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Moments out of Time 1978

[Originally published in Movietone News 60-61, February 1979]

The American Friend: Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) removes a sheet of gold leaf from its packing, lets it fall shivering onto his hand, blows it snug like a second skin, then uses that hand to seize the telephone receiver and make the call that will commit him to Ripley’s game….

• Standing in the middle of the prairie listening to the wheat lean with the breeze, as the call of a blackbird draws near, then passes by—Days of Heaven

• Full shots of the Basin in Comes a Horseman: Ewing (Jason Robards) left alone by his only son’s grave; dynamiting and horsefall; quelling the stampede; the tiny glow of an evening dance, while a light plane drones over the mountains…

The Duellists: D’Hubert (Keith Carradine), having been wounded by his implacable adversary, lies in a steaming tub discussing matters of high import with his mistress (Diana Quick). His voice grows more and more pinched. “Don’t sneeze!” the lady implores; then, desperately, “Describe honor!” “Honor is … indescribable!” d’Hubert all but weeps, and the sneeze comes, rending his wounded side….

• The littlest ship in the world, and a fart lit fondly in farewell—Stroszek

An Unmarried Woman: Erica’s friend (Kelly Bishop) manages to stop weeping and resumes their conversation about favorite actresses; smiling, “I liked Rita Hayworth—she was pretty”…

• For Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), the impossible, inexplicable, intolerable, inevitable split-second glimpse of Clouseau the Godfather (Peter Sellers) as the doors of a Hong Kong elevator close—The Revenge of the Pink Panther

• Can Roberts Blossom be … that is, would he … is he really eating his dog for supper?—Citizens Band

The Buddy Holly Story: Buddy (Gary Busey), Jesse (Don Stroud), and Ray Bob (Charlie Martin Smith), in a car on their way to Nashville, browsing toward the realization of “Peggy Sue”…

• Pushups in the empyrean—Heaven Can Wait

• And an echo of the real Heaven Can Wait in The Man Who Loved Women: Bertrand Morane (Charles Denner) dies reaching from his bed for the redheaded vision of feminine beauty…

The American Friend: Jonathan sitting on the commode, his feet drawn up to avoid crowding the corpse on the floor, takes Ripley’s (Dennis Hopper) hint and borrows the dead thug’s railway ticket, slipping it under the door for the conductor….

The End: Sonny (Burt Reynolds) in mid–death sentence from his doctor, trying to look tragic but having his eye caught by an absurd tropical fish…

California Suite: anyone of a dozen moments when the smiling bitchery of Michael Caine and Maggie Smith transmutes into luminous compassion and fellow feeling…

• “Name?” demands a prison officer, in Stroszek, in an hilariously hopeless attempt to make Bruno’s release a matter of controllable routine. Bruno (Bruno S.) shakes his head as if confronted by the antics of an exasperating but lovable child. “You’ve known my name for two and a half years!”…

• The sweeping, Murnavian tracking shot to the departing train, as the narrator (Linda Manz) is bid farewell by an interesting girl who will cross her path again—Days of Heaven

The Serpent’s Egg: the hero stomps in off the duly dim Strasse, lingers in the lobby of his roominghouse watching through a doorway as a ruby-cheeked German family sits down to a celebratory feast, then mounts the stairs to open another door and gaze upon his brother-in bed, back against headboard, mouth open in permanent astonished greeting, and brains spread in a rusty stain upon the wall….

Comes a Horseman: two vets who survived World War II lying by a campfire on their newly-bought land, jocosely imitating singing cowboys: a jeering voice rings out from the hillside, and within a moment two men are dead and all is stillness….

• Erstwhile high-school cheerleader Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) trying to retain her smiling equanimity as, doing volunteer work on the paraplegic ward, she hears herself frankly appraised as a sexual commodity, in Coming Home

• Family breakfast in An Unmarried Woman

• Amateur sleuth Jean Rochefort sitting in his car, in We Will All Meet in Paradise, as it is systematically hand-demolished by the man he has been tailing…

A Wedding: the family doctor (Howard Duff) heard offscreen accepting the refill of his drink: “Just to the brim”…

National Lampoon’s Animal House: Amid the general dross, a moment of sublime grossness, John Belushi’s entrance: Bluto, discovered in the shrubs, swivels dreamily to acknowledge the beckoning frosh, and audibly splashes their shoes….

