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Movietone News 57

Slap Shots (1977)

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

I felt a little off-balance throughout film year 1977, and it took me most of that time to figure out why. Even eccentric filmwatchers fall into patterns of expectation, and my Platonic Ideal of eccentricity was taking a beating. Too many of the big, heavily financed productions the freewheeling freelance looks forward to trashing turned out to be not bad films at all. By reverse token, the year was virtually devoid of sleepers—the unexpected, born-to-be-lost-in-the-shuffle beauties like Gumshoe, Bad Company, Charley Varrick and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia the enterprising commentator looks forward to saving for posterity and, in the meantime, directing a few adventurous viewers toward. Just why there were no sleepers is hard to say. Maybe there is so much written on film nowadays that every film’s fair chance at the limelight is conceded in advance. Add to this that the Jet City has acquired an industry rep for scaring up an audience for movies that die on the vine elsewhere. Then too, in recent years we have been dubiously blessed with at least one exhibitor willing to cry sleeper every other week, so that the term has tended to be devalued hereabouts—especially when many of the so-called sleepers have proved resolutely undistinguished.

It just may be that the biggest and, in its rather trivial way, happiest surprise of the year was a George Roy Hill movie that most reviewers suddenly felt compelled to attack for having the flaws all the director’s more popular works have manifested in abundance; I went into that in my quickie of Slap Shot in MTN 54, and I continue to recall this rowdy, raunchy, sharply acted sports comedy with pleasure. And while I was liking a movie by a director I normally find exasperating in the extreme, I was let down—anywhere from mildly to precipitously—by such customarily reliable types as Sam Peckinpah (Cross of Iron), Don Siegel (Telefon), Michael Ritchie (Semi-Tough), Dick Richard (March or Die), and Robert Aldrich (The Choirboys—though not so much Twilight’s Last Gleaming). Fred Zinnemann compelled respect and gratitude for his impeccable craftsmanship, if not necessarily artistry, in Julia. Herbert Ross astonished by coming on like, of all things, a personal director in The Turning Point and, to a lesser extent, The Goodbye Girl. Robert Benton fell a little short of the promise of Bad Company with The Late Show, but that film was one of the early pleasures of the year all the same.

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In Black & White: Vampire Cinema / How To Read a Film

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

THE VAMPIRE FILM. By Alain Silver and James Ursini. A.S. Barnes & Co.; The Tantivy Press. 238 pages. Illustrated. $10.
THE VAMPIRE CINEMA. By David Pirie. Crown Publishers: Crescent Books. 176 pages. Illustrated. $7.98.

Two recent books on vampire movies, both apparently bidding to become the definitive source on the subject, actually emerge as complementary: the inadequacies of one are the strengths of the other.

David Pirie’s The Vampire Cinema demands respect at very first glance. A green-fleshed, imposing figure of a caped vampire from Jean Rollin’s Requiem pour un Vampire glares at us from a tombstone-shaped frame, centered on a background of blood red, threatening us moviegoers and movie-book buyers with the (intended?) ambiguity of the book’s title. Unlike most coffeetable books, this one has a text every bit as good and exciting as its pictures: Pirie’s writing, except for a few grammatical eccentricities, is literate, sharp, economic, and filled with insight. The illustrations, many in color, are selected, arranged, and reproduced with the greatest integrity, reflecting Pirie’s insistence upon the centrality of landscape and milieu to the vampire film, and with a profound respect for the fact that the pictures, and their layout, carry much of the burden of the book. They are there to be looked at, studied, their captions read—not just to dazzle the eye, decorate a page, or fill up space. Alice’s rhetorical “What is the use of a book without pictures?” is particularly relevant in the case of books on film, where recourse to composition, uses of color, light, and landscape are so crucial. Unhappily, Pirie is ultimately more concerned with theme and genre than with the specific cinematic techniques so many of these pictures exemplify, and that is one of the few inadequacies in his book.

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Review: First Love

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

Joan Darling’s feature-film debut as a director is mostly disappointing, a college-age love story frequently indistinguishable from other misty, slowmo entries in the genre. Boy (William Katt, Carrie‘s prom date), who is hip on Dante and tired of careless sexual flings, becomes smitten with girl (Susan Dey), who has a dead father and an avuncular lover hanging over her. Girl can’t really make the break with either ghost, so the boy, seeing an indefinitely protracted future of being fucked-over again and again, terminates the relationship. That’s mostly it, except for side glances at the boy’s super-M.C.P. neighbor in the next dorm room (John Heard) and the two chicks he’s chasing in various directions round the mulberry bush (Beverly d’Angelo, June Barrett). But if the script (for which Darling is not credited) has little that’s new, and more than a few egregious gestures toward bittersweet poetry, Darling’s direction occasionally vouchsafes some pleasant surprises, among them a nice exploratory raunchiness in the sex scenes and a gratifyingly generous treatment of the girl’s older lover (a very graceful performance by Robert Loggia). It is also somewhat surprising–and perhaps perplexing–that in a film directed by one woman and written by another, the boy should be treated as the true-blue point-of-view character while the girl finally demonstrates herself to be, in his reluctant phrase, a cunt.

RTJ

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Review: A Bridge Too Far

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

In the final shot of A Bridge Too Far, a Dutch widow, accompanied by a doctor, her children, and a cart loaded with a few precious possessions, moves slowly across the entire width of the Scope screen, leaving behind her home in Arnhem, ravaged by the worst pocket of the ill-fated Allied sortie into Holland in fall of 1944. One of the woman’s children has fallen behind the group and is playing at soldier, a stick held at shoulder arms. It’s a shot that contrasts sharply with the final shot of Attenborough’s first directorial effort, Oh! What a Lovely War: from a family tending a single grave, the camera cranes back and up, slowly but relentlessly, revealing row upon row upon row of identical white crosses, stretching incredibly away as far as the eye can see. That shot had power without subtlety; the finish of Attenborough’s newest film is subtler but powerless. Both end-shots are representative of the token manner in which Attenborough has come to handle the problem of war.

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Review: Telefon

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

Charles Bronson—who plays a Soviet KGB agent in Telefon—is introduced to us in the act of coaching a Russian boys’ hockey team. “How do you make sure you are the first one to hit the puck?” he asks them rhetorically. The answer is, Don’t watch your opponent, and certainly don’t watch the referee (“If you see him drop the puck, you don’t see the puck”), but “Keep your eyes on the ice.” These words to live by are one statement of the code of the Don Siegel independent (and they might do for the maverick director himself), the man at odds with society who has been the central figure of virtually all his films. Whether it be the independent-as-cop (Dirty Harry, Madigan), the independent-as-crook (Charley Varrick, Dirty Harry‘s Scorpio), the independent-as-cop-and-crook (The Verdict), or the independent as social maverick trying simply to assert his identity against the encroachment of enervating social and political forces (The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Hell Is for Heroes, The Beguiled, The Shootist), Siegel’s anti-hero has always commanded our respect as one who walks the middle ground between equally attractive, equally destructive extremes.

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Review: The Choirboys

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

If I didn’t already know Robert Aldrich was an intelligent filmmaker, I’d have a hard time guessing it from The Choirboys. From the leering flatulation of the opening titles–a stained-glass window announcing “The Choirboys” with a gloved fist smashing through in freeze frame, while a chanting chorus segues into a beer hall song–grossness of comic and satiric idea is the unpromising watchword of his new movie. The title is the chosen name of the scuzziest precinct’s worth of beat cops in class-A filmmaking, who–for the first half-hour or so of the movie, at least–seem content solely to carry on like a bunch of Special Ed. alumni, whether on duty or off. They deliver themselves of an unrelenting stream of bathroom jokes, sadistic intramural pranks, and gratuitous subversions of the department and force in which, theoretically, they serve, taking an occasional after-hours for “choir practice,” which mostly means boozing and brawling in MacArthur Park. Now, I wouldn’t normally take umbrage at any of this, and I was anticipatorily delighted to read, well in advance of the film’s release, that policeman-novelist Joseph Wambaugh was less than enchanted with the changes Hollywood’s most idiosyncratic liberal had made in his boys-in-blue tale; moreover, Aldrich’s crudity has often been inseparable from his vigor, and I’ve rarely minded that. But this movie came on so dumb, and pitched, apparently, at the tastes of the lowest uncommon denominator in the audience. Particularly noxious was an early bit of fag-baiting involving the reddest-necked of the Choirboys (Tim McIntire), handcuffed bareass to a park tree, and the flittiest night-prowler outside Castro Street, complete with pink-dyed poodle on a leash. Even allowing for the director’s disingenuous admission that “Mr. Aldrich, even in a moment of anger, has never been accused of understating anything,” what was this in aid of?

