Death In The Sun

THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY, starring Richard Burton, Alain Delon, Romy Schneider; screenplay by Nicholas Moseley. Directed by JOSEPH LOSEY. Distributed by Anglo—EMI.

Joseph Losey makes films about the human condition and this time he has turned his attention to the personal dilemma of those who live the falsest lives of all, politicians, and more particularly Trotsky, who in 1941 was living in exile in Mexico, ageing, ill and living in terror of being assassinated. Not only is he in exile from Russia, but from the idealism he supposedly stood for. He is in every sense living in an ivory tower. His house is surrounded by a high wall which is patrolled by American guards, and inside an inverted Trotsky strides about talking like an academic book, recording his ‘left words’ for Time and Life magazines, periodically pausing for bourgeois little tea parties. A fine madness. While Trotsky is locked away from the proletariat he claims to represent, in the streets outside Mexico is expressing its dilemma. As quickly as the new bright Coca Cola signs go up, there is another red flag demonstration.

Trotsky’s assassin, coolly, mysteriously played by Alain Delon, in the beginning has a logical idealism. He knows why Trotsky must be destroyed; American capitalism will bring industrialism, prosperity. The slums will disappear, and as he looks at murals in a church, he relishes the good society where the artist can express himself freely.

But this is a film about the human condition, so of course the doubts and uncertainties set in. Through his girlfriend, Trotsky’s secretary, he meets him, talks to him. He goes to a bull fight, that symbol (in Mexico anyway) of the hardness and toughness of capitalist society; it makes him cry. He thinks; he suffers from the diabolic illusion that he loves his girlfriend, and she worships Trotsky, has no idea of Jacson’s (Delon) plan to kill him. The passionate scenes between them are hard and beautiful.

The final assassination attempt comes at last. No quick bang or thrust with a knife, but Jacson in complete and utter conflict, trembling, and then thrusting, but not hard enough to kill instantly. The blood pours from Trotsky’s head. Jacson stands paralysed; he can’t run away; he screams like the bull which has been speared by the matador. The Police: “Why did you do it. What is your name? What was your motive?” Silence … then softly – “I killed Trotsky.” “I killed Trotsky.”

This is a very heavy film. It’s not a gay night out, it’s a piece of beautifully detailed work that is a real effort to watch and to concentrate on, and worth it. Burton is surprisingly superb and how like Losey, as well as Trotsky,

Losey has made him look. The film is not particularly pro-American, but is certainly anti-Trotsky in atmosphere. Perhaps Losey has now purged himself of the communist views and involvement which led to his demise in the McCarthy purge of Hollywood. Perhaps he has purged himself of the madness of politics and its crazy academic thinking, and this is why he is making masterpieces about people. Recommended.

Below The Belt

I’ve spent a few years as a provincial paper movie critic and, as such, I’ve had sex education flix up to here (he indicated his rat-low brow.)

In fact I’ve seen so many sex education movies that the Pearl and Dean breaks became cinematic delights before I moved from country pleasures to the lemming-race of the Northern Line.

All this by way of introduction to what was for me an amazing little movie that opens at the Electric Cinema Club, Portobello Road, this weekend (November 5) for a week.

It’s amazing because it’s not crammed with:

a) as much nudity as possible using sex-ed as the excuse for a pale blue movie

b) well-meaning Scandinavians discussing orgasms over their coffee and cakes with schlagsahne, evidently psychiatrists of some sort.

Cobra-One – called that because it’s Cobra Films’ first effort – is a realistic piece of sex-education that, as one would expect, concentrates on a heterosexual couple. But it does not put down gays, just as it doesn’t suggest that such a position may be just right for a certain couple. But then it doesn’t advise gay sex.

Cobra-One, otherwise known as etcetcetc, does not set out to teach sex but relationships. As such it’s a success, except the home-movie-ishness about it made me feel that the entire cast and crew were stoned on something all the time.

Viewed as a stoned movie it’s great. But as sex education it’s no great shakes.

Is It The Real Thing?

INNOCENT BYSTANDERS; starring Donald Pleasance, Geraldine Chaplin, Stanley Baker, Sue Lloyd, Dana Andrews, Warren Mitchell. Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Peter Collinson. Distributed by Scotia Barber.

Innocent Bystanders is the architypal commercial film made with an eye to a quick sale to American TV, with the staple ingredients of motiveless violence, and a plot which takes you through 5 countries in 90 minutes, almost without leaving Pinewood Studios. This is all sort of glued together on a miniscule budget, with everyone acting their scenes as if they were in a hurry to go to the loo. Sadly this particular example of the genre is written by the creator of Callan. How could he sink so low?

The British Secret Service and the KGB are both after the same man etc etc, and the dialogue is cliche ridden, the characters characterless too, except for the English section leader who comes alive through Donald Pleasance’s usual brilliant performance.

During the first half of the film, all one sees is airports, punches and assorted pieces of violence. This becomes so boring that suddenly (and it’s pretty obvious the script was hurriedly changed), a ridiculous Turkish-Australian Alf Garnett type character played by Warren Mitchell is introduced. The silliness of the character plus Warren Mitchell’s dreadful acting coaxes the audience into loud laughter, and I suppose the film begins to work a little bit, but poor Peter Collinson; there are some good imaginatively angled shots and you use sound well, but after Up The Junction and Straight On Till Morning we just know you can do better.

Wasted Talent

THE CANDIDATE, starring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Don Porter. Written by Jeremy Lamer. Directed by Michael Ritchie. Released by Columbia—Warner. Cert ‘A’.

‘The Candidate’ is a factually drawn account of the choice and subsequent processing and marketing of a candidate for the American Senate, a young democrat, liberal lawyer, champion of the oppressed, striving for social reform, all within the structured system of course. Released during election year in the US, it uses mass appeal star Robert Redford to show the American people that Politics is really just another branch of show biz/big business. The film is a masterpiece of clarity, and also contains some beautiful subtle satire aimed at the TV industry and more particularly at Republicans and the Republican candidate running against Redford, gorgeously played by Don Porter.

Despite its brilliance, this is not an easily watchable film; it’s very very American and definitely over long (110 minutes). Michael Ritchie hasn’t employed his superb style of fast cutting to such an extent as in his other recent film “Prime Cut”. This is an original, completely new style of cinema, and with a great deal of luck it might persuade the American public to ignore the election altogether, or at least vote the Democrats back, which I think it’s supposed to do.

Gay TV In Canada

On Monday, September 11th at 6 p.m., Canada’s first regularly scheduled television programme produced by and for gay people was broadcast over Channel 10, Metro Cable’s Toronto outlet.

The series, entitled Coming Out, will run weekly for thirteen episodes. It is hosted by Paul Pearce and Sandra Dick, both staff members of the Community Homophile Association of Toronto, under whose aegis the programmes are being produced. The topics treated so far have been “Coming Out and the Family”, “Gay Liberation in Toronto”, “Myths”, “An Interview with Peter Maloney” and “Lesbianism”.

Paul, a 22 year old native of Stratford, Ontario, has stated: “This is a breakthrough in Canadian TV and will contribute a great deal to the education of the Toronto citizen on the topic of homosexuality.” Both he and Sandra – 25, originally of Winnipeg – lead their guests through an interesting and informative half hour of prime time television. Homosexuals discussing their life style in an atmosphere of pride and openness is an exhilerating sight – catch it on Channel 10, every Monday evening at 6 p.m.

ED. Reprinted from The Body Politic. Love and thanks.