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Moments out of Time 1977

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

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….


© 1978 Richard T. Jameson

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.