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Moments out of Time 1976

[Originally published in Movietone News 53, January 1977]

• The premiere of The Clansman, and D.W. Griffith’s stately acknowledgement of the cheers-the night we’d like to have attended, and thanks to Peter Bogdanovich for enabling us to be there: Nickelodeon….

• The duel in the barn: shafts of blue light, the flutter of pigeon wings, and the inexorable progress of ritual and fatality—Barry Lyndon

All the President’s Men: the daft imperturbability of the country club lawyer (Nicolas Coster) who, asked by Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) why he’s here at the plumbers’ arraignment, replies “I’m not here.”…

The duel in the barn: “Barry Lyndon”

• The men weeping over chopped onions and the slowness of social change—Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000

• The sexual eagerness of Ali (El Hedi Ben Salem) and the old widow (Brigitte Mira) when they find one another in front of her apartment the second night—Ali—Angst essen Seele auf….

• An interview in an airport restroom—Alice in the Cities

Welcome to L.A.: Ken Hood (Harvey Keitel) gets his Christmas bonus—a partnership in the yogurt company—and rides down in the elevator. “Youuuuuu—you did it, you Kenneth! … Give me a K! Give me an E!…”

• The eyeless left profile of Esmond Knight cocked against the sky at the beginning of Robin and Marian

• Sweeney (Richard Boone) closes his polite middle-of-the-street interview with J.B. Books (John Wayne) and Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) in The Shootist: delivered of his smiley menace, he flips his palm to the sky and singsongs “—and to you I say goodbye!”

Small Change: While Mlle. Petit stands at left asking the class whether she didn’t indeed give out the assignment the day before, Patrick Desmouceaux shakes a frantically wishful “No!!!” at his giggling confreres….

• The several real and suppositional versions of the elevator fuck in The Romantic Englishwoman

Obsession: Brian De Palma pans 360 degrees and 16 years away from and back to Mike Courtland (Cliff Robertson) looking at the memorial shrine for his lost wife and daughter—and surely wants us to spot the “invisible” optical join that makes possible this exercise in Hitchcockian surreality….

• Karen Black’s entrance in Family P• lot: after a breathlessly swerving montage, Hitchcock’s camera fixes on that figure in black-like a piece torn out of the night—and trucks along behind it in thrall: equally in thrall, the viewer doesn’t mind at all that he’s just been wrenched out of one storyline and into another without benefit of explanation….

Stay Hungry: Barefoot swampchild picks up a fiddle, turns his back to the camera and begins to saw away absentmindedly, as the camera cranes undemonstratively back and up, and a half-dozen elders crowd round to join his melody….

• Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) advising Dardis’ receptionist “I’m still here” and the lady (Polly Holiday), barely looking up from her pencil, beaming a clamp-jawed “I’m so glad”—All the President’s Men

• Cybill Shepherd’s slightly slowmo entrance into a sidewalk crowd of loitering males, Travis Bickle’s narrative, and Martin Scorsese’s mesmerized frame—Taxi Driver

The Outlaw Josey Wales: Josey (Clint Eastwood) rises curious from his bedroll in the night, peers over the neighboring log, and discovers Long Watie (Chief Dan George) contentedly being ridden by the gabby Indian girl (Geraldine Kearns): “You were right—I’m not too old”…

• The elder DeLuca brother beside himself with delight at getting to tell a dirty priest-and-nun joke on-camera, for Small Change

• Flirtation by turn signal in Fox and His Friends

The Missouri Breaks: Harry Dean Stanton’s certainty that he is going to be dead within seconds, and his attempt to buy time and security for his absent friend, while Brando tromps gleefully through the grass in granny skirts (“Smoked meat! Smoked meat!”)…

• Vincent (Yves Montand) meeting his estranged wife (Stéphane Audran) in a breakfast café, and wondering with careful casualness whether they mightn’t give it another try: delicately, she explains why the answer must be no, and just as delicately he tries to spare her any anguish over refusing him. Vincent, François, Paul et les autres

• John Travolta driving his rod, beer on his chin and a shit-eating grin across his face, while the cops cruise alongside and “Heat Wave” shrieks on the soundtrack—Carrie

Marathon Man: Szell (Laurence Olivier) arranges his dental tools and repeatedly asks earnestly “Is it safe?” Babe (Dustin Hoffman) would love to answer him, but neither “Yes, it’s safe” nor “No, it isn’t safe” seems to satisfy…..

The Shootist: J.B. Books swings aboard the trolley for the last time: a young girl exclaims “Isn’t it a beautiful day!” and, remembering Bond Rogers’ words of a moment before, he says, “What we call ‘false spring.'”…

All the President’s Men: Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) hands back the first nail-’em-dead story to Woodstein and walks off up the aisle of deserted Post newsroom, suddenly cracking his knuckles, rapping a handy desk, and skipping without losing stride….

• In Welcome to L.A., Linda Murray (Sissy Spacek) bopping, slopping guacamole, and shooting a glance at the camera as she sings “Every time I catch you lookin’ over my shoulder—”…

• The conversation between the alcoholic veterinarian (Bob Dishy) and the terminal traveler (Richard B. Shull) on The Big Bus: “Don’t try to tell me about the bitterness of life!”…

Alice in the Cities: While an unidentified little boy leans against a jukebox in the corner, Alice stops with a spoonful of ice cream in front of her mouth and admits that, after all, this isn’t the town where her grandmother lives….

• During the credits of The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the Panther suddenly assumes the cinematic guise of Maria von Trapp/Julie Andrews/Mrs. Blake Edwards….

The Tenant: M. Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski), anxious to please, rushes back upstairs from the garbage cans to retrieve the orange peels he knows he inadvertently dropped; but the stairs are accusingly immaculate….

Small Change: the ardent aspirant Desmouceaux’s face as the voluptuous Mme. Riffle accepts his red roses and says, “Be sure and thank your father for me”…

Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000: Marco’s lecture on a transcendental interpretation of history, augmented with a metronome, a cleaver, a cutting board, and a furlong of blutwurst…

Robin and Marian: the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw), having watched his men at combat practice from a tower window, leaves the obnoxiously politicking Sir Ranulf (Kenneth Haigh) and goes grinning to beat them into the mud….

• The first image of Barry Lyndon—a stone fence, a tree bough, a purple-brown-blue–toned mud road, and a terse duel to the death on a distant green hillside—announcing the arrival of a technologically enhanced way of seeing the world on celluloid…

• Ed Lauter and wife as guilty American Gothic in a Union 76 window—Family Plot

• Martin Scorsese hitching a taxi ride to direct Robert DeNiro’s attention to a “woman in the window” and inquire whether he knows what a .44 will do to a pussy—Taxi Driver

• Mr. Swann (Michel Lonsdale) rolls his car window partway down to explain to Lewis Fielding (Michael Caine) that he only wants to catch up to Thomas (Helmut Berger) in order to tell him he has won the Irish sweepstakes—The Romantic Englishwoman….

• Pasqualino (Giancarlo Giannini) tries to dispose of the body, in Seven Beauties, and ends up with his feet in a tub of sand and his face staring up at that of the shrouded corpse….

• Woodward on the phone with Clark MacGregor, who tells him “If you print that, our relationship is terminated” – “Sir, we don’t have a relationship!”—All the President’s Men

• Newly appointed “director” Harrigan (Ryan O’Neal) steps out of the Coucamonga Hotel to behold his minimal cast and crew lined up alongside a flatbed truck—an image bathed in the golden sun of morning and the movies’ utter innocence of being an artform: Nickelodeon….

• The commingled rage and shame of Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) when the raving Holmes’ (Nicol Williamson) calling him a cripple leads him to strike Holmes down—what needs to be done, at any rate, at that point in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution; also, his reception of Holmes’ oblique but deeply shamed apology later on…

Welcome to L.A.: Ann Goode (Sally Kellerman) tries to persuade Linda, whom she has brought to clean her lover’s house, to put her shirt-top back on before he returns to the room; Linda goes on rhapsodizing over the “view” and finally Ann looks desperately into the camera for help….