• A hand covers the sleeping Ingrid Bergman’s mouth, Autumn Sonata

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Facing the probability of alien takeover, Veronica Cartwright asks rhetorically, “Why do people always look for them to come in metal ships?” and husband Jeff Goldblum replies, “I don’t look for them to come in metal ships!”…

• Girl reporter (Margot Kidder) interviews hunk from Krypton (Christopher Reeve). “How big are you—tall are you?”—Superman

• A frozen turkey and a dancing chicken, Stroszek

• Exquisite-hommage Dept.: the visit to Derwatt’s loft that begins with a tilt-down from a blood-red light bulb and culminates in the image of the great man himself—which in this context means Nicholas Ray—lolling on a chair in the middle-distance while an ignored TV beyond flashes inchoate signals of distress. The American Friend

That Obscure Object of Desire: the nice-looking gentleman in our train compartment gets up and dumps a bucket of water on that pretty girl with the bruises….

The Man Who Loved Women: the middle-aged woman from the fashion shop (Geneviève Fontanel) explains to Bertrand that once she was young and desired older men, now she is older and desires young men, and the two of them have hence irrevocably missed each other. She pauses in her explanation to watch a man (offscreen) pass by, the sound of his footsteps echoing in the night….

Convoy: the moment when all the anonymous followers in Rubber Duck’s wake begin to tell the camera crew what this convoy is really about—the first time Convoy looks as if it’s going somewhere and, tellingly, the last scene to be filmed….

• Rivers of cloud: Heart of Glass

Summer Paradise: Grandmother Katha (Birgitta Valberg) wakens to find granddaughter Eva wandering about their room all sleep-dazed. She rises to keep her company and for an instant the midsummer midnight sun tenderly reveals the contrasting silhouettes of youth and age….

Eyes of Laura Mars: Laura’s manager (René Auberjonois) bridling as a police detective presses for gossipy info about the photographer’s circle of acquaintances—”I don’t do Rona Barrett!”—whereupon he offers to do, and does superbly, Lloyd Bridges….

• The horseback duel in the avenue of trees, The Duellists: Ridley Scott’s rocketing camera (and cutting) captures the obsessive motion—amidst a static, picturesque, uncomprehending world—that will sustain this existential madness for decades….

Who’ll Stop the Rain?: “Did you see her walk out? You dig her walking to her fate thataway? Nothing but class. She’s the love of my life, no shit.” She (Tuesday Weld) ‘s a stoned-out loser, but Ray Hicks (Nick Nolte) is able to will something true, and die for it….

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Kevin McCarthy throws himself across a windshield and 22 years to repeat his warning “They’re here already!”, and taxi driver Don Siegel picks up a couple of “Type H” fares….

The American Friend: Sam Fuller walks the length of a German dining car scowling with bewildered malevolence….

• When the curtains part at the Apollo Theatre and the Crickets aren’t black—The Buddy Holly Story

• In Heaven Can Wait, Buck Henry as a harried soul-processor sneers at resistive jock Warren Beatty, “Does the phrase ‘being a good sport’ mean anything to you?”…

• Mr. Scheitz engages two Wisconsin hunters in a discussion of “animal magnetism”—Stroszek

• The complete lack of expected mockery in Henry Moon’s (Jack Nicholson) reaction to his withered benefactress and (almost) wife-to-be—Goin’ South

The Fury: Kirk Douglas climbs through the window in his underpants, but this presents no obstacle to forming immediate rapport with the little old lady on the premises, who helps him bind and gag her daughter and son-in-law: the funkiest but by no means least-pointed manifestation of De Palma’s subversive attitude toward families in his latest thriller…

• Ella (Jane Fonda) and Frank (James Caan) each wondering whether the other knows what he’s doing as they dicker with the cattle-buyer (Clifford A. Pellow), in Comes a Horseman. (The cattle-buyer’s verdict: “She was bad enough in the old days but the two of ya’s plumb awful!”)….

A Wedding: the first sight of Lillian Gish, nightgowned and sockfooted, bending out the window calling to the birds: they came to her in Way Down East and they still do and they always will….

