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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 13. 1969.

Films — Bunuel in Manhattan

page 4


Bunuel in Manhattan

The school at Gloucester used for the film

if ...Lindsay Anderson's hatchet job of the British Public School. "If . ..." is before the censor now. Above: The school at Gloucester used for the film, and right, Anderson (centre) with some of his student actors.

if ...
Lindsay Anderson's hatchet job of the British Public School. "If . ..." is before the censor now. Above: The school at Gloucester used for the film, and right, Anderson (centre) with some of his student actors.

Tom Wolfe once started one of his essays by filling up half a page with the word Hernial I feel like that impression and could succeed by quoting Mr Coleman's review of this certain film, thus: Skidoo, skidont; Skidoo, skidont; Skidoo, skidont; Skidoo, skidont; Skidoo, ski ... But the New Statesman can afford to pay such an excellent reviewer by testing his equally terse reviewers's output. Salient applies for second position: Skidoo, skidattled. (Readers this far may have discovered a slight hesitant revealability).

Skidoo has been banned, plain and simple. New Zealand will not see (at the moment) a film by Otto Preminger (!) that advocates the use of LSD and stars Groucho Marx (the alive one) as God. The film arrived here in February, was banned; no appeal entered into; Paramount musn't have been interested; none of the reviews were. Requiem Lysergica ad aeternam, Amen.

Meanwhile across the Tasman, young Swedish director Stig Bjorkman withdrew his film I Love, You Love, from the 16th Sydney Film Festival. The Commonwealth film Censor banned the film from being shown at the Sydney and Melbourne festivals. The Minister" for Customs and a Senator in Canberra agreed to release the film if a particular love scene was cut out. Mr Bjorkman would not agree. Five young Australian producers withdrew their festival entries in sympathy with Mr. Bjorkman.

The scene which caused the trouble involves two lovers naked on a bed caressing each other, but not making love. The woman is seven months pregnant. On the first night of the festival a shocked and bewildered Bjorkman told the embattled customs minister that he imagined an act of sexual intercourse.

The entire banning stinks. It is most likely that Mr Bjorkman will be coming to New Zealand. Some Christchurch students are underway to pay for him and his film for showing in New Zealand. It will surely be shown at the Auckland/Adelaide festival in August. A festival by right has (or had?) a special dispensation to import anything it wished uncut (usually for one showing), but in this Aussie case an unpublished escape clause allowed the censor to eliminate anything he thought obscene or blasphemous.

Very soon NZ will be held up against the light. Anything could, and probably will, happen.

My fears for Lindsay Anderson's If ... were not in vain. Charles Hicham writes in the Sydney "Herald": "Needless to say our moral guardians have been busy with the scissors on this film, removing in a vigorous spirit of emasculation the genitals from a nude shower bath scene, leaving in doubt (which the original film did not) the loss of virginity of a sixth former who is thrown to the floor by a sympathetic cafe waitress in Cheltenham. Despite this nonsensical trimming, which once again treats us like sub-pubertal innocents or eunuchs the film works powerfully. It is the work of a steely and concentrated intelligence with an unerring understanding of the psychology of adolescence."

If ... is the first feature of Anderson's since This Sporting Life (his first). It is set in the "echoing, lethal world of a British public school". . . . and concerns the absurdities and pomposities of official establishmnts" in a apparently incredibly revolutionary spirit.

The film arrived in this country two weeks ago. The Censor has not made any decision whatsoever about it. I hope to report next week on what has happened. Meanwhile, back to the local screen.

A not too fictional representative of the enigmatic Pandro S. Berman, in the form of no doubt two fetishitic (for want of better pseudonits) directors, Ralph Nelson and Hy Averback (Eeek!!!) constantly devitalise the cinema world with their great non-entities (the latter is proven beyond hiatic doubt).

I will not tangentiate for the record on a list of their past excresences in detail (please advise who saw Chamber of Horrors, Where were you when the lights went out? by Averback, Counterpoint, Lillies of the Field by Nelson). A few years ago though, Nelson made a film, Requiem for a Heavyweight, with Anthony Quinn and Julie Harris. He hasn't even bettered it today.

And so, via said aboves and Duel at Diablo (his blackblood period) we arrive at yet another. This time in the form of a publicity build-up, an Oscar for best actor and a subject which surely more could be done with. Charly (Cinerama Releasing Corp) is the result and it is a terrible film, save for the magical presence of Cliff Robertson, who surely engineered the film along kindergarten-lines to adequately preserve the saddening joy of the hero.

But somewhere our plodding Nelson cripplinely stepped-in and flaked-out, leaving nothing but a few moving scenes (by Robertson), one of the year's most charming scores, by Ravi Shankar, and a load of inordinate bullsh.

Pedantic, slow, "unimaginative direction, hardly a thing to comment on these days," in fact it cannot even be applied here.

Sequences with wide-sloppy idyllic lenses would boost any Funit travelogue and a spilt-screen show-off that creates yet another "knock! knock!" invisible shield feeling.

Robertson's Charly hero is a retarded man with the mind of a 6-year-old. He is coaxed by neuro-surgeons and Claire Bloom (looking like the lovely Sue Massacre) into having an operation—something to do with selling his cells to the scalpel. They have experimented on a white mouse. Algernon, who supplies a near-allegorical theme and helps Charly in his success. His mind grows strongly, he achieves genius and beyond: the mouse dies. In realisation, he is no way better off than he was. Unlike Frankenheimer's second, Charly is in open competition with the world, a product of occurrence rather than deliberate waste drawing in his first sexual awakenings, his joy with Miss Bloom in our filter. hyacinth-tinted world. Something at sometime warned me that Robertson was too powerful, his little Irish nature, and near-lopre-corny attitude outweighed all essential clarity the disturbed sequences should have achieved. Very sad too, that its environ is so bad, but Charly could never be forgotten.

Violence on the rampage in Don Siegel's Coogan's Bluff (Universal), his latest, and only occasionally does a wee splutter occur in an otherwise beamingly satisfying film. Hilarious dialogue, crude and maddening sketches of the under and surface world Siegel so loves. This time the cowboy is the city, a near-misplaced society from Navajo to Manhattan territory, the demoted sherrif from Arizona in the form of Coogan Eastwood.

Siegel exploits his cops as always (as Madigan, still unreleased in Wellington and here he dampens the squid squad with their own personal greed, violence, and miraculous popping-ups when blood is in the air, on the face and up the nose.

It is one of the few violent films our Censor has left nearly intact (there is a dubious druggy cut, though, I think) and it erupts thuddingly with a incisive jolting force—especially the revolting pool-room sequence.

There are strange references to Coogan stetson and boots (a near crow to Bunuel creaking instep!) the drug scenes, implicitly satirical and quietly callous, and one of the best uses of the wide-angle lens since Repulsion.

The whole film rumbles along with Sheriff Lee J. Cobb (such a welcome and fine performance), Don Stroud as an animal two charming female accomplices (it is good to see Siegel keep alive the [unclear: Hawksian] ablution scene!) assorted [unclear: miscengeneti] towering Clint Eastwood mumpish and seething as always, and, of course, the wunnerfoal city of Noo York without which ... A diversion of sorts to end with.

A copy of George Axelrod's film Lord Love A Duck, has finally reached Auckland A review appeared in the "Herald" last Saturday. Before it gets reprinted in Private Eye, Salient has the pleasure to present a slightly edited version. The culprit will remain less, such is the penalty for such delightful absurdity.

"Lord Love A Duck has the germ of a good idea buried somewhere in it. In the out-come, however, stodgy playing allied to unimaginative direction, produce a film as inconsequential as its title.

"The advertising puffs claim that it is against everything. That may be fine for 40 minutes, but if it is to win the interest, let alone the applause of an audience, a movie must somewhere along the line be for something as well.

"It is, in truth, a rather depressing experience to sit through what is billed as "way-out comedy," surrounded by total silence.

"Almost the solo virtue of George [unclear: Ax] rod's production as entertainment would seem to be that by staying home one might encounter something even less mirth-provoking on television .... Heady, intoxicating stuff, perhaps, to knowledgeable Americans west of the Rockies—and apparently to the crities who handed it an award at a Berling festival (actually for Lola Albright as best actress!)—but a sobering 100 minutes for the Kiwi audience. For one viewer, [unclear: a] least, this is one they could safely have left undisturbed in the can." And [unclear: de] old George aims a swift Phffft!!!