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Moments out of Time 1979

[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]

The Tree of Wooden Clogs: Interloping in the landowner’s courtyard, the young swain is frightened off into the night by the landowner himself, mysteriously banished from the musical soiree in his own parlor. In the barns, animals stir. A coachman waiting to drive his wealthy employers home steps to a tree to relieve himself. In midstream he glances up: snow has begun to fall. In the peasants’ quarters an old man slips out of bed to go spread chicken droppings on his private garden; the droppings will keep warm the earth, and in the spring he will have the first tomatoes. The mysterious, miraculous rhythms of life as discovered by Ermanno Olmi…

10: Stopped at a red light, and at a crucial intersection in his 42-year-old life, George Webber (Dudley Moore) glances left to behold a vision in a frame—a bride (Bo Derek) on the way to her wedding—and becomes locked in comic, erotic, and quite magnificent obsession…

Saint Jack

• Riding a pushcart through the Singapore night, proper auditor William (Denholm Elliott) says to his companion, in abashed delight: “I say, Jack, you’re a ponce, aren’t you?”—Saint Jack

• The talismans of married life dropped with absolute finality on a hall table: Joanna (Meryl Streep) is leaving and Ted (Dustin Hoffman) is refusing to get the picture—Kramer vs. Kramer

• The alternate beginnings to Ike Davis’s—and Woody Allen’s—epic of Manhattan; especially the night shot of the El crawling past the lighted stadium…

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Miranda (Anne Lambert) opens the gate to the picnic area, startles a flock of birds, and turns her head to follow their wheeling flight as the images overlap one another: the beginning of a ballet of mystery for Peter Weir’s camera; layers of style as milestones of a hedonistic pilgrimage…

• The beach fire beyond Frank’s car as he (Gerald Kennedy) and Amy (Wendy Hughes) edge toward another uneasy couplingNewsfront

• Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) absently singing a love song about “the two of us” as she strides away on the smalltown sidewalk: “The Shape” eases his dark shoulder into right foreground, and an eerie betrothal is madeHalloween

• Joe (Matthew Barry) puts “Night Fever” on the jukebox and dances against a hot square of Vittorio Storaro sunlight and an endearingly tacky ZANZIBAR sign, Luna; the fortyish homosexual (Franco Citti) lays his head upon his arms with sweet longing, then leaps up to embrace Joe and stop his dance even as he pretends to join it…

• “Keep the fuck away from me! So help me, I’ve got a knife and I’ll cut your fucking balls off!”—the shrieking of sweet nothings, Jill Clayburgh to Burt Reynolds, Starting Over

• Preparing for a most auspicious night of lovemaking, Paul Dooley crisply whips his plastic pocket protector from his shirt pocketBreaking Away

• Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte) in the whirlpool bath, waiting for Pete Maxwell (Mac Davis) to get to “the weird part,” North Dallas Forty (“Oh, man, this is fuckin’ gross!)…

• A gorilla poster glimpsed through a rain-streaked windshield—The Last Wave

• At the very ship’s rail, a semi-furry hand bursts through the lid of the coffin and closes on the seaman’s throat: the brilliant in media res beginning of Dracula

• The boy dimly perceived, like a shadow on the white curtain, as he picks up the schoolmistress’s declamation of poetry in The Corn Is Green

Butch and Sundance: The Early Days: a citizen (Richard Lester, no less) pauses to gape at a passing hearse from which laughter has just issued…

• A truck barrels down a hilly street in the Clairton, Pa. evening, drawing dead leaves in its wake: the superb sense of place, season, and destiny at the beginning of The Deer Hunter

• Told that the sparks are devils escaping from Hell to look for souls, the children lean to follow their trajectory up the chimney—The Tree of Wooden Clogs

• A shiver of concentric rings in the cup of coffee—The China Syndrome

• “Uncle Sam needs The Toad!”: dear, hopeless, unlikely survivor Charlie Martin Smith, More American Graffiti

• “Shame on you!” Ted is fired. Kramer vs. Kramer

• The mummies of Guanajuato behind the opening credits of Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht: sadly, Werner Herzog’s unfulfilled promise to take us into the world of the dead, one more Land of Silence and Darkness…

• Mina (Jan Francis) and Lucy (Kate Nelligan) by firelight, young in the courage of a young century; outside the rain-stippled window, the Count’s ship moving toward the shore with the inevitability of a dream—Dracula

• Herbert George Wells (Malcolm McDowell) has just arrived in contemporary San Francisco, Time After Time. We cut to the exterior of the Museum, suddenly without visual reference to our protagonist, and a woman is climbing the steps and walking out of the sun toward us. She turns out to be no one at all in the story, but the moment—especially as scored by Miklos Rozsa—seems like an hommage to Vertigo, and at the very least is a hint of Romantic splendors to come….

• Archetypal screen gangster Ralph Meeker in bathrobe against a western-movie sunset—a true Richard Condon moment in Winter Kills

• The intricate opening movement through the populous hovel that is home in Down and Dirty, ending on an upright figure, shrouded, one-eyed, and leveling a shotgun in perfect and perfectly justified hatred of his whole family: Papa Giacinto (Nino Manfredi)…

• Nude lady in hallway. No big deal for Billy. Kramer vs. Kramer

• Ugo Tognazzi does John WayneLa Cage aux Folles

• The “ladies” put “Goldfinger” on the phonograph and go to work. “Like puppies,” William observes. Saint Jack

• Meryl Streep’s and Alan Alda’s exquisite hesitations as Joe Tynan and the Southern lawyer lady lean into their first adulterous kiss—The Seduction of Joe Tynan

• Rüdiger Vogler watching Hanna Schygulla pull out of sight and into his imagination, on the other train bending out of parallel with his—The Wrong Move

10: Conversations with Don the bartender (Brian Dennehy)…

• The unimpeachable dignity of the Old Guard—A.G. Marwood (Don Crosby), Kenny (John Dease), Len Maguire (Bill Hunter)—Newsfront

• Nick (Christopher Walken) in the hospital window, apart from the visibly wounded—The Deer Hunter…

• Apocalypse Now: A jungle that might well be as old as Time waits beyond the shimmering haze; it endures, it endures, it has never known people, it has never not been there; and then it is translated into liquid fire. The drowsy swash of copter blades cues the dissolve to a tropical ceiling fan, and Francis Coppola, without one look back, lurches from mystery into unalleviated cliché…..

• Children carried off by tsetse flies—memories of a CIA man (Peter Falk), The Inlaws; Alan Arkin can’t accept this….

North Dallas Forty: Against his better judgment, Phil Elliott moves in to interrupt Joe Bob’s performance with the girl. Joe Bob (Bo Svenson) picks him up and holds him in midair, quite forgetting his presence there when Pete Maxwell steps in to talk reason with him. Phil is eventually dropped back to earth to breathe….

Hair: Berger leaps up to dance down the banquet table; Treat Williams’s sheer exuberance redeems a counterculture cliché….

• Dinner in the hall of the Fisher King, Perceval le Gallois

• The extraordinary gentleness of Charles Hallahan as the garagekeeping nephew, Going in Style

• Priest arrives for parent-teacher conference during the slaughter of the pig—The Tree of Wooden Clogs

• Jessica (Candice Bergen) sings her blaring promise that it’ll be “Better Than Ever” as Phil (Burt Reynolds) blanches in the mirror; Alan Pakula refuses to cut away—Starting Over

• The housekeeper serves tea, 10. (For those—most—who were laughing too hard ever to hear it, she farts as she totters out of frame; the pastor’s dog hides because it’s he who gets beaten whenever she breaks wind.)…

• Froggit (James Villiers) wanting to know how he’s “expected to penetrate the Valley of Pleasure” with all this ruckus going onSaint Jack

• Rebellion and retribution: Ted warns Billy (Justin Henry) not to go after, then not to bring to the table, then not dare to eat that chocolate chip ice cream (“You’re gonna be in big trouble!”)—Kramer vs. Kramer….

• The Count’s (Klaus Kinski) sibilant breathing as he watches Jonathan (Bruno Ganz) eat, Nosferatu: when Jonathan cuts himself the Count offers to help, is declined as per generic custom—and then whirls about to leap to his work (“It’s the oldest remedy…”)….

• The man who came with dinnerAlien

• The red-lit figure in a hospital gown sails up from the bottom of the screen, passing the frame of the car’s rear window to land, out of sight, on the roof—Halloween

• John Huston riding down the giant American Flag above New York City—Winter Kills

• The mesmerizing opening of The Warriors: color-coordinated gangs gather from all over New York City as a subway rockets through station after station…

Dracula: fingers slowly steal out of the breathing fur to rest on, then grasp, Mina’s hand…

• Sonny Steele’s (Robert Redford) hungover squint from behind the press-conference microphones: “I don’t wanna tangle with you, lady”—The Electric Horseman

Saint Jack: In the night-sweaty room where he is having his new tattoos euphemized, Jack tells William how Singapore got its name, “Lion City” (“But there were no lions.” “That’s it, William, that’s the point of the fuckin’ story.”)…

• The clinking of rum bottles jostling along a conveyor participates in the Latin pulsebeat of Cuba

Apocalypse Now: nice touch during the appalling Playmate scene: a Vietnamese beyond the fence eating rice to the beat of “Susie Q”…

• The rhythms of a wedding voyage to Milan, The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Escape from Alcatraz: “What kind of childhood did you have?” Clint Eastwood: “Short.”…

Kramer vs. Kramer: Reassuring Billy that Joanna didn’t leave because he was “bad,” Ted confesses, to himself as well as the boy, that he was guilty of being an unfair husband…

• Well-meaning Parisian lad at Sally Kellerman’s party: “Thank you for exciting me!” Amen to that.—A Little Romance

• Sean Connery incontestably there atop the speeding train—The Great Train Robbery

• Eye talk: Beverly d ‘Angelo watching Treat Williams in Hair, and Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro spotting one another amid the dancing celebrants at the Ukrainian wedding in The Deer Hunter, intriguingly suggest that the wrong people are officially in love with each other…

• Man and horse in mutual rage—The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Dazed, packed aboard the rescue vehicle, Michael (Dominic Guard) presses his hand against Albert’s (John Jarratt): a shred of lace petticoat is there….

Luna: The mother (Jill Clayburgh) apostrophizing at the gate of Verdi’s home: “Doesn’t this mean anything to you?” A beat; then, from offscreen, her son’s “Not particularly.”…

• The newsreel men’s smoker in Newsfront: The newly arrived cockney (Chris Haywood) compliments a bit of jungle-warfare footage onscreen. “It was the last shot he ever made,” says Len Maguire. We wait with them, tense, till the image registers the bullet’s impact. A salute to Damien Parer….

• Mary (Dee Wallace) declaims her whole romantic history while crawling around George’s bed retrieving her clothes—10….

• Jack Goodell (Jack Lemmon) suggests that, after all, Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) doesn’t have to drive all the way back to the city/that night. The lady gracefully declines the invitation a lonely man has not quite made.—The China Syndrome

• The camera’s slow, despairing circuit of, and discreet withdrawal from, the divorced males’ discussion groupStarting Over

• Bruno Ganz’s little skip outside the circle of communion wafers, Nosferatu

• Why does Ash (Ian Holm) shove a rolled-up magazine in the lady’s mouth?—Alien

Saint Jack: Jack, the master of a house of joy all his own, gazes from one window through another at the happy community of whores lazing on a second-story porch before breakfast. Then he glances down left between two barely-in-frame columns to observe a car driving up the lane. The world and the camera turn upon the axis of his recognition: paradise is about to be lost. Jack’s bereavement is rendered the more painfully via this discreet and lovely joint hommage to key movements in John Ford’s The Searchers and Howard Hawks’s Red River….

Down and Dirty: Giacinto, making his way across the mudflat that is his front yard, encounters a rat taking the morning sun. He bends to examine it with his one good eye. Ah, how close are the poor to the basic order of things! Damn straight. Giacinto kicks that rat high out of frame. His foot hits the ground walking….

• Exit line of the year: “I’m gonna get me a bottle o’ tequila and one o’ them keno girls that can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch….”—Willie Nelson, departing too soon from The Electric Horseman

• The oafish Perceval become Christ on the Cross; and in The Tree of Wooden Clogs, the mother setting off to pray for the life of an ailing cow, as Olmi cuts to a Christus statue looking shockingly like peasant flesh…

• Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall), hunkered down near the surf after the Air Cav raid: “Some day this war’s gonna end…Apocalypse Now

• Nick’s faint grin of serene comprehension as he says to Michael, “One shot,” and blows his brains out—The Deer Hunter

• Laurie (Cindy Williams) insisting on redding up her brother’s college pad, More American Graffiti; later, her sudden and gleeful radicalization…

• H.G. Wells learns to survive in America: “I’ll have a Big Mac, an order of fries, and a—oh! Tea!”—Time After Time

• Phil’s anxiety attack in the furniture department of Bloomingdale’s—Starting Over: “Has anyone got any Valium?”…

10: George Webber, beaming at the woman who’s beaming at him from the other table, pours coffee right past his novocained mouth and onto his shirtfront….

