When The Lights Go Down, Complete Reviews 1975-1980, is the sixth collection of movie reviews by critic, Pauline Kael.
Conversation Piece - " Visconti, not fully recovered from a stroke..directed Conversation Piece from a wheelchair part of the time. Although it takes place entirely in the interior of a Roman house, one doesn't feel confined...Mangano's Countess..Shes gorgeous, but with the reptilian glitter of an aging swinger...so venemous, arrogant and tantrummy she's funny...Visconti is an eccentric master who has earned the right to his follies, when he can make them as pleasurable as Conversation Piece..."
Hard Times - " unusually effective pulp ... One more version of the myth of the strong, silent loner...Hard Times offers excitement that makes you feel good; Walter Hill respects the loner myth."
Smile - " a comedy set in Santa Rosa during the Jaycee-sponsored California final of the national Young American Miss pageant...When the girls are interviewed, or when they have to perform in public, they look dumb, but they're not. They stumble and blurt out idiocies because what they're saying isn't what they feel at all...In SmileMichael Ritchie really appears to like most of the people on the screen."
The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser - " The story of Kaspar Hauser, who appeared in a German town in the 1820s, is a factually based variant of the lost-or-abandoned-child, Mowgli-Tarzan myth;...Werner Herzog has achieved a visionary, overcast style. The higgledy-piggledy pink and blue roofs of the town of Dinkelsbuhl, where The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser was shot, suggest the world of a German primitive painter...The film says that society stultifies you under the guise of civilizing you..Herzog says that society puts you through the pain in order to deform you, and he makes it absolutely impossible for you to identify with anyone but Kaspar."
The Story of Adèle H. - " a musical, lilting film with a tidal pull to it. It's about a woman who is destroyed by her passion for a man who is indifferent to her - a woman who realizes herself in self-destruction...The subject of the movie is the self-destructive love that everyone has experienced in one form or another. Adèle is a riveting, great character because she goes all the way with it...It's a great film, I think - the only great film from Europe I've seen since Last Tango in Paris."
Mahogany - " there is not one well-directed sequence in the entire film "
Rooster Cogburn - "At the end, Rooster and Eula (John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn), - the lovebirds - make their farewells, giving us to understand that they will soon resume their courting, though these two are hardly at a time of life to postpone romance."
Distant Thunder - " The film is delicately, ambiguously beautiful; the shadowing comes from our knowledge - and Gangacharan (Soumitra Chatterjee)'s knowledge - that the people we're looking at are endangered. It is a lyric chronicle of a way of life just before its extinction.."
The Magic Flute - " filmed operas generally open out the action or else place us as if we were spectators at a performance, looking at the entire stage. Bergman has done neither - he has moved into the stage...all through the film he calls our attention to toy moons and suns, to trick entrances, to what's going on backstage...the picture is a model of how opera can be filmed."
The Sunshine Boys - " What is the meaning of the title The Sunshine Boys if the daily meannesses don't turn into something happy onstage? Is it no more than a sour irony? ..Neil Simon thinks he's being honest and authentic when he shows these famous vaudevillians to be klutzes. It's a twist on the usual show-biz sentimentality: his Pagliaccos crack jokes to hide their misery and can't even make people laugh. "
Hester Street - " the movie is about the assimilation process among a group of Russian Jewish immigrants living on the Lower East Side in 1896...the film has the pedagogic folk humor and the appreciation of the old ways which had me wriggling in discomfort at school whenever a story was presented as a fable..."
Black Moon - " This is a post-apocalypse film, in which the few characters in the scarred landscape speak mainly by body language and gibberish - a Warholian view of the future that's reminiscent of Jim McBride's Glen and Randa and Jodorowsky's druggy El Topo...But Malle is a sane man trying to make a crazy man's film. He's temperamentally unsuited to the disordered, meandering vision he's aiming for..."
Lisztomania - " Russell was in better control in Tommy, which was enjoyable at a dumb pop level..In Lisztomania..he doesn't have a rock-opera score - only a mash of rocked-up Liszt and Wagner themes, plus some new songs that are so forgettable you barely register them."
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - " a powerful, smashingly effective movie..Ken Kesey's novel about a gargantuan rebel-outcast, McMurphy...published early in 1962...preceded the university turmoil, Vietnam, drugs, the counterculture. Yet it contained the prophetic essence of that whole period of revolutionary politics going psychedelic...Forman hasn't let the McMurphy character run away with the picture and it's Nicholson's best performance."
Rancho Deluxe - " a flip, absurdist modern Western..Rancho Deluxe is far from stupid, but it isn't very likable.."
Special Section - " After we've seen The Sorrow and the Pity, with actual collaborators discussing what they did and why, and seen the fears, moral confusions, and stresses they succombed to, how can we have any respect for this simplistic vulgarization of history? "
Barry Lyndon - " a stately tour of European high life in the mid-eighteenth century. The images are fastidiously delicate in the inexpressive, peculiarly chilly manner of the English painters of the period...If you were to cut the jokes and cheerfulness out of the film Tom Jones and run it in slow motion, you'd have something very close to Barry Lyndon. "
Lucky Lady - " so coarsely conceived it obliterates any emotion, any art."
The Hindenburg - " the Hindenburg - filled with explosive hydrogen - blew up while coming down for a landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937,..the ten minute climax, which is the famous newsreel footage extended and intercut with newly shot scenes showing the actors - is fundamentally insensitive: how can a viewer look at true horrors and be a jaded connoisseur of movie thrills in practically the same instant?"
The Black Bird - " a dumb comedy, with an insecure tone and some good jokes mixed with some terrible ones."
Hustle - " What Steve Shagan (the writer) has done..is to create a romantic-liberal basis for taking the law into ones own hands. According to this movie, the whole system is rigged on the side of the rich - and one can right the balance only by chivalrous outlaw acts...Robert Aldrich is a brutally harsh director. He has made insensitivity a style..."
Next Stop, Greenwich Village - " Paul Mazursky's new, autobiographical comedy...gives the best portrait of Village life ever put on the screen; the casualness, the camaraderie, and the sexual freedom are balanced by glimpses of the lives of those who are in the Village because they don't fit in anywhere else...It isn't showy - Mazursky works on a small scale. Yet this satirist without bitterness and without extravagance looks to be a comic poet."
Taxi Driver - " There is practically no sex in it,...And that's what it's about: the absence of sex - bottled-up, impacted energy and emotion, with a blood-splattering release."
Seven Beauties - " a grotesque vaudeville show... For all the political babbling of her (Lina Wertmüller) characters, the meaning of Seven Beauties is deeply reactionary and misogynous..The box-office success of the picture represents a triumph of insensitivity."
French Provincial - " an overview of French life and politics through the changes within one family in southwestern France...is that rare picture in which the basic conflict is between two women: Berthe (Jeanne Moreau), the frump, who gets rich but never learns how to dress, and the slick, dark beauty Régina (Marie-France Pisier).."
The Entertainer - " the new version, starring Jack Lemmon..A California-set Entertainer is like A Streetcar Named Desire laid in Edinburgh, with a rugby-brute Stanley and a Blanche who talks like Miss Jean Brodie....in Osborne's metaphor the decay of music hall stood for the decay of England.."
Vincent, François, Paul et les autres - " Claude Sautet doesn't tell a story here; rather, he orchestrates a slice of middle-class life..The picture..is about aging and survival - about people trying to adapt to what they have become and to everything that happens that they can't control."
Inserts - " The advertising campaign for this film is far more ingenious than the movie.."
Robin and Marian - " Connery..is the most natural-looking of heroic figures..And a perfect counterpart to Audrey Hepburn. He's animal-man at its best; she's an innocent yet passionate sprite...The author James Goldman has a revisionist approach to legends...Connery and Hepburn are a love match. James Goldman and (director) Richard Lester aren't.."
Bugsy Malone - " except for the knowledgeable performances of Jodie Foster as the vamp Tallulah and Martin Lev as the suave villain Dandy Dan, most of the acting has the limpness of non-professionals."
Sparkle - " moviegoers have another chance to see Lonette McKee, a young singer-actress so sexy that she lays waste to the movie, which makes the mistake of killing her off in the first half. As often happened in the old movie days, the bad performers are terrific and the good are insufferable."
The Front - " At its most appealing, this movie says that people shouldn't be pressured to inform on their friends, that people shouldn't be humiliated in order to earn a living. Humbly, this film asks for fairness....When you see Woody Allen in one of his own films, in a peculiar way you take him for granted; here you appreciate his skill, because you miss him so much when he's offscreen."
Marathon Man - " nothing in it works quite the way it was meant to..John Schlesinger, opts for so much frazzled crosscutting that there's no suspense. There isn't the clarity for suspense."
Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 - " There are eight key characters in Jonah, all in their twenties or thirties, and all seeking solutions to the problems brought to general consciousness by the events of 1968. Not one of them is a comfortable bourgeois; they're the sort of fantasists and obsessives who were considered marginal before 1968...Each of these people is autonomous, looks for his own answers, and acts upon them... Miou-Miou's the most purely enjoyable person in the movie. This tumble-dried blonde, the Brigitte Bardot the cat dragged in..."
Alex & the Gypsy - " Lemmon is always up and working desperately hard. And so Bujold, who's meant to be the vibrant, tempestuous one, has to fight him for every bit of audience attention, and what should be a love story is a shouting match.."
The Marquise of O - " The film is so formal it's like a historical work re-created for educational television; the costumes wear the actors...there's no urgency to this film. It's tame and archaic."
Car Wash - " The picture is hyperactive;it has to be - it's so empty...In quality, Car Wash isn't very different from Ossie Davis's 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem, but it's less innocent, more processed..."
Jaws - " may be the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made, the disasters don't come on schedule the way they do in most disaster pictures.."
The Shootist - " Don Siegel..has been so paralyzed by his high intentions that he's made a piece of solemn, unenjoyable trash."
The Return of a Man Called Horse - " in this Western, the surge of elation comes from the spiritual rebirth of an Indian tribe..The hero is John Morgan, an English lord, played by Richard Harris..The picture, directed by Irvin Kershner, is about how, once having known that brotherhood and accepted its magical religion, he is lost as a white man."
Dog Day Afternoon - " This picture is one of the most satisfying of all movies starring New York City because the director, Sidney Lumet, and the screenwriter, Frank Pierson,..let us move into the dark, confused areas of Sonny's (Al Pacino) frustrations and don't explain everything to us."
The Man Who Fell to Earth - " He has come to earth to obtain the water that will save his people, who are dying from drought, but he is corrupted, is distracted from his mission...[he] can be said to represent everyone who feels misunderstood, everyone who feels sexually immature or different, everyone who has lost his way, everyone who has failed his holy family, and so the film is a gigantic launching pad for anything that viewers want to drift to."
The Incredible Sarah - " is an aberration. Stiffer and more anachronistic than the Warner bios of the thirties, it's in the stupefying tradition of Song of Norway...there is not one moment in the movie when one feels that this woman has become an actress out of a spiritual need for expression."
The Next Man - " the producer, Martin Bregman, wanted a starring vehicle for his protégée Cornelia Sharpe...There's no role here, but then she's no actress; a lynx-faced former model, she speaks tonelessly and slits her eyes to express emotion...the director Richard C. Sarafian..and his crew show their skill by the urgency and speed of the brutal suspense scenes - so violence is the only thing The Next Man has going for it."
Carrie - " a terrifyingly lyrical thriller...He builds our apprehensions languourously...De Palma, a master sadist, prolongs [Carrie's] moments of happiness; he slows the action down to a trance while we wait for the trap to be sprung, knowing that it will unloose her bottled-up telekinetic anger. It's a beautiful plot - a teen-age Cinderella's revenge."
The Last Tycoon - " The film needed a writer who would fill in the characters and clarify the conflict between the creative Stahr [(who was based on the boy wonder Irving Thalberg)] and the crass Louis B. Mayer figure - Brady (Robert Mitchum), who's out to shaft him. But Pinter doesn't supply what's missing; Pinter's art is the art of taking away. And less can be less."
Network - " In NetworkPaddy Chayefsky blitzes you with one idea after another..Television, he says, is turning us into morons and humanoids; people have lost the ability to love...What Chayefsky is really complaining about is what barroom philosophers have always complained about: the soulless worshippers at false shrines - the younger generation...Chayefsky hardly bothers with the characters; the movie is a ventriloquial harangue."
Bound for Glory - " based on Woody Guthrie's autobiography, is superbly lighted and shot, and has the visual beauty of a great movie...Woody Guthrie had a storyteller's gift, the gift of a true folk artist, but he violated it with the rhetoric of a politician. He became a pitchman-troubador..when Randy Quaid is on hand as a migrant farm worker..telling him that the poor folks out in the fields need those songs of his and would feel betrayed if he stopped singing them, the picture is pouring on the same brand of sanctifying horse manure that Guthrie did."
Lumière- " the most dismaying aspect of Lumière is that Jeanne Moreau's making love to herself...It's one thing to be seen as a goddess; it's quite another to see yourself as a goddess...As a director, Moreau brings out the possibilities in the young actresses. Francine Racette, a tall brunette,...has the popping-out-of-her-skin sexiness of the glittering Parisiennes of thirties movies - Jacqueline Delubac in the Guitry films, or Mireille Balin in Pépé le Moko. "
King Kong - " Monster, pet, misunderstood kid, unrequited lover, all in one grotesquely oversized body, the innocent ape is martyred once again...The movie is sparked mainly, I think, by..Jessica Lange's fast yet dreamy comic style. Her Dwan has the high, wide forehead and clear-eyed transparency of Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey...and you like her, the way people liked Lombard."
A Star Is Born - " the story is about the marriage of a fading, boozing male star to a woman who's rising, and while the man is glamorously, tragically self-destructive, the Cinderella heroine is so hardworking, loyal and untemperamental that she's insufferable... Streisand acts a virtuous person by not using much energy...she's made a movie about the unassuming, unaffected person she wants us to think she is, and the image is so truthless she can't play it."
Silver Streak - " For about fifteen minutes Pryor gives the film some of his craziness..."
Nickelodeon - "Bogdanovich has once again - and catastrophically - misunderstood his talent, and attempted an exercise in style instead of trusting to his gift for telling popular stories with feeling. The result is sustained clutter..."
Harlan County, USA - " when the miners in Brookside Harlan County, went on strike in July of 1973, seeking recognition of the U.M.W. as their union, she went there and stayed for the thirteen months of the strike, living among people with a legendary history of bloody labor strife..they share a hatred of the company and a practised distrust of the union leaders...Injustice has developed in them a fierce belief in justice...People who are willing to risk their bodies take the camera gracefully, dauntingly. Fiction films have never been able to fake this."
The Enforcer - "Dirty Harry..was a wizardly piece of vicious, brutal filmmaking; its sequel, Magnum Force, was poorly made but did have some cheap nastiness ; the third in the series, the new The Enforcer doesn't have the savvy to be sadistic. It's just limp."
Providence - " Most of the giants of film haven't [sic] able to find the form for everything they've got in their heads; Resnais seems to have nothing but form in his."
The Late Show - " As Margo in the new detective film The Late Show everything she (Lily Tomlin) does is a little off center..If anyone else were playing Margo, she might be a mere kook; Tomlin makes her a genuine eccentric - she isn't just the heroine, shes the picture's comic muse...The Late Show doesn't quite pay off in the way a thriller is expected to - in thrills. It pays off in atmosphere..."
Fun with Dick and Jane - " a nitwit comedy on the order of For Pete's Sake, though its much worse made...Ted Kotcheff is the kind of director who thinks ugliness is funny. He really should be locked up for what he does to the performers...everything about it feels cheap."
Thieves - " is a turkey that falls over without being shot...Considering that nobody talks - they make speeches, every one of them profound - Charles Grodin gives a highly creditable performance. But even if everybody on the screen were as polished as he is..there still would not be a believable minute."
Casanova - " after an hour I staggered out..Fellini gives great interviews; he has turned into the Italian Orson Welles. He talks such a remarkable movie that maybe he doesn't need to make it."
Slap Shot- " The picture is set in the world of minor-league ice hockey, and the theme is that the public no longer cares about the sport - it wants goonish vaudeville and mayhem....Slap Shot never slows down...Hill is shooting the works. You feel as if he were telling himself what the picture says about ice hockey: that there's no longer any way to play the game except as a dirty, violent joke....As Reggie, the player-coach of the Chiefs, Paul Newman gives the performance of his life - to date."
Islands in the Stream - " seems to belong to another age...its implacable stodginess is stupefying yet impressive...in Hemingway's portrait of the artist as a hard-drinking fisherman..George C. Scott does something very difficult: he supplies the consciousness to this film. He's a sensitive statue, and his observant face keeps us involved."
Welcome to L.A. - " was written around a suite of nine rock songs by Richard Baskin called City of the One Night Stands, and its mood is whimsical, laid-back alienation..Set, shamelessly, at Christmas, Welcome to L.A. is a tale of beautiful sad people who have everything and nothing."
The Wonderful Crook - " Gérard Depardieu plays Pierre, a contented married man, a workman employed in his father's furniture factory. When his glum, embittered father has a stroke, Pierre is in charge. He discovers..the world has moved into the age of plastics and nobody is buying the expensive, handcrafted wood furniture that the factory turns out. Faced with the responsibility of meeting the payroll, the only thing Pierre can think to do is to rob a bank..Yet Goretta doesn't seem to have had enough to go out and make a movie about; The Wonderful Crook starves the viewer's mind."
Star Wars - " Even if you've been entertained, you may feel cheated of some dimension - a sense of wonder, perhaps. It's an epic without a dream."
The Truck - " There are only two people in The Truck: Marguerite Duras and Gérard Depardieu... The Truck is a spiritual autobiography, a life's journey, end-of-the-world road movie; it's a summing up, an endgame. The hitchhiker travels in a winter desert; she's from anywhere and going nowhere...In her method..Duras is a minimalist, like Beckett, stripping her drama down to the bones of monodrama, and her subject is the same as his: going through the last meaningless rites. ("I can't go on. I'll go on.") "
Short Eyes - " Short Eyes, hung up somewhere between photographed play and prison documentary, has an obsessive interest..an insider's view of prison life...Yet Short Eyes doesn't stay in the mind. Its potency is in its words. They're live, raw, profane. But a movie that is primarily words tends to evaporate."
Padre Padrone - " has the beauty of anger that is channelled and disciplined without losing intensity..."
Bobby Deerfield - "..torpor is Pacino's idea of acting romantic..Pacino has a tendency to monotonous, passive reactions; in a role that allows him to sit around, overcoiffed, and let us observe the inner man, he falls into a kiss-me catatonia."
Julia - " The script fails to draw you in...After a while, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers are trafficking in quotations and too many flashbacks because they can't find the core of the material."
A Special Day - " Loren has never looked more richly beautiful..This movie is perfectly calibrated for its teeny bit of courage: the big stars (Loren and Marcello Mastroianni) playing uncharacteristic roles - two social inferiors in this totalitarian minded society having their brief encounter...It's neo-realism in a gold frame."
The American Friend- " Though Wenders overdoses on mood, he creates the right apprehensiveness for a Highsmith story. But he's trying to do eighteen other things, too; he enriches the plot with incidental speculative themes relating to the oppressiveness of modern society..The simplest plot points are bobbled, and when there's mayhem, it isn't clear who the participants are or what the outcome is... There's too much imprecise, darkly lighted desperation..."
Looking for Mr. Goodbar - " a fictionalized version of the life of Roseann Quinn, a twenty-eight-year-old teacher killed by a man she'd picked up and taken home with her...Goodbar is an illustrated lecture on how nice girls go wrong. And the man in charge of the slides (Richard Brooks) has the jitters, and bouts of insecurity - when he slams the pictures on at different angles... The movie is designed to keep telling you that the punishment for impersonal sex is death - spiritually for the sister, (Tuesday Weld), physically for Terry (Diane Keaton). "
Handle with Care - " high-spirited light comedy..The setting is a small Southwestern town where the people think they know each other; the story is about the collision of their free-floating ids...Handle with Care is a palmy, elegantly deadpan comedy..The format is almost as complicated as that of Nashville: about fifteen characters (plus their alter egos) interact."
1900 - " 1900 is about two boys born in the North Italian region of Emilia-Romagna on the same day in 1901...[It] is a romantic moviegoer's vision of the class struggle - Yet even when the movie is flowing along there's an unease inside the virtuosity. There is something off in the tone of 1900 right from the start..Bertolucci deëmphasises them [the two boys], to indicate that they are not vital to the historical events of their time - they are merely figures borne along by the flood of history..denying us individual heroes - Bertolucci betrays the romantic epic form."
Valentino - " Nureyev doesn't evoke Valentino, but from time to time he has a captivating, very funny temperament of his own...There is no artistry left in Ken Russell's work..His films have become..a mixture of offensiveness and crude dumbness - and that is about the only attraction they may have."
Equus - " With most analysts having adjusted to the slowness of the puny changes they are able to effect - or in states of depression because of doubts about whether even those changes will last for long - Shaffer expects us to believe in psychiatrists as castrating soul surgeons...The film sets Shaffer's worst ideas on a pedestal..Equus suffers from literacy - the movie sickens and dies from it."
One Sings, the Other Doesn't - " Agnès Varda, wrote the script and directed...The lives of Pomme (Valérie Mairesse) and Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard), between 1962 and 1976 are supposed to indicate the evolution of modern women's consciousness..Visually the film has the glamorous real-unreal quality of the new feminine-hygiene ads - muted realism. Happiness here is a flower-print dress on a summer day in the country. Pomme has the look of an Auguste Renoir model with a bad dye job..her mind is a grab bag of feminist slogans."
Close Encounters of the Third Kind - " is the most innocent of all technological-marvel movies, and one of the most satisfying. This film has retained some of the wonder and bafflement we feel when we first go into a planetarium...In routine science-fiction films, any bodies from space are alien invaders; they come from out there, and we start running or shooting. But in Close Encounters..(the title is from a book by the astronomer J. Allen Hynek)..they come from up there...this is a young man's movie - Spielberg is still under thirty - and there's not a sour thought in it...With his gift for investing machines with personality, Steven Spielberg is the right director for science fantasy."
The Man Who Loved Women - " begins with the arrival of the mourners at Bertrand's funeral : all women, they arrive by ones, an army of attractive, sexy, young and not so young women. When, in flashback, we see Bertrand (Charles Denner), the dedicated skirt-chaser whose lovemaking these women are honoring by their presence it's a letdown..Bertrand's book editor is played by Brigitte Fossey, who is one of the most beautiful young women in movies..In this movie, she is supposed to fall in love with this sterile dummy Bertrand - a cross between a Jesuit and a harlequin."
Roseland - " Set in the famous, still functioning dance hall on Fifty-second Street off Broadway and using actual patrons in the crowd scenes, Roseland has three casts in three separate stories...James Ivory has now made eight feature films without jeopardizing his amateur standing...The picture is all decorum and no energy...It has been put together without toughmindedness and without showmanship."
Semi-Tough - " Everybody except the hero, Blly Clyde Puckett (Burt Reynolds), is into some quickie form of salvation or self-betterment...Like thirties comedies, the movie believes in nonchalence. You mustn't express your feelings; they're true only if they're left unexpressed. Billy Clyde is secretly in love with Barbara Jane (Jill Clayburgh), but must win her without showing his cards...Billy Clyde..has hurting eyes. So there's some depth of felling below his banter, a banter that helps to undercut the sleazy, cocky glibness..And Reynolds has the timing. He's swift and cagey - every gag line is super-casual, every inflection on the button."
That Obscure Object of Desire - " The film was shot in Seville and Paris, and Buñuel's happiness shines especially in the luxuriance of Seville...Buñuel no longer has any trouble expressing himself: art has become simple for him, as it did for Matisse in his later years, with his cut-and-pasted papers...art has become pure play for him..Some men grow embittered as they age, but Buñuel got his bitterness out early on and in old age he began to have a marvellous time...The wholeness of spirit that informs That Obscure Object of Desire outshines the story; the artist delights us even as the film disappoints us."
Saturday Night Fever - "As Tony, a nineteen-year-old Italian Catholic who works selling paint in a hardware store in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge he (John Travolta) wears his heavy black hair brushed up in a blower-dried pompadour...Walking down the street in his blood-red shirt, skintight pants, and platform soles, Tony moves to the rhythm of the disco music in his head... It's his pent-up physicality - that draws us into the pop rapture of this film...Nirvana is the dance; when the music stops, you return to being ordinary."
High Anxiety - " Mel Brooks grabs us by the lapels and screams into our faces, 'Laugh! It's funny!' The open secret of his comedy is that his material isn't necessarily funny - it's being grabbed by the lapels that makes us laugh. (It's being grabbed by the lapels that makes us stop laughing, too.)...High Anxiety is dedicated to Hitchcock as the master of suspense and it doesn't have a whisper of suspense. It doesn't operate on any level except that of bumbling slapstick farce, where most of the custard pies miss their targets."
The Goodbye Girl - " a tearful comedy directed by Herbert Ross from Neil Simon's script...Marsha Mason plays Paula McFadden, a thirtyish former chorus girl...Simon's idea of depth is a tug at your heartstrings. Marsha Mason's chin keeps quivering. Her face is either squinched up to cry or crinkled up to laugh; this may be the bravest, teariest, most crumpled-face performance since the days of Janet Gaynor. "
The Gauntlet - " is about a Phoenix cop, Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood), who is ordered to go to Las Vegas to bring back Gus Mally (Sondra Locke), a witness for a trial. He's a worthless souse; she's a hooker...The merest whisper of a plot..serves as a pretext for shoot-em-ups with thousands of rounds of ammunition going into whatever buildings or vehicles the cop and the hooker are in or on."
The Duellists - " Set in Europe in the Napoleonic period..from Joseph Conrad's sixty-odd-page story The Duel is about a cavalry officer's sudden flare up of rage over a trifling, imagined insult by another officer which grows into a private war...The origin of the quarrel becomes lost in legend, like the causes of the larger wars that they're both fighting in...The Duellists is an epic yarn: we sit back and observe it, and it's consistently entertaining - and eerily beautiful."
The Battle of Chile - " How could a team of five - some with no previous film experience - working with limited equipment (one Éclair camera, one Nagra sound recorder, two vehicles) and a package of black-and-white film stock sent to them by the French documentarian Chris Marker produce a work of this magnitude?....this is a major film.."
The Serpent's Egg - " set in Berlin between November 3rd and November 11th in 1923...There has never been another director who yielded to despair in his movies as often as Bergman does, but generally he has had enough theatricality to pull the audience along...This time, his theatricality fails him, and his misery sits on the screen like a dull, dark ache."
Coma - " The picture is all plot; it glides along smoothly, as if computer operated...The sequences at the Jefferson Institute ( the exteriors are of the Xerox building in Lexington, Massachusetts), have a chill, spectral beauty..Yet the spookiness doesn't explode..Something needs to break loose; tossing cadavers around shouldn't be this hygienic."
Mr. Klein - " unsatisfying French quasi-thriller, set in Paris in 1942, during the Occupation...is the kind of parable-thriller that has to be tight to be effective, but the director, Joseph Losey, keeps it going for over two hours...Mr.Klein is a classic example of [Losey's] weighty emptiness. The atmosphere is heavily pregnant, with no delivery."
Renaldo & Clara - " The film was shot mostly in the course of a Bicentennial (1975-1976) tour ( the show was called the Rolling Thunder Revue), and the performance footage..is handsomely photographed and has good sound quality...But..Renaldo & Clara keeps cutting away from the stage to cinema vérité fantasies of Dylan's life, which occupy more than two-thirds of the movie...Everything circles around Dylan, who, despite his many guises, is always the same surly, mystic tease."
Coming Home - " Jane Fonda isn't playing a character in Coming Home, she's playing an abstraction - a woman being radicalized. The time is 1968, the place is Los Angeles...The politics of the film are extremely naive..Coming Home doesn't oppose the Vietnam War on political grounds...the war is condemned on the basis that our soldiers are maimed and killed in it..It has a Waspy glaze to it - a soft, pastel innocuousness, as if all those involved were so concerned to get the message across without offending anyone that they fogged themselves in."
Blue Collar - " Hard pressed for money, three Detroit auto workers rob their union headquarters; their haul is only six hundred dollars, but they find a notebook with a record of loansharking transactions and they attempt to blackmail the union. They're small-timers though, and no match for the operators they're up against...But for Schrader their friendship and its destruction are important only as an illustration of the films you-can't-win thesis..Blue Collar says that the system grinds all workers down, that it destroys their humanity and their hopes."
The Betsy - " The Betsy, an adaptation of a Harold Robbins novel, is also set in Detroit. Laurence Olivier, who plays the superabundantly sexed patriarch of an automobile dynasty, stands out with startling boldness, and one begins to perceive the secret of his greatness: Laurence Olivier dares to be foolish...The director Daniel Petrie..doesn't have the juicy vulgarity of soul which Harold Robbins requires..When the actresses are stripped - you're embarrassed - not because they're nude but because it isn't titillating. They've taken off their clothes for nothing."
An Unmarried Woman - " Erica (Jill Clayburgh), the heroine of Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman, sleeps in a T-shirt and bikini panties. There are so few movies that deal with recognizable people that this detail alone is enough to pick up one's spirits...Jill Clayburgh has a cracked , warbly voice - a modern polluted-city huskiness...When Erica's life falls apart and her reactions go out of control, Clayburgh's floating, not-quite-sure, not-quite-here quality is just right."
Fingers - " James Toback doesn't just risk self parody in Fingers - he falls into it. Yet the film never seems ridiculous, because he's got true moviemaking fever...Jimmy (Harvey Keitel) [is] an artist with the soul of a violent hood..the camera setups are simple, yet inventive; there's a sureness - a sound instinct - in the pacing and the flow of images. The SoHo locations, where chic and crummy coexist, are metaphorically perfect."
The Fury - " This inferno comedy is perched right on the edge..De Palma's got two killings in The Fury which go so far beyond anything in his last film Carrie, that that now seems like child's play...De Palma shatters any Pollyanna thoughts - any expectations that a person's goodness will protect him..The Fury doesn't have the beautiful simplicity of Carrie, and it doesn't involve us emotionally in such a basic way; it's a far more hallucinatory film."
American Hot Wax - " In the early fifties, a Cleveland disc jockey, Alan Freed's...nightly Moondog Rock 'n' Roll Party became a key element in the youth subculture...He became the kingpin in the world of selling rock 'n' roll records to teen-agers. In American Hot Wax Alan Freed (played by Tim McIntire), is presented as a martyr to the cause of rock 'n' roll. He's so righteous he's Buford Pusser in the world of pop music;...The moviemakers..should have had more trust in the fifties-rock milieu and in their own talents, because everything about the movie except this pious morality-tale aspect of it is cheerfully, trashily enjoyable."
A Little Night Music - " Elizabeth Taylor..can't get by in the role of a famous stage actress - not with her little-girl-with-a-cold-in-her-nose voice and her sloppy carriage...Do people really enjoy Stephen Sondheim's sour sentimentality - songs like Every Day a Little Death? The punks are cheerful by comparison."
National Lampoon's Animal House - "It's like the deliberately dumb college-football comedies of the thirties - the ones with Joan Davis or Martha Raye - only more so; it's a growly, rambunctious cartoon..In its own half-flubbed way, it has a style. And you don't go to a film like Animal House for cinema, you go for roughhousing disreputability; it makes you laugh by restoring you to the slobby infant in yourself."
Exorcist II: The Heretic - " ..the picture has a visionary crazy grandeur (like that of Fritz Lang's loony Metropolis). Some of the telepathic sequences are golden-toned and lyrical, and the film has a swirling, hallucinogenic, apocalyptic quality; it might have been a horror classic if it had had a simpler, less ritzy story."
Heaven Can Wait - " This little smudge of a movie makes one laugh a few times, but it doesn't represent moviemaking - it's pifflemaking...it's image-conscious celebrity moviemaking.."
Hooper - " In this slapstick celebration of the real people in Hollywood - the stunt men - the director, Hal Needham, lays out the gags for us as if we were backwoodsmen, and when it's time for him to show his stuff by staging the breathtaking stunts that the movie keeps telling us about, he fumbles every damn one of them. The camera is always in the wrong place..."
Convoy - " a happy-go-lucky ode to the truckers on the roads, a sunny, enjoyable picture..The lighting suggests J.M.W. Turner in the American Southwest...Seeing this picture, you recover the feelings you had as a child about the power and size and noise of trucks, and their bright, distinctive colors and alarming individuality."
The Last Waltz - " No American movie this year has been as full of the joy of making cinema as Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, his film of The Band's Thanksgiving, 1976, concert in San Francisco...It's an even-tempered, intensely satisfying movie..Why was it so hard to persuade people to go see it?...They couldn't trust the man who'd made Mean Streets and Taxi Driver to give them a safe evening."
Eyes of Laura Mars - " Irvin Kershner's seductive whodunit..Laura Mars operates on mood and atmosphere..its excitement has a subterranean sexiness. It's a really stylish thriller, and Faye Dunaway, with long, thick dark-red hair, brings it emotion and presence, as well as a new erotic warmth."
Interiors- " The people in Woody Allen's Interiors are destroyed by the repressiveness of good taste, and so is the picture...How can Woody Allen present in a measured, lugubriously straight manner the same sorts of tinny anxiety discourse that he generally parodies? "
A Wedding - " There's no way into the movie; it's like a busted bag of marbles - people are running every way at once...Nashville was crowded, but it built into a shape, like an acrobat's pyramid. A Wedding stays flat and disorderly."
Bloodbrothers - "Richard Price's story of a brawling Italian Catholic family living in Co-op City, in The Bronx, should have made a striking tragicomic movie....But it was adapted by the wrong screenwriter (Walter Newman), directed by the wrong director (Robert Mulligan), and miscast in every major role. The movies that inspired Price were not the movies of Robert Mulligan."
Up in Smoke - "which stars Cheech and Chong, is an exploitation slapstick comedy, like The Groove Tube; this piece of stoned-hippie foolishness is also crudely done but is more consistently funny...Up in Smoke gives us the sunny side of the drug culture..Giggly, happy insanity is always the goal..And Cheech and Chong are so gracefully dumb-assed that if you're in a relaxed mood you can't help laughing at them."
Somebody Killed Her Husband - " Farrah Fawcett-Majors first movie as a star - a romantic suspense comedy ...Set in new York in winter, Somebody Killed Her Husband resembles the pictures Ginger Rogers did in the late thirties - the ones about ordinary, pleasant people falling in love and getting into farfetched scrapes - and it attempts the same sort of casual, wisecracking, everyday good humor...no doubt many people will find Farrah Fawcett-Majors' hair and teeth satisfyingly romantic. It's not an unpleasant movie, it's just awkwardly synthetic..."
The Boys from Brazil - " When veteran American actors are cast too strongly against type, they look ridiculous. Who could accept..Gregory Peck - as a Nazi sadist?...In this large-scale version of Ira Levin's 1976 novel, he plays the monstrous geneticist Dr. Josef Mengele, who in his jungle hideaway is still carrying on the experiments he began in the death camps.." " This picture is another of Lew Grade's international blockbuster packages..The films are assembled. Lord Grade (known in film circles as Sir Low Grade),..must exact a pledge from his directors that they will use no art and no imagination and..forget whatever they know of technique."
Get Out Your Handkerchiefs - "Bertrand Blier doesn't attempt to present a woman's point of view; he stays with the mans view of women, and that gives his films a special ambience..seeing a Blier film, a woman enters a man's fantasy universe stripped of hypocrisy. Blier's films have no meanness about women; the wife in Handkerchiefs isn't neurotic - just elusive...Get Out Your Handkerchiefs makes you feel unreasonably happy."
Calmos (Femmes Fatales) - "Blier's method works in Handkerchiefs, but something went wrong in his sexual extravaganza Calmos (and the picture failed, even in France)...There are two pals again, but now they're forty-year-old boulevardiers..One is a gynecologist (Jean-Pierre Marielle), and the other a baby-blue-eyed pimp (Jean Rochefort)...Calmos is an overscaled back-to-the-womb satiric fantasy - a male daydream about the impossibility of escape from the sexual wars...It's about the demands of sex on men who spent their youth chasing women and now - jaded - want a break from it."
Les Valseuses - " When Les Valseuses was released here, in 1974, it was variously described as sordid, loathsome, and disgusting...What is the picture's crime? Probably that viewers find themselves laughing at things that shock them...Going Places is an explosively funny erotic farce - both a celebration and a satire of men's daydreams - and some people find its gusto revolting in much the same way that the bursting comic force of the sexual hyperbole in Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer was thought revolting."
Death on the Nile - " ..like its predecessor, Murder on the Orient Express it's shaped to satisfy the audience's nostalgic longing for extinct forms of idle-class travel. Once again its the thirties; this time we travel by steamer...Death on the Nile is a flop of a very special kind. I don't know that I've seen a movie with so many clever things in it which was yet so disappointing...You sit in your seat disconsolate, whimpering for a little moviemaking flair."
The Big Fix " ..is based on Roger L. Simon's adaptation of his own 1973 detective novel, ..The films nostalgia for the great days of Berkeley in the late sixties - for the sit-ins, the strikes, the anti-war demonstrations - is like a form of intellectual mildew... The movie has no core."
The Wiz - " L.Frank Baum's Dorothy was a very grown-up, matter-of-fact little girl;..The Dorothy of this movie is a woman who behaves like a little girl - a case of arrested development...Judy Garland, with her fleshy vulnerability, provided a contrast to her three companions, but Diana Ross is as much an artifact as they are...you come out of this film asking, "Couldn't twenty-seven million dollars buy one good song?"
Autumn Sonata - " Does anybody really believe a word of this movie? It's like the grievances of someone who has just gone into therapy - Mother did this to me, she did that to me, and that and that and that. Eva (Liv Ullman), is vengeful and overexplicit and humorless; she takes no responsibility for anything. Without any recognition of the one-sidedness, Ingmar Bergman lays it on so thick - makes it all so gruelling - that we have to reject it."
Comes a Horseman - " basically the story is a variant of the evil land-grabber who is determined to take the land of the honest, hardworking rancher..But the melodrama here is smothered under the lowering Colorado skies, and how can you get involved in the conflict between the good guys and the bad guys if you can't even see them?...Comes a Horseman doesn't invite us in; in fact, it doesn't brief us on the rudiments of who is who and what's going on until it's half over - and by then we don't care."
Paradise Alley - "Stallone plays a loudmouth in Paradise Alley..His Cosmo is the middle one of three Italian brothers who share a basement apartment - a Dickensian dump - in Hell's Kitchen, and he shouts his entire overwrought performance at us, projecting to the deafest person in the audience...after three starring roles Stallone's limitations as an actor have become very apparent."
Slow Dancing in the Big City - "Avildsen...doesn't seem to function on the level of what the characters are doing and saying. Does he blank out and not hear what's going on? When Sarah (Anne Ditchburn)'s rich lover comes to her and says, 'I'm flying to Munich tonight' she asks, 'On a plane?'... Slow Dancing fails as romance but succeeds as camp."
Midnight Express - "We watch [Billy (Brad Davis)] deteriorate as the film rushes from torment to torment, treating his ordeals hypnotically in soft colors - muted squalor - with a disco beat in the background. The prison itself is more like a brothel than a prison; the film was shot mostly in a nineteenth-century British barracks in Malta, which was turned into a setting worthy of this de Sade entertainment.."
Movie Movie - " What keeps a viewer happy throughout is the performing gang; even the old-timers seem to be on their toes, responding to the fresh talent...Movie Movie is friendly and funny and enjoyable, but it also gives you a sense of the timidity of moviemaking now..."
Same Time, Next Year - " This is cozy adultery..I've sensed more physical attraction between two neighbors gossiping across the back fence than there is between George and Doris (Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn).."
Goin' South - " Henry Moon (Jack Nicholson) is about to be strung up, but the Texas border town he's in has an unusual ordinance: a condemned outlaw can escape the noose if a woman of property agrees to marry him. A virginal young Miss Muffet type (Mary Steenburgen), who needs a man to work her gold mine, claims him, and the film is about their squabblings and misunderstandings until they find love - its a mixture of Blazing Saddles and The African Queen. "
Magic - " William Goldman received a million plus for his novel and adaptation, yet the script is so thin and the cast is so small that Magic seems to be a made-for-TV movie - the kind with people going mad in isolated settings, where moviemaking is cheapest."
The Deer Hunter- " HawkeyeThe Deerslayer - [was] the idealized frontier hero of James Fennimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. The steelworker hero of Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter is the newest version of this American gentleman of the wilderness, and the film - a three hour epic that is scaled to the spaciousness of America itself - is the fullest screen treatment so far of the mystic bond of male comradeship." ... " it has no more moral intelligence than the Eastwood action pictures. Yet it's an astonishing piece of work, an uneasy mixture of violent pulp and grandiosity, with an enraptured view of common life - poetry of the commonplace."
Invasion of the Body Snatchers - "This film is almost like a surreal variant of Simone Weil's thesis that the people who resisted the Nazis weren't the good, upright citizens - they were the dreamers and outcasts and cranks. There's something at stake in this movie: the right of freaks to be freaks - which is much more appealing than the right of normal people to be normal." "This set of variations on the 1956 film has its own macabre originality; it may be the best movie of its kind ever made."
Superman - "Christopher Reeve, the young actor chosen to play the lead in Superman, is the best reason to see the movie. He has an open-faced, deadpan style that's just right for a windup hero...In this role, Reeve comes close to being a living equivalent of comic-strip art." " The immediacy of comic strips has a magical effect on kids. The plot is socked to them, with exclamation points. And we go to Superman hoping for that kind of disreputable energy. But it isn't there, and you can feel the anticipatory elation in the theatre draining out."
California Suite - " is such an acute embarrassment because Herbert Ross directs as if he thought there were depth in the lines,...what makes people human in a Herbert Ross movie is always their weakness, their vulnerability, their need. Finally, he reduces everything to pop lyrics: people need people. For him, that's truth - that's classicism."
The Last Wave - " except for the first sequence The Last Wave is over-deliberate..Richard Chamberlain,..a Sydney corporation lawyer..is some sort of spiritual throwback to a primordial race of seers...This plot is also a throwback - to the B movies of the thirties and early forties. The dialogue is vintage R.K.O. and Universal. The police doctor, who can't determine the cause of the aborigine's death - it was the result of a shaman's pointing a death bone at him - finishes the autopsy, looks up and says, "There's something about this..." "
Hot Tomorrows - " a typical young filmmaker's film..Michael (Ken Lerner), an aspiring writer from the Bronx..is sorrowfully in love with Laurel and Hardy and the other dead entertainers whom he watches on the screen. Michael's childhood friend Louis (Ray Sharkey), is out visiting him in Los Angeles... everything they encounter reminds them that life hangs by a thread..Hot Tomorrows has a distinctive, fluky temperament..It doesn't have much shape, though..."
The Great Train Robbery- " It's not often now that we get this civilized-entertainment sort of costume picture - handsomely mounted and slightly stiff. The year is 1855, and the hero (Sean Connery), is a thief masquerading as a wealthy businessman in order to gather the information he needs to steal the gold bullion that is being shipped by train in double-locked safes to pay the Briish troops fighting in the Crimean War..The Great Train Robbery could almost be a textbook demonstration of bourgeois moviemaking..."
Hardcore - " Paul Schrader has powerful raw ideas for movies..without ever developing his ideas or his characters...Jack (George C. Scott), a loner who sticks to his convictions, is Travis Bickle as a daddy, but a Travis Bickle who stayed in Grand Rapids and kept his sanity...Schrader creates effects, not characters; there's nothing for Scott to hang on to and develop..There's something a little batty about the way Jake strides through hell swinging his fists, like a CalvinistJohn Wayne. "
Once in Paris - "Frank D. Gilroy, who wrote and directed..thinks small, and in fifties terms. He's always a few steps behind where the movie needs to be. The picture is a middle-aged man's fantasy - a bittersweet brief encounter."
Halloween - " John Carpenter.has a visual sense of menace. He quickly sets up an atmosphere of fear...But Carpenter isn't very gifted with actors, and he doesn't seem to have any feeling at all for motivation or for plot logic. Halloween has a pitiful, amateurish script. An escaped lunatic wielding a kitchen knife stalks people in a small Midwestern town (Haddonfield, Illinois), and that's about it. "
Quintet - " is set in the future, in a new ice age..To alleviate the boredom of survival, the last men and women play a death game called Quintet, which appears to be an elaborate form of Arctic roulette...Quintet might be Ivan the Terrible Part III - the film no one was waiting for.. it's like a Monty Python show played at the wrong speed."
The Warriors - " this picture isn't a melodrama; it's a fantasy spectacle that has found its style in the taste of the dispossessed - in neon signs, graffiti, and the thrill of gaudiness. The Warriors enters into the spirit of urban-male tribalism and the feelings of kids who believe that they own the streets, because they keep other kids out of them..The Warriors is a real moviemaker's movie: it has in visual terms the kind of impact that Rock Around the Clock did behind the titles of Blackboard Jungle...The Warriors is mesmerizing in its intensity. It runs from night until dawn..There's a night-blooming, psychedelic shine to the whole baroque movie. The story is actually Xenophon's Anabasis (Xenophon) retold in modern urban terms, and compressed..it never lets up."