Moments out of Time 1975

[Originally published in Movietone News 47, January 1976]

Keith Carradine in "Nashville"
Keith Carradine in "Nashville"

• Keith Carradine singing “I’m Easy” to one or all of four women—and also, to be sure, himself: Nashville

• The awful pale blue oblong of Guinevere’s window, Lancelot du Lac: is it the only light in the world, or a glimpse into the void empty even of darkness?…

The Man Who Would Be King: Danny Dravot’s (Sean Connery’s) pleased hesitation before closing his fist on the Masonic symbol Kipling (Christopher Plummer) has just presented him at the outset of his journey—”For the sake of the Widow’s son”…

• Marvin Hollinger (Ben Johnson) rising, standing canted against the backdrop of the stadium crowd, wondering why his name is being called over the loudspeaker: his daughter lies in the morgue downtown—Hustle

Love among the Ruins: the barrister (Laurence Olivier) peers down from his window at the limousine stopped below, casually slanted across a rain-washed lane and containing the fabulous woman (Katharine Hepburn) who passed through his life for three days and nights forty years ago…

• Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway), nicely disheveled from sex and sleep, springing into vitriolic rage when she learns d’Artagnan (Michael York) has discovered her secret—The Four Musketeers: The Revenge of Milady

The Return of the Pink Panther: the return of Inspector, presently Patrolman, Clouseau (Peter Sellers), tipping his baton in salute to a passing lady and elegantly tapping his eyeball…

A Woman under the Influence: At an impromptu spaghetti breakfast for tired but happy sewer workers, an endearingly ugly dago succumbs to an operatic impulse. His croaking rendition is interrupted and superseded by a more mellifluously Italianate voice, offscreen and down the table. As the shot zooms back in leisurely curiosity, a hand waves into the frame and we discover the true Caruso is black. A minor but by no means negligible example of the film’s lovely faith in unlikely potentiality…

• Elizabeth Ashley to husband Clifton James, bemusedly, as they gaze at the snowy mountain range outside their ranch house window: “Honey, are you ever sorry we got out of the hairdressing business?”—Rancho Deluxe

• Alan Arkin, fed up with Mackenzie Phillips’ nonstop snottiness, tells her at great length how hateful she is, and does so with such subdued joy that she breaks into unwilling laughter—Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins

• Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn), a misaligned Bride of Frankenstein with an unaccounted-for new silver streak in her coiffure, snarling as The Monster (Peter Boyle) rumbles off: “You’re just like all the others—seven or eight quick ones and then it’s out with the boys!”—Young Frankenstein

Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman: the subject describing her agony at being denied an orchestra to conduct-an instrument to play-and pointing out that it isn’t that way for women conductors in Russia: she names her fortunate counterpart for the interviewer’s benefit and then, her frustration at its peak, turns to the camera that’s squatting in her own kitchen and cries, “And you—you know enough Russian to know that that’s a woman’s name!”…

At Long Last Love: Burt Reynolds begins to bobaloo wearily in the backseat of his limousine and chauffeur John Hillerman scrupulously inquires, “Are you singing to me, sir?”…

The Wind and the Lion: the compound she has known as home lying in ruins around her, mother kidnapped, friends and servants bloodily slain in one ferocious moment, still the terrified girlchild (Polly Gottesman) comes quietly out of the shadowy arbor and into the arms of the Berber warrior who has tenderly beckoned…

• John Wayne breaks up a London pub by way of a goodnatured brawl with several dozen bystanders while the main theme of Hair burbles wishfully on a jammed jukebox–Brannigan

• Ned Beatty watching an egg hardcook … Nashville

Lenny (Dustin Hoffman) coming apart on a nightclub stage during an agonizing minutes-long take from several tables out: two guys in different parties try to laugh and clap at the right times…

• “‘Detriments’ ya call us!?”—Peachy (Michael Caine) and Danny doing a synchronized putdown and walkout on the representative of Her Majesty who’s trying to reprimand them for blackmailing a rajah—The Man Who Would Be King

Nashville: the ineffable shift of Opal’s (Geraldine Chaplin’s) mien and manner from rehearsed appreciation of Bud Hamilton’s (Dave Peel’s) song to predatory recognition that, just offscreen, “That’s Elliott Gould!”…

• Curt—or was it Burt? … Harry Dean Stanton, at any rate, explaining what it means to “Hoover the Navajos”—Rancho Deluxe

• Possibly the best-acted scene of the year, in Farewell My Lovely: Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) getting what information he needs from Jessie Florian (Sylvia Miles) while walking an ethical tightrope between exploiting her susceptibility and permitting her to believe she is still the alluring woman she may never have been in the first place…

French Connection II: Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) eating an ice cream in the backseat of a French police car, keeping a lookout for one of the bad guys, and giving an unprecedented tenderness to the way he calls Bartelemy (Bernard Fresson) “Asshole”…

• Sally Kellerman doing “Honky Tonk Angel” in Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins

Supervixens: a garage mechanic’s uniform emblazoned MARTIN BORMANN’S SERVICE STATION…

• Paul Winfield, asked in Hustle why he persists in suspecting the worst of Ben Johnson: “I just do’n’ like white folks”…

• Phoenix (Jessica Harper) using a Mick Jagger strut as a pretext for taking in air during her audition before Swan (Paul Williams): the dynamics of cinema completely—and conspicuously—displace those of live rock performance, which she certifies by glancing triumphantly into a camera eye that is nowhere near Swan’s point-of-view: Phantom of the Paradise

The Four Musketeers: Milady’s foot descends into a bath filled with bloody water…

A Boy and His Dog: four levels of communication laminated together in one hilarious and disturbing comic moment as Blood, interrupted in thinking through his battle strategy, lunges, barks, and is heard to yell “Shut up!” at the interfering girl from Down Under (Susann Benton)…

• “Winifred!” — “Whuut?! ” Nashville

• An old woman who has not spoken to or recognized anyone for years turns to address Peter Proud (Michael Sarrazin) as her son—The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

• Olivier, caught in a slipstream of time, memory, elusive identity and courtroom strategy, stumbles and recovers sublimely on the name of “Jessie-ca”… Love among the Ruins

The Three Days of the Condor: the master assassin (Max von Sydow) requests Jennie (Tisa Chen) to move away from the window so that she can be machine-gunned more discreetly; “I won’t scream,” she replies quietly—a vow to both of them; “I know,” he acknowledges, with appreciation and regret…

• Big Bob Freedlander (Bruce Dern), in Smile, recalling the night he didn’t have a date with Elizabeth Taylor after all, while the traffic hums discreetly in the Santa Rosa afternoon…

Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne), having apparently dismissed the missionary lady (Katharine Hepburn) from mind, interrupting his new train of thought to gasp “She’s frightening!”…

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Billy Bibbitt’s (Brad Dourif’s) head—momentarily distracted by crazy camaraderie—abruptly pulled up and around by Nurse Ratched’s (Louise Fletcher’s) cuttingly therapeutic interrogation, muscles and soul equally check-reined…

• Robert Duvall, in The Killer Elite, putting a period to defector Helmut Dantine’s dreams of freedom with a lethal “We’re all idealists here” and a bullet … a smooth, uninflected flow of moral and visual betrayal…

• Mabel (Gena Rowlands) hunkered down on the back steps for a heart-to-heart with her kids, querying with little-girl seriousness, “Do you-uh-think I’m crazy?” … A Woman under the Influence

• A series of closeups of Catherine Deneuve’s face, that once magnificently taut flesh just beginning to go flabby, to fall a little about the mouth and jaws-a mirror of a real woman’s mortality as well as Hustle‘s pervasive preoccupation with the past’s foreclosure on present possibilities: Deneuve turns her back to the camera and listens to (but of course) Charles Aznavour singing “Yesterday, when I was young”…

-A desert column in blazing sun, a world-swallowing cloud shadow traveling alongside: The Wind and the Lion … Sean Connery’s Raisuli leans over to his lieutenant and asks confidentially, “Where are we going?” — “A small village east of the mountains.” — “It is good,” pronounces El Raisuli. — “What is good?” wonders the lieutenant. — El Raisuli, with impeccable reasonability: “It is good to know where we are going!”…

• A Hal Phillip Walker girl wanders into TV camera range and beams—Nashville….

Antonia holds up a photograph of Albert Schweitzer for the camera and then peers at us unaffectedly from alongside…

• Elizabeth Ashley giving some thought to throwing aside the Best Bull Ribbon her husband has just passed her—Rancho Deluxe

• Beef (Gerrit Graham) takes a Psycho-type shower in Phantom of the Paradisea scene topped by a visual punchline we wouldn’t dream of giving away even here….

• Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman) lets it all hang out in Young Frankenstein: “Yesss, he vas my BOYFRIEND!!!”…

A Boy and His Dog: Blood reflects that, after all, his partner’s girlfriend was not in very good taste…

• Wade’s (Robert DoQui’s) fascinated outrage at what the Tricycle Man (Jeff Goldblum) does with the salt—Nashville

The Four Musketeers: D’Artagnan, running down a passage at the convent, prompts a holy sister to gesture Ssssssshh .,. The object of his rescue lies, already murdered, in an adjacent chamber….

• Inspector Clouseau has his hat, coat, gloves, and car stolen by a polite young man, with his complete cooperation—The Return of the Pink Panther….

Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins: an opening that looks like a tendentious bummer left over from the shrill Sixties, until Alan Arkin falls, absolutely pie-eyed, off his chair and it becomes quite apparent that all those grotesque American Legionnaires really like the old duffer being wheeled down the hall in his chair as “Those Caissons Go Rolling ‘Along”…

Bite the Bullet: lathered and dusty, Jan-Michael Vincent’s horse collapses, in slow motion, on the salt flats, as James Coburn rides by at full canter…

• A samurai-like encounter on one of a vast fleet of mothballed WW2 ships, witnessed by causeless CIA types, The Killer Elite: Peckinpah’s characteristic juxtaposition of an ethically ritualized past with the bankrupt present…

• An elusive three-way crossfire in Hustle, loyalties shifting seriocomically as Gaines (Burt Reynolds), Belgrave (Paul Winfield), and Santoro (Ernest Borgnine) each get in their licks: “What the fuck are you laughing at?!”…

The Man Who Would Be King: Huston intercuts between the Masonic symbol on Connery’s chest and the old priest’s face, which seems to have assumed the selfsame lines in a lifetime’s dedication to an ideal… ‘

• An unfocussed recognition of imminent NO EXIT briefly settles around McMurphy’s (Jack Nicholson’s) eyes and mouth as he sits by an open window, escape postponed for Billy’s sexual initiation—One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Nashville: Linnea Reese / Lily Tomlin breaking into a whoop of joyous laughter in midsong…

• The Legacy: A suburban housewife (Joan Hotchkis) at the end of her tether phones her indifferent shrink to make irritating smalltalk about, among other things, her husband’s business trip, her children’s absence; even the last desperate cry for help is couched in the only language she knows: “I couldn’t help but think that this would be a good time to have a nervous breakdown”…

• Oliver Reed, hands in trenchcoat pockets, hatbrim crisp enough to cut the image like a razor, foreshortened as he scuttles up a flight of stairs to see how Tommy‘s been getting along with Uncle Ernie…

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: The head of the sanitarium (Dr. Dean Brooks) attends McMurphy’s comradely explanation of how he came to be guilty of statutory rape. “You know how it is, Doc, when she gets that little red bush right in front of your face….” An exquisitely considered hesitation; then, “Yes—”…

• The Monster’s look of beady apprehensiveness slanted at the camera as the blind hermit (Gene Hackman) prepares to serve the hot soup—Young Frankenstein

Hustle: A delayed rendezvous with death in a garment loft: Gaines rushes forward to fire several slugs into the psychopath’s spine and sighs, “These bastards never die!” The rendezvous is still delayed….

• Alice (Ellen Burstyn), told to turn around and give a prospective employer a look at the goods, explodes “I don’t sing with my ass!”—Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore….

• James Whale’s forced-perspective Frankenstein laboratory recreated on a rock stage—the “We Need a Man” number in Phantom of the Paradise

• Danny’s last drink before affixing his name to “the contrack”—The Man Who Would Be King

The Return of the Pink Panther: A bomb has just blown a hole through the wall of Inspector Clouseau’s apartment. Next door, the newscaster on the little old lady’s telly glances around to·see what the noise was….

• All right, all right: what appears over Roy Scheider’s shoulder as he asks, “Why doesn’t he try chumming this shit?”—Jaws

• Mary (Cristina Raines) clearing her throat in midline while singing “Since You’ve Gone”—Nashville

• A rifle fires; in an editorial elision both physical and metaphysical, the falls of the Berber from the bullet and the boy (Simon Harrison) from the recoil almost become one—The Wind and the Lion….

