Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 1. 28 February 1972
Over the next few months I wish to keep my profound disgust of the inane workings of the Department of Internal Affairs' censors to an absolute minimum. Many films are missing ingredients which the censors think are contrary to public order and decency blah... It is a proven fact that most of these films are showing Uncut in Australia and beyond — obviously with material which our censors overject to. I feel it would not be worthwhile my attempting to review McCabe & Mrs Millar, French Connection, Shaft, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, Carnal Knowledge, Straw Dogs, Klute, etc. which have all been cut here — but it becomes a duty therefore, as part of this "disgusting" treatment to review only a ["version"] of these films, i.e. not the original as the maker conceived, but a re-edited, occasionally mutilated version (c.f. Jack Smight's Travelling Executioner) through the courtesy of our Departmental hacks- in every sense of the word. Where possible I shall list the cuts of every film I mention to give you some idea as to what is going on. From then on it is up to you to form your own opinions — or better still fly away to some enlightened land where films are treated as they should be, and, if nothing else, respected.
The Touch (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1971) Lido. Summer of '42 (Robert Mulligan, USA, 1971) Cinerama.
I used to have an almost clinical way of sympathising with the creatures of Bergman's world, but in his new film, The Touch, in colour, and his first in the English language I find myself compelled to do an almost about-face re-routing of his difficult and misleading themes, which he is fond of. But this is pleasant, and the film is a joy. It seems that this work has had a brave face all along, and has done extremely well in this country- for what reason I know not. (Yes, I do — it's engrossing. Every lovely frame of it!) most reviews have been confused, unsympathetic, and irritating, whilst another ("Cursed Be My Tribe") in the January '72 Sight & Sound finds in it an unbelievable correlation between the threat of Judaism to Christianity just because Elliott Gould's archaeologist is a German-American-Israeli-English Jew! Christ Almighty, he's sympathetic, withdrawn and a perfectly equipped moody, American (no dangerous "intellectualism" here) type succeeding in a relationship with Karen (Bibi Andersson) — whether by force of implication involving impotency, or by consenting rape (a humane piece of anti-eroticism complete with orgasm and phonetic-withdrawal) or a moving cradling of Gould in her arms.
Her husband, Dr Andreas (Max Von Sydow) is someone pumped full of life blood (palpable emotional realism). and acceptance, and there is in this usually lovely trio an understanding that forces one to believe in then innocence no matter how dominant their guilt is.
Bergman has cleaned up the problems of communication by letting only bits of understanding through at a time.-This may all sound extremely complex and uninvolving, but it is full of light, and colour, and moves very quickly through areas of emotion with complete conviction, and much humour.
The pre-credit sequence is Karen visiting her mother who has just died in hospital- an amazingly heart stopping opening to any film — the assembly of cameo portraits involving death, and as a result, after the removal of her mother's rings from her fingers, Karen breaks down in a cloakroom, invaded by Gould's hairyness, and bleak acceptance, when Karen cries (and she does so many times) it is difficult to realise why Bergman is letting us into something even more secretive behind her charming face. This performance by Miss Andersson, is one of the greatest, most searching, ever experienced in a Bergman film.
There are symbols of his faith, almost decoded, yet on the surface they are realistic, and acceptable. The finding of a wooden virgin-statue in an old church by the two, causes Gould to follow the surface of it with his search-light, and then over Karen's beautifully sainted face. Later the larvae are eating "the virgin's image away from within."
Gould's room is squalid, and messy, compared with Karen's [bourgeois] comforts (satirised commercial-style to the point of discomfort) and it is in this tattyness where most of their sexual games, and fights are played, to the accompaniment of clock chimes and factory whistles.
Bit of a plot here, I'm afraid. Andreas visits David during one of Karen's visits, and learns of his wife's unfaithfulness (blackmail from an unknown) and Gould's attempted suicide, Gould leaves for London, leaving Karen pregnant. She visits London, but is met by David's sister Sarah (Sheila Reid)— a cripple with pain in her eyes and hands— yet the protector of David, and a relationship beyond is insinuated.
Gould returns to Sweden to ask Karen into marriage—a violent quarrel, bourgois attitudes are brought up, and in a final long-held scene, among the gold and brown of the autumn leaves and trees across a small stream, Gould walks away off screen muttering and shouting threats leaving Karen stranded in colour that is almost blinding.
We have not had Bergman's previous film A Passion, also in colour, and I cannot really refer The Touch to this or any others. Sven Nykvist's colour is amazingly beautiful, and in many sequences Brueghel-strong— in its oranges, reds, browns and dark greens (the credit sequence of houses of orange and brown lapping in dissolves continually.)
There is in the "normalness" of its characters, its unhurried almost magical approach to its love theme, a certainty that Bergman has definitely succeeded in translating his private angle once more into a language that we understand, and conform to. Truffaut's limited knowledge of the language transcended with Fahrenheit 451 into complete literary-ness, and so has Ingmar's.
An amazing film. For those who think it is "substandard Bergman" (whatever they may mean!) they must have watched it with their eyes and brain closed.
Elliott Gould is wonderful and when he returns with his beard shaven off, from a supposed illness (Suicide?) the sight of his pale, thin face, is a moving 'sight. Bergman can do this to people, and it hurts.
The only thing now would be for UA to release A Passion then his latest Shouts and Whispers, soon. He has found an audience here, and a very sympathetic one too.
(The Censor has removed the word "fucking" during one of Gould's raves: amazing!)
A little bit on Summer of '42. Robert Mulligan's return to the peaceful funny world of his adolescents which he also found solace with in To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, this latest success has the mood of the other, but it also has Robert Surtees' floating blue and dusty yellow seas and dry land colours, and a toned-down script by Raucher from his novel.
I think that in all its romantic quietudes and adolescence-ending humour, it may be a little too precious and even more so a little bit phony (that word has to be used!), but there's Jennifer O'Neill, a beauty to be reckoned with, and the young kids are, well, just as they should be.
But it is a little too careful and prissy m its explanation of sexual details in which the boys are totally immersed, up to their slaveringmouths. A feel-up at the movies involving two exquisite scenes from Irving Rapper's orgasmic Now Voyager, and resulting trial-by-rubber, is underplayed, and the atmosphere of the old town is not as period potent, as perhaps Curtis Harrington, Mike Nichols, and Peter Bogdanovich will give us soon.
The last sequence of initiation with the freshly-widowed woman and one of the boys is the brave Mulligan at all his worth (and I consider him worthy of much) no dialogue, and lots of attenuated atmospherics. A nice dream though and a pity it has an R18. Lots of 13 year-olds should sneak in. It'd do them the world of good.
Roeg/Cammell/Mick Jagger's fated Performance [unclear: made] in 1967, released 1970) and banned in NZ by both you know who's will finally be shown (sort of) in a reconstructed, hacked-about, regurgitated, toned-down version, (in fact 1480 feet or over 16 minutes missing), at the Plaza mid March. The Censor who is responsible, basically, for this repulsive move, and Warner Bros, somewhere, (England maybe), for releasing a version that has nothing whatsoever of the original. The Censor has passed this version R16 uncut-therefore he is protected, but basically he is guilty at the start.
Movies to be released in Wellington over the next few weeks.
- John Schlesinger's Sunday, Bloody Sunday.
- Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes.
- Monte Hellman's Two-Land Blacktop.
- Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand
- Gille Pontecorvo's Burn!
- Frank Perry's Diary of a Mad Housewife.
- John Cassavete's Husbands.
- Ken Russell's The Boyfriend
- Joseph Losey's Figures In a Landscape,
- Robert Altaian's McCabe and Mrs Miller.
- Gordon Park's Shaft.-
- Jerry Schatzburg's The Panic In Needle Park.
- Russ Meyer's The Seven Minutes.
- Mike Nichols' Carnal Knowledge.