• The crumbling stone steps to the surfers’ beach in Big Wednesday—like the gladiators’ entrance to some ancient arena, with the most crucial of the film’s Searchers-inspired portals looming above…

The Duellists: Feraud (Harvey Keitel), a historical and political anachronism, stalks the streets of a provincial town with Napoleonic dignity—and exchanges glances with a dog….

An Unmarried Woman: Erica (Jill Clayburgh), still seething over her wrestling match in the taxi, returns to her apartment. Unlocking the door she hears furtive noises within. She advances with head lowered, shoulders locked, and gloves held before her like a gun….

• Toulouse-Clouseau breaking into “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”—The Revenge of the Pink Panther

• In the emergency frat meeting, Blutarsky announcing “I know what we gotta do!” and then going blank—Animal House

The Man Who Loved Women: Bertrand lying in bed trying to imagine what face and body go with the voice of his wake-up caller; or sitting in a café wondering which of the many women on the scene is the one he’s contracted by phone to meet. The intensity of Denner and Truffaut translates sexist opportunism into metaphysical discovery: All things are mysterious. All things are possible….

• Ella, in Comes a Horseman, compelled for the first time to call Frank Frank: “Jesus!”…

• Champagne and Dr. Peppers in the record producer’s office—The Buddy Holly Story

• A camera that just won’t quit, in The American Friend: it watches newly-made assassin Jonathan depart from the scene of his crime, tilts to look down at him, descends to his level, and rushes off, committed, in his wake….

• Phantom streetcleaners behind the credits of Stroszek: eventually we learn it is the outside world as seen from prison, inverted and refracted in a water bottle….

• Smallville Cemetery and the country around it—Superman

Summer Paradise: Katha’s studiedly casual, nothing-special-just-happened-here sigh after a gentle kiss from Kiss…

• “My wife’s read everyone of your books. They’ve changed her life!”—Invasion of the Body Snatchers

• A compartment’s-worth of passengers in a Seville railway station discover they’re all from the same block in Paris. Fancy that!—That Obscure Object of Desire

• The trestle against more clouds and sky than could ever be behind a trestle—Days of Heaven

A Wedding: Tulip (Carol Burnett) nearly throwing up after her mountainous dancing partner (Pat McCormick) tells her he loves her…

• An eternity of tenderness and guilt in mother Ingrid Bergman’s face as she watches daughter Liv Ullmann play the piano—Autumn Sonata

• The damaged sunlight over the ice and snow during the Russian campaign—The Duellists

• Red sky over Paris—The American Friend

• “Leo Farnsworth” turns a corporate board meeting into a lockerroom at halftime—Heaven Can Wait

• Four men facing front in an elevator; the sound of air seeping from Godfather Clouseau’s costume bladder; appalled looks as each wonders which of the others has committed such an indiscretion—The Revenge of the Pink Panther…

• Midnight coffee at the mortuary—Hot Tomorrows

Comes a Horseman: the visual memory of a big-sky funeral in Shane, and the tilted riding shots from Red River done right…

• The silhouettes of the boys and girls winking by in the foreground as, in a Lubbock, Texas rollerama, a new sound is born: The Buddy Holly Story

• The nasty doctor (Harvey Korman) and the wicked nurse (Cloris Leachman) having difficulty plotting and staying visible: the camera keeps moving under saucers and sugarbowls—High Anxiety

• “Bruno, listen to me!” pleads a patient, agreeable warden who sincerely wants to proffer some good advice, but Bruno slips away from him just standing there: his eyes roam in every direction, an irrepressibly ironical commentary on himself, this interview, and the nature of existence in general spills from his lips, and every once in a while he just … drops out of sight on some reconnaissance mission all his own, while the warden goes on talking—Stroszek.

• A telephone booth designed according to the dictates of progress, not legend: Superman

• Trucker and traveling cathouse both brake against a hillside, in an unexpectedly lovely shot characteristic of the small, surprising pleasures of Citizens Band

• Mork’s Mindy saying “Shit!”: Pam Dawber in A Wedding

• Moonlight on riverwater rushing over a lost champagne glass—Days of Heaven

• Sounds of something growing in the mud-baths room, as the cubicle curtains breathe—Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The American Friend: Jonathan runs down tunnels, sprawls in air terminals, sits cramped and apprehensive in the back of a car-cinematic spaces conveying him to a Paris hotel room where a shift of camera angle turns the window into purest movie screen….

