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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 35 Number 6. April 11, 1972


page 11


If you want to see these snippets, leave New Zealand.

Movie goers venturing to the metropoli of Australia, unless they are millionnaires, may find it necessary to borrow steal or forge a 'uni' concession card. It is true that the the viewing conditions are generally excellent, and one does see more running feet per film than one would do here, but admission charges of between $1.80 and $2.50 (for the films I saw) seem rather excessive. The difference in income indexes etc. in Australia and New Zealand are not accurately reflected in the respective admission prices. One can only assume that somewhere in the chain of bludgers someone makes a fat profit. It was explained to me that considerable monies had been spent in modernizing and improving existing theatres, but it seems to me odd that capital developments like this should be passed on directly to the 'consumer'.

The films I saw were The Devils (banned in N.Z.), Carnal Knowledge (decimated), Sunday Bloody Sunday (cut), Klute (not here yet), The French Connection (cut) and Fellini Satyricon. At the time of writing The Devils is being reviewed by the Cinematograph Appeals Board. I pray that this body has more collective wisdom than that possessed by the film censor, who in the past few years has gone from bad to execrable. There was a time when in the course of berating this official I would have given him credit for the occasional glimmer of enlightenment, but it now seems that by his own inability (or unwillingness) to perceive and act on changes in the public temper and in the medium itself, his position has been reduced to that of quasi-official spokesman for the Bartlett crowd. It is nothing short of disgusting the way films are banned and mutilated in this country at this time. The situation here is regarded with incredulity by Australian buffs, a near reversal of what was the case not so many years ago. There appears to be no restriction on the way in which the censor will pander to the demands of a very small and very sick group of people. It It's time he was booted out and the whole position revamped.

Reed, Russell and Redgrave - "The Devils" from Aldous Huxley's "The Devils of Loudun"

Reed, Russell and Redgrave - "The Devils" from Aldous Huxley's "The Devils of Loudun"

The Devils is 'not a film for everybody', as the Australian censor so rightly warns prospective viewers. Scenes of frenzied nuns dancing about naked may not be to everybody's taste, and for others the bouts of torture could be extremely disturbing. Yet having now seen the film I would be interested to know what possible reason the censor had for banning it. One might dismiss it as vulgar, cruel, blasphemous, or just another piece of Ken Russell sensationalism, but none of these can be done if some misguided bureaucrat denies us the right to see it. In my opinion The Devils cannot be so dismissed, even though I found some of it exceedingly grim. On several important counts - a direction, photography and acting -a high standard is set and maintained throughout the film In particular the virtuoso performances by Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave are worthy of note. True, there are the occasional grandiose/ grotesque embellishments that one might expect from Ken Russell, but I find these entertaining rather than irritating.

As a case history of religious hysteria the film is successful in delineating both the events and the forces and motivations behind them, while the lines of political action in the church-state conflict of the time are clearly defined. Devout believers may take offence at the manner in which the nuns are presented in something less less than a favourable light, but as I pointed out in a letter to the Appeals Board there is no point in denying history merely to coddle Christian sensibilities. Cases such as this are well documented. At a more personal level there is an impressive and moving portrayal of a man who will not buckle under, when what he believes is right is challenged by authority as a means of furthering its own ends. Perhaps the outstanding aspect of Russell's (and Reed's) achievement is the fact that the character is utterly convincing, that there is a martyrdom here which is neither false nor incredible. When Reed goes to be learned in contemporary terms, and his final sufferings are genuinely cathartic.

In Klute there are several passages of naturalistic dialogue which the censor is bound to attack with relish. Since legal actions have decreed that 'fuck' shall not be said in public, the continuing myth that a cinema is a public place will be dredged up to excuse the excision of the dreadful word. Once again, however, there would appear to be no reason for such action, as the situations in which the word is heard afford contextual justification). Indeed one such incident might be described as the film's most effective moment - A pity you won't see this bit.

This fine thriller directed by Alan Pakula, is notable for the tension it generates and the performances by Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda. Sutherland underplays his role perfectly, while Fonda does her best ever as the sophisticated street-walker. If star quality means anything these days then she's got it a remarkable piece of acting. Klute is not one of those films which depend, for their effectiveness, on plot surprises and shock developments, and then seem tame at a second viewing. Rather, the tension is applied at every step, as gently as the administration of a thumb-screw. The resources of Pakula just succeed in matching the quality of the script and the cast, and with such material at his disposal he has come up with a first-rate film. Simply not to be missed.

Carnal Knowledge is apparently lacerated in its New Zealand version. While the censor can be directly blamed for the mutilation, one must also accuse a distribution industry which will allow films to be shown that are traversities of the originals. I would rather see these shelved until such time as reason prevails, out of respect for those who made them and the audience which has to grit its teeth and tolerate the ignominies inflicted by the scissors. I can remember wincing when I saw the film, having conjured up a vision of the censor maniacally slashing all those naughty words. Well, here they are in sequence. You may be able to fill in the gaps when you see the film; the cuts are usually blatantly obvious.

1. After Sandy (Art Garfunkel) has unsuccessfully tried to approach Susan (Candice Bergen) at a party, said to Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) - "I fucked up".

2. Sandy: "Well, it is a sort of favour. Isn't it? 1 mean when a girl lets you kiss her and, you know, go on from there - feel her up and, you know, the rest of it, go all the way and the rest of it, I mean isn't it a favour? What's in it for her? I mean if she's not getting paid or anything?"

Jonathan starts to laugh.

Sandy: "Fuck you!"

Jonathan roars with laughter.

Sandy: "Okay, Okay, I'll feel her up!"

3. (Skating scene)

Sandy: "That guy must be sixty if he's a day."

Jonathan: "Maybe he'll have a heart attack, you can save his life, get her number and fuck her."

4. (Skating scene)

Jonathan: "That's Sally Joyce."

Sandy: "Didn't I see her on Ed Sullivan?"

Jonathan: "I fucked her once."

Sandy: "Bullshit artist!"

5. (Skating scene)

Jonathan: "Listen, it's not as easy getting laid as it used to be. I don't think I fuck more than a dozen new girls a year now.

(other dialogue)

6. Sandy: "You can't make fucking your life's work."

7. (Argument between Jonathan and Bobbie - Ann Margaret)

Jonathan: "Where the fuck is my shoe horn?! This place is a mess." (other dialogue)

8. Jonathan: "Is this an ultimatum? Answer me, you ball busting, castrating, son-of-a-cunt bitch!"

9. (Jonathan's "Ballbusters On Parade!" screening)

Jonathan: "Here's Eileen, my very first fuck. She was a modern dancer at Swarthmore." (other dialogue)

10. Jonathan: "Here's a real cunt — I forget her name. - a Nazi, t banged her in Berlin."

I might point out that none of the above were cut in the Australian version. I perceived no visible ill-effects in the audience. Even in its complete form, however, the; film is not entirely successful. Mike Nichols seems strangely out of touch with what's going on, though there is some evidence of a conflict in styles in the presence of Giuseppe Rotunno as director of photography. For a film that reeks of Americana ther is some obviously Italianale camera-work. Jules Feiffer's script, while concisely sketching the characters, seems irrelevant to the sexual mores of the seventies, however biting his pen may be. On interesting point about the structure of the film is that it consists almost entirely of duologues, a schema which proves very effective. As in the other films mentioned the acting is outstanding, with Ann-Margret showing her true colours at last. Nicholson rants magnificently and Candice Bergen is better than I've ever seen her. Despite my reservations I think I would see this film again, but not in this country.

Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel in "Carnal Knowledge"

Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel in "Carnal Knowledge"

Out of Carnal Knowledge, a few steps, and into Sunday Bloody Sunday, a dramatic change of place and pace. I will not dwell on this film except to say that I disagree with the opinions presented in these pages by Simon Arnold some issues back. However, this is a purely personal reaction to what I believe is honest sentiment honestly portrayed. At such a confrontation I tend to throw myself in head first, give myself up to it, and see what happens. In this case it worked, but it is not difficult to see that the film may produce entirely different reactions in other viewers. Undeniably, Peter Finch proves once again that he is one of the best actors around. The French Connection was not quite as impressive at a second look, although it was nice to hear the dialogue in toto Some of the scenes involving the French characters dawdled along without contributing greatly to the plot; the bit where the bearded ringleader and his girl exchange presents comes to mind in this respect. The chase excites just as much, and Gene Hackman's performance grows in stature. As for Fellini Satyricon the less said the better.

A bloated bore.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I saw one masterpiece, while in Sydney in 1968", Falstaff, directed by Orson Welles. Will some doddering industry spokesman step forward and explain why this film has not yet been screened in New Zealand? Films by Welles, one of the giants of the cinema, are rare enough as it is, without new ones being denied us because of stupidity rampant in the distribution system. Just another example of blundering incompetence, and one that rankles even more than usual.

Rex Benson