France-Germany-Mexico (1983): Fantasy
103 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Moderately amusing in the surreal-picaresque mode, it was written by Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez but seems more like the work of someone faking Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez. The Brazilian director Ruy Guerra seems too earnest for the task at hand; he puts the Garc�a M�rquez touches in place, but they have no hallucinatory tingle-the only resonance they have is that they remind us of Garc�a M�rquez's other writing. A mad old witch (Irene Papas) forces her virginal 14-year-old granddaughter Er�ndira (Claudia Ohana) to work for her as a whore. Dressed in the ensembles of a regal ragpicker, the witch is carried in a sedan chair as she and Er�ndira travel through the desert (the film was made in Mexico), setting up shop wherever they go. And before long the witch is festooned in gold ingots. Little Claudia Ohana is lovely, and the scene of Er�ndira's sexual initiation-by rape-is affecting in a semi-prurient way. And Papas is marvelous; she isn't fake anything-she's an original. The old bawd blows out the candles on her birthday cake in one quick, impatient gust, sinks her hand into the cake (which is full of rat poison), eats it gluttonously, and burps with pleasure. Roaring with laughter and giggling on top of it, she survives one attempt on her life after another. Papas's merriment is gargantuan. With Michel Lonsdale, Rufus, Pierre Vaneck, and Oliver Wehe as the duped angel. A Mexican-French co-production. In Spanish.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


US (1940): Crime
104 min, No rating, Black & White

An utterly unconvincing anti-Nazi picture starring Norma Shearer and Robert Taylor. He plays the American-born son of an imprisoned German woman (Alla Nazimova, implausible as a German but a pleasure to see in any role). The director, Mervyn LeRoy, takes forever to set up the maneuvers by which Taylor rescues his mother, and the villain, Conrad Veidt, is so much more attractive than the hero that the whole thing turns into a feeble, overproduced joke. With Philip Dorn, Bonita Granville, Albert Basserman, and Felix Bressart. For the script, Arch Oboler and Marguerite Roberts are the culprits; Ethel Vance wrote the novel. MGM.

The Escape Artist

US (1982): Drama
96 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

The husky-voiced Griffin O'Neal is a great-looking gamin daredevil as Danny, the teenage magician, who believes that his dead father was "the greatest escape artist in the world, after Houdini." The setting is a small Midwestern city (the exteriors are Cleveland) in an indeterminate time in the past. And, with the young director Caleb Deschanel guiding him, O'Neal lets you see the calculations that are going on in Danny's mind as he attempts to perform the tricks that his father did-even the one that may have caused his father's death. But the movie seems to lose its way when Raul Julia turns up as the half-mad son of the crooked Mayor (the senior Desi Arnaz), and the plot begins to revolve around the Mayor's stolen wallet, which contains graft money. (The narrative slackens even though Julia and Arnaz are quite funny together.) There are lapses in the continuity, and the picture is pushed toward a ready-made, theatre-of-the-absurd melodrama-the kind of instant fantasy that filled ONE FROM THE HEART. With Jackie Coogan as the owner of a magic shop, Elizabeth Daily as the girl Danny courts so that he can persuade her to be sawed in half, and Joan Hackett, Gabriel Dell, and Teri Garr. Script by Melissa Mathison and Stephen Zito, from David Wagoner's novel. A Zoetrope Studios Production; an Orion release through Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Eternal Husband

France (1946): Drama
90 min, No rating, Black & White

There were glimpses of Dostoevsky's complexity in Harry Baur's performance as Porfiry in the French CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (1935), in Peter Lorre's Raskolnikov in the American production, and in Edwige Feuill�re's role in THE IDIOT. But none of these films has ever communicated Dostoevsky in more than flashes. Maybe because it copes with a smaller work-a short novel-this movie is more sustained. (It lacks texture, though.) It was the last screen appearance of Raimu, for decades the tragicomic spirit of French films. His performance is a startling climax to his career: the warm, forgiving cuckold of THE BAKER'S WIFE is gone, and in his place is an icy, bitter cuckold. Raimu is Trusotsky, ridiculous on the surface, but spiritually dead-he hates the child he knows is not his own and hates the lover (Aim� Clariond) of his dead wife. It's a masterly performance. Directed by Pierre Billon. In French.

