From Film Comment (May-June 1973). — J.R.
LES IDOLES, Marc’O’s film version of his theater piece, originally opened in Paris in May, 1968, when many of its spectators were out in the street presumably had other things to think about. It was released again early this year; but after a nominal run in one of several new mini-cinemas that have springing up lately all over the Left Bank, it seemed to vanish into oblivion a second time, only to re-emerge in a neighborhood house in early February, where it is currently playing. Talent does usually seem to find a way to reassert itself. Marc’O’s sarcastic parody about the making and merchandising of pop has nothing particularly profound or original to “say” about its subject, but it happens to have three of the liveliest performances in the modern French cinema.
Bulle Ogier, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, and Pierre Clementi, as the three pop stars, dive into their parts with such enthusiasm and expertise that the screen comes alive their electric energies, and one is to speculate on how much more spectacular they must have been on the stage. (Despite some clever attempts at adaptation, LES IDOLES stubbornly remains another variant of filmed theater — a good thing to have, under the circumstances, but like Shirley Clarke’s even ingenious recording of THE CONNECTION, it cannot really offer an equivalent to the excitements of a live performance.) A theoretical problem about parodying French rock is the fact that, at least to American ears, most of it tends to sound parody anyway; but Ogier, Kalfon, Clementi overcome this obstacle with dazzling variations on the very notion of Star Presence.… Read more »
The following was written for the May 1976 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin. —J.R.
Director: Tex Avery
Cert—U. dist—Ron Harris. p.c—MGM. p—Fred Quimby. story—Heck Allen. col—[originally made in Technicolor]. anim—Preston Blair, Ed Love, Ray Abrams. m—Scott Bradley. 248 ft. 7 min. (16 mm.).
After beating up Sammy Squirrel — an effeminate Disney-like creature who purports to be the hero of the cartoon — Screwy Squirrel enters a phone booth and calls Meathead the dog to get another plot going. After an extended chase, Meathead tries to end the cartoon, but Screwy offers him one more chance to catch him. The results are immediately complicated by the fact that both confess to have been twins all along; a revived Sammy joins the group.
As Joe Adamson had ungrammatically but aptly noted, “Screwy Squirrel is Daffy Duck taken one step further that he absolutely has to.” A thoroughly demented character who lasted through five cartoons in the mid-Forties (Screwball Squirrel, Happy-Go-Nutty, Big Heel-Watha, The Screwy Truant, and Lonesome Lenny), he seems important in Avery’s career not so much for his own intrinsic qualities — monotonously aggressive mania and not much else — as for the wild bouts of anti-illusionist high jinks and comparable assaults on the audience that he provoked in his creators.… Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin, May 1976 (Vol. 43, No. 508). Many years later, I revised and expanded this for an essay commissioned by the Masters of Cinema DVD of Spione, called “Inside the Vault”. –- J.R.
Spione (The Spy)
Germany, 1928Director: Fritz Lang
An unidentified European country. After two treaties are stolen by a spy ring, and all the best agents of Burton Jason, head of the Sectet Service, have been killed while attempting to recover them, Jason summons detective Donald Tremaine, who arrives disguised as a tramp. The master-mind of the thefts, Haghi — an apparent cripple who runs a bank and has built a spy ring mainly out of criminals he has secretly sprung from prison — assigns Sonia to find out from Tremaine when a new treaty is to be signed. Rushing into Tremaine’s hotel suite after shooting a man whom she claims attacked her (and who survives thanks to a wallet in his breast pocket which stops the bullet), she gets Tremaine to hide her and quickly charms him. Charmed herself, she begs Haghi to take her off the case, but he forces her to write Tremaine a letter, which he dictates. Tremaine comes to her house and they make a date for dinner, but she is called away from the restaurant by Haghi.… Read more »
From Monthly Film Bulletin, May 1976 (Vol. 43, No. 508). — J.R.
Director: Tex Avery
Cert–U- dist–Ron Harris. p.c—MGM. p–Fred Quimby. story–Heck AIIen. col–Technicolor. anim–Ed Love, Ray Abrams, Preston Blair. m–Scott Bradley. 260 ft. 7 mins. (16 mm.).
Breaking out of the confines of Moron Manor and deliberately rousing Meathead the watchdog, Screwy Squirrel flees from him through a series of violent adventures Running past the cartoon’s end title, the antagonists return to discuss other possible endings until Meathead goes mad himself, bursts through the end title, and runs away; Screwy praises this ending for its silliness. A little less impired than Screwball Squirrel, its immediate predecessor, Happy-Go-Nutty nevertheless registers as a kind of ode to dementia, particularly of the gibbering and Napoleonic-complex variety. After beglnning with its hero in a loony bin (“Through these portals pass the screwiest squirrels in the world”), it proceeds spiritedly through some familiar gags (a bomb momentarily turning Meathead into a pickaninnv), some more inventive surreal ones (Meathead goes over a cliff. only to be handed a newspaper by Screwy when he lands, with the headline “SUCKER!!” over a photograph of Meathead going over a cliff), and odd throwaway details (a trashcan labeled “for extra squirrels”).… Read more »