• Every massively liquid movement in space of Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), but especially his increasingly potent lope up and down court in. the basketball game between the “nuts” and their keepers-One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

• Philip Marlowe / Robert Mitchum behind the neon reflection in the hotel window, talking about getting old, Farewell My Lovely—easy meat, but who can resist it?…

Lucky Lady: As a long-tentative partnership becomes absolute, Burt Reynolds reaches across Liza Minnelli in bed to clap Gene Hackman on the arm; he and Hackman both look dubiously at the hand, which is withdrawn….

Lancelot du Lac: the scrapheap of metal that used to be men … who saw a kind of eternity through a lofty window set in a stone wall, but failed to sufficiently consider the ground upon which they walked in steel-shod feet…

Tommy: Oliver Reed at his grossest, fondling Ann-Margret’s leg in a sleazy vacation camp beauty contest and salivating a paean to her sex appeal: “If you could feel this silken thiiiigh, you’d knoooow”…

• Sunday morning service in Nashville

• Popeye Doyle, going cold turkey, trying to explain to Bartelemy about baseball (“He was a lefty” — “A communist?”)—French Connection II

• The various responses of Elizabeth Ashley, Clifton James, and a horrified hotel manager as James’ prize bull is discovered ensconced in a sixth-story suite—Rancho Deluxe

• Eddie Albert listening in on a long-distance assassination—Hustle

The Four Musketeers: a duel to the death in a pool of stained-glass light, D’Artagnan stumbling in mid-lunge and crying “Oh!—” … the comprehensive stylistic payoff of four complex screen hours…

• Peachy Carnehan’s shift into third-person as he describes his own crucifixion and a resurrection mystically mediated by a true son of Sekander: first-person identity subsumed in the magic of the tale, The Man Who Would Be King

Smile: Painted and dressed to the teeth, a canny teenage beauty contestant (Annette O’Toole) strips to form-hugging leotards to illustrate the reformation that reading good books can effect—a marvelous strategy to hit the judges where they really live in a morally uplifting manner…

• Barbara Jean’s breakdown at Opryland—Nashville

The Passenger: Antonioni’s camera looks out a window or locks on a revolving fan or moves in a miraculously connective manner through a room, a window, around a plaza and back again: erasures of time and identity, celebrations of the power and endurance of space-perhaps at the expense of those who momentarily inhabit it…

• A homecoming halfway between down and up, A Woman under the Influence: Nick (Peter Falk) on the stairs with Mabel, encouraging her to grimace and gesticulate in the old way, so that he will know her again…

• A breathlessly well-placed Groucho Marx imitation (by Marty Feldman)—Young Frankenstein

• Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) leaning against a tree at Yellowstone, comparing the symbolic virtues of the grizzly bear and the American eagle (“That dandified vulture!”) while a horse scratches its back on the slope beyond—The Wind and the Lion

• Miss Salinas baring her teeth in savage smiles while ruthlessly ballyhooing her candidacy via patriotic fireworks, baton-twirling, and proffers of guacamole to all concerned; an Uncle Sam of a señorita who out–Horatio Algers those bred to the American Dream—Smile

• Triplette (Michael Murphy) eliding between modes of hail-fellow-well-met and ferocious watchfulness as he recognizes Mary is a threat to his signing up Bill, Mary and Tom for the show at the Parthenon—Nashville

Alice (who Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), ex-housewife, auditioning at a tavern: at first she sings tremulously, almost inaudibly, but then projects not so much her voice as the authenticity of a special presence, a woman making a bid for an economy-sized dream; the barflies grow silent, put down their glasses, as Scorsese’s camera circles rapturously…

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Cheswick’s (Sidney Lassick’s) marvelously tentative and off-key rendition of “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” after he is left in charge of the helm while McMurphy cavorts below… glimpses of a man that might have been…

• The vision, past a sentry on a hill, of The Four Musketeers riding toward the climax of “a story to cure a man of love”—the vantage of Lester’s camera keeps perfect faith with every schoolchild’s visualization of adventure…

Nashville: Opal asks Pfc. Kelly (Scott Glenn) what it was like in Vietnam. “It was … hot—” Kenny Fraiser (David Hayward) turns and stares at him—or. rather, at the battle ribbons that share the frame with him. Whatever it means is Kenny’s affair….

