Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 17. July 23, 1968
Films — Charlie is no darling
Charlie is no darling
The art of the personalised cinema—where direction is combined with Interpretation—is the most demanding artistic aggrandisement. These are the genuine auteurs. The most successful of them have been comedians—great names like Chaplin. Tati and Lewis come to mind. Acting-directing has also featured John Wayne and Burt Lancaster, but these are in the minor league. Cornel Wilde is an original, but he is not an auteur of comic fantasy. Neither is Albert Finney, but his first film. Charlie Bubbles (Universal), is strongly influenced by the masters of the personalised film.
Charlie Bubbles was one of the Angry Young Men thrown up in the aftermath of the dissolution of communist ideology in Britain after 1956. Today he is successful, a TV trend-setter in intellectual Fashions, the darling of the weekend supplement. He is also bored and wants to escape, but can't. He rejects his financial enmeshments at the beginning of the film. The scene is set and we witness one of the most hilarious spontaneous restaurant happenings ever; to the clatter and chomping of embarrassed and ostensibly oblivious eaters, Finney and his mate Colin Blakely smother gooey food over each other.
Charlie is persuaded to travel North from London to take his son to a football game. He takes a young thing who has latched herself on to him. exuberantly played by swinging chick American-style Liza Minneili (yes, Vincente and Judy's daughter), She finds life a wow, he lumps it like a whale. He bumbles with her bra and skirt, she obligingly helps him. She wants slum realism Blow Up style, he drives the Rolls through the bomb sites to placate her.
But Liza is in a different world to Charlie. Boredom seeps out of his even pore. He embarrassingly fumbles not only with her clothes but in the act of communication to all who admire and want to know him. A hitch-hiker's wife has read all the novels but Charlie cares nought. This atmosphere is remarkably captured in a roadside cafe when Yootha Joyee uglified to a degree where even Elizabeth Arden, would give Friends sit with Charlie and company in large impotent silences.
The football match is observed from a glass booth so far from the play that it is no larger than a TV screen His son leaves him, returning home, Hours later Charlie returns after looking everywhere, His divorced wife, a brilliant Billie Whitelaw, feels no remorse. Charlie cannot find the satisfaction he seems to seek. Only a large hot-air balloon provides the escape. We last see him floating into the blue yonder
Britain's bright young cinematographer Peter Suschitsky (It Happened Here, Privilege) uses Technicolor to evoke the cold loneliness of the Manchester slums and waste land—remember the bleak black-and-white of the early kitchen sink films?—and the potential lyricism of the country home.
Shelagh Delaney (A Taste of Honey) is credited with the screenplay, I find it haul to believe there was one beyond a story outline. Even scene is impromptu, spontaneous. The people are real, exposed, ridiculous. It's as though the National Film Unit wanted to use the sale vards at Brightwater to make the Great New Zealand Film. Yes, it is screamingly funny and exceptionally entertaining, Universal are to be congratulated for making films of this type in England, following on from Privilege and Fahrenheit 451, preceding those on the way, I'll Never Forget What's is Name and Work is a Four Letter Word.
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A brief note cannot do justice to Paramount's new homage to slapstick presenting the blown-up swinging city full of mini-skirted bra-less birds and peacocked males. Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave recreate Laurel and Hardy in their first film together since Girl With Green Eyes. Not surprisingly Smashing Time is directed by Desmond Davis again, although it is a change of form from his enviable reputation as Britain's leading serious director—his two other films. The Uncle (1965) and I Was Happy Here (1966) have not yet reached Wellington.
Rita and Lynn, one large-eyed the other large figured, romp through their many besetting adventures from the time Camden Road is contused with Carnaby to the sky-raising climax at London's revolving restaurant. The filling consists of coloured aerosols, oosy pics, laxative gin and hydra bubble baths. Affectionate and entertaining, Smashing Time is welcome relief to the over-exposed Antonioni enigma.
* Next week: "Belle de Jour" and "Shakespeare Wallah".