Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969
Media, Rare: Arty & Pests
Media, Rare: Arty & Pests
A Shattering eye-sore pilgrimagic-cinematic spree of 12 days, more films than I have ever seen in a concentrated period, one week of the Auckland International Film Festival, interspersed, almost mercifully. with some lesser commercial slop, and a few surprises, hither but hardly thith.
Undaunted and exhausted I write; some notes made during the festival, others hurriedly collated, and if they appear slightly redundant etc., please remember fish do not retain their apparent freshness once consumed (Arrable Parable!).
The 10th Victim (X.Z.F.S.) made in 1965 when the divine di Venanzo knew how to capture colour in a midflight rapture, is Elio Petri's bandly-bondy satire, full of flesh harry humour and gags of the future. It reeks of a prettier more sexier world than Alphaville, hut it it too slight a treatment of the futuristic hunters and the hunted. Mastroianni and Ursula Undress do things to each other, with disinterested ambivalence.
I Love You Alice B. Toklas (Warners-7) would be credible (if not entirely acceptable) if it was (I) not coekconked by (gaaaaasp!!) Hy Averback (I swear never to use that name again); (2) not using Peter Sellers in a still, tiresome, unfunny role and; (3) some-one had not removed any. but every reference to LSD) (and other things?) As it stands now. with entire scenes missing, the film is a peaceful 7000 ft odd! Because reconstruction has taken place (the film's point and subject make it more Obscurely revolting), it should have been banned (like Skidoo, boo hoo!), thus saving us all from knowing it is about hippies, and synthetic things that make you laugh like crazy, and using all that haightful "trendy" language that went out with sniffing glider glue.
Still, I musn't be that ridiculous (I just have hated all His movies) because, there are a few funny scenes, and the ideas of changing norms and personal structure is yet another variation on the Second's theme. Sellers plays a jewish lawyer Harold Fine, who's engaged to this real talkative broad, who says on climaxica non interruptus, "it moved for me, the earth, did it move for you Harold?" Thats quite funny (first time), and there's this Indian (?) family, strangling in neck braces due to an accident in their chicken-couped car, and Harold's Jewish mom (Jo Van Fleet) who's a pain. So Harold goes hip(!) and there's all these real weirdie scenes, full of gentle sickening satire (of course Andy Warhol's mentioned, cheaply. as the creator of a six-hour epic Mondo Teeth) and a simple revolting score from Bernstein (Elmer, please!) and bloated nauseous colour processing (Ye Gods! Phillip Lathrop. I fail to believe!!). There's one scene where Mom. pop, fiancee and Harold get hysterically high on hashish-laced cookies (a moral of sorts: you can't have your haight and freak it!) and that's very, very funny. Its coming to the Kings, then.
A Stranger Knocks (N.Z.F.S.) Sinking lower and lower, now! It comes from Sweden in the style of a 1940s sex drama (when it most possibly was made) but in the USA withheld because of two explicit" scenes of coita avec flannello. As it stands (or horizonks) there is one scene left in (depending on your frame of mind, granted your mind is framed) in this version (the Aussie censor bit a bit out, ahem!) and now I can really say I was a bit baffled by what happened. It's very krafftilly done, and he looks like the infamous George Wilder. and she a toiletty Susannah Yick; the camera not only doesn't move, it expires. It's absolutely dreadful . . . and the Lido will show it soon after this current MCM purge, with equally filthy intervals. It was misdirected by Jacob Joestrapp, or someone.
Very fortunate to see "Author" Romain Gary's Les Oiseaux vont mourir au Peru (or Birds In Peru, the artistically directed Universal has now shortened it to) and really cannot think of it appearing anywhere, let alone on Wellington screens. It is as cinematically literate as Robbe-Grillet's effort, and because Gary has such a poor technical staff (and brain!) and has obviously seen all the wrong films (on purpose, I bet) the film is of that new breed of the "Cinema of the abrupt"; totally illiterate, boring, and embarrassing-songly laughable
It is very poorly to say this, for I had rather high hopes, once—I adore Jean Seberg (what we see of her) but her ravenous elfin insanitry glances, and ice-cool gowns, moodily roaming among sand and feathers, unclothed silent gawky males, odd ornitholigically stewpid prey, and grotesque fat rhetorical-nympho-maniacal vistas (she has a fetish about bird-shit, I decided) are pain, I repeat, painfull, painful. Dannielle Derrierre "plays a Lesbian (I think) with. as much convincement as a neurotic parrot (in drag, the resemblance is bon viva!!) and Maurice Ronet, a poet of passion and contemporary crap; he has that post-sexual look at life bloody tinge around the gills (and—sigh!—he's getting far too fat!). The film has had excisions made to it (mercifully, for length's sake) but a few honest kinky images remain, and remain .... and remain, garishly.
The Killing of Sister George (Cinerama R.Corp) is as stagy as the play wasn't (in its pin-subtly and charmingest,' sad mood) and Robert Aldrich has directed (I fail to believe the word "directed" applies to his work here, as Donen's "direction" of Staircase is in no way derivative or complementary to each respective style) it in a faithfully laborious atmosphere (the abortionary script is by Lukas Heller) with little imagination, and a queerly still camera. The colour processing is transcontinental to say the least.
Personally, the local production of this play by Downstage with Pat Evison and Cecily Poison last year had more of the atmosphere, bite and sadness: a near perfect realisation of a not too perfect play.
But here in 1969 we have Beryl Reid (who is wonderful, wonderful—it's not her unfailing fault the film is so bad) and Susannah York (God, she's crude in this; both in style and sense. Her Childie is sickening, bronzed, and uninnocent; she's terrible, and overacts with great jaw breaking, neck tendon bulging ease).
But! Mercycroft heavens; the "IT", performed by Aussie Coral Browne (Aldrich had her stryehninical pantings, tied to a wheelchair in Lylah (Clare), is just too, too much. Refeened, bitter, acridly gorgeous and bitchy (rather than butchy). immaculately unconcerned, she rises (oh, well . . .) in the ho hum "scene' (very well edited by our Censor, minus, I thankfully sigh, 4 unnecessary, revolting minutes) and does a lovely bit of molaric contortionism, mouth stretched sideways, a lustily wrotting worm.
"Sister George" is now the TV nurse, and these sections (with that fat-evil Ronald Fraser) are hilariously clone. Beryl Reid is absolutely fantastic (I repeat!) and she carries the entire film on her own, loveable, boozy and tragically off-key; but Aldrich introduces the "mentioneds" from Frank Marcus' play and extends them into heavy visuals, unnecessary, and for most of the time vulgar (the nun assault, the Lesbian club of Gateways—two very well handled scenes). For nearly 13,000 feet (far, far too long) it hardly stirs the emotion at all. It has cleaned the cinematic throat of the secret phlegm, but in no way does it present Lesbianism as an answer to hang a bloated essay on. Like Stanley Kauffmann I didn't think much of Susannah York's breasts, either.
Otley (Columbia) was a breezy little film, that certainly cleaned the air and the brain. Very much TV originated (scriptwriters) and director Dick Clement (a first feature, remember that name); a nice, not too fantastic plot, it abounded in credible character clots (Freddie Jones, James Villiers, Leonard Rossister, Alan Badel etc.) and Tom Courteney, looking much maturer, and lined, clowned delightfully among its junior Kafka-casy-edition scenes. Austin Dempster's colour was full of glorious tonal breaches. I enjoyed Clement's consistent use of old people getting in the way; and most of the silly jokes scattered like pop corn (I hope you read that fantastic review in the Sunday Times, attributed to Carl Foreman!) Villier's death, the sound of a neck being crushed by a bus, a cement-whitened death mask, I found rather gratuitous and revolting. How such a funny little film could go a miserable week, I shall never know.
Jack Cardiff photographed and directed Girl on a Motorcycle (I.F.D.) from.Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues' erotic-fantastique diary, with a style unique to the cinema and with (again!) a Fresh and completely unbridled approach, that captures the imagination in a most personal way, relating to young Marianne Faithfull's Rebecca, most brilliantly. People still hate this film, "trite, stewpidity", "yucky colour", etc, and who didn't baulk at the trailor? Unless you were prepared to accept Miss Faithfull and go along with her phantasies and creatively active mind, I don't blame you feeling disgusted. The use of treating the negative (per Mulberry Bush, and Head etc.) is extremely well integrated, and the raw, fleshy use of colour, at times erotic in its nuances of the countryside, is fantastic. I would like to write more on this film, but then this is only for the record, a Strange piece for Jack Cardiff (his last. The Mercenaries!) but a most rewarding one, if you care.
Oh! What a lovely War, possibly the best "musical" (which it is not) ever from Britain, has 20 Or so minutes missing, thanks to the Aussie distributors of Paramount, held responsible over there. This uniquely remarkable film, as fragmentarilly interesting and personal as Isadora, combines period pathos, songs, very convincingly, not quite up to Little-wood's brashness and loud raucous patriotic stompings of her World War I play musical. But for Richard Attenborough, a first film of compact richness for detail containing much beaut), and it is very, very clever. Maggie Smiths hilarious put-ons to the troops. Maurice Roave's charming Irish troop leader, Vanessa Redgrave, a strong, wonderful, Mrs Prankhurst and other assorted greats (Sir Laurence is a hilarious bumbling Mr French) work beautifully. I only hope it will be not too long until they release this film (Intact, Please!! This is, I repeat, Not Australia) commercially.
A most pleasing second-look film (though for Auckland a first release) was Delmer Daves' The Battle of the Villa Fiorita. From Rumer Goden's golden pen, this (still) latest work from Dave's is one of his best; certainly it has the honesty and warmth that made his westerns so popular, and still so convincing. Oswald Morris' location photography hasn't been surpassed on a bitter-sweet story such as this, with lovely Maureen O'Hara, and that oily lover Rosanna Brazzi (who does well in the later things though). The children, Martin Stephens and a smart debut from Olivia Hussey make this a sort of resemblance of the emotional day's weepie, but it has a courage lacking in many of today's sordid efforts, and the entire thing is a blessing in disguise. I urge you to see it if re-issued here.
A sentence for Staircase: Harrison and Burton cope sympathetically (don't you think?), but again it lacks the heart the play has. Their two rotting marms help out the bitching and Burton's turbanned stinting —his stinting, is a miraculous thing to behold (Don't you think?).
Since Reisz's Isadora (already commented on in Salient) is due for an early death (please let me say, this beauiful film is utterly convincing—Vanessa is incredible— despite Reisz's confusing attempts to shorten and straighten out certain "scenes", and the use of music, both as counterpoint—the slow movement of Schubert's great C major quintet is unbelievably moving—and necessity is vastly superior to any other film I have ever seen) the horizontal beamings of Bob Fosse s Sweet Charity seems almost another condemned to Universale gaping grave.