Well, as it turned out in the light of the finished film, it may have been in aid of a good deal. For subsequent sequences at least semi-systematically went on to turn many of the Choirboys’ more ignoble pastimes back upon them, so that, even as Aldrich was celebrating a band of nonconformists shoving it to the system with his customary sardonic amusement, he also seemed to be trying to get at how the desperate coarseness of their reactions against a killing establishment was taking its toll in dehumanization. Although the script leaves much to be desired and the continuity is rather ragged (there is copious evidence of both excessive uninspired improvisation and heavy last-minute cutting), scenes begin to echo one another and suggest a tentative dialectic. Early in the film two of the Choirboys use a friendly hooker to entrap a hard-ass lieutenant who wants to do them dirt; later, a junior member of the team, on loan to the vice squad, must put the hookers on the other end of the entrapment procedure, and ends up looking pretty ridiculous in the process; later still, he and his partner bust yet another working girl, whose specialty is highly paid bondage sessions, and discover that her present client is one of the original jolly pranksters who put the lieutenant on the spot–and his reaction to being caught in harness by his professional soulmates is to blow his brains out. The convolutions and crossreferences really proliferate in the second half of the film, and though the movie remains an irreparable shambles, at least we can discern the complex ironic structure through which Aldrich intended to express his anarchist’s rage.

RTJ

© 1978 Richard T. Jameson

THE CHOIRBOYS
Direction: Robert Aldrich. Screenplay: Joseph Wambaugh (refused credit) and Christopher Knopf, after the novel by Wambaugh. Cinematography: Joseph Biroc. Music: Frank DeVol.
The players: Charles Durning, Louis Gossett Jr., Perry King, Clyde Kusatsu, Stephen Macht, Tim McIntire, Randy Quaid, Chuck Sacci, Don Stroud, James Woods, Burt Young, Robert Webber, Vic Tayback, Barbara Rhoades, Michele Carey, David Spielberg.

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.

Hawks, Chandler and The Big Sleep

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

I believe the really good people would be reasonably successful in any circumstance; that to be very poor and very beautiful is most probably a moral failure much more than an artistic success. Shakespeare would have done well in any generation because he would have refused to die in a corner; he would have taken the false gods and made them over; he would have taken the current formulae and forced them into something lesser men thought them incapable of. Alive today he would undoubtedly have written and directed motion pictures, plays and God knows what. Instead of saying “This medium is not good,he wouldn’t have cared a rap, because he would know that without some vulgarity there is no complete man. He would have hated refinement, as such, because it is always a withdrawal, a shrinking, and he was much too tough to shrink from anything. —Raymond Chandler (1949)

Raymond Chandler was given to talking things up in a way that Howard Hawks never has been, but part of what is remarkable about the above statement is its aptness as an aesthetics for Hawks’ films as well as for Chandler’s fiction. Even in readily likeable potboilers like Tiger Shark and The Crowd Roars, the hard-edged integrity that distinguished later and more accomplished Hawks films was already making itself felt. Indeed, in Chandler’s fiction as in movies like Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not, and Rio Bravo, the mixture of highly commercial genre and sharply individualized intelligence exerts an enduring fascination. Thus, that Hawks should end up filming a Chandler novel seems more than merely appropriate. Keep Reading

Manners, Morals, and Murder: Sleuth and Murder on the Orient Express

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

Sleuth and Murder on the Orient Express. More than puzzles are to be teased out in these two jokey, backward-looking thrillers. Two ultra-British subjects are handled by two very American directors, and whodunit – or whodunwhat – is only one of many queries to be resolved. In essence, each is of a classic English pre-war mystery-thriller type: Sleuth sets us down in our old friend, The Remote Old Country House Where Things Are Not As They Seem, whilst Murder on the Orient Express is a glossy confined-space thriller where The Killer Has To Be One Of A Small Number (all played by famous stars, of course) And Cannot Get Away For A While; the detective, Hercule Poirot, he of the waxed moustaches and the little grey cells, has to trap said killer in the limited space of time before the snow-plough arrives to allow the Orient Express, marooned in snowdrift, to continue its Istanbul-to-Calais route.

Let those readers who haven’t seen the films quit reading now, if they haven’t already. I aim to be so unsporting as to blow the surprise endings, and most of the inner workings of the plot, on both films. Actually, simply what happens isn’t so all-important; if it were, who would want to see either film a second time? And though neither film seems to be realistic, grim reality keeps on creeping in, to the advantage of Sleuth and the detriment of Orient Express. Sidney Lumet, a stern social commentator, or so he would have us believe, in earlier films like The Pawnbroker, The Hill, A View from the Bridge, and, of course, Twelve Angry Men (which has the most bearing here), is revealed by a close examination of Orient Express to be a threadbare moralist indeed; whilst Joseph Mankiewicz, widely regarded as a witticism-churning butterfly too hooked on his own bons mots to be much concerned with Life, or even visual style, has come up with as acute a study of Britain’s steel-trap class system as any native director from the so-called good old days of the island’s filmic new wave.

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“At Home on the Road” – Wim Wenders Interviewed

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

September 30, 1976

Could you tell me what Kings of the Road is about and how you came to make it?

It’s a film about two men and they’re making a journey across, along the border of East Germany from the North to the South, which is about a thousand miles, in an old truck, and they are repairing the projection equipment in the small villages.

How did you choose the subject?

Hanns Zischler in “Kings of the Road”

Well, that’s not an easy answer. There are different subjects in the film. It’s not only the journey of the two men, but it’s also the situation of cinema, small cinemas in Germany that are dying out. It’s a little bit about the end of cinema altogether. It’s about the situation of men who are 30 now, born after the war like me. It’s about Germany nowadays. It’s about a lot of things. It’s about music and it’s about rock’n’roll just as well as about cinema.

There’s quite a lot of rock’n’roll on the soundtrack. How did you pick what you used?

I picked some favorite things.

There’s a profound feeling of alienation in the film, emphasized by Bruno’s scream at the end. Are you trying to make any larger statement about men as a group being alienated, or do you limit this sense of alienation to these two men? .

It’s more or less Tarzan’s scream. Well, it’s not only the alienation of these two because in the film … As soon as you pick somebody as the hero of a film, it turns out to be statement, not only about him but about mankind. So it is, rather, a film about men than about these two men. In a way, it’s a film about men totally in an American tradition—the road movie tradition—but on the other hand, it’s just the opposite of all these films because it’s not dealing with men the way all these films used to deal. It’s not reassuring them. On the contrary.

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Review: Looking for Mr. Goodbar

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

I was going to put Looking for Mr. Goodbar on my end-of-the-year list as “Best Film of 1967.” But although Richard Brooks’ self-consciously flashy techniques are at least that dated, I think even a decade ago his shallow, cheating approach to both subject and audience would have been seen for what it is. Several times in the course of the film, Brooks segues his narrative line into a surprising but dead-end sequence that—after a shock-cut back to reality—proves to have been a fantasy of the main character, Terry Dunn. The first couple of times this happens, the audience has no basis for regarding the sequence as fantasy, since Terry is never portrayed as a woman who can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Even later, the audience picks up on the cutaways to fantasy only because by now it is on to Brooks’s tricks. Never does the device have any integral bearing on the film’s theme or style.

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New York CA 90028

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

Back in February, Marty Scorsese privately screened a rough cut of New York, New York that lasted four-and-a-half hours. The film as finally released is little more than half that length. We can assume that Scorsese knew he’d never get a four-hour movie released commercially. We can also assume that he knew what was happening while he was shooting and that he didn’t intentionally include failed material in the first rough cut. So how does it happen that half a movie winds up on the cutting-room floor?

The question is not just a matter of curiosity. New York, New York is a maddening, fascinating congeries of good and bad bits and angles, the sum of whose parts far exceeds the value of the whole, and that extraordinary difference between first rough cut and final cut may be the key to what went wrong.

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Review: Dersu Uzala

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

Dersu Uzala is about a man who’s getting old and can’t live as he always has, who’s facing life’s end. As a forebodingly “late” film by an aging director, it might also be about Kurosawa himself. Kurosawa was born in 1910, which happens to be the first date we see, superimposed over an iridescent, lacelike pattern of autumn trees, in Dersu Uzala. The matched dates may or may not be coincidental, but the interwoven allusions to different kinds of birth—of a man, a film, a memory, and even of a portentous little eddy of civilization that rustles into life in the next image of the movie—are all very much part of this undespairingly contemplative tale of friendship whose enclosing images are that of birthplace and gravesite. There is an old man in the film—the Chinese whose wife was stolen by his brother some twenty years ago—who we think must be nearing the end of his life, but who manages to see things that we don’t and perhaps can’t see. “He’s far from here,” Dersu (Maxim Munzuk) says when Arseniev (Yuri Solomin) suggests inviting the old man over to enjoy the warmth of their fire; “he sees his house, his garden all in blossom.” This is more than just memory, though. Seeing what “isn’t there” is a way to talk about vision in terms of creating metaphors, and that becomes one of Kurosawa’s recurring motifs.

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Moments out of Time 1977

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

The destroyer rumbles into the screen of "Star Wars"
A spacecraft angles into frame from above our heads in "Star Wars"

• Archetypal cinema: the opening of Star Wars. The foreword plunges us, in media res, into the serial of our moviegoing lives. Then the camera drops its field of view, a planet heaves into sight to lend scale to the universe, and a spacecraft angles into frame from above our heads. A breath-long pause, and the screen is invaded, engulfed, and enlarged by the pursuit ship of Lord Darth Vader….

Kings of the Road: in the depth of a rainy night, on an island in the Rhine, Bruno (Rüdiger Vogler) pries up the doorstep of his childhood home and sorts through the treasures of his youth….

• The friendly closeness, clarity, and availability to event of the sky above Barry Guiler’s prairie home—Close Encounters of the Third Kind

• “Oh, God!”: Diane Keaton’s introduction as Annie Hall, and her hilariously horny litany while seducing her seducer, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Aguirre, the Wrath of God: a warhorse, in full livery, left behind on the Amazon shore: as the camera draws inexorably away with the conquistadors’ raft, the animal is lost to view-the first and last of its species to inhabit this strange land….

• The passionate integrity of Jane Fonda’s performance in Julia: you can tell that, standing in the kitchen slicing onions, she’s thinking about The Play….

• “Verdi is dead!”—1900

• Cross of Iron: the slowmotion image and sound of an ammo clip being ejected, after the dawn skirmish with the Russian patrol …

• Scowling and bucking through sheets of rain, the “face” of the rumbling truck like the visage of an Indian god—Sorcerer

• A dialogue that never occurred: in Welles’ F for Fake, Elmyr de Houry and Clifford Irving uneasily accuse each other and excuse themselves in a hilarious montage of swallows, grunts, and sidelong glances….

• “There are no midgets in the United States Air Force!” General Dell (Burt Lancaster) defends his careerist pride against the imagined innuendo of his convict accomplice (Paul Winfield)—Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Slap Shot: The gung-ho exuberance of the Hanson brothers is too much for poor Allan Nicholls, who, leaving the lockerroom, turns to another team veteran with a beautifully pained “Fuckin’ embarrassing!” …

Aguirre, the Wrath of God: gun flashes across the river punctuate the Amazon night; the morning will disclose that the men on the whirlpool-trapped raft have made the only possible escape from the circle….

• The first apparition of fabled Uncle Ottavio (Werner Bruhns), 1900, as the shadow of a ship moving above the young Alfredo’s bed…

The Hawaiian-shirted Jimmy Doyle (Robert DeNiro) pauses to watch a sailor and a girl jitterbugging silently under the EI—New York, New York….

• Porque te vas?”: the girls making up, dressing in adult clothes, and rehearsing the comedies of grownups—Cria!

• The Cardinal (Paul Henreid) unwrapping himself from his carapace—Exorcist II: The Heretic

• Bob Balaban goes on translating for François Truffaut even though the latter has shifted into earnest English—Close Encounters of the Third Kind….

Pardon Mon Affaire—Horseman Jean Rochefort retains his poise as his mount swims him past a fisherman on the park lake….

• Nino Manfredi’s first sight of Stefania Sandrelli, etherealized by the steam from a cauldron of pasta—We All Loved Each Other So Much

• Bond, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and Jaws: The Spy Who Loved Me

• Twenty years of love and rage erupt in a lowdown ladies’ brawl—The Turning Point….