• The shock of Lancelot’s sudden physical and spiritual nakedness before Guinevere when he drops the armor in which he, like all of Bresson’s Arthurian knights, constantly encases his body… a terrible vulnerability of flesh and soul in this most meta-physical of worlds—Lancelot du Lac

The Legacy: the progressive loss of meaning or hope in a woman’s life (and her imminent suicide) evoked in a mad housewife’s poignant soliloquy on the mysterious disappearance, over the years, of lovely little silver teaspoons: “Where do they all go?… Down the garbage disposal?”…

• Ice gaunting and sharpening the contours of Nurse Ratched’s face as she watches McMurphy “imagine” the forbidden World Series game on TV: an intelligence that infects everything it touches with rigor mortis confronts the power of the mind to make art of life—One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

• The crouching Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed, sweaty in the aftermath of sex and murder, sing at the traumatized Tommy in sense-killing cacophony “You didn’t see it, / You didn’t hear it”…

• Slim Pickens musing on the recrudescence of romanticism in the cattle-rustling game—Rancho Deluxe

• Peter Sellers asking Victor Spinetti for “a rheum”—The Return of the Pink Panther

• The literally breathless perfection of the last four shots in French Connection II: the credit “Directed by John Frankenheimer” never meant more…

• Haven Hamilton’s (Henry Gibson’s) self-satisfied survey of the recording studio before “200 Years” goes all to hell—Nashville

• Swan’s “I’m under contract, too!”—Phantom of the Paradise

Nashville: Waiting backstage at the Grand Old Opry, Connie White (Karen Black), bouffanted and bedizened in a prom queen’s vision of rhinestones and red organdy, oozes bitchy star quality—but a quality that recognizably proceeds from and reinforces in turn the expectant likenesses of mother and sister standing behind, and to either side…

• Across a peaceful lake, the chunk of the headsman’s axe sounds the death of Milady de Winter, The Four Musketeers: “I’m no sailor. Two more coins for having to row.”…

• Peachy and Danny, blocked by an impassable crevasse, with no bridge to recross behind, settle down companionably for a last fire and a good jaw about old times. Laughing at themselves and Fate and other trivialities, they move a mountain and make death step aside. The Man Who Would Be King

Love and Death: Diane Keaton’s multivalenced instant of calculation after the dotard she has just named as her husband-to-be gives up the ghost in an ecstasy of anticipation: “Right! I meant—Sergei!”…

• Robert Shaw’s reverie about a massive shark attack during the Pacific War—Jaws

Nashville: Pfc. Kelly finds his voice an instant after Mr. Green (Keenan Wynn) has learned of the death of his wife; Green stands looking at the bottle of medicine he was bringing to her, then half-laughs, half-sobs as Kelly takes the down elevator….

• After the trial has been successfully concluded, Jessica (Katharine Hepburn) makes her way out of the courtroom, the camera receding before her. As she passes through the doorway we hear the rapturously expectant voice of her dupe, defender, and lifelong suitor repeating the speech he first made at a stage door 40 years before. Love among the Ruins

• Teddy Roosevelt asking to be left “alone with my bear” and reading El Raisuli’s letter; dissolve, over the rolling sea that has physically separated and stylistically joined them, to Raisuli on horseback against a molten, setting sun, laughing over a world well lost—The Wind and the Lion….. ‘

• Eileen Brennan, her almost ruined face caught somewhere between fatalism and flirtatiousness, shares a drink and the sordid history of her marriage and motherhood with Burt Reynolds, the detective who is investigating the wasted life and death of her daughter—Hustle

• Commitments made, anchor lowered, the long-dreamed-of return to Monterey and professional singing foregone, Alice and son (Alfred Lutter III) saunter down a street telescopically crowded with possibilities—not the least of which is a neon sign: CLUB MONTEREY—Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

• That improbable and anachronistic two-master headed out and away from the car-crowded Golden Gate Bridge—a less-earned, more cynical, but recognizably Peckinpavian getaway—The Killer Elite

• The final shot of The Man Who Would Be King: the focus dissolves so that the glint of a golden crown outlasts the lineaments of an all-too-mortal head…

• And a flag surging massively in the very breath of Nashville—a chilling intuition of an impulse and a power beyond paraphrase, no matter how hard the Opals may try to deny it…

RTJ & KAM

© 1976 Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy