COLUMNS

  • Film

    Pendulum, Bullitt, Coogan’s Bluff, Madigan and The Detective

    There’s no question that there’s a new crowd-pleasing movie around that has to do with a disenchanted cop, a city in which no corner is untainted, and an artichoke plot. Wrapped around a heart that is just a procedural cop story, police routines in Washington (Pendulum), San Francisco (Bullitt), Phoenix (Coogan’s Bluff), and Manhattan (Madigan and The Detective), is a shrubwork of Daily News stories, the whole newspaper from beginning to end: the sensationalism, sentimentality, human interest, plus some liberal editorials. Each film has its mini-version of the drug scene, investigating committees,

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  • Film

    Howard Hawks, Only Angels, His Girl Friday, Tender Is the Night, Scarface, and Red River

    Scarface (1932) is a passionate, strong, archaic photographic miracle: the rise and fall of an ignorant, blustery, pathetically childish punk (Paul Muni) in an avalanche of rich, dark-dark images. The people, Italian gangsters and their tough, wisecracking girls, are quite beautiful, as varied and shapely as those who parade through Piero’s religious paintings. Few movies are better at nailing down singularity in a body or face, the effect of a strong outline cutting out impossibly singular shapes. Boris Karloff: long stove-pipe legs, large boned and gaunt, an obsessive, wild face; Ann Dvorak:

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  • 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

    “Canadian Artists ’68”, Wavelength, Slow Run, Cat Food, 1933, Rat Life and Diet in North America, and R34

    The best film at “Canadian Artists ’68” is a study of a room not unlike the basement room at the Art Gallery of Toronto, where the films were privately shown. A bare and spare room with the simple construction of a Shaker-built outhouse, the gallery room had an austere charm, a continuing dignity, even after twenty films had been seen. Exactly like the interiors of schoolrooms in Winslow Homer, it has a magical plain grey color and an equally magical pattern of woodwork on the side walls, four inch boards running horizontally from floor to ceiling, divided by four inch studs spaced two feet on

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  • Books

    Brancusi, A Study of the Sculpture

    Sidney Geist, Brancusi, A Study of the Sculpture (Grossman Publishers,

    New York, 1968), 248 pages, illustrations.

    Toward the end of his life Rodin was asked how it felt to be the greatest sculptor of the last century. He replied that this was no great honor as there were so few great sculptors in his time. To say that Sidney Geist’s book on Brancusi is the best on a modern sculptor beggars his achievement, for there are so few good books to begin with. What has hindered our understanding of modern sculpture is not the lack of a bibliography or its neglect by historians in favor of painting, but

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  • Film

    Weekend, Signs of Life, The Easy Life, The Nun, Les Biches, Secret Ceremony, Negatives, Tropics

    “Manny, how are you holding up? How’s your Festivalitis? Oh well, Lola Montes will do it to the best of us. (‘What film did you like best?’) Definitely The Nun. I liked the whole projection of the period. But my favorite director is Jancso: he’s a great stylist. (‘Didn’t you like anything about that German film, Signs of Life?’) Good God no. When the Germans deal with minutiae, they leave me.”

    ––(film critic)

    “What a corny coincidence that both the husband and wife manage to get laid in the same night. I just can’t stomach that kind of unbelievable coincidence in a film which pretends to be raw

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  • Film

    The New York Film Festival, Lola Montes, Beyond the Law, Mouchette, The Immortal Story, and Capricious Summer

    There is nothing so funny in the recent New York Film Festival as the Romany-esque overland coach in Lola Montes, a blood-colored Pullman on wheels that belongs to Franz Liszt, and serves as a major trysting nest for the scandalous heroine. A love affair on wheels is a nice idea but this over-decorated vehicle is the hub for eight minor events which are nothing but crazy makeup, improbability, and an ordeal of graceless acting. Martine Carol, an hourglass made out of stale golden cupcakes, is a mock George Sand, locked on a chaise longue; her boyfriend has a goofy smile, silken curls, and stumbles

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  • Film

    The Red and the White and Faces

    In The Red and the White, a swift fresh air war movie about Czarists, Red Russians, and a band of Magyars who get tangled within the scythelike moves of both armies in a Hungarian border locale that has a grandiloquent sweep, there are a dozen actors with amazing skin tone, sinew-y health, and Brumel’s high-jumping agility in their work with horses. These actors have an icy dignity—they never mug, make bids for the audience’s attention, or try for the slow motion preening that still goes on in cowboy films. (Jack Palance in Shane, hanging over his saddle iron, spitting tobacco juice, menacing

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  • Passages

    Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968)

    The self attempts balance, descends. Perfume—the air was to stink of artists’ egos. Himself, quickly torn to pieces. His tongue in his cheek.

    Marcel Duchamp, one of this century’s pioneer artists, moved his work through the retinal boundaries which had been established with Impressionism into a field where language, thought and vision act upon one another. There it changed form through a complex interplay of new mental and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental and visual details to be found in more recent art.

    He said that he was ahead of his time. One guesses at a certain

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  • Film

    Contempt, The Thomas Crown Affair, Accident, The Stranger, and Persona

    A big sour yawn pervades the air of movie theaters, put there by a series of tired, cheerless, low emotion heroes who seem inoculated against surprise, incapable of finding any goal worthy of their multiple talents. The yawn is built into people who seem like twins though they are as various as the teetering scriptwriter in Contempt, the posh master crimester of the Thomas Crown Affair, and that ultimate in envy and petulance who is the philosophy professor approaching middle age in Accident. Each of these three heroes (Michel Piccoli, Steve McQueen, Dirk Bogarde) shifts constantly in a voluptuous

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  • Film

    La Chinoise, Carabiniers, and Belle de Jour

    LA CHINOISE CONCERNS A SUMMER shared by 4 to 7 youths intoxicated with Maoist communism: a humorlessly vague, declamatory crew made up of Jean Pierre Leaud (taut, overtrained exhibitionistic), Anne Wiazemsky (girl intellectual with a year of prostitution behind her) and a sensitive tapeworm with steel rims, always dunking his bread and butter in coffee. Reclusive, never penetrating or being penetrated by the outside world, they study, debate, never seem to converse but try to out-fervor one another, while the camera images suggest a scissoring motion, shuttling back and forth, giving equal

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  • Books

    What is Cinema?

    André Bazin, What is Cinema?, ed. Hugh Gray, (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1967.

    There things are . . . Why manipulate them?

    —Roberto Rossellini

    Cinema is a manipulation of reality through image and sound.

    —Alain Resnais

    OF ALL THE BOOKS on film which have been issued these past two years, in desperate anarchy from the major publishing houses, the selection of essays assembled by Mr. Hugh Gray from the critical writings of André Bazin is, as might have been expected, incomparably the best. It is, in fact, the only book with any claim at all to intellectual distinction, as it alone

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