The following is from the [London] National Film Theatre’s program guide in December-January 1975-76, introducing a retrospective that I curated. If the valuation that I placed on Altman seems more idealized to me now than it did at the time, the fact that it came shortly after his best run as a filmmaker explains much of my enthusiasm. But my disillusionment with the media support of Altman already began to sour after I described at length the use of sound in a particular sequence from California Split to a BBC-Radio interview, only to discover that the broadcast version blithely substituted a different sequence from the film to illustrate my point, thereby reducing my analysis to gibberish. -– J.R.
While most commercial American streamliners turn all members of an audience into second-class passengers following the same route from an identical vantage point, Robert Altman’s multilinear adventures oblige us to take some initiative in charting out the trip -– supplying one’s own connections, and pursuing one’s own threads and interpretations in order to participate in a game where everyone, on-screen and off, is entitled to a different piece of the action.
Admittedly, this is a somewhat idealized description of an approach that is still in a state of development, and not every Altman film conforms precisely to this model.… Read more »
This synopsis and review appeared in the December 1975 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin.
I’ve only just begun to familiarize myself with Moana with sound (see first still below), put together by the Flahertys’ daughter Monica, restored by Bruce Posner and Sami van Ingen (the Flaherty’s great-grandson), and posthumously released on Blu-Ray today by Kino Lorber. But I’ve already sampled enough of it — as well as all of Posner’s “short” (39-minute) history of the project, included along with other extras on the Blu-Ray — to view it as a major achievement, hopefully leading to a major reassessment of what I regard in some ways as Flaherty’s most neglected masterpiece. — J.R.
Directors: Robert J. Flaherty, Frances Hubbard Flaherty
Savai’i, a Samoan island. Near the village of Safune, Moana pulls taro root from the ground and peels it while his betrothed Fa’angase bundles leaves, his mother Tu’ungaita carries mulberry sticks and his younger brother Pe’a helps them. Setting off for the village, they set a trap for wild boar, the forest’s only dangerous animal, which they subsequently capture. Moana, Fa’angase, and Pe’a go spear-fishing, along with Moana’s older brother Leupenga. Back in the village, Tu’ungaita makes back-cloth for a lavalava, a native dress. … Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 503). I think I must have permanently jinxed the possibility of ever becoming a friend of Pauline Kael’s by introducing myself to her after the New York Film Festival’s press screening of Get Out Your Handkerchiefs in 1978. Clearly enraptured, she promptly asked me what I thought of the film, and I replied, “Well, at least it’s better than Les valseuses,” which she deeply revered as well. — J.R.
Director: Bertrand Blier
After harassing a woman in the street and stealing her purse, Jean-Claude and Pierrot steal a Citroen for the afternoon; when they return it, the hairdresser owner holds them at gunpoint until they manage to escape during a scuffle, taking the hairdresser’s girlfriend Marie-Ange with them. Pierrot, however, is shot in the groin; the two force a surgeon to treat the wound and then take his money. When they abandon another stolen car to hop a train, Jean-Claude pays a young mother to suckle Pierrot before she gets off to meet her soldier husband. They take another train to the town of Briddle, where they break into a house whose owners are away but where they excitedly discover the underwear of teenager Jacqueline.… Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin, December 1975 (Vol. 42, No. 503). — J.R.
Director: Phil Karlson
In films as diverse as 99 River Street and The Phenix City Story, Phil Karlson has shown a striking aptitude for the dynamics of seedy crime melodramas — particularly those which deal, in Andrew Sarris’s phrase, “with the phenomenon of violence in a world controlled by organized evil”. Working, however, in slicker settings and with a plotline at once as hackneyed and as confused as the one in Framed, he appears no better than anyone else at handling the hysterical revenge theme that has often seemed his stock-in-trade.
Discounting some lamentable lab work and five minutes of censor’s cuts in the version under review — which apparently include a rape and some protracted pre-murder mayhem perpetrated by the hero against a failed kidnapper (shooting one ear off and prodding the other with hot wire, until he gives out information) — it is difficult to imagine what could have been salvaged from such a nonsensical collection of plastic characters and cardboard stances, where the narrative proceeds as if by hiccups and the film’s dramatic highlight is provided by the hero remarking of a minor villain, “First time I ever saw a tub of shit in a suit”.… Read more »