The Eternal Return

France (1943): Drama
100 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as L'ETERNEL RETOUR.

Jean Delannoy directed Jean Cocteau's modern-dress adaptation of the Tristan and Isolde legend. Jean Marais, in a celebrated medieval-looking pullover sweater, and the straight-silk-haired, snow-blond Madeleine Sologne are absurdly glamorous lovers; though the film has the decorative look of ballet and is heavy and stilted, they became the rage of Paris. With Yvonne de Bray and the dwarf Pi�ral. The cinematographer, Roger Hubert, does occasionally succeed in capturing a misty, mythic atmosphere, and Marais is accompanied by a great dog (his own). Music by Georges Auric. In French.

Evelyn Prentice

US (1934): Mystery
80 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

William Powell and Myrna Loy as husband and wife, but this isn't a comedy; it's a refined, high-minded courtroom drama. Powell is a prominent attorney, engrossed in his work. He becomes involved with a woman whom he has defended in a manslaughter case, and the neglected Myrna turns her attention to a poet who wanders by. How could she know that the poet's fancy would turn to thoughts of blackmail? The most solemnly awful portions of the movie take place in a nursery: between bouts of genteel adultery, Powell and Loy keep racing back to their infant's crib for a good cry. After the lawyer defends his wife on a murder charge, they forgive each other; by then you're forgiving no one. William Howard directed, from a screenplay by Lenore Coffee, based on a novel by W.E. Woodward. With Rosalind Russell, Una Merkel, Harvey Stephens, Edward Brophy, and Isabel Jewell. MGM.


UK (1934): Musical/Dance
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In the 30s, the English Jessie Matthews, with her big, rabbity smile, her satin pajamas, and her famous long-legged high kicks, was the closest female equivalent to Fred Astaire. Musical-comedy lovers used to dream of a pairing of the two, but, except for Rogers, he was likely to be stuck dragging girls like Joan Leslie through their paces, while Jessie Matthews stayed in England and had to carry her movies by solos, or by comic turns with Sonnie Hale. Here (with Sonnie Hale) she dances exquisitely in a classic British musical-i.e., charming but a little extended, and less snappy, noisy, and brash than American musicals of the same period. She plays a double role-mother and daughter. Victor Saville directed, from an often witty script by Emlyn Williams and Marjorie Gaffney, based on Benn W. Levy's play. The songs, including "Over My Shoulder Goes One Care" and "Dancing on the Ceiling," are by Rodgers and Hart, and Harry M. Woods. (Matthews had her greatest success in the stage version, which opened in London in 1930.)

Every Man for Himself

France-Switzerland (1980): Drama
87 min, No rating, Color
Also known as SAUVE QUI PEUT/LA VIE.

This picture, which Jean-Luc Godard calls his "second first film," was widely hailed as a return to his great, innovative work of the 60s. It's wonderful to feel the pull of Godard's images again, but the movie may also make you feel empty. The setting is a nameless Swiss city, where the lives of the three main characters are loosely intertwined-Jacques Dutronc is a video filmmaker, Nathalie Baye is the woman who is leaving him, and Isabelle Huppert is a practical-minded prostitute. It's about money and people selling themselves-their minds or their bodies. Godard's political extremism has been replaced by a broader extremism-total contempt, colored by masochism. He's saying, "Everything is for sale." It's simplistic cynicism, like that of the barroom pundit who tells you that every man has his price. The look of the picture isn't inhuman, even though what it's saying is; that's its poignancy. Godard shows us the soft shadings of what might have been. He also tickles the audience with a variety of jokes about the joylessness of sex, but he's too despairing to be really funny. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Every Man for Himself and God Against All

Germany (1975): Biography
110 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

The story of Kaspar Hauser, who appeared in a German town in the 1820s, is a factually based variant of the lost-or-abandoned-child, Mowgli-Tarzan myth; Kaspar wasn't raised among wolves, bears, or apes but, rather, in isolation. In this nightmare version, written and directed by Werner Herzog, Kaspar (Bruno S.) is a grunting lump of a man, chained in a dungeonlike cellar from infancy. Covered with sores and welts, unable to stand, he is fed by a black-caped man who beats him with a truncheon. One day, the man carries him to a town square and leaves him there. The townspeople train him in human habits and try to educate him, but as he begins to learn, he balks at what he is taught, and becomes obstinate, trying to retain his new, mesmerized pleasure in nature. Before the issues are resolved, he is struck down by the caped figure, who returns, first to maim him, then to murder him. The film is a double fable, intermingling the stultifying effects of bourgeois society and the cruelty of a demonic universe. Herzog achieves a visionary, overcast style; his images look off-balance, crooked, as if the cameraman were wincing. Herzog is a film poet, all right, but he's a didactic film poet, given to heavy, folk-art ironies; he says that society puts you through pain in order to deform you, and he makes it impossible for you to identify with anyone but Kaspar, who hasn't lost his innocent responses. The other people are alone, immobilized, unanimated; life is dormant in them. Though one could not fault this in a painter's vision, in a filmmaker's it is numbing. In Herzog's conception Kaspar is the only one who has still got his soul. This conception has a flower-child fashionableness, but Bruno S. (who was once believed to be a mental defective himself) is amazing. His Kaspar has sly, piggy eyes, yet he's so totally absorbed in experiencing nature, his head thrust out ecstatically, straining to grasp everything he was denied in his cave existence, that he becomes Promethean; the light dawning in that face makes him look like a peasant Beethoven. In German.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Every Night at Eight

US (1935): Musical/Comedy
81 min, No rating, Black & White

Moderately pleasant program picture from Paramount about a band-leader and three girl singers, with Alice Faye, Frances Langford, Patsy Kelly, and George Raft. (He was certainly a star, but why?) Unusually good songs, including "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "I Feel a Song Coming On," by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, and also the nifty torch song "Then You've Never Been Blue." Directed by Raoul Walsh, from the story "Three on a Mike," by Stanley Garvey, adapted by Gene Towne and Graham Baker. Also with Harry Barris, Herman Bing, and Walter Catlett. Produced by Walter Wanger.

Everybody Wins

US (1990): Mystery/Drama
98 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This Karel Reisz film noir, from an Arthur Miller screenplay, was opened without press screenings and was generally taken for a dud. It's reminiscent of well-constructed problem plays (it demonstrates that "the system" is corrupt), but it also has an idiosyncratic hallucinatory quality and wonderful performances. The setting is a (fictional) small, decaying industrial city in New England; a prominent doctor has been murdered and a young man has been convicted for the crime. Claiming that the youth is innocent and that "everybody" knows who the real killer is, a seductive sometime hooker named Angela (Debra Winger) persuades a private investigator, an outsider (played by Nick Nolte), to look into the case. The movie isn't about good triumphing over evil; it asks, What's going on? Why have the town officials conspired to convict the wrong man? The mood-swinging Angela is the chief mystery: What does she know? Why does she behave in such contradictory ways? Can anything she says be believed? Angela isn't a simple liar. She's something new in thrillers: a schizophrenic femme fatale, and Winger throws herself into the role and makes Angela's irrationality passionately real. You can see why the investigator becomes her lover and her patsy. Winger's Angela is soft and boneless and appealingly whory. (The director seems to let the actress set the film's rhythms.) Winger warms up her voice; it's less husky, more maternal. (There's no hype in her sexiness, and her switches of personality seem simply natural.) Nolte, playing a lapsed Catholic, has bangs, like a Richard Burton priest. Angela is as anxious and bewildering as Marilyn Monroe; the investigator, drawn into an erotic fantasy, always catches on to her emotions too late. For a brief period in the late 60s and early 70s, moviegoers seemed willing to be guided through a movie by their intuitions and imagination; if this slyly funny picture had been released then, it might have been considered a minor classic. (Arthur Miller put together his An Enemy of the People consciousness and his Marilyn Monroe problem.) With Kathleen Wilhoite as the stoned Amy and Frank Military as the imprisoned kid, and Judith Ivey, Frank Converse, Jack Warden, and Will Patton. The fresh-looking cinematography is by Ian Baker; Leon Redbone's singing on the investigator's tape deck gives the movie a shaggy, ironic framework. The exteriors were shot in Norwich, Connecticut. Orion
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.


UK (1981): Fantasy/Action
140 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

John Boorman's retelling of the Arthurian legends is a serious, R-rated fairy tale. Boorman plunges into the Dark Ages, smiting us with raging battles, balls of flame, mists of dragon's breath, knights with horns and tusks jutting out of their armored heads, and battle-axes that hack off limbs, which seem to ricochet off the armor. The dialogue is pedantic, we hardly have a chance to meet the characters before they're off and running, and the whole film is soaked in Jung, but it has its own crazy integrity. The imagery is impassioned and has a hypnotic quality. The film is like Flaubert's more exotic fantasies-one lush, enraptured scene after another. As Merlin, Nicol Williamson (who affects a touch of the Gaelic and makes wonderful lilting and growling sounds) is the presiding spirit; he stands in for Jung, and he informs us of the meaning of what we're seeing. The film spans three generations-first Uther Pendragon and his feuding with the other Celtic lords, then his son Arthur's reign with the Knights of the Round Table gathered at Camelot, and finally, the challenge to Arthur's power by his son, the demonic Mordred. The characters aren't scaled heroically enough for the myths built on their adventures, so we don't experience the elation that we have come to expect at the end of a heroic story, but the film gives us a different kind of elation. It's as if Boorman were guiding us down a magic corridor and kept parting the curtains in front of us. With Nigel Terry as Arthur, Paul Geoffrey as Perceval, Cherie Lunghi as hot little Guenevere, Helen Mirren as Morgana, and Nicholas Clay as Lancelot. Script by Rosco Pallenberg and Boorman; cinematography by Alex Thomson; production design by Anthony Pratt; Trevor Jones prepared the score (which uses themes from Richard Wagner and from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana") and conducted it. Made in Ireland. An Orion release, through Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Executive Action

US (1973): Political
91 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Feeble, insensitive fictionalization of how John F. Kennedy might have been the victim of a large-scale right-wing plot. It's a dodo-bird of a movie, the winner of the TORA! TORA! TORA! prize-in miniature. With matchlessly dull performances from a cast that includes Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer. The script by Dalton Trumbo is based on a story by Donald Freed and Mark Lane; directed by David Miller. National General.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Exile

US (1947): Drama
95 min, No rating, Black & White

The title is all too apropos: Max Oph�ls had many sad days in Hollywood, and this piece of costume theatrics, set in the period just before the reign of Charles II, filled a number of them. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was the producer, the writer, and the gymnastic star, and Maria Montez, Paule Croset, Henry Daniell, Robert Coote, and Nigel Bruce are in the cast. The cinematographer, Franz Planer, had worked with Oph�ls in happier times. From the novel His Majesty, the King, by Cosmo Hamilton. Universal.

