The New Movies… Some Charm, Some Don’t

Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Fox-Rank) is, I suppose, the most interesting of the fortnight’s new releases. With a certain academic pomposity, and over-literal sub-titles, that somehow make it funnier, it satirically shovels at the heap of waste that is the upper strata of French society, through those two themes of upper middle class circus, the dinner party and the walk in the country.

Everyone is corrupt or insane in this intellectualised piece of cynicism, from the drug smuggling ambassador of a small mysterious republic, to the army colonel who smokes pot between manoeuvres, and the Roman Catholic bishop who just wants to work as a gardener. The film is superbly and delicately detailed in its observation of mannerisms and use of background sounds that heighten the satire.

It worked best for me when being more obviously farcical, but then the more subtle images were probably meant for the bourgeoisie in the audience who could afford to pay £1 a seat at London’s most expensive cinema, where the film is showing. Much of their far from discreet, loud laughter sounded like that which emanates from a university debating chamber, after someone has scored a particularly witty point. It seems searing at the time, but leaves no lasting impression, amusing cynicism tending to attack one’s thoughts only superficially.

Fernando Rey and Muni not being discreet.

Having paid my respects, and £1, to the liberal cinema owners of Bloomsbury, I dashed across two miles of West End traffic in search of a little entertainment or something. It wasn’t worth the cab fare. Ulzana’s Raid (Universal/Fox-Rank) directed by Robert Aldrich, who previously made the partially comic, but nevertheless snide and exploitative “The Killing Of Sister George”, had me swaying between extreme boredom and revulsion whenever my snooze interrupted by the scenes of excessive, motiveless, bloody violence. Burt Lancaster is excessively dry as Mackintosh who is despatched with the US cavalry, captained on this occasion by handsome Bruce Davison, to track down a band of marauding Apaches. The film’s single original episode is Lancaster’s death at the end.

Shamus (Columbia-Wamer) is a routinely scripted, downbeat thriller with Burt Reynolds as yet another seedy, boozy, billiard playing private eye, who accompanied by a paste and tinsel Dyan Cannon, car chases and pointless killings, sets about tracking down gun runners in New York. What lifts the film out of the deepest mire is Buzz Kilik’s direction, skilfully snappy, and executed with an eye to character detail and a great feeling for the atmosphere of Brooklyn where the film is set; he even manages to extract a good performance from Burt Reynolds. It’s just a pity he wasn’t given a more worthwhile subject to direct.

Burt Reynolds really acting at last.

In complete contradiction, veteran Hollywood screenwriter, Ernest Lehman’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s horror of the family novel, Portnoy’s Complaint (Columbia-Warner) has a subtle, potentially expansive script, which adheres closely to the dialogue in the book and should have been accompanied on film by very visual, whispy, wanky fantasies. Instead, Lehman, after years of writing such successes as ‘Hello Dolly’, and now making his directorial debut, creates something like a stage play, with small, stark, sparse, theatrically confined sets. It’s very uncinematic and he wastes the resources he’s been given, like Panavision (wide screen) appallingly. Not even Karen Black as Monkey, the girl who finally helps Richard Benjamin express his fantasies physically, creates anything other than a rehash of her characterisation in ‘Five Easy Pieces’.

Another happy family.

Australian Lace is an odd little short now touring with various films, a semi-documentary with a right wing stilt, about a group of young peoples’ lives in Paddington, the ‘Chelsea’ of Sydney, Australia. Fascinating, because it’s so rare we see anything on Australian life, and its odd, almost Victorian Puritanism.

Another short worth catching is the Cobblers of Umbridge (Anglo-EMI) a very, very funny send-up of the Archers with John Wells, John Fortune et al doing their thing.

Two sparkles to brighten pre-feature tedium.

Return Of The Biograph Review

Hello dears. As I said in my brief note in the last edition of this ‘Times’ of the other world, I thought that there was a good chance that I would be able to carry on with my Biograph Review. Well, everything went according to my little plan, and here we are with a sparkling new feature on the Bio.

No thanks either to Mr Wheelan, the cinema’s manager. Luckily for me my friends at the ‘Times’ and the ‘Observer’ have helped me overcome the problem of obtaining the forthcoming programme. Thank you boys, I’ll settle up with you later, at my place. I sincerely hope that Mr Wheelan turns a colour when he sees this, serves him right for being such a big meanie.

Before I commence with my review, I must unfortunately offer fans of the Bio a word of warning. Recently our ‘friends in blue’ have been visiting our little Bio and making a considerable nuisance of themselves. Goodness knows why, I’ve never seen anