't make public disclosure of the secret goals of the war. The action built up in the first hour has some urgency, but when the director, Robert Aldrich, gets to the serious message part--when the President and his advisers discuss the general's demands--it falls apart, and drags on and on. The screenplay by Ronald M. Cohen and Edward Huebsch is a mixture of tacky cynicism and political naïveté--it suggests an overextended episode of a TV series, and the attempts at wit are pathetically gross. With Paul Winfield, Richard Widmark, Burt Young, Melvyn Douglas, Roscoe Lee Browne, Joseph Cotten, William Marshall, and Richard Jaeckel. Released by Allied Artists.

Two Cents Worth of Hope

Italy (1952): Comedy
98 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as DUE SOLDI DI SPERANZA.

Love laughs in the face of disaster in Renato Castellani's neo-realist account of the abysmally poor on the slopes of Vesuvius. The hero comes back from army service to a series of frustrations--his sisters are hungry, his mother is a thieving busybody, he can't hold a job, and his overenthusiastic tigress of a girl causes no end of trouble. He works as a chauffeur and as a sexton, he sells lemonade, he sells his blood. When he marries his girl they have literally nothing but 2 cents worth of hope, yet it seems more than enough to live on. Castellani, who wrote the script with Titina de Filippo, is said to have been told the story by Vincenzo Musolino, who plays the hero, and most of the roles are played by nonprofessionals from the lice-ridden area that the movie was shot in. Surprisingly it has a picaresque charm--the lives here have gone past tragedy into black comedy. Some of the episodes, including one set in a shabby Naples movie theatre, have a believable everyday craziness about them. With Maria Fiore as the tigress. In Italian.

Two Daughters

India (1961): Drama/Comedy
114 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as TEEN KANYA.

Originally the film had three stories and was called THREE DAUGHTERS. Satyajit Ray at his most splendid in two short-story films based on works by Rabindranath Tagore. The first, "The Postmaster"--a story of betrayal--is a pure and simple small masterpiece; the second, "The Conclusion," has some memorable scenes, beauty, and wit but also has some defects of rhythm, so it is merely wonderful--and a little wearying. In Bengali.

Two English Girls

France (1972): Drama
108 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as LES DEUX ANGLAISES ET LE CONTINENT.

François Truffaut tries for gaiety and gentleness and charm in this adaptation of the only other novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, the author of Jules and Jim, but everything is muffled, almost repressed. The story is about the messed-up lives of two English sisters who love the same man--a Frenchman (Jean-Pierre Léaud, badly miscast). The picture is uncomfortable and, when it's over, unresolved yet emotionally affecting. A bewilderingly sad movie. With Kika Markham as Anne, the emerging independent bohemian, and Stacey Tendeter as Muriel, the rigidly--exhaustingly--high-principled virgin, and Philippe Léotard and Sylvia Marriott. Script by Truffaut and Jean Gruault; cinematography by Nestor Almendros; music by Georges Delerue (who appears as the Frenchman's business agent). In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Two for the Road

UK (1967): Drama/Comedy
112 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Other films by the director, Stanley Donen, are not so edgy. It's the self-consciously witty English script-writer, Frederic Raphael, who set his brittle stamp on this story of a husband and wife--Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn--seen on European trips at different periods of their lives, not consecutively but shifting back and forth. The intention is to show a modern marriage in which ideal people, in love, and successful, are still not happy. Yet there's always a swimming pool for the characters to take their pratfalls in. Raphael is too much in love with old-movie comedy romances: he puts in tedious running jokes, such as the wife's forever turning up with the passport the husband loses. And at the same time the film is trying for a bitter comment on modern marital ennui, of the LA NOTTE variety. The facile, comic bits set off audience expectations that are then betrayed, and the clever, bitter stuff just seems sour. Still, at times Hepburn is surpassingly beautiful--particularly at the end, when she's meant to be roughly the age she actually is, and her hard, lacquered mini-face is set off by a shining-disk gown. As the husband, Finney seems surly and beefy and rather infantile--which makes Hepburn look all the more gallant and poignant when the wife tries to make the best of things. The caricatures of Americans, played by William Daniels and Eleanor Bron, which would be embarrassingly overdone at 50 yards, are in closeup. With Jacqueline Bisset, Claude Dauphin, and Nadia Gray. Cinematography by Christopher Challis. 20th Century-Fox.

The Two Jakes

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

Directed by and starring Jack Nicholson, this sequel to CHINATOWN (1974) begins absorbingly, with hard-edged dialogue and muffled echoes of the earlier film. Nicholson's Jake Gittes, the private detective specializing in divorce, takes on a client, Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel), a budding real-estate developer, and finds himself caught up in a murder case that somehow involves Katherine Mulwray, the daughter of Evelyn Mulwray, the Faye Dunaway character he loved in CHINATOWN. But when we've got the setup clear in our heads and expect the movie to rouse itself, to develop a present tense and get going, it remains airless and murky. It proceeds phlegmatically, bringing in more and more characters and complications, and losing us. We don't get the film noir thrill of mystery and resolution. By the time the plot comes together (more or less), we're benumbed. As the director, Nicholson doesn't give the characters any snap and he doesn't build the scenes; it's as if he were scratching his head each time the camera got turned on. As Gittes he wears a bitter half-smile and gives a groggy performance. It's a spiritless movie, dark and mannered. There are good people in the cast--Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe, Rubén Blades, Frederic Forrest, Eli Wallach, David Keith, Joe Mantell, Richard Farnsworth--but they're emotionally distanced from us, and they don't seem to matter. The script (though not the narration) is mostly by Robert Towne; the cinematography is by Vilmos Zsigmond. Paramount.

