Moments out of Time 1972

[Originally published in Movietone News 20, January 1973]

Le Boucher: a flock of chickens pecking among the leaves in foreground; beyond, frenzied activity at the police station, and we know another grisly murder has come to punctuate, but curiously not to disturb, life in this small French village…

Albert Finney in Gumshoe
Albert Finney in Gumshoe

• Albert Finney’s exquisite gumshoe patter with the unseen Fat Man at the Plaza Hotel, down to and including a perfectly Bogartian “Sure!”—Gumshoe

• A long, single-take stroll down the main street of S1. Joseph, Mo., 1863: ”It is a sunny day”—Bad Company

• A duel of banjos, Deliverance

• Measuring penis lengths in Murmur of the Heart, and Benoît Ferreux’s breathless appreciation of his older brother’s endowment: “Splendide!”…

• Rusk’s visit to Brenda Blaney’s marriage and friendship bureau, Frenzy: from the moment she greets him as Mr. Robinson, we know; only after a tangled rape, as he sighs and with sublime weariness removes the stick-pin from his tie, does she know…

• Henry’s first joint, in Travels with My Aunt: in a perfectly played single take of several moments’ duration, Alec McCowen turns on completely unawares (“1 say, I’ve never smoked an American cigarette!”) and syllable by syllable sloughs several decades of British bank-clerkhood as he giggles on the Orient Express with an American abroad…

• Moving a cemetery, Deliverance

Le Boucher: a casual walk through town, with a Franco-Prussian War memorial passing between the camera and our protagonists, as Stéphane Audran’s schoolchildren swing on the chains round the monument and a local drives by with a load of freshly pruned boughs on his cart: death as the political and the natural order of things…

• Billie Whitelaw coming home in a raincoat, silhouetted in the dim hall as a late-night piano ruminates over “These Foolish Things Remind Me of You”, Gumshoe: she sizes up Finney poised over the keyboard in a well-placed cloud of cigarette smoke and then shuts off the phonograph….

• AI Lettieri, quintessential crude, bedridden, a black kitten on his bare chest, fondling blond bimbo Sally Struthers while her veterinarian-husband, bound and gagged, looks on The Getaway

Hannie Caulder: the thorough ineptitude of three bandit brothers played by Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, and Jack Elam…

• The extraordinary delicacy of Peter Finch, Sunday Bloody Sunday

• The handsome emptiness of Joe Dallesandro’s face as he sexually uses and is used, Heatthe reality of the “nothingness” which Play It As It Lays skirts with such blasé gentility…

• The raid on the Dutchman’s farm; his hysterical gratitude to God for deliverance; the bloody aftermath—Ulzana’s Raid

• In The Last Picture Show, Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) watching Elizabeth Taylor on the Royal screen, in Father of the Bride, and thinking of her while kissing Charlene Duggs…

• Brando’s grotesque bumbling with ursine clumsiness and growling as he plays with his grandson in the garden, The Godfather: his sudden death agony appears to the child as just another variation of the game…

• The rough-and-tumble of an embryonic baseball game—Sennett-like yet convincingly inadvertent—climaxed by Cole Younger’s (Cliff Robertson) shooting the hide off the ball: The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

• John Wayne and Slim Pickens sagging over a bar, The Cowboys

• The last three shots of The Other—frustrating as hell if one had been watching the wrong movie, but brilliantly right for the one Mulligan made…

• Jean Yanne peering through the window of the classroom as Stéphane Audran reads to her class about someone who emits “an air of grandeur … and profound feeling, such as to impress the coarsest of minds”: she unknowingly describes herself and her attraction for Popaul (Yanne), so like one of the children, to whom she must remain “Mademoiselle Hélène”—Le Boucher

• Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) at the tank, The Last Picture Show: “You wouldn’t believe how this country’s changed”…

• Junior and Ace at the railway station—Junior Bonner

• The reconstitution of Casablanca at the end of Play It Again, Sam, especially Bogart’s appreciative “Here’s looking at you, kid!” for ace-nebbish Woody Allen…

• The perfect honesty and discretion with which Ed (Jon Voight) acknowledges, “I have some…” after Lewis (Burt Reynolds) has been mocking the idea of buying insurance—Deliverance

• All of Glenda Jackson’s unbilled cameo as The Star in The Boy Friend, especially her gully-washing tear flow as she simultaneously watches Twiggy displace her from her role and, trouper good and true, indulges in the professional sentimentality that enjoys seeing the kid get a break…

• Adam Wainwright’s (E. Kerrigan Prescott) hilarious striptease in the empty burlesque theatre, Roseland, the bumps and grinds saved from homosexual parody by the “new Adam’s” infectious delight and spontaneity…

• “Say, how’d that Jane Eyre turn out?” “Fine. Just fine.” Bad Company

• Rod Steiger’s fingers dancing an inverted fandango as his Mexican bandit searches for the word “destiny”—Duck, You Sucker

• In Play It Again, Sam, the manic depressiveness of Allen Felix (Woody Allen), who doesn’t bother to cook his TV dinners, just sucks them while they’re still frozen: “Did my wife never have an orgasm during our whole marriage, or was she faking that night?”…

• The moment when Le Boucher, inadvertently opening the schoolteacher’s cupboard and finding the lighter he left at the site of one of his murders, looks at us with fatal resignation…

• The beautifully detailed responses of Ed and Bobby (Jon Voight, Ned Beatty) to the taunting, unsatisfiable mountain men who just materialize out of the wilderness along the Cahulawassee—Deliverance

• A combined country-western dance and saloon brawl in Junior Bonner, in which everyone makes new friends: Sam Peckinpah’s version of the Life Force?…

• The superb ending of Heat: the movie star rushes in Swanson-like frenzy to trap her callous lover by the swimming pool, pulls her Sunset Blvd. rod—and it refuses to fire….

• The gradual disclosure of Nazi identity in “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” in Cabaret: a setup, but a valid one…

• The epilogue to Macbeth: the forgotten brother, Donalbain, comes back and, sheltering along the witches’ wall, is attracted by their smoke; as he disappears into the hovel, a jug swinging from a branch in mid-screen caps a whole motif set in motion by Duncan’s crown rolling wildly on the floor during the murder: a stylistic prophecy beyond film’s end, a circle never to be closed as long as there are junior executives who dream of being Number One…

Le Boucher: being questioned by a police inspector called in from the city, Mlle. Hélène can’t help being distracted by the verbally unremarked blaze of silver in the man’s otherwise black head of hair: an ineffably weird index to the idiosyncrasies of Claude Chabrol’s film-world…

• A giddy gunfight among autumn-stripped trees, between two frightened teenagers and a bandit gang whom their leader has tried to protect from their intended victims (“If it was a blind woman in a wheelchair I’d give her the odds”): in a state of shock, the boys gradually realize they’re winning!—Bad Company

• The exultant sense of the high shot that zooms up and away from Eddie Ginley (Finney) as, having stalled the most intimate and crippling problems of his life in one automobile, he turns away from them, his own man—Gumshoe

• One of many devastating moral rebukes to the audience in Frenzy: after the innocent Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) has brought an auto jack down on the blond head under the bedclothes, with us thinking simultaneously “Don’t do it! You’ve been cleared of the other crimes!” and “Go ahead, give him what he has coming!”, he and we discover that the now-dented skull belongs not to the murderer Rusk but to yet another, already-strangled victim—and again the mind boggles, torn between relief and horror…

-In The King of Marvin Gardens, Ellen Burstyn burying her makeup and lotions in the cold sand of Atlantic City, symbolically celebrating her party’s anticipated departure for a tropic Pacific isle where health and wealth abound: her companions leave her, her giddy gaiety turns to shock and fear, and, retrieving a pair of scissors from the beach, she begins to mutilate her hair, flicking the tufts toward the fire before her—and not noticing they are carried away by the wind as soon as they leave her fingers…

The Last Picture Show: Sam the Lion looking into the boys more deeply than they know before watching them head out for Mexico…

• Huey and Dewey beating the overconfident Bruce Dern at poker with deadpan computer canniness—Silent Running

• Scatman Crothers jiving Diana Ross about what a superstud trick he’s going to be while shucking down to faded pink longjohns—as Ross quietly departs: Lady Sings the Blues

• When mother and son love each other so naturally that one involuntarily accepts this as the finest kind of sexual initiation for a boy coming into manhood, Murmur of the Heart; the beauty of the act momentarily returning one to prelapsarian innocence of any taboo…

• Sonny sitting on the curb watching Anarene’s one traffic light change, after learning of the death of Sam the Lion–The Last Picture Show

• A runaway cart hits a rock, four naked people soar through the air in a sitting position, and the top blows off a mountain: Duck, You Sucker

Bad Company: Big Joe (David Huddleston) shows the posse the gun trick he taught Curly Bill Brocius: “Boys—I’m the oldest whore on the block!”…

• The death of John Wayne, The Cowboys

Junior Bonner: a crazy song about rodeo-riding and getting thrown, with no lyrics, just Sam Peckinpah’s brawny sense of slapstick imagery and infallibly timed cutting, and a buzzer that goes BRRRRRRT!!…

• Attacked while escorting a woman and her son through Indian territory, a veteran Army trooper (Dean Swift) immediately rides away, but turns back at the woman’s frantic screams to shoot her between the eyes as she sighs a prayer of thanks for what she mistakes for rescue; a moment later, his horse shot from under him, he puts the same pistol in his own mouth and fires–death on Robert Aldrich’s frontier, Ulzana’s Raid

• The horses descending the brothel staircase in Romance of a Horsethief: the whores, led by Lainie Kazan, frantically attempt to distract drunken Cossack Yul Brynner’s attention from Eli Wallach’s latest refinement in horse-stealing…

Gumshoe: Finney’s third-person tough-guy recitation of imitation Hammett at Billie Whitelaw as he waits for his train to pull away, he still not fully aware that his favorite fictional fantasies are becoming reality, that the lady herself is suffering the sea-change his imaginative bid for sanity and survival is imposing on his world: “The pitch was, would the lady stick around?” and as the train pulls out, she recedes from him in a palpably Romantic movement…

• A promontory overlooking the river and farmlands of the Trémolat-Périgord region; schoolchildren on an outing; Stéphane Audran’s blonde head in the sun: and on one little girl’s biscuit, a splash of bright red blood appears as from the cloudless sky—Le Boucher

• The final scene in Sunday Bloody Sunday: Dr. David Hirsch (Peter Finch) in unexpected consultation with the audience in a shot that begins very un-subjectively and ends: “I only came about my cough”…

• Two of the Younger gang, naked to the waist to show their bullet-riddled torsos, stood on end in their coffins while townspeople gawk and take photographs—The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

• Frames within frames within frames: The Boy Friend: onstage the understudy (Twiggy) who loves the leading man (Christopher Gable) sees him flirting offstage with another girl in the cast; shortly thereafter she breaks down in mid-scene and flees crying, leaving the pros to make repair—Children of Paradise it may not be, but it’ll do very nicely, thanks…

• The old capo‘s fine sense of dignity as he inquires whether Duvall can intervene in his execution, and his quiet acceptance of the inevitably negative reply—The Godfather

• Tuesday Weld cradling Tony Perkins, crooning her mother’s lullaby—”Baby, just remember … you belong to me”—while he suicides with seconal: one of the few scenes to sit still long enough to develop any viewer intensity, in Play It As It Lays

• Sophie Brzeska standing beside a great unsculpted block of stone, Savage Messiah, mute testament to the dead artist Gaudier-Brzeska whom we last see caught in photographed stasis holding a carved rifle butt…

• Woody Allen casually gestures with a hand holding a phonograph album and slings the record across the room—the climax of a veritable crescendo of gaucherie and awkwardness upon meeting his blind date (Jennifer Salt), Play It Again, Sam

• Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen trapped in an inexorably filling garbage truck; moments later, re-pledging what is left of their troth in the skeleton of a car in the dump: a concentration of Peckinpah’s vision of America and its outlaws, The Getaway

• The dancing duel between Tommy Tune and the black-haired girl in The Boy Friend

• Oliver Tobias’ and Eli Wallach’s literal horseplay as Wallach begs his friend to tell what he did in the fields with that countess—Romance of a Horsethief

• Peter Vaughan’s comic museum guard—a welcome respite from the preciosity of Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah

The Honkers: late-night confidences over a kitchen table: the neglected wife (Lois Nettleton) and the wayward husband’s friend and partner, a tired old rodeo clown who will die tomorrow (Slim Pickens)—a nice scene from a nice directorial debut by the late Steve Ihnat…

• The destruction-by-shotgun of a police car, The Getaway

• Robert Redford’s perfect shit-eating grin as, buttonholed in a rest room by an abusive taxpayer, he has to take it: there’s a political campaign underway in The Candidate

• Skinning a rabbit, Bad Company

• A cowhand (Matt Clark), apparently doomed to draw on a man he knows can kill him and will (Geoffrey Lewis), simply turns his back and says “Shiiiiit… ” with tears in his voice—one of several shrewd variations on convention that take us into the peculiar reality of The Culpepper Cattle Company

• The joy of battle for Alan Breck Stuart in Kidnapped: one more vividly dangerous performance out of Michael Caine…

• Afternoon in a bar, and the light that flared coldly in whenever the door opened: Fat City

• The rape in Frenzy: Brenda’s prayer filled with sexual imagery that subsequently turns up all over London (“I shall not fear the arrow by night…”); this in rhythmic counterpoint to Rusk’s groaning repetition of “Lovely … Lovely … Lovely”…

• In Le Boucher, the butcher appearing in costume as Louis XIV, cigarette in his mouth, to rehearse with the schoolchildren for the village pageant: we are focused on the back of Mlle. Hélène’s neck, and she suddenly turns, aware that Popaul has been worshipping that very part of her with his eyes: one of the tenderest, most intimate moments in the cinema…

• Big Joe’s philosophical tolerance of Jake Rumsey (Jeff Bridges) for pointing a gun at him: while he fills his pipe, he passes Jake some friendly advice on why you shouldn’t hesitate to shoot in circumstances like that, then draws his own piece and shoots Jake’s away—Bad Company

• George C. Scott’s hilarious–and beautifully built and delivered—”Power to the impotent!” speech in Hospital

• The decency of Edgar Derby (Eugene Roche) in SlaughterhouseFive

• Robert Duvall’s unflappable business cool in The Godfather: he receives with equanimity the verbal abuse of a Hollywood producer but momentarily crumbles as he must report the death of Sonny to Don Corleone…

• Some smoky Scandinavian brick standing in for turn-of-the-century New York, and the American prairie as itself—Joe Hill

Bad Company: the sudden death of Boog, whom Jake once warned not to be so quick in reaching for pies…

• Every encounter between the slimly determined self-protectiveness of Stéphane Audran and the beefy vulnerability of Jean Yanne in Le Boucher—but especially when he turns his knife against himself in an exact visual summing-up of the complex dangers and metamorphoses of love in that exquisitely calm and tortured film…

• The lesbian roommate at Andrea Feldman looking on incuriously as the blond manchild from the other apartment surveys her body with doglike appreciation and intently masturbates—Heat

• The moment when Dr. Gene Wilder stops indulging the Armenian shepherd’s tale of his love for Daisy the sheep and begins to share his fascination—Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask

• The guerrilla assault on a Paris supermarket, Tout va bien

• For a half moment, all the sounds in an all-night cafe and bowling alley stop: the shape of things to come for breaking-down pug Stacy Keach, Fat City

• The old girlfriend visits Eddie’s apartment at midnight as he prepares for bed: she mounts a fine attack on his habit of calling her every time he needs help, during which he brushes his teeth, then gargles and spits in the bowl—the character’s helpless amusement despite her best intentions of staying mad seems inseparable from Billie Whitelaw’s delight in how Finney has stolen her thunder: yet another moment of multileveled beauty from Gumshoe

• The last picture show in The Last Picture Show: Duane (Jeff Bridges) opining that the movie, Red River, was a pretty good show, and Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) offhandedly replying, “I seen it here before”…

• Jack Elam’s emergence from the barbershop, hair glued to one of the ugliest skulls in cinematic history, his one good eye a-gleam with delight in his grotesque sartorial splendor—Hannie Caulder

• The hour of the wolf. The preternatural blackness of a distant shoreline marked by trees. The lake surface sheening away from our eyes. A dead man’s hand rises from it like a primordial·memory: the great penultimate shot of Deliverance, so full of the spirit lacking in the rest of this adaptation of James Dickey’s novel…

• Diana Ross’ simultaneously jittery and sleepy-eyed rendering of Billie Holiday’s blues in Lady Sings the Blues

• Woody Allen as the court jester frantically trying to get into the royal box: he tells the impassioned but chastity-locked queen, “We have to hurry because soon it’ll be the Renaissance and we’ll all be painting!”—Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex

Gumshoe: Eddie Ginley takes his cup of tea and cigarette, puts a Fifties-style disc on the record player, and starts learning to live without the family….

RTJ & KAM

© 1973 Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy


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