PRINT November 1968


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 the poor town folk, relating to his horse as another part of his stylish costume.)

As far as acting goes, though, Faces is a far more important case. Lynn Carlin is near perfection, playing the deepest well of unexplored emotions as the wife of a rubber-faced business wow who seems like a detestable ham walk-on until he surprisingly lodges into the film’s center for good. This Carlin style starts as soap opera face work, a camera intimately registering the melancholy of an American woman, but it builds velocity and possibilities for itself by working into the area that Warhol has pioneered. It’s amazing how far Carlin swings her role as a middle class wife: she’s so deep into the events that after one night out or in with a gigolo swinger she seems to have expanded the role out of sight by the time her husband returns from a bored-with-job whore.

Faces is a Loser Club movie, the theme being about people straying into brief sexual relations, or wanting to stray and not being able. The strength of the movie is the depth to which it dives into a particular situation: four middle-aged women, uncomfortable with themselves, awkwardly trying to be swingers, entertaining a blond hustler who does some insatiable sex dancing around the living room. The movie—no rush and plenty of time—sits and stares at each. It stares at a pair of blazing eyeballs in a woman who is scared, out-of-practice. It’s very good on a woman nearing sixty, greedy and nearly out of her mind at the possibility of making it with a young cat: she palpitates with suicidal abandon and blatant lust. There’s a sweating excitement in the work with Carlin, a decorous young wife full of twitches, stiff postures suddenly dropped, and prissy lips that never stop working into nervous moods. One of the movie’s unspoken themes is the desperate disparity between this unworldly woman and her husband, an oily actor (John Marley) who suffocates the movie with he-man sophistication. The top moment is a profile shot catching this actress at the end of a marathon, teasing evening of too many cigarettes, lousy drinks, and faded chances. The movie ricochets from a drunken semi-comic dance to the coldest close-up of Carlin’s frazzled side of the face, an innocent mouth that exudes the feeling of a long night’s journey into deafening defeat.

Manny Farber