COLUMNS

  • Film

    Shame and Unstrap Me

    IT’S ABOUT 6:30 IN THE MORNING and this pair, the woman all efficiency, trying to keep to a schedule, the husband always lagging behind, are loading lingonberries into a station wagon that has a funny brine like crust on its discouraging surface. The mood that encases these two, the wife trying to make a go of a failing farm operation, the husband becoming more and more of an isolationist (first he doesn’t want to get out of bed, then he wants to discuss his dream, finally he figures out that neither the radio nor the telephone needs to be fixed) is of one tiny exacerbation scraping against

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  • Film

    The Train, Bonnie and Clyde, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Point Blank

    The kooky thing about film acting is its uncontrolled, spilling over quality. The meat of any movie performance is in the suggestive material that circles the edge of a role: quirks of physiognomy, private thoughts of the actor about himself, misalliances where the body isn’t delineating the role, but is running on a tangent to it.

    Burt Lancaster’s stationmaster in The Train—a semi-reluctant fighter in the Resistance stationed in Nazi-occupied France—is an interesting performance because it has almost no center. Seven eighths of his time is spent occupied at work tasks, scrambling around the

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  • Film

    Le Départ, Made in U.S.A., Bariera, Mickey One, Puss & Kram, Darling

    If any symbolical figure appeared at the film festival in New York, it was the emergence of the Flat Man, a central character structured like a vapor, a two dimensional hat salesman, telephone operator, or decrepit dirt farmer who doesn’t appear to come from any relevant Past, and after aimless reels of time, there is no feeling that any Future is in sight.

    The only one who could be remembered with any clarity, with any sense of physical impact coming from the screen, was a sportscar fanatic, a late adolescent (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who gives shampoos and delivers wigs throughout Le Départ. With

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  • Film

    Don Siegel, Madigan, Coogan’s Bluff, and The Lineup

    Considering the automatic high coloring of his vermin, the anxious hopping around for the picturesque, the hokey scripts with worn-out capers and police-routine plots, why write about Don Siegel? Having made a few good modest-budget films—Baby Face Nelson, Flaming Feather with Presley, Return of the Body Snatchers—that aren’t shown in art theaters, he has been wrongly deified by auteurists, though he’s basically a determinedly lower case, crafty entertainer who utilizes his own violence to build unsettling movies with cheap musical scores that leave in their wake a feeling of being smeared with

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  • Film

    The New York Film Festival, My Nuit Chez Maud, Une Femme Douce, The Epic That Never Was, and Pierre and Paul

    In the type of multi-sensation circus that is the New York Film Festival, it is difficult to pin down the precise intellectual tone and incredible grace of Eric Rohmer’s Ma Nuit Chez Maud. What makes it so special is that it’s involved with a whole stratum of European culture that’s totally ignored in films: the intellectual Catholic living in the provinces. Constructed on the encounters of a single person in a new town, its pleasure comes from specificity: of time (Christmas), locale (a bustling job-prosperous town of narrow streets), geography (a wintry, sparse landscape), cast (an unimposing

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  • Film

    Duet for Cannibals, Adalen ’31, and Bob and Carol

    Susan Sontag’s Duet for Cannibals looks and feels like skimmed milk. An airless, room-locked, unusually adroit drawing-room comedy. A young man with the style and dress of an avant-garde painter is employed to catalog the life work of a political refugee. There is nothing convincing about his task, his employer’s career or the reason he and his girl are swallowed up by the powerful personalities of the two urbane, pompous vampires in an ultra-bourgeois house. The combination of a gutless spirit and sado-masochistic games (I kill you, you kill me and then we all get up and walk out the door)

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  • Film

    The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider, More, The Gypsy Moths, The Rain People, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

    The Wild Bunch has a virile ribbon image, often an aerial view, of border life in 1914 Texas, stretched across a mottled wide screen in which there are so many intense, frontal details—five kids marching in a parade with their arms linked, a line of bounty hunters riding straight at the camera—that the spectator’s store chest of visual information is constantly widened. Someone seems to have studied all the frontal postures and somber-sharp detailing in Civil War photographs, as well as the snap-the-whip, across-the-page-compositions that Homer often used as a perfect substructure for the

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  • Books

    David Smith by David Smith

    David Smith by David Smith, ed. Cleve Cray (Holt, Rinehart, N.Y., 1968), 176 pages, illustrated.

    As a compilation of statements by the artist, accompanied by many color photographs of Smith and his work, David Smith by David Smith cannot easily be categorized. There is not enough information to consider the book either biography or documentary, nor is is sufficiently systematic to be considered scholarly. Another approach might have been philosophical—an attempt to establish the artists as a speculative or analytical thinker after the fashion of Kandinsky or Sir Joshua Reynolds—but here the book

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  • Books

    History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture

    History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. by H. H. Arnason, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1968

    H. H. Arnason’s History of Modern Art is guaranteed to become a bestselling textbook. In terms of the college market, the book has all of the “proper” ingredients: it is generously illustrated with black and white reproductions and colorplates of the highest quality; it contains more information on more painters, sculptors and architects from more countries than any other single volume published to date; it pursues its subject from the beginning of the 19th century to the late 1960s; finally,

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