COLUMNS

  • 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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  • 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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  • Charley Bubbles, Hour of the Wolf, Up the Junction

    Charley Bubbles is the first movie about a cool sleek 1968 artistic success: an ennui-ridden, spoiled rotten writer who can hardly breathe from the fatigue of being an acclaimed artist. It is for the most part an irritatingly stinting film, even though the photography’s pleasant, the apple orchard color is cheery, and there are two fairly good female performances by Lisa Minelli, an extraordinarily willing no veneer actress, a gnomic, quaint, slight girl with enormous eyes, and Billy Whitelaw as Bubbles’ leathery ex wife.

    It’s also a single-minded film. Bubbles, in Albert Finney’s puritanical,

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  • 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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  • Clutter in The Graduate, China Is Near, The Fox, Psycho and Strangers On a Train

    The movie scene: crawling with speciousness; one type of clutter examining, reporting, publicizing another. The dictionary defines clutter as a confused mass, untidy collection, crowd (a place) with a disorderly mass of things, litter. Just to go near the art theater district on 3rd Avenue is to be jostled by the definition, a cattle drive that includes the little pink plexiglass sign with $2.50 printed into it (if you’re lucky; sometimes it’s $3), and a character, tenacious as Epoxy resin, guarding the sanctuary with red velvet hose and an unswervable litany: “There will be no further seating

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  • The Graduate, Persona, and In Cold Blood

    Besides being a brazen movie with a built in sneer, particularly for the older denizens of Coin Flats, Beverly Hills, The Graduate is another in a series of Sandwich Specials. Clyde wins Bonny over hamburgers; Perry and Dick, the “Cold Blood” murderers, relax with hamburgers before and after the Clutter massacre; in Bedazzled, Dudley Moore and Eleanor Bron are a cook waitress team in a Whimpy Bar. All this chopped steak is a give-away on the new tone in films: unless the material is thoroughly banal, it isn’t considered chic.

    A life of innocuousness marches over the spectator and greenhorn hero.

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  • Two Films and an Interlude by Kenneth Anger

    Kenneth Anger, who has been making experimental films for almost two decades, made his first one, “Fireworks,” in 1947. It is probably the closest he will ever come to fashioning a picture out of his own personal beliefs. “Fireworks” has the declarative sound of a will affirming itself. As with all his work, the sensibility it reveals is prankish, mannered, and drawn to the outré. But like the best of Anger’s films—this one and the one for which he is now most famous (and mildly notorious), “Scorpio Rising,” the nearest thing to a popular favorite the underground has yet produced—the picture is

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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