COLUMNS

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Four Stars and Hold Me While I’m Naked

    The theaters of the Underground—often five or six docile customers in an improbable place that looks like a bombed-out air shelter or the downstairs ladies room at the old Paramount—offer a weirdly satisfying experience. For two dollars the spectator gets five bedraggled two-reelers, and, after a sojourn with incompetence, chaos, nouveau culture taste, he leaves this land’s end theater feeling unaccountably spry.

    In the clique-ish, subdued atmosphere of the New Cinema Playhouse, Tambellini’s Gate, there is more than an attempt to dump the whole history of films. One glance at the pock marked

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  • How I Won the War

    How I Won the War, a neither admirable nor contemptible altruism about the villains who coin money making war films, has enough material to stock several war films. Basically, it’s the war story of the fictitious 3rd Troop, 4th Musketeers. Among its luminous personnel are a sweating coward digging himself into holes and hiding under pots and pans; a working-class mocker in steel rims played by the Beatles’ John Lennon; a mad clown who prates Falstaffian brain-dulling lingo; and two zombies—a pink and a green man returned from the dead.

    The exploits of the boy leader, Michael Crawford, and his

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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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  • Camp, Andy Warhol

    Andy Warhol began as a film-maker by making extremely long films in which nothing, or almost nothing, happened. “Sleep” and “Empire” managed to astonish people by their overweening length and their insistent silence. Warhol reduced the cinema to its simplest possible manifestation—a single image that moved. This was also its first manifestation historically: Muybridge’s trotting horse, Dickson’s sneezing man, Lumiere’s decelerating train. But where these primitive films lasted only a few minutes Warhol’s first film “Sleep” lasted eight hours in its original version. By this radical elongation

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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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