• “Does the Pope shit in the woods?”—an unanswerable riposte by Lily Tomlin, The Late Show

A Bridge Too Far: Edward Fox’s exhortation to the troops, rightly likened (by Jack Kroll) to Henry V at Agincourt—a moment of authentic passion and complexity in a film otherwise lacking much of either…

• A man denies that the poisoned arrow in his leg is a poisoned arrow in his leg—Aguirre, the Wrath of God

• Richard Dreyfuss’s excited garbling of “Aurora Borealis”—Close Encounters of the

Third Kind

• The two suns of Tattooine—Star Wars

Julia: Vanessa Redgrave’s great horse-y excitement, bearing down on us through the arches of Oxford…

• Terry’s (Diane Keaton’s) giddy “I don’t believe it!” after her first pickup has left—Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Dersu Uzala: Dersu makes repairs of a forest lean-to while the childlike blond soldiers pop their heads out through holes in the bark and chronicler Arseniev sits making notes at screen right—one of many whole-time-and-space events in Kurosawa’s intimate epic….

1900: a Twenties interlude (with Robert DeNiro, Dominique Sanda, Werner Bruhns) that captures more sense of the period than all of Russell’s Valentino

Kings of the Road: Bruno lounges in the cab of his van and watches this car just roar down the road and leap straight into the river …

The Marquise of O…: The ebullient Count (Bruno Ganz) departs, the Marquise (Edith Clever) flicks a spray of holy water in his wake, and her brother reaches up to dab a drop from his eye….

• The terrified grin of Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell) each time a nearby shell blast interrupts his reminiscences of the French Occupation—Cross of Iron

• Any time John Travolta hits the dancefloor in Saturday Night Fever

• Headlight, then “headlights” in the rear window of Roy Neary’s truck—Close Encounters of the Third Kind

• The descent from the mountain—Aguirre, the Wrath of God

• Nino Manfredi and Stefano Satta Flores find the tearful photos of Stefania Sandrelli in the picture-taking booth—We All Loved Each Other So Much

• George C. Scott to his youngest son after the big fish has got away: “God only knows how much I love you!”—Islands in the Stream

Sorcerer: Scanlon (Roy Scheider) walks away—but only temporarily—from an image of his destiny: a column of water rises from a snapped-off hydrant as the wounded gangster staggers down a New Jersey alley….

• L ‘affaire Picasso—F for Fake

• A pan across time and identity, Cria!: Ana the child (Ana Torrent) seeks out her mother’s “poison” as Ana the adult (“mother” Geraldine Chaplin) reflects on the event….

• Ragged claws scuttling across the kitchen floor of memory: Woody Allen, the lobsters, and Annie Hall

• Racing the sun—Dersu Uzala

• Roberts Blossoms’ superb “I saw Bigfoot once”: no hope for further indulgence by the military, even if he did probably see Bigfoot once—Close Encounters of the Third Kind

• Maggots in your comb—Suspiria

• Jet plane as locust—Exorcist II: The Heretic

• Diahne Abbott doing “Honeysuckle Rose” in New York, New York

• The operatic crane over peasants, soldiers, and the aristo duckhunters in the fog—1900

• Kathleen Quinlan’s feisty joy at feeling pain—I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Slap Shot: Reggie (Paul Newman), leather-suited and cool as shit, strutting it for the widow woman who owns the hockey team…

• Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) convinces the Imperial Guard that “these aren’t the people you’re looking for”—Star Wars

Dersu Uzala: The song of birds has told Dersu (Maxim Munzuk) that the rain is about to stop. He leads the Russians out of their shelter and out of the frame. A moment later, a rainbow marks their passing….

One on One: Smalltown kid Robbie Benson moving rapt in the monumental gym of Western University; the mechanized bankboards tilting down to salute him…

• The teary reunion of parents and daughter, The Marquise of O

• Ana “killing” her sisters while playing hide-and-seek—Cria!