• Liv Ullmann’s long-take freakout in Face to Face

• Court, greeted by the image of his wife reborn above a foggy bank of candleflame, listens to Sandra (Geneviève Bujold) describe the dilemma of whether to restore the present painting or scrape after the possibly inferior artwork underneath. He passionately casts his vote, gazing up at Heaven: “Hold on to it!”—Obsession

• Mary Lou (Candy Clark) gazes up at Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) with rapacious pride and possessiveness as the Artesia, New Mexico, congregation sings Blake’s “Jerusalem” for their “English” visitor, The Man Who Fell to Earth; Newton’s lips and jaw move spasmodically as he tries obligingly to sing an earthly melody….

• The charismatic authenticity of Burt Lancaster, if not Ned Buntline, amid the modish juvenilia of Buffalo Bill and the Indians

• The widow’s son, learning of her proposed remarriage to a Moroccan, gets up and kicks in the TV screen—Ali….

The Pink Panther Strikes Again: Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers), midway through an ecstatic, filter-fogged, light-spangled strip with a beautiful woman waiting in his bed, more or less hangs himself with his necktie….

The Shootist: J.B. Books puts a probably non-lethal bullet into a hapless holdup man’s stomach and, just before riding on, advises, “You better get yourself a new profession. This one don’t seem to fit your pistol!”…

• The flight of the potato-parer, and the mother’s ecstatic groans—Carrie

• Marcello Mastroianni and Jean Rochefort grooving in the cartoon-dubbing session—Salut l’artiste

The Big Bus: the other bus drivers ostracize Joseph Bologna by clicking their changemakers at him….

• Robin Hood (Sean Connery) and Little John (Nicol Williamson) trying to figure out how they ended up in Richard the Lionheart’s dungeon (“You nodded!”)—Robin and Marian… I

• Moments of grace that matter, but cannot change a thing, in Barry Lyndon: Grogan pledging his arm to Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) whenever he needs it; his farewell kiss in a German ditch; Barry, the farmwoman and her child in a warm cloud of supper and candlelight…

• The happy befuddlement of “Captain” Jack (John Considine) at his party—Welcome to L.A.

• The teachers’ conferences about their classes in Small Change (“They’re born clowns!”)…

Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000: Marco’s admission that he loves Marie, in front of his class, and Marie…

• Bradlee hears about Deep Throat, Woodward’s “garage freak” source in All the President’s Men: “Garage freak!? Jesus Christ, what kinda crazy fuckin’ story is this?”…

Family Plot: Alfred Hitchcock flips a perversely Hitchcockian bird at a generation of reviewers: this time the scenery on the process screen is clearer than the actors before it, as the taxi- and night-enclosed Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris bleed right off into the surrounding dark….

• Farnsworth’s—and Buck Henry’s—flatly declaimed “I knew it had to come someday, of course” when he finds the goons in gold football helmets waiting outside his door, The Man Who Fell to Earth: the comprehension of inevitability reverberating back through deepest space and all of human history, and doing nothing to ease his small, immediate terror…

Welcome to L.A.: Carroll Barber (Keith Carradine) assuring Karin Hood (Geraldine Chaplin) that he knows it was Goya who said “The sleep of reason produces monsters,” because “He was over the other night—we talked about it”…

The Story of Adèle H.: Adèle identifies herself to the magician—and to us for the first time—by writing the name “Victor Hugo” on the mirror….

• Lewis freaks out at his wife’s liberated, gossip-columnist pal (Kate Nelligan), bellowing into her face that she is “BORING!!!”—The Romantic Englishwoman

• Books sitting green-faced and panting after killing the last of the three men who tried to murder him in bedThe Shootist

• The veins, at once delicate and prominent, in the slim wrist that is our first sight of Maid Marian 18 years after, and Audrey Hepburn in nearly a decadeRobin and Marian… (Marian later reveals that she slashed those wrists when Robin left.)…

• Bernstein’s and Woodward’s doubletakes at each other after Woodward has encouragingly admitted to Hugh Sloan (Stephen Collins) that he’s a Republican—All the President’s Men

Carrie as Nosferatu, a hieratic figure borne across the blazing gym floor by no human agency…

• Clouseau falls from the second floor into the livingroom and, with perfect equanimity, begins interrogating the servants—The Pink Panther Strikes Again….

• Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise dance flamenco on Anne Bancroft—Silent Movie….

• The telephoto views of the Indians making and breaking their hilltop camp, Buffalo Bill and the Indians: Altman succeeds in evoking an authentic air of super-Caucasian mystery here despite the simplistic redskin deification of the rest of his movie….

• Captain Quin (Leonard Rossiter) awaiting his death from a harmless pistol shot—Barry Lyndon

• “When the Arrow Flies”—Welcome to L.A.

• A smalltown community come together in the truest house of secular worship, a movie theatre—Small Change

• J.B. Books confiding to the doctor (James Stewart), in leaned-into closeup, that his bright red cushion was stolen from a whorehouse—The Shootist

• Mary Lou alone on the dock, The Man Who Fell to Earth; playing, unbeknownst, Gatsby-in-reverse…

• The intensity of the color—it threatens to disintegrate the very emulsion of the film—of the landscape outside Liv Ullmann’s apartment as she prepares to vacate the premises for a summer at her grandparents—Face to Face

• Babe lying in the bathtub at three in the morning, watching chisels split through the flimsy door—Marathon Man

• Mycroft Holmes (Charles Gray) appearing slowly out of the dim depths of the Diogenes Club, rumbling his apprehension of why Dr. Watson has come to see him before Watson can even begin to explain—The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

• An arm, Carrie

• Ned Beatty, asleep at the Big Bus control console, looks up when the long shaft of sunlight slants through the opened door: his buddy (Howard Hesseman) has come back to him….

Nickelodeon: the stillness that falls over the movie crew as, quietly, without looking up, at the very edge of the screen, Alice (Tatum O’Neal) dictates the revised scenario that will save their seemingly obsolescent footage…

• Conning the ex-fiancée of the CRP employee into getting the information Woodstein needs, All the President’s Men; also Bernstein’s interview with the girl in the outdoor restaurant (“My girlfriend told me to watch out for you!”) and the CRP bookkeeper (“If you guys could get John Mitchell, that would be beautiful”)…

• In one of Welcome to L.A.‘s many mirrors, Karin practices saying hello before in fact lifting the phone and saying hello….

• Ex-Commissioner Dreyfuss’ (Herbert Lom) utterly self-possessed interview with the psychiatrist—B.C. (Before Clouseau)—The Pink Panther Strikes Again

• Travis Bickle’s finger to temple, all-knowing smile, and “Pow! Pow!”—Taxi Driver

• The chubbychaser (Paul B. Price) starting to get into character as, pausing at the grubbily magic portal to The Ritz, he describes getting barred from the Atheneum for chopping down a door…

Josey Wales finds Long Watie pinned under the Indian girl, her knife at his throat; the old Indian says, “Lucky thing you came back. I almost killed her.”…

• The rancher’s daughter’s hesitantly engineered loss of virginity, The Missouri Breaks—a lovely debut, too, for Kathleen Loyd…

Robin and Marian: Robin, standing on Little John’s shoulders, has spent the night chiseling one stone out of their dungeon’s ceiling. A guard opens the door, stands at the top of the stair looking eye-level at Robin, then motions they are free. Robin drops the rock and climbs down….

• J.B. Books raises his glass to Pulford (Hugh O’Brian) in the Metropole mirror. Pulford waves a careless but formal salute in return. The Shootist

• In a Nova Scotia street, Adèle H. puts out a hand to detain the uniformed officer who might be her lover. It is not. It’s just François Truffaut….

Barry Lyndon: Sir Charles Lyndon, chortling over his putdown of Redmond Barry’s presumptuousness, terminally chokes….

• The early-morning tenderness between the grandparents—Face to Face

Alice in the Cities: The traveling reporter (Rüdiger Vogeler) discovers that America is a place where you can fall asleep with a John Payne movie on the motel TV and wake to find Young Mr. Lincoln….

• Rufus’ improvised peroration on a dunghill—Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000

• Around a newsroom pillar, Woodward sees Bernstein taking his copy—All the President’s Men….

• In The Romantic Englishwoman, Glenda Jackson comes home to an empty house and checks both her husband’s and the maid’s beds for evidence of infidelity….

