Monthly Archives: October 1975

LES FILLES DU FEU: RIVETTE X 4 (with Gilbert Adair and Michael Graham), part two

From Sight and Sound (Autumn 1975).

I was shocked to learn yesterday [in December 2011] of the death of Gilbert Adair, a close friend during the mid-70s (when both of us were living in Paris, and for some time later, after I moved to London ahead of Gilbert). This collaborative article, which I instigated, assigning the middle sections to Gilbert and to Michael Graham (also, alas, no longer alive), is being posted now in memory of our friendship. (With Lauren Sedofsky, Gilbert and I had also already collaborated on an interview with Rivette the previous year, which was posted here yesterday.)  And because of the unusual length of this article, I’m running it in two parts; the first half, with sections by me and Gilbert about Duelle, appeared a few hours ago. — J.R.

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Like any Rivette film, Le Vengeur (2) took shape gradually, drawing on a large number of deliberately chosen ideas and as many fortuitous circumstances. As important as Rivette’s interest in Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (drawn to his attention by Eduardo De Gregorio), and the curious traditions surrounding the period of Carnival, was the availability of Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont together with that of a group of dancers from Carolyn Carlson’s company.… Read more »

LES FILLES DU FEU: Rivette x 4 (with Gilbert Adair and Michael Graham), part one

From Sight and Sound (Autumn 1975).

I was shocked to learn yesterday of the death of Gilbert Adair, a close friend during the mid-70s (when both of us were living in Paris, and for some time later, after I moved to London ahead of Gilbert). This collaborative article, which I instigated, assigning the middle sections to Gilbert and to Michael Graham (also, alas, no longer alive), is being posted now in memory of our friendship. (With Lauren Sedofsky, Gilbert and I had also already collaborated on an interview with Rivette the previous year, which was posted here yesterday.)  And because of the unusual length of this article, I’ll be running it in two parts; the second half, with sections by me and Michael Graham about Noroît, will appear a few hours from now. — J.R.

In theory, from the vantage point of early spring, it would go something like this: four movies to be shot consecutively, each one an average-length feature to be filmed in three weeks; editing to begin after the fourth is shot, the four films edited in the order of their successive releases.Read more »

SMILE (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 501, October 1975. — J.R.

Smile

U.S.A., 1974Director: Michael Ritchie

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Thirty-three high school girls arrive in Santa Rosa, California, to compete in the annual Young American Miss Pageant. While the girls rehearse their individual and collective performances and are interviewed by a panel of judges — including former pageant winner Brenda DiCarlo [Barbara Feldon] and car dealer “Big Bob” Freelander [Bruce Dern], who codirect the event – Brenda’s husband Andy [Nicholas Pryor], a heavy drinker who runs a trophy shop, derides the silliness of the pageant and Freelander’s son, “Little Bob” [Eric Shea], takes orders from his friends for Polaroid nude snapshots of the girls. Professional choreographer Tommy French [Michael Kidd] arrives to train the girls in dance routines, “Little Bob” his caught with his Polaroid while the girls are undressing, a nude snapshot is confiscated by the police, and he is taken to see a psychiatrist by his father. Andy complains to “big Bob” about his sexual problems with Brenda, and is reluctantly persuaded to attend the Exhausted Rooster Ceremony (for local men who reach the age of 35) that night, the second evening of the pageant.… Read more »

THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1975. — J.R.

Romantic Englishwoman, The

Great Britain/France, 1975                             Director: Joseph Losey

Elizabeth Fielding arrives in Baden Baden on holiday; on the

same train is Thomas Hursa, carrying a supply of drugs, which he

hides on the roof of the luxury hotel where Elizabeth is staying.

Her husband Lewis, a successful novelist now at work on a

screeinplay about a discontented woman who leaves her

husband, phones her at midnight. While Elizabeth converses

with Thomas in a lift, Lewis imagines her making love with

a man in a similar situation (an image which he uses in his

screenplay); he rings her again at 12:30 and she answers

belatedly, saying that she will be home in Weybridge the

next day. Thomas’ drug supply is destroyed in the rain

and he flees when he discovers that Swan, a drug contact, is

looking for him. When Elizabeth returns at night, she and Lewis

start to make love on their front lawn, but are interrupted by a

neighbor. After expressing his suspicion that his wife was

unfaithful in Baden Baden, Lewis receives a letter from Thomas

describing himself as a poet and admirer of Lewis’ work and

mentioning that he met Elizabeth in Baden Baden.… Read more »

NASHVILLE

Slightly tweaked from its original appearance in the Autumn 1975 issue of Sight and Sound. — J.R.

Nashville

‘A dialectic collage of unreality,’ remarked pop singer Brenda Lee, emerging from the Nashville premiere in August. After a summer full of humourless rhetoric in the American press about ‘the true lesson of ‘Watergate’, ‘the failure of our civilization,’ ‘the long nauseating terror of a fall through the existential void,’ and equally grave matters — most of it implying that a movie has to be about ‘everything’ (i.e., the State of the Union) before it can be about anything – it was refreshing to discover that someone, at long last, had finally got it right. Even if Lee’s comment was intended as a slam, it deserves to be resurrected as a tribute. For if Nashville is conceivably the most exciting commercial American movie in years, this is first of all because of what it constructs, not what it exposes.

From the moment we begin with an ad for the film itself — a blaring overload of multi-media confusion — and pass to a political campaign van spouting banalities, then to a recording studio where country music star Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson) is cutting a hilariously glib Bicentennial anthem, Nashville registers as a double-fisted satire of its chosen terrain, and it would be wrong to suggest that its targets of derision are beside the point, even if the angle of vision subsequently widens to take in more than just foolishness.Read more »

ROLLERBALL (1975 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1975. — J.R.

Rollerball

U.S.A., 1975                                        Director: Norman Jewison

A classic demonstration of how several millions of dollars can be

unenjoyably wasted, Rollerball postulates an unlikely future society

from which war, poverty, illness and individual initiative have all

magically vanished, but then resolutely refuses to show it, reserving

all its heavy hardware for the brutal mechanics of an exceedingly

dull sport that is presumed to make this invisible anti-utopia

possible. Featuring a noble savage hero who stumbles clumsily

after an obscure mystery like a donkey running repeatedly into a

brick wall — James Caan reprising his performance in The Gambler

without the literary quotes, in a comparable embodiment of

mindless masochism-and a Sphinx-like villain (John Houseman)

who glowers occasionally to illustrate which side he’s on, this

glib fable seems to be aiming at a simplified version of A

Clockwork Orange without any intimations of wit or satire to

carry the vague moralistic message. Futuristic extrapolation, apart

from the central conceit, is mainly restricted to a couple of

streamlined buildings and the same lettering design recurring

whenever possible; humor, aside from an irreverent (if

implausible) scene with Ralph Richardson as a computer

librarian, usually figures only unintentionally, for instance

when Jonathan E is informed that Moonpie’s brain has ceased

to function — the first indication in the script that it has ever

functioned at all; the multi-track musical accompaniment

principally comprises an anthology of classical favorites

used in previous films.Notwithstanding the inconsistency

of racist gibes from the Houston team about their Japanese

opponents in a world where such sentiments are

supposed to be obsolete, the old-fashioned carnage of the

Rollerball matches is admittedly democratic in spirit, for given

the general lack of individuation it is frequently a moot point as to

who clobbers whom.… Read more »

Some Call It Loving

James B. Harris’s second feature, which I discovered and saw several times in Cannes in 1973, continues to be a particular favorite among unclassifiable films, and it has finally become available digitally (and was even recently shown on TCM). My initial review of the film for Film Comment led to be getting invited to dinner once by Harris himself along with his French distributor, Pierre Rissient; this review appeared a couple of years later, in the Autumn 1975 issue of Sight and Sound, after the film opened belatedly in London. Note: This film has also sometimes gone under the titles Sleeping Beauty and Dream Castle. — J.R.

Some Call It Loving

On the face of it, a series of outlansish imponderables: Robert Troy (Zalman King), a moody white jazz musician, occupies a baroque mansion overlooking the Pacific with Scarlett (Carol White0 and Angelica (Veronica Anderson) who sleep together and devote their waking hours to acting out his erotic fantasies — pornographic emblems which become oddly chaste through their highly formalized enactments (dancing nuns, mistress-and-maid rituals) — while his “best” and only friend Jeff (Richard Pryor), a black derelict dying of drugs and drink, worships his saxophone playing at a local nightclub…At a carnival, Troy comes upon a Sleeping Beauty sideshow, where a depraved-looking hawker in a doctor’s suit (Logan Ramsey) invites the male spectators to try to wake Jennifer (Tisa Farrow) with a kiss for the price of a dollar.… Read more »