The Exiles

US (1966): Documentary
72 min, No rating, Black & White

American Indians were granted citizenship in 1924, given civil rights in 1934. Since then many have left the reservations; dispersed, they are strangers-exiles-within the big American cities. It seems to be the same in each city: many of the Indians live "communally"-sponging off each other, drinking, brawling, working for a few days, perhaps committing petty thefts. And in each city there is a gathering place-a hill, a park, a beach, where, late at night, they gather to sing tribal songs, beat the drums, and dance. This documentary follows a group in Los Angeles through a day and a night of eating, drinking, and fighting, and to the hill where, high above the lights of the city, they sing and dance until dawn. The movie was made over a period of several years by a group of young U.S.C. film school graduates, headed by Kent Mackenzie; the group's convictions about moviemaking were strong enough to impress some two dozen people into financing it. The picture shows you things going on around you that you've been only dimly aware of, and it's made with skill and imagination. But it's very doubtful that the investors ever got their money back.

The Exorcist

US (1973): Horror
121 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The demonic possession of a child, treated with shallow seriousness. The picture is designed to scare people, and it does so by mechanical means: levitations, swivelling heads, vomit being spewed in people's faces. A viewer can become glumly anesthetized by the brackish color and the senseless ugliness of the conception. Neither the producer-writer, William Peter Blatty, nor the director, William Friedkin, shows any feeling for the little girl's helplessness and suffering, or for her mother's. It would be sheer insanity to take children. With Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller. A huge box-office success. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Exorcist II: The Heretic

US (1977): Horror
110 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Directed by John Boorman, this picture has a visionary crazy grandeur (like that of Fritz Lang's loony METROPOLIS). Some of its telepathic sequences are golden-toned and lyrical, and the film has a swirling, hallucinogenic, apocalyptic quality; it might have been a horror classic if it had had a simpler, less ritzy script. But, along with flying demons and theology inspired by Teilhard de Chardin, the movie has Richard Burton, with his precise diction, helplessly and inevitably turning his lines into camp, just as the cultivated, stage-trained actors in early-30s horror films did. Like them, Burton has no conviction in what he's doing, so he can't get beyond staginess and artificial phrasing. The film is too cadenced and exotic and too deliriously complicated to succeed with most audiences (and when it opened, there were accounts of people in theatres who threw things at the screen). But it's winged camp-a horror fairy tale gone wild, another in the long history of moviemakers' king-size follies. There's enough visual magic in it for a dozen good movies; what it lacks is judgment-the first casualty of the moviemaking obsession. With Linda Blair, four year older than in the first film and going into therapy because of her nightmares, Louise Fletcher as the therapist, and Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, Ned Beatty, Paul Henreid, and James Earl Jones as Pazuzu. The script is credited to William Goodhart; the cinematography is by William Fraker; the production designer was Richard MacDonald; the music is by Ennio Morricone. Warners.

Expresso Bongo

UK (1960): Musical
108 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

This very funny, very distinctive musical satire accepts its targets with good-natured incredulity. An English production, it opens with the camera roving around the teenage haunts and entertainment palaces of London. The film is written in a brash theatrical idiom with a Yiddish flavor; it's like the language in SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, but it's used much more affectionately. In A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS the writer Wolf Mankowitz performed the remarkable feat of turning a narcissistic weightlifter into a fairy-tale character; here he lifts a segment of the modern world to the level of fantasy, by stylizing theatrical sentimentality and vulgarity. In the role of a glib Soho talent agent who's scrounging for a living, Laurence Harvey gives perhaps his most likable performance; he has some very deft bits-this agent has the amusing theatrical habit of adapting his speech to the accents of the people he talks to. He owns 50 per cent of a young, bewildered rock 'n' roll singer, played by Cliff Richard. The singer is childlike and withdrawn and opportunistic; he tells his juvenile fans that he is a "deeply religious boy," and he sings a song about mom and home called "The Shrine on the Second Floor." With Sylvia Syms, Yolande Donlan, Hermione Baddeley, Ambrosine Philpotts, Avis Bunnage, Kenneth Griffith, Susan Hampshire, Eric Pohlmann, Wilfrid Lawson, and Gilbert Harding as himself, and Meier Tzelniker, re-creating his stage role as the record manufacturer, who describes his product in a song called "Nausea." Mankowitz first wrote the material as a short story, then as a musical play, and then as a film. Val Guest directed. With choreography by Kenneth MacMillan.

An Eye for an Eye

France (1957): Drama
No rating, Color
Also known as OEIL POUR OEIL.

The early sequences, in which Curt Jurgens, as a successful, sophisticated European doctor, is stranded in a remote, corrupt Arab settlement where he can communicate with no one, have the fascination and humor of a Paul Bowles story. But the director, Andr� Cayatte, destroys his own best effects, and he winds up with his two principal characters in an apparently endless desert-which is what the movie also turns into. The plot is one of those terrible trick ideas that sometimes work on the screen. When it collapses here, you've got nothing except atmosphere. That's not a total loss. Christian Matras' cinematography may have you convinced that you're in strange Levantine byways, within walking distance of Damascus. (The picture was actually shot in southern Spain.) With Folco Lulli, Lea Padovani, and Pascale Audret. In French.

Eyes of Laura Mars

US (1978): Crime
103 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This New York-set thriller operates on mood and atmosphere and moves so fast, with such delicate changes of rhythm, that its excitement has a subterranean sexiness. Faye Dunaway, with long, thick, dark-red hair, is Laura Mars, a celebrity fashion photographer who specializes in the chic and pungency of sadism; the pictures she shoots have a furtive charge-we can see why they sell. Directed by Irvin Kershner, the film has a few shocking fast cuts, but it also has scabrous elegance and a surprising amount of humor. Laura's scruffy, wild-eyed driver (Brad Dourif) epitomizes New York's crazed, hostile flunkies; he's so wound up he seems to have the tensions of the whole city in his gut. Her manager (Ren� Auberjonois) is tense and ambivalent about Laura-about everything. Her models (Lisa Taylor and Darlanne Fluegel), who in their poses look wickedly decadent, are really just fun-loving dingalings. As for Dunaway, constantly kneeling or sprawling to take photographs, her legs, especially her thighs, are far more important to her performance than her eyes; her flesh gives off heat. Tommy Lee Jones is the police lieutenant who represents old-fashioned morality, and when the neurotically vulnerable Laura, who has become telepathic about violence, falls in love with him, they're a very creepy pair. With the help of the editor, Michael Kahn, Kershner glides over the gaps in the very uneven script (by John Carpenter and David Z. Goodman, with an assist from Julian Barry). The cast includes Raul Julia, Rose Gregorio, Meg Mundy, and Bill Boggs (as himself). Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.


US (1981): Thriller
102 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The director Peter Yates and the writer Steve Tesich try to make a new, more meaningful version of a 40s melodrama, but their Manhattan-set thriller bogs down in a tangle of plot. The hero must be a first for a Hollywood hero; he's a janitor in an office building. William Hurt (who plays this janitor) has an entertaining flirtation with Sigourney Weaver, as a TV reporter who comes to film a news item about a murder in the building. In order to pique her interest, he suggests that he may have been an eyewitness, and this fib of his makes the two of them targets for the killers, for those who seek to avenge the killing, for the police, and-it begins to seem-for every passerby. Maybe because of the moviemakers' failure to adapt and modernize 40s conventions, something berserk happens: Weaver, Irene Worth, and Christopher Plummer, who are all playing Jews, play them like Nazis. They're intense, drawn, haggard, rich, and highly cultured-a stiff and sinister bunch. The movie is punctuated with frequent, inept cuts to a couple of Vietnamese thugs who sneak around eavesdropping, following people, and boding ill. There are good, funny moments, though, with Hurt, with Weaver (before she gets too pinched), with Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill as a cynical, griping team of police lieutenants, with Pamela Reed as the janitor's old girlfriend, and with Kenneth McMillan as the janitor's father. The cast includes James Woods and Albert Paulsen. Cinematography by Matthew F. Leonetti. Released by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

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