• Peter Bogdanovich nods simultaneously to John Ford and Howard Hawks in Nickelodeon by having the movie crew gather round a piano and a single conspicuous lantern to sing “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”…

• Jack Goode and Linda Murray harmonize at Carroll’s piano on Christmas Eve, Welcome to L.A. (“Oh yeah! Be greedy! Eat it all—and when you’re done, start on my brainnn!”)…

• Dom DeLuise raped by Coke machine—Silent Movie

• Desmouceaux wills the clock hands to 4: 30 while the teacher badgers him for an answer—Small Change….

• Mary Lou leaving the Artesia Hotel a little before dawn; a police car bumps over the railroad tracks, its lights flashing blue, its destination unaccounted for—The Man Who Fell to Earth

• The desperate openness, almost immediately betrayed, as Books receives a visit from his old love Serepta (Sheree North)—The Shootist

• Woodstein try to wheedle their way past Hugh Sloan’s wife in the doorway of the untainted Georgetown home. “It’s really for. his own good,” Woodward assures her. She shakes her head with a straight-line smile: “No it’s not.” “No … it’s not.” … All the President’s Men

• The kidnapping of the bishop—Family Plot

• Ann Goode bumps into Ken Hood at the athletic club and, saying “I think we’re getting to be old friends” (it’s the second time they’ve met), leans across the screen and kisses him. He watches dazed as she passes out of the shot, and remembers to say to her companion, “Pleased to meet you.”—Welcome to L.A.

• The cab beaded with rain, the one solid, clean-lined, dependably focused imperative in a welter of lurid light and movement—Taxi Driver

• Chris (F. Murray Abraham) jocks it up for Carmine Vespucci (Jerry Stiller), who’s convinced he’s talking to a tough private eye—The Ritz

• Trelkovsky, moving aside a battered armoire, observes a wad of cotton sticking out of the wall; removing it, he finds … an adult tooth, recently extracted…. The Tenant

• The weak eyes, the weak light, and Adèle H. writing and writing and writing…

• The gym teacher (Betty Buckley) belts Chris (Nancy Allen)—a shamelessly gratifying moment from Carrie….

Robin and Marian: the first morning back in the greenwood, Robin wakes up, stretches, and begins luxuriously to scratch his balls—until he remembers Marian is there, and awkwardly pivot-hops away as if he’d really meant to be doing something else, somewhere else….

• The brilliant merging of absolute viciousness and good manners as Mrs. Barry (Marie Kean) advises the Rev. Mr. Runt (Murray Melvin) that they cannot possibly impose upon him by keeping him as part of the household any longer—Barry Lyndon

• The grey ghost riders piled up in telephoto behind the credits of The Outlaw Josey Wales: figures suspended in a self-perpetuating fog of violence, their position and role unchanging, no matter what the temporary conditions of peace or war, legality or illegality…

Obsession: the expression on Court’s face when the whirling of bodies and camera stops in freezeframe…

• Desmouceaux thanks Mme. Riffle for her “frugal meal”—Small Change….

Nickelodeon: Harrigan gets off the train, in the middle of nowhere and a torn suit, to see a dog running across miles of open land for the express purpose of biting his ankle….

• Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) disappearing from the underground garage, and Woodward walking, then trotting, then running from … nothing at all and absolutely anything—All the President’s Men

The Shootist: Dr. Hofsteader looks over the swinging door of the Metropole at the newlymade corpse of John Bernard Books; Jimmy Stewart looks at the shrouded figure of John Wayne…

• The conference among Sue (Amy Irving), Tommy (William Katt) and the gym teacher, in Carrie—failure to communicate raised to an existential art…

• Travis and the black dude staring each other down in the diner—Taxi Driver

• Seat-changing makes Desmouceaux the odd man out of moviehouse romance—Small Change

• “My cousin died … once.”—Sissy Spacek in Welcome to L.A.

• Burt Reynolds steps into his shower in Silent Movie and realizes, after a moment, he is not alone….