Two Men and a Wardrobe

US (1958): Comedy
19 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as DWAJ LUDZIE Z SZAFA.

Roman Polanski's 15-minute fable about nonconformity, made when he was still a student at the Lodz film school. At the start two men emerge from the sea with a wardrobe. It's a huge wardrobe; it won't fit in anywhere, and the men won't relinquish it. They try to do the ordinary things that men do in a city--eat, travel about, find lodgings--and they are mistreated, kicked, and beaten. They carry their wardrobe back into the sea. This is the sort of screen comedy Kafka might have written. The feeling is both fantastic and logical, and the film is rounded--it's complete, in a classic way.

Two People

US (1973): Romance
100 min, Rated R, Color

Peter Fonda and Lindsay Wagner are lovers who meet in Marrakesh and take the train to Casablanca. He's an American who deserted in Vietnam and has finally decided to go home and serve his prison sentence; she's a successful model. The picture is meant to be a sensitive modern romance and the director, Robert Wise, tries to simulate spontaneity and improvisation and a documentary surface. But it's all dead smooth--impersonal, inexpressive, and without interest, except for the handsome travelogue footage of Morocco shot by Henri Decaë. Though Fonda's acting is well-controlled here, he doesn't have a core of tension; something in him is still asleep and perhaps always will be--he's the Richard Carlson or David Manners of the 70s. With Estelle Parsons, Frances Sternhagen, Geoffrey Horne, and Alan Fudge. From a painstaking, lethally bland script by Richard De Roy. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Two Rode Together

US (1961): Western
109 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A disorienting cynical, tragicomic Western by John Ford, in which the hero, played by James Stewart, is a mercenary sheriff. This sheriff and an Army officer (Richard Widmark) go off to rescue some white captives of the Comanches; the captives, it turns out, might be better off left where they are. From a script by Frank Nugent, based on Will Cook's novel Comanche Captives, this reworking of some of the themes of THE SEARCHERS doesn't engage the audience. With Shirley Jones, Linda Cristal, Anna Lee, Andy Devine, Jeanette Nolan, Woody Strode, and Ted Knight. Columbia.

Two Weeks in Another Town

US (1962): Drama
107 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The producer, John Houseman; the director, Vincente Minnelli; the screenwriter, Charles Schnee; the composer, David Raksin; and the star, Kirk Douglas, had all worked together 10 years before on THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, a flashy hit movie about Hollywood moviemaking. This time they give us an oversophisticated, overheated view of Hollywood has-beens gathered in Rome, trying to make a comeback. Gnashing his teeth and twitching, Kirk Douglas plays a self-destructive former star who cracked up and was institutionalized for three years; Cyd Charisse (spangled by Pierre Balmain) is his nymphomaniac ex-wife; Edward G. Robinson is the cynical famous director he used to work with-now the director is down on his luck, too. All the characters are seen at a time of extreme strain and extravagant disorder. They drive maniacally and do mean things to each other; they also take part in orgies designed to outdo LA DOLCE VITA. And at one point they run excerpts from THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, which is discussed as a model of creative moviemaking; the scenes show Lana Turner having hysterics and her performance is described-with awe-as an example of great screen acting. Hysteria is predominant in TWO WEEKS, and it takes a peculiarly pictorial form-the stylized compositions, the sumptuous gorgeousness, the decorator delights run away with the movie. The dialogue has its own foolish swank: on a beach where, presumably, people speak the truth, the young "fresh" heroine (Daliah Lavi) asks Douglas what he was like when he was a star. "Lonely," he answers. "So famous and alone?" she queries. He replies, "Everybody's alone. Actors more so." And she asks, "Why would anyone want to be an actor?" Douglas responds with a straight face, "That's a good question. To hide from the world. What's the audience doing there but hiding … trading their problems for mine on the screen." And how do we know that this girl is really as sweet and sympathetic as she looks? When Douglas kisses her, she touches the scar on his face, thus demonstrating that it is the hurt man rather than the famous man that she cares about. In the circumstances, Douglas and Robinson do surprisingly good work. With George Hamilton as a sulky new star, and Claire Trevor, James Gregory, Rosanna Schiaffino, Erich von Stroheim, Jr., George Macready, and Leslie Uggams as a chanteuse. The picture was an almost total box-office failure. Adapted from the novel by Irwin Shaw. Cinematography by Milton Krasner. MGM. CinemaScope.

Two Women

Italy (1961): War/Drama
99 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as LA CIOCIARA.

There isn't much conviction in this movie. It's a commercial, warmed-over Vittorio De Sica-Cesare Zavattini collaboration, but probably more people went to see it than ever went to see their finest films--SHOESHINE, MIRACLE IN MILAN, or UMBERTO D.--OR even their most famous one, THE BICYCLE THIEF. The chief attraction here is Sophia Loren, deglamourized, playing an Anna Magnani role--a woman in wartime who can't save herself or her daughter from rape. There's nothing to mark the picture as a work by De Sica, except perhaps that this man so gifted at calling up great performances from nonprofessionals has worked his magic and almost made Loren appear to be a great professional. The film scholar Mira Liehm has suggested that "the film became what THE BICYCLE THIEF might have become if Cary Grant had played the role of the unemployed Roman worker." The Nazis, the Russians, and the Moors all seem to be planted for the sake of the plot; Loren's lusty affair with Raf Vallone is coy; the intellectual played by Jean-Paul Belmondo is a tired conception; and the daughter (Eleanora Brown) is written to be pale and standard. Based on a novel by Alberto Moravia. Academy Award for Best Actress (Loren). In Italian.

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