The Fury: a telepathic memory on the stairs, as Amy Irving turns amid the whirling phantasmagoria of Brian De Palma…

• Bruno and Mr. Scheitz hold up a barbershop (the bank upstairs was closed), then cross the street to grocery-shop; their car is still running at the curb—Stroszek

• The miraculous forbearance with which Nathalie Baye explains to Bertrand that he has traced the wrong woman—The Man Who Loved Women

• Ella running off Ewing’s cattle and then glaring at him from horseback, her spine as stiff as her Winchester—Comes a Horseman

• A pair of spooning horses supplying commentary on a courtly proposal scene, with very un–19th-century actor and actress (Keith Carradine, Cristina Raines) breaking into giggles—an Altmanian moment midst the Kubrickian splendors of Ridley Scott’s The Duellists?…

• Beg pardon, Monsieur has forgotten his ordure: Fernando Rey’s various burdens in That Obscure Object of Desire

• The old doctor and the incubator baby and Bruno S. /Kaspar Hauser—Stroszek

• Robert Wilke against a weathered plank wall—Days of Heaven

• A pair of ancient bystanders, included with apparent. irrelevance in an earlier montage, turn and give each other a big smacking kiss: the utterly enchanting last shot of Convoy and a joyous indicator, for those who still require one, of where Sam Peckinpah stands in the sordid scheme of things…

An Unmarried Woman: Saul’s giant painting for Erica being lowered from his loft—like a private sunrise, no matter that it’s descending…

• Buddy soaring into freeze frame as he salutes his final concert audience: “See ya next year!”—The Buddy Holly Story

The American Friend: Ripley—but more, Dennis Hopper—doing an arch imitation of Jonathan—and Bruno Ganz—after he has presented him with the miniature porno viewer: “I’m only giving you this because the last time we met your behavior was so disgusting—”…

• Zod, Ursa, and Non banished to the furthest reaches of the universe, Superman: trapped forever on a piece of celluloid…

• Ewing and henchmen seen through the stained-glass (hex sign?) window of the attic as Ella and Frank watch from the burning interior; the ogre father and companions reappearing a moment later, materializing from the smoke—Comes a Horseman

• An ancient runaway tractor clattering through the end of the world—Days of Heaven

• In an impossible rehearsal-hall space above an old folks’ home, the shattering, Busby Berkeleyan “42nd Street” finale of Hot Tomorrows

• A furtive, frustrating camera that refuses to let either Brooke Adams or us get a clear look at Art Hindle the morning after: he’s carrying a bag of linty grey debris down to the garbage truck … Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Heaven Can Wait: the butler’s reaction as “Leo Farnsworth” takes the tray of drinks from him and indicates he should have one himself…

• “Aarld sea-darg” with rubber parrot—The Revenge of the Pink Panther

Autumn Sonata: the instant that the unaccountably abstract amber light of the city at night is allowed to glow in the hospital-room windows, before some nurse turns on the lights (the almost subliminal coups in Bergman movies that are worth more than most of the talk)…

‘• Early-morning America as Linda Manz flees the institution, Days of Heaven: in such a place one might meet … who knows? … “a character” …

A Wedding: the aged child of Italian neorealism (Vittorio Gassman) come quietly in the night to stand at the deathbed of Lillian Gish…

• The last encounter of Veronica Cartwright and Donald Sutherland—Invasion of the Body Snatchers

• Repairing the windmill in Comes a Horseman: A line of dynamite charges go off at the property line. Ella screams “Goddam you, Ewing!” Frank leans over and kisses the nape of her neck. Ella immediately seizes a wrench and tries to resume work, but the wrench slips. Finally she gives it up and accepts Frank’s embrace. Cut to longshot…

The American Friend: Jonathan in his red VW humming “Baby you can drive my car”; and the bizarre wink and nod he gives his wife (Lisa Kreuzer) when she bends down to look in at him …

• The ending of The Duellists: Feraud climbs a wooded hill. As he reaches the top, the camera rises and, pivoting on him, watches the world turn between darkness and light…


© 1979 Richard T. Jameson

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.