• Frank Langella saying “I never drink wine” as though no one had ever said it beforeDracula

Kramer vs. Kramer: Ted sitting in the midst of the Christmas office party waiting for the verdict on his new job…

Halloween: dark golden afternoon becoming shadowy blue evening as the girls drive round the smalltown streets, the grey stationwagon unnoticed behind…

• Herr Scheitz complains that, since all the municipal officers have died in the plague, he is powerless to do a very convincing job of arresting anybody: a rare sign of Herzogian life in Nosferatuunfortunately, a mere minute before the film’s end…

• His new lover suddenly pours cold beer on his pecker—The Seduction of Joe Tynan

• The long walk, and long take, up the mountain road—The Wrong Move

‘Salem’s Lot: the camera movement that brings Bonnie Bedelia over the lip of the bank as she’s climbing toward the terrible house, and very satisfyingly shows us the whole town laid out beyond her…

• The dangerous sounds of the massive black Arabian moving beyond the white curtain at the porthole, The Black Stallion: after a moment, a muzzle extends to snuffle at the sugar cubes placed around the opening, then lips them away…

Saint Jack: Jack looking at the expressionless G.I. who has just freaked out and beaten one of his girls—for connoisseurs of Vietnam fallout, one of the most succinct essentializations of that experience…

• Soldiers in a street through which the wedding couple cannot, after all, pass—The Tree of Wooden Clogs

• The palpable rapport (cf. To Have and Have Not) between Herbert and Amy, Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, in Time After Time

• George Webber, nude, flanked by two equally nude women, bends to peer through his neighbor’s telescope at his own home across the way, and discovers his lover Samantha 0ulie Andrews) looking through his telescope at him: 10….

• Giacinto’s last innocent daughter moves, belly visibly swollen, across their hilltop, as the dome of St. Peter’s looms in the distance: the last image of Down and Dirty, and an ironic reworking of the final shot of Rossellini’s Open City

Going in Style: The day after the successful holdup, on their usual park bench, semi-longshot and slightly offcenter, obscured by the waters of a fountain and surrounded by gregarious humankind, the three old pensioners sit (George Burns, Lee Strasberg, Art Carney); and Willy starts, apologetically, to die….

• From a bench at extreme right, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton watch the morning begin to glow beyond the Bridge—Manhattan….

• God’s assists from Albert Whitlock: the perfection of storybook landscape in Dracula

• Water descending, step by carpeted step, from the second floor of Richard Chamberlain’s Sydney home—The Last Wave

• Laurie turns from the classroom lesson to spy this oddly blankfaced figure watching from across the street—Halloween

• Talking head—Alien

• “Does your mother know you’re Ramones?!”: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

• In The Consequence, the brilliant realization of the lovers’ “first meeting”—onscreen, though not in actuality—rehearsing a passionate father-son scene for the prison play…

Saint Jack: the delicacy of rhythm and distance as Jack follows the Congressman (George Lazenby) through the Singapore night…

• The masterly comedy of the trattoria scene in Luna: the motorist (Renato Salvatori) leaning into his come-on, Caterina breaking up over Joe’s jam session with plates and utensils at the next table, and the genial pot-bellied proprietor presiding operatically over all…

• Amid seamless matchups of documentary footage and staged action, Chris, the “moral primitive” who has become so seriocomically valuable to us, suddenly gets into trouble and is drowned: the textures of film and reality, life and death, in Newsfront….

• The echo of Miklos Rozsa–Arabian Nights music on the soundtrack, and the 1940 Technicolor blue and gold of sea and sand as the Black first reappears to the boy, remind us that The Thief of Bagdad is Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite movie. These loving echoes make up for a lot of meretriciousness in The Black Stallion….

• The white horse trampling Mina’s grave—Dracula

• Jonathan riding away over an endless beach, off to do his “father”’s business, as storm clouds scud across the sky—the final image of Nosferatu

• Two runs through the street, in Manhattan and Kramer vs. Kramer: Ike/Woody’s run is almost pure figure of style, tracked by a scrupulously regularized camera and set to a Gershwin march. Ted Kramer’s run with his wounded son in his arms is impulsive, desperate, thrust upon the camera; we are shocked and apprehensive at each intersection he crosses, whereas the comparable movement across patiently waiting traffic in Allen’s film speaks to the phenomenon of Manhattan beguiled by one of its fondest denizens. Both are great films, and we might begin appreciating the differences between them right here….•

• Peasant washing and bundles of drying corn, both hanging along the gallery—The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Halloween: As Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) examines a pickup truck pulled off the highway (missing, incidentally, the corpse of the now-naked driver), the thunder of a train builds ominously offscreen; it eventually becomes visible–from exactly the direction that the “predictable” architecture of the shot did not prepare us for…

• “I love that plant”: the life-wrenching enormity of Jack Goodell’s realizations about the nuclear facility where he works is beautifully caught in Jack Lemmon’s reading, but first-run audiences giggling in superior awareness of Three Mile Island mostly remained oblivious to his pain, and took this as a laugh line. Goodell and Lemmon didn’t deserve that reaction, even if the film—The China Syndromedid….

• Police horses dancing in Central Park—Hair

• Jürgen Prochnow’s beautifully played resistance to extraordinary temptation, as this blond angel—the warden’s son—turns up to spend the night in his cellThe Consequence

• Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) watches in the mirror as a shadow walks in and closes the door behind it—Nosferatu

• The newsreel opening and close of Newsfront: “Waltzing Matilda” scoring a brilliant montage of athletics, amateur theatricals, and history in motion; and a koala humping its way up a tall tree—the perfect visualization of Australia attaining its maturity as a member of the community of nations…

• Charlie (Nanjiwarra Amagula) fingers an architectural motif in a photograph of one of the lawyer’s ancestors, and nods approvingly—The Last Wave

• An astonishingly Herzogian Z-movie image in Phantasm: the hero leans into the space-time warp and perceives a column of black-hooded figures shuffling toward a red mountain…

• Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen): “Soldier, .do you know who’s in charge here?” G.I. (Jack Thibeau), into camera: “Yeah.” Walks away. —Apocalypse Now…

• Gold light inexplicably starting to glow round the Bucephalus statuette, which slowly tips, then falls, as the gold light builds to explosion and the ship begins to heel over—The Black Stallion

• H.G. Wells hails a cab, and gets unexpectedly rapid service—Time After Time

• “Coach, can me and Joe Bob have a copy of that pome?”—O.W. Shaddock (John Matuszak) in North Dallas Forty

• The wonderful sail-f1apping sound as the Count’s untenanted (?…) cape tears free and soars off through the skyDracula

• Len gets up to answer a middle-of-the-night phonecall and finds Amy stretched on a chaise, smoking—Newsfront

• The superb mise-en-scène, intelligently fraught yet full of potential for reconciliation and resolution, as Samantha comes in to hear George’s new song—10

• With the merger of Cinetone and Newsco, career-long rival Charlie (John Ewart) arrives to share office space with Len Maguire, who advises “One fart and you’re out”—Newsfront

• Jill Clayburgh sitting by the roadway with dirty shins—Luna

• Jack finding William dying off a back hall in the English club—Saint Jack

• Shape ‘in a sheet in a bedroom doorway, Halloween: the incongruous eyeglasses mark him as the boyfriend of P.J. Soles (“Totally“), who asks from the bed, “See anything ya like?”…

Starting Over: first non-third-party date with Potter: at the last minute, Marilyn (Jill Clayburgh) remembers to check for underarm perspiration…

• Post-wedding investment advice declined: Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) never uses condominiumsRocky II

• Kate Nelligan ultradangerous in white batwing gown, Dracula

Newsfront: Frank’s return from the States prompts a visit to Len’s old home and the showing of home movies; on the screen, Chris walks through a low-comedy gag he has set up, then moves into huge foggy closeup to shut off the camera on its improvised mount. “Who’s that?” asks one of the children. “That’s your Uncle Chris, you remember him.” “Oh, yeah… ” Chris is now dead, killed while making another film….

• Chopping secretly at The Tree of Wooden Clogs, the father times his blows to the rhythm of the rosary his wife is telling in the loft—as though the rhythms of faith could protect him from discovery…

Kramer vs. Kramer: Ted asking Margaret (Jane Alexander) whether she will promise to look after Billy in the event that he himself should be unable to: a gesture that reassures both of them in the aftermath of Billy’s accident…

• The stunningly abstract and “modern” overhead view of an orange ball flung across an iridescent green Olympic swimming pool—a gorgeous transition between fond nostalgia and ongoing vitality in Newsfront

• A giant waterfall for the production of Il Trovatore proves, when seen backstage, to resemble nothing so much as an oversized wringer washer cranked by two old men in their undershirts: the sublime payoff shot in a sequence from Luna wherein Bertolucci at once parodies artifice and celebrates the courage of art…

• A consummate ending: Mariel Hemingway’s “You have to have a little faith in people”; Woody Allen’s sad, wondrous, resigned smile; the city; the Gershwin rhapsody: Manhattan


© 1980 Richard T. Jameson

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.