• Tom’s (George Scott’s) awareness-a feeling at the back of his neck-that his oldest son has been killed—Islands in the Stream

Twilight’s Last Gleaming: the near-hysterical intensity of the kidding between the President (Charles Durning) and his military aide (Gerald O’Loughlin), during which they manage to prepare each other for the eventuality that the President could be going out to get killed …

• A marriage proposal under the wheels of a taxi cab-New York, New York

• Woody’s teachers revisited—Annie Hall

• A ship in the treetops–Aguirre, the Wrath of God

• After the world-rending chaos of a tank battle, Steyner’s platoon bursts into the lush green silence of an unspoiled field—Cross of Iron

• The split-second cut away from the collapsing bridge the instant Sorcerer‘s tires catch solid ground…

• The swing across the” gorge”—Star Wars

• The Tiger of the New Year leaps—Dersu Uzala

• A reunion far from “Naked Girls and Machine Guns,” The Late Show: Harry Regan’s (Howard Duff’s) last smile for Ira Wells (Art Carney) is full of blood; Ira curses him, but finds himself conceding “You were real good company”…

• A red cherry in an untouched drink in the middle of Jimmy Doyle’s reel-long first come-on to Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli)—New York, New York

Saturday Night Fever: Tony Manero (John Travolta), knowing he has lost one point too many by not being impressed at the name “Laurence Olivier,” suddenly remembers “Oh, yeah! Oh, he’s good!”

• Terry’s glee in stripping off James’ (William Atherton’s) condom—Looking for Mr. Goodbar…

Julia: Dash (Jason Robards) comes down the beach to tell Lilly “It’s the best play anybody’s written in years,” but she has to know: “Are you sure?”…

• The dancing in the trees—1900

• A head that goes on counting after it has been severed—Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Annie Hall getting shed of all those books with “death” in the title: “That’s a load off my back!”…

• A comrade’s passionate kiss that shocks the raving soldier back to his senses—Cross of Iron

New York, New York: the hospital parting: Jimmy must weep into Francine’s bed sheet because he can’t spoil his only handkerchief….

Sorcerer: Bruno Cremer’s life changes utterly at the moment when, walking away from his partner’s car, he hears the strange musical pop that means the man has committed suicide and left him in the lurch….

• The late Vittorio DeSica resurrected via film festival footage and cut in among the living players of We All Loved Each Other So Much

• The old couple (John Cromwell, Ruth Nelson) making love in Millie’s bed as Millie (Shelley Duvall) peeps through the door—3 Women

• Images from Dersu Uzala: men boating in the branches of a tree; snow flowing like a river; walking on a lake of fire…

• The luminous reactions of Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey) to the offscreen extraterrestrials who have come exploring in his kitchen—Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Pardon Mon Affaire: Jean Rochefort inadvertently brings his mistress-to-be (Anny Duperey) face to face with his wife (Danièle Delorme). Pal Claude Brasseur saves the day by showing up to reclaim his “date.”…

• Does your deodorant enhance your potency? Filming the Mitchum commercial with Shake Tiller (Kris Kristofferson) in Semi-Tough

• The girls’ cumulative storymaking—a narrative principle for Julia

• The rebels’ attack fleet takes off, Star Wars: the juxtaposition of jungle, sentinel, and the trajectory of the cruisers locks into a brilliant expression of the primal thrill of adventure storytelling…

• The ending of Exorcist II: The Heretic a lot of people didn’t see: a thrilling Albert Whitlock pan that moves us from the mythic vision of a ravaged civilization to the strobe-flashed chaos of a contemporary street where only one person “understands”…

Aguirre as King of El Dorado, on a raft swarming with spider monkeys…

1900: the axis of the world established between the two patriarchs, peasant (Sterling Hayden) and landlord (Burt Lancaster), as they toast the births of their grandsons…

• Welles’ reminiscences in a park, F for Fake: a man for all seasons…

• Lilly’s last meeting with Julia: Julia’s goodnatured direction of the scene; Lilly’s face when she hears the name of Julia’s daughter…

• The paths of Bruno and Robert (Hanns Zischler) intersecting a last time, Kings of the Road: Bruno in his van sees “Kamikaze” on the train, but preserves the other’s fiction that they cannot see each other….

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) fell asleep in darkness and silence. Now he is awakened in an auspicious yellow glow, and the TV murmurs offscreen. Have They come again? Looking around, he sees that night has merely performed the small miracle of becoming day, and his daughter is watching the Saturday morning cartoons. “Are you gonna be mad?” she asks. No, he isn’t. But he’s a little disappointed….

RTJ

© 1978 Richard T. Jameson

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.