Moments out of Time 1973

[Originally published in Movietone News 29, January/February 1974]

• The death of Slim Pickens in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: “Knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door”…

• The cut from Calvero the performer staring out at an empty theatre to Calvero the man sitting on his bed in the night, staring into the camera with haunted eyes—Charles Chaplin in Limelight

two english girls
Two English Girls

Two English Girls: Anne (Kika Markham) paying Claude (Jean-Pierre Léaud) the forfeit, a kiss through a chair-back: in the spectacles of the onlooking Muriel (Stacey Tendeter), the firelight burns a demonic red; she turns her gaze away and the light goes out; Truffaut fades before the kiss….

Charley Varrick: A wordless contract made between Varrick (Walter Matthau) and his dying wife (Jacqueline Scott), while Harman (Andy Robinson)—and perhaps the audience—remains unaware, thinking her dead already…

• Enrico Mattei (Gian Maria Volontè) striding about the Libyan desert at night in the science-fiction glare of a blazing gas font—The Mattei Affair

• A desperate run from the outhouse by Maggie Smith, Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, which ends with her encircled by toilet paper…

• The first time in Such a Gorgeous Kid like Me when the night club singer (Guy Marchand) beds down with the gorgeous kid (Bernadette Lafont): we cut outside his dressingroom and the soundtrack roars with his record of the Indianapolis Speedway (the second time Truffaut uses it, it falls rather flat)….

• Robert Blake sitting in the middle of the road, his blood in his hands and his head sunk in eternal reverie, as Conrad Hall’s camera … recedes—Electra Glide in Blue

• The duel between the god-men (Peter O’Toole and the late Nigel Green)—The Ruling Class

The New Land: the opening shot, a forest of rainy pastels from which the camera zooms slowly back as the sound of … an axe? a wheel? a weary battle? … reverberates within…

• John (Paul LeMat) trying to coax Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) back from the sidewalk and into his car as the radio insists, “Baby baby baby, I love you, yes I do” … American Graffiti

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Gen. Lew Wallace (Jason Robards) playing an ambiguous politics as Pat Garrett (James Coburn) meets the company men in the rosy evening, a storm not far in the past or the future: “…the fabulous melancholy of these New Mexican evenings…”

• The ultimate in genre-subverting chutzpah in The Long Goodbye: the Mark Rydell gangster with his feet at the penthouse window, singing the theme song while Zsigmond’s camera curls away from the vista and back inside the room…

• The discovery of the beast-boy, O Lucky Man!

• The slow turning of Kingsfield’s (John Houseman) head from student to student, like an artillery gun seeking its target—The Paper Chase

The Spider’s Stratagem: a walk to the railway station during which, at various stages along the way, the protagonist is both himself and the shade of his father…

• “What would you do if I went away?” “Make up stories, play in the woods, and make up a friend.” The girl’s face is reflected in the car window over that of the older woman. Images

The Mattei Affair: near the beginning and again at the end, a low-angle shot of two men carrying a bloody canvas shroud sunk with twenty pounds of shattered flesh—all that remains of a personality who virtually explodes into action throughout the film…

• Pierre Mendès-France recalling his escape from prison, and how he was detained by a couple enjoying a tentative tryst right where he planned to drop over the wall, The Sorrow and the Pity: “I would like to meet those two sometime. I’d like to tell them how much I went through with them that night.”…

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: the joyous insouciance of Dylan’s music and Garrett’s and Billy’s (Kris Kristofferson) faces as the Kid surrenders, his arms extended in a funky crucifixion posture that retrospectively kicks The Lefthanded Gun into the ashcan…

• Curt, B.S.ing with his favorite teacher, fading discreetly away as the fellow’s student mistress appears—American Graffiti

• Lindsay Wagner wandering into Peter Fonda’s train compartment looking for grass and finding him quietly crying—Two People

Images: A moment of pure feminine paranoia: the ghost of a past lover and the very contemporary presences of husband and seducer, all crowded into one little pantry with Cathryn (Susannah York)…

• The dirt-real implacability of the Grave brothers discussing their wartime experiences and averring that, no, they have no interest in avenging themselves on the neighbor who betrayed them—The Sorrow and the Pity

Paper Moon: Is it Addie or Tatum who goes into the hotel bathroom at night, cosmetics in tow, to stand before a water-spotted mirror and recreate herself as the woman who seduced her maybe—father Mose?…

The Paper Chase: Hart (Timothy Bottoms) quarrels with Susan (Lindsay Wagner), falls asleep by the water, awakens in the cold, late-afternoon light to find her gone…

• Warren Oates directly addressing the audience (via a bank teller) at the beginning of Dillinger—unfortunately promising more than either he or the film will be able to deliver…

• The elevator to Marlowe’s pad, from The Long Goodbye by way of Dark Passage

Cries and Whispers: A statue in the garden, glowing in a nocturnal blue that never existed in reality or on film, only in the mind of a dreamer…

• “April Fool, motherfuckers! “—The Friends of Eddie Coyle

• The movement of time in The Emigrants: marriages are made, children are born, flowers drift in a bowl…

American Graffiti: the first enchanted sweeps of the Strip as the machines begin their nightly prowl and “Runaway” reinstates a whole aesthetics of pop grandeur…

Scarecrow: A tree, looking alive with the electricity of light itself, against a purplish-silver sky while below, in a field of gold, a man moves toward a fence, and us…

• Prairie air, looking clean and fresh as it only can in black-and-white, and long, infinitely promising roadways on which even a con man’s expectations turn curiously innocent—Paper Moon

• The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds: Beatrice (Joanne Woodward), fed up as usual, in a gesture half spite and half rebellion pours beer into Nanny’s cup; the frail old lady (Judith Lowry), steeped in honey and hot water for the last century, takes an exploratory sip, then tips it down with both hands…

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Garrett’s palpable self-loathing as he systematically prepares Holly (Richard Bright) for extermination, while Lemuel (Chill Wills) sits with his hat over his eyes and Alias (Bob Dylan) reads the labels on the airtights…

• Two barely pubescent children hazarding their first furtive gropings in the attic of the store, Mon Oncle Antoine; contributing to the obstacle course, several fresh and as yet unassigned coffins…

• Blume (George Segal) and Elmo (Kris Kristofferson) getting acquainted—Blume in Love

The Last Tango in Paris: Paul (Marlon Brando) at his dead wife’s coffin in the night…

• The lieutenant who interrupts at a tea-room without tea to tell about his brutal—and utterly irrelevant—life history, in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Steelyard Blues: a marvelously self-contained moment when Jane Fonda, in a sleazy kimono and with a Thirties blues number on the phonograph, does an initially seductive and ultimately castrating dance around the smug politico…

• Another Fonda dance, in Losey’s A Doll’s House: Nora’s desperate fandango for her husband (David Warner) and Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard): she wants to keep Thorvald’s attention off the letter in the mailbox but he interrupts her performance, calling it “shameless”…

“What 1 had in mind was boxing the compass.”—Charley Varrick

The Sorrow and the Pity: the ironic self-possession of Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie in interview in 1969, juxtaposed against his impassioned newsreel appearance from the early Forties…

The Emigrants: a golden ship shimmering atop a pile of auspiciously lucent sea: Robert’s and Arvid’s first stunning sight of the way to the new land…

Payday: the shrewd measurement of character and values in Maury Dann’s (Rip Torn) fight over and ultimate parting from his hunting dog…

• The late Robert Ryan’s voice breaking—he turns his face from the camera—as he drops his conspirator role for a moment and quotes: “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, / And tell sad stories of the death of kings…”; character and narrative tone arc both violated, yet this moment suggests more about the real meaning and power of Executive Action than the colorless machinations of the filmmakers or the conspirators throughout the rest….

O Lucky Man!: “You have eyes like Steve McQueen!”…

• The lady who reads other people’s mail at Marlowe’s apartment building—The Long Goodbye

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Ollinger (R.C. Armstrong) to the Kid, slammed to his knees with a shotgun at his throat: “Repent, you son-of-a-bitch!”…

• Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn) coming up the hill in Paper Moon for a rare woman-to-woman talk with Addie…

• Life going on around Max (Gene Hackman) and Lion (AI Pacino) during a long, long take at the counter of a diner—Scarecrow

• Woody Allen’s first bubblegum-limbed movements after coming out of deepfreeze-Sleeper

• The resolute unimpressibility of the old duffer at the gas station while Homer van Meader (Harry Dean Stanton) does his damnedest to play the ferocious desperado. Final solution: “I got his gumball machine!” … Dillinger

• Trevor Howard’s discreet ardor and Jane Fonda’s preoccupied dismissal of his “I have loved you, too, as much as anyone”—A Doll’s House

• The almost unrecognizable mutant form of “Mind the doors!” echoing through the forgotten underworld of London—Raw Meat (aka Death Line)…

• A cop (Simon Oakland) made to howl like a dog in the hobo camp—The Emperor of the North [Pole]…

The Day of the Dolphin: the mixture of comic exhilaration and metaphysical dread produced by the dolphin’s answer to the question “Where’s David?”: “Not!”…

• Walter Matthau making a deal with Sheree North in Charley Varrick: every line they exchange, the price goes up….

Payday: a quick penetration in the back seat while the rolypoly driver gets it on via the rearview mirror; in mid misty-eyed org, the new nookie meets the basilisk glare of the old…

• The lost body in the snow: Uncle Antoine confesses he hates his life…

• The tale of John Jones and U.S. Christmas, and the man who puts on his gloves while listening to it—Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

-Karl-Oskar Nilsson at rest under his tree—The Emigrants

Cries and Whispers: The live sister visits the bedside of the sister who has just died; bending over the corpse, she finds its dead arms about her neck. The sense of horror inheres in the fact that in death the Harriet Andersson character still possesses more capacity for love than her shallow siblings…

• Toad stopping at his first intersection in a boss machine—American Graffiti

• Peter Boyle doing Marlon Brando at the pinball table—Steelyard Blues

The Long Goodbye: Marlowe (Elliot Gould) and Eileen (Nina Van Pallandt) struggling in the surf while the white smudge of Roger Wade (Sterling Hayden) recedes further and further into the Pacific: the viewer participates in the struggle in proportion to his own desperation to keep that white shirt in view….

• The Old Testament, Rembrandt-like shot of Bob Ollinger, rebuked by Garrett, returning to his corner of the jail to cradle his shotgun—Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

• Charles Tyner’s soul-in-hell shriek as the last inch of caboose crawls onto the spur line and the express thunders by in the fog—The Emperor of the North [Pole]…

A Touch of Class: George Segal badgering Glenda Jackson to know “how it was” until finally she says, “What do you want me to say? ‘The earth moved’? ‘It was not unpleasant’?”…

• Alan Price’s song interludes in O Lucky Man!: Price’s large but not unconfined talent and his very personable presence are exactly right for keeping these scenes separate from and yet sharply related to the “story” material that surrounds them….

• Max’s alternative to fighting in Scarecrow: an impromptu striptease—the barroom community gets solidly behind him while Lion looks on, lost in shadow….

• Laurie (Cindy Williams) and Steve (Ron Howard) quarrelling at the hop, American Graffiti: the spotlight hits them, and last year’s class president and this year’s head cheerleader have to grin and lead off the dance. As the irresistible spell of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” settles over the scene, Laurie rests her head on Steve’s shoulder “like a kitten with a headache”…

• The first sight of Liv Ullmann in The Emigrants: Troell’s camera recedes, approaches, pans, does not pan, giving us in several seconds all the various, wordless pleasures of youthful dreaming on a swing…

The Friends of Eddie Coyle: Eddie’s body, never seen in death, deserted in a bowling alley parking lot, in a stolen car…

• Marlowe offering a cigarette to “JoAnn Eggenweiler,” whose face is frozen in plaster and brass: when she declines, Marlowe mumbles, “It’s OK with me, lady”—The Long Goodbye….

Images: The next morning, Cathryn comes downstairs; the bloody body of Marcel (Hugh Millais) is still there, where she stabbed him; she passes into the kitchen without a glance, more comfortable with her fantasies than the audience is prepared to be….

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Billy rides past a pond at twilight; his silhouette is swallowed up by that of a rise of ground while his reflection remains visible: his existential reality will go down to darkness and oblivion, but what he stands for will not….

• Lindsay Anderson walking into his own film, O Lucky Man!, to slap Mick Travis/Malcolm McDowell and tell him to smile…

• Claude meeting Muriel again after some years, Two English Girls: they confront each other against the side of the ship that has brought her, ripples iridescing over all. They part the next day between trains, the forces of their lives at once seeming to draw them apart and hold them orbitally locked to each other….

• Hart and Kingsfield in a moment of privacy, together in the elevator at course’s end—The Paper Chase: Hart seems to confirm their rapport. Kingsfield asks, “And what was your name?”…

Scarecrow: Remembering the sawbuck he keeps in his shoe, Max takes it off and begins—pleasantly—to pound the heel open, while the airline clerk looks on with mounting apprehension; the audience knows, as she does not, that Max’s violence is nicely under control: he will survive….

• Curt involuntarily joining the Pharaohs, chatting with the Elks who have given him a scholarship while Bo Hopkins & co. rip off the pinball machines: “We’ll never forget you, boy!” “No, sir, I don’t believe you will.” American Graffiti

• While cattle low in the distance and a slant of golden sunlight dies along a verdant slope, Maynard Boyle (John Vernon) quietly slips the bureaucratic shaft to Harold Young (Woodrow Parfrey), setting him up to take the fall—Charley Varrick….

• In the street of Lincoln, Bob Ollinger is on his way back from getting a drink. “Bonney’s killed Bell!” someone calls. Ollinger, staring up at his own shotgun in the hands of the Kid, says to nobody in particular, “Yes, and he’s killed me too.”—Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

• And from the same film, the moment when Garrett pauses, on his way to history’s rendezvous, to offer a drink to a man crafting a baby’s coffin. It is Sam Peckinpah. He refuses the drink. And he says, “So you finally figured it out. Go on, get it over with.” And they do….

RTJ & KAM

© 1974 Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy