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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 1. 1969.

Films By Nevil Gibson — Stretching the frame

page 8

Films By Nevil Gibson

Stretching the frame

Now That the kids are back at school the traditional Christinas bilge of family entertainment—a term so loved by the film industry—has subsided. It is sobering to reflect that most of the big Christmas attractions flopped and that more money taken by films with an R.18 tag. Soon some theatre executives will realise that things aren't what they were and that tastes have changed, Wellington still has many films to catch up on that have been floating all around the country for the past year or so. One such example which showed up recently For a paltry week, Reflections in a Golden Eye, looked as if it had been dragged across the floor of every projection room from Kaitaia to Gore.

Films yet to make their appearance here still include Accident, The Jokers, The Quiller Memorandum, Marat/Sade, Charlie Bubbles, I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname, I Was Happy Here, 10.30 p.m. Summer, Night Games, Dear Heart, The Champagne Murders. A Dandy in Aspic. Reflections had a December 1967 certificate. But to some extent we have been compensated by some first class releases only a matter of months after their premiers overseas.

Of the pie-Christmas releases the most notable were several generally successful attempts to stretch the Iramework of the normal commercial films. The Swimmer (Columbia) and The President's Analyst (Paramount) were both highly original pieces of cinema from directors who had made only one previous film and are now making films for major studios, rank Perry (David and Lisa) and Hurt Lancaster presented John Cheever's story in a cool, almost lyrical style. The mystery and ambiguity of the man's background was hinted throughout at with mounting foreboding. The tense atmosphere and suspense was kept in hand for most of the film and few coneessions Were made lor an intelligent statement.

This lack of concession also marked Theodore J. Flicker's political fantasy with James Coburn, Hollywood's best off-beat comedy actor. Paranoid to the core, a well-written and sharp script supplemented by some inspired direction made The President's Analyst click where In Like Flint, for example, failed. A leathery, expressive face enabled Coburn to out across a line of dialogue which would normally have been wasted. Coburn was aided by some excellent actors in supporting roles—the best were Negro Godfrey Cambridge and pop singer Barry MaGuire—who gave added zest. I hope Flicker hasn't shot all his bolt in the one film.

Noel Black made a debut here as the director of the short Skater Dater, a simple if appealing subject which showed a remarkable visual style, Mis feature Pretty Poison (MGM) was open to the objection that its violence was gratuitous and the plot unreal. Another From the paranoid stable it marked a return to American films by Anthony perkins who perfectly fits the bill as the alienated neurotic par excellence. Bogged down by some juvenile romanticism it nevertheless bolstered its flimsy content with good acting by Perkins, Tuesday Weld and Beverly Garland

The Lido for once shunned Disney product and has reverted to a solid continental programme. None impressed very much most showed how dreadfully pretentious most of the Lido-syndrome stuff is. The worst in this brigade was the Greek Young Aphrodites (Lion), a failure from start to finish. The most honourable failure was the Yugoslav I Met Happy Gypsies Too (20th Century-Fox), an ironical but far from satisfying study of squalor and poverty. Boring to sit through it did however contain some good scenes of muted brutality and the free life. A Jean-Paul Belmondo-looking hero surprised with his rebellious spirit but was spoiled through heavy self-indulgence by director Alexandra Petrovic.

The Western releaed did little maintain the genre's high standing as a stage of modern man in a historic setting. Britain's first wetern (every one's making them now) Shalako (Rank) directed by veteran American Edward Dmytryk was a huge shambling mess. The idea of Scan Connery and Brigittee Bardot together no doubt rewarded the originator, but certainly not the spectator, Enlivened briefly by some mod torture, the film sank unmemorably into swampen cliche and doggerel that Hollywood stopped making year ago.

Blue (Paramount) on the other hand marred by originality without the traditional virtues. It had panache and style plus Terence Stamp. but its trivial plot ruined its chances for posterity, It appears that the censor also had a hand in mutilating an interesting foray Westward by Silvio Narrizano (Georgy Girl). Saved by the casting of Negro Ozzie Davis (The Hill) The Scalphunters (Columbia) failed to generate excitement or impress with its gestures to rugged sophistication. Burt Lancaster moved effortlessly through his undemanding part while Shelly Winters as usual brightened proceedings with her acceptance of what late had in store. Henry Hathaway directed 5 Card Stud with predictable ease using a plot which left little to the imagination and even less to the actors. Inger Stevens now seems to be quite at home as yet another Western moll joining Janice Rule and Angie Dickinson to attract the aging lead Western stars who can hardly keep us believing much longer.

Robert Aldrich has always been reliable in his output, balancing the box-office against a desire to do something rewarding. From the enormous profits of The Dirty Dozen he probably made The Legend of Lylah Clare (MGM) to cut down list taxes, Kim Novak returns aftet an absence to portray this Hollywood Persona. The film moves in mysterious wavs from a conventional view of Hollywood to some startling scenes which demonstrate the Aldrich obsession with evil and corruption, Peter

Finch as the film director was perfect as a man caught between necessity and desire, reality and fantasy. A film about films is always difficult and most have been far from successful. The recent Inside Daisy Clover remained fascinating yet unconvincing while The Goddess remained obscure despite an excellent performance by Kim Stanley (I understand that the released version had all the actual film sequences removed.) Kim Novak as Lylah/ neo-Lylah, screen goddess, retreated her tortuous career as the original Blonde Star of the Fifties.

Hut Lylah succeeded where the others failed. Its suspenseful and gripping plot did not allow for flights of fancy or riots of over statement. The lesbian and masochistic themes never obtruded or left a feeling of sensationalism. Yet it was about sensationalism. the groestque, degradation, failure and destruction. Apart from Novak and Finch there were two excellent performances from Ernest Bornine as the mogul and Rossella Falk as Lylah's euphemistically-tilled "dialogue coach" Aldrich's direction contained the powerful control he showed in such films as Attack and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. The new "Lylah's" first encounter with the Hollywood Press and her come back at the powerful but physically crippled gossip writer was an essay in direction which many directors of "let it happen how it happens" school could well take heed,

The end of the spate of films set off by Blow Up doesn't appear to be in sight. Of the recent examples Here We Go Bound The Mulberry Bush (United Artists) combines the teeny-bopper's answer to What's New Pussy Cat and the British version of Seventeen. Sexy and imaginative, but it didn't rise beyond a superficial conception which made its directorial gloss seem even more phoney. But compared with The Touchables "(20th Century-Fox) it's a masterpiece. This particular haemorrahage is one of the worst films I have ever had the misfortune to see. It deserves us sympathy.

Subtle direction creating an overall quietly disturbing effect contributed to the excellence of Reflections In A Golden Eye (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts), a film which could easily have fallen to pieces under a lesser talent that John Huston. Carson peacetime army post was basically descriptive. allowing a director to make the most of Visual statement. Each of the five central characters were introverted in their own private obsessive worlds. It is difficult to imagine a group as abnormal, each a singular personality vainly attempting to reach out to share or surmount their private hell. Marlon Brando was perfect as the homosexual officer who finally breaks when he realises the object of his desires doesn't want him but obtains satisfaction from his fetishistic adulation lor the officer's wife (Elizabeth Taylor) and her horse. The. wife's affair with a neighbouring officer (Brian Keith) ends when his wife (Julie Harris) dies after being committed to> a mental asylum. Her childlike Filipino house boy adds to the confusion, Such a collective has been welded by Huston into a microcosm of sexual and emotional deprivation— a world from which there appears to be little future. The vision is componded by Huston's decision to wash the Technicolor print to leave a golden hue. Unfortunately uneven processing has lessened the effect but where it is successful it is impressive. An excellent film to contemplate upon, for it never overstates or simplifies leaving room for ambiguity in personal reactions.

Peter Finch guides Kim Novak away from the attentions of Gabriele Tinti in "The Legend of Lylah Clare".

Peter Finch guides Kim Novak away from the attentions of Gabriele Tinti in "The Legend of Lylah Clare".