All the President’s Men: five unbroken minutes on the telephone with Bob Woodward, as a gradually closing frame excludes the kissoff of Tom Eagleton on a nearby TV and a series of crossed phonecalls serve to crystallize the inescapable reality of an all-pervasive design (“I’m caught in the middle of something and I don’t know what it is.” “What do you think it is, Mr. Dahlberg?”)…

• A shepherd watches from a hillside as, in the distance, Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham fight to the death—Robin and Marian

• The fleeting glimpse of an airliner, against the sunset, hitting an air pocket and dropping—Alice in the Cities

• Thomas Jerome Newton encapsulated in a speeding limo, a white horse running alongside, “Try to Remember” on the soundtrack, and the first Captain Video image of the space family making their way across a painted verdant landscape—a statement of the universality of vulnerability via a multivalenced exaltation of kitsch in The Man Who Fell to Earth

• An interview with a civil highwayman (Arthur O’Sullivan) amid golden leaves—Barry Lyndon

• Buck (Burt Reynolds)—whose middle name decidedly is not ‘ride’—galloping on a treadmill in a stage presentation of The Clansman: he inadvertently waves his fiery cross in trying to stay aboard the horse and, discovering that the audience loves it, waves it again: pop art is a poor thing, but in Nickelodeon it’s all we’ve got, and it’s more than enough….

• Hitchcock’s choosing to make his bit appearance via a shadow on a Hall of Records Births & Deaths sign, Family Plot (also his triumphantly black punning on the mechanical pacemaker inside his own chest during one trailer for the film)…

Carrie: the caped figure of Mrs. White (Piper Laurie) bearing down on a rich suburban home…

Adèle H. standing on a rock among the crashing waves as she celebrates her vow to cross the sea and find her lover…

• Woodward’s explosion at Deep Throat during their final meeting, All the President’s Men: “I’m tired of your chickenshit games!”…

• Barry’s son rattling pencils in his writing desk and disturbing the elder Lyndon boy (Leon Vitale) in his studies: the things Stanley Kubrick chooses to take time for in the saga of Barry Lyndon

• A cartoon Clouseau replaces Peter Sellers splashing in the Seine as, at bottom-frame, the Pink Panther rises Jaws-like: The Pink Panther Strikes Again….

• Little John winging his applecore into the night and quietly accounting for why he has never spoken of his feeling for Marian: “You’re Rob’s lady. If you were my lady, I’d never have gone away.”—Robin and Marian

Welcome to L.A.: After Linda has agreed with Kenneth’s suggestion that they can “go far beyond your quote-unquote ‘normal man-woman relationship’,” he mock-raps her on the jaw and says, “Hey guy!”…

• Desmouceaux finally gets his first kiss, on the dormitory stairs, Small Change. Equally fine: the young pair’s grave, delighted descent, and the roar of exultant joshing as they reenter the refectory…:

• Woodstein’s triumphant runs through the newsroom: the liberating culmination of all the studiously cramped and cranny-testing movements in All the President’s Men

• Mutual name-calling while paddling in the river—Alice in the Cities

• The discretion of Books’ bathtub fall in The Shootist: “I didn’t want to be a burden.” – “You are a burden!”…

Carrie pulling Mrs. White down from the kitchen doorway: sproinngggg!!…

• Richard, dying of an absurd wound, seen sitting on a rock against the backdrop of a burning castle and an otherwise empty landscape: Lester’s Beckett-like intuition of the precise edge of the rational world … Robin and Marian

Jonah, who is five in 1980, scratching random graffiti over the faded chalk memorialization of the mundane martyrs who have left the world just a little bit better for him: his mother calls him to lunch….

• The faces of once-estranged, now tentatively reunited friends against the receding night, as they look toward the luminous glass studio where some “lucky people are making a movie”—Nickelodeon: the same 20 or 30 extras endlessly recycle to provide a suitably spectacular marching caravan as the soundtrack advises “Pack up your troubles in an old kit bag and smile, smile, smile”…

• The first and final complete performance of the title song in Welcome to L.A.: the producer fades into the background as the writer becomes the artist, the singer becomes the song, and the song becomes the film: Carroll’s shadowed but nonetheless direct stare: “I was a thousand miles beyond you / In the coming of the light”…


© 1977 Richard T. Jameson