Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: Le Sex Shop

[Originally published in Movietone News 33, July 1974]

It must be a mark of our starving hunger for foreign films that Le Sex Shop has garnered such generous notices. Certainly this unassuming mixture of marital comedy and social satire deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least when shown in the dubbed version exhibited locally: the soundtrack seems full of dead air even when people are speaking, and of course there’s just no way for the unique intonations of a Jean-Paul Marielle to survive transliteration, let alone transvocalization. Marielle’s balding, swinging dentist is the best thing about the movie but, dubbed, he’s only about half a good thing. He’s one of a number of sexual eccentrics who cross the path of a petit bourgeois—played by the director himself in a role apparently carrying over from Marry Me, Marry Me—after he converts his unsuccessful bookshop into a thriving porn parlor. The nebbish soon gets caught up in the pursuit of erotic satiety, only about half against his will, and by film’s end he can get off only by having his wife describe a lascivious encounter with the dentist that never happened and that, just maybe, he knows never happened.

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: ‘Undercovers Hero’

[Originally published in Movietone News 44, September 1975]

Undercovers Hero is a mess. In the great tradition of messes, its title doesn’t make sense, although it does serve to convey a category of leeringly mutual understanding between filmmaker and filmwatcher, exploiter and exploitee. If the title actually referred to anyone, it would have to be Undercovers Heroines, thereby designating the half-dozen or so filles de joie who service the clientele of a Parisian brothel that is almost a national shrine and who, when history, duty, and coincidence converge to form a ramshackle ménage-à-trois in the France of 1940, turn Free French agents and begin giving their Nazi occupiers sendoffs beyond their wildest expectations. But far from being Undercovers Heroines, Undercovers Hero isn’t even Soft Beds, Hard Battles, the movie that the Boulting brothers (once-beloved auteurs of Private’s Progress, I’m All Right, Jack, etc.) made in 1973. What was surely already a queasy playing-fast-and-loose with both underground legend and the (if we may make so irreverent) conventions of history has been bludgeoned into a new misshape so puerile, so predictable, so facilely dumb that it crushes rather than enhances any hope of healthily satirical payoff.

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: The Romantic Englishwoman

[Originally published in Movietone News 47, January 1976]

The Romantic Englishwoman affords an unexceptionably witty and civilized film experience from the first shivery glimpse of Glenda Jackson’s double reflection over the passing wintry German landscape to the last of the end credits: “A British–French Co-production”. Losey’s direction has never been more assured; the casting leaves nothing to be desired and the performances are elegantly judged; Gerry Fisher’s color cinematography is coolly ravishing, Richard Macdonald’s design precise and gracefully satirical, Richard Hartley’s score a paradigm of haut-bourgeois tastefulness with just the right hint of romantic susceptibility. Will this review continue as a rave; or is he about to heave a “Yes, but—” sigh? Well, I think we’ll keep it a rave, although at the moment I’ll inject a Yes, but delightfully as the intricate narrative game of The Romantic Englishwoman has been conceived and played, I suspect that it’s a rather self-enclosed exercise à la The Servantwith which it has clear thematic connections—while Accident remains the great Losey picture and the director’s most comprehensive work. I arrived at this only slightly disenchanted view of The Romantic Englishwoman after my second look at the film. On first viewing I was completely enthralled; and because I’d hate to compromise anyone’s similar pleasure, I’d rather say next to nothing about “what happens,” so that the viewer will be free to wonder “Is what I think is going to happen going to happen; and if it does, will it happen as I am led to expect it to; and if happens but slightly deviates from my expectations, how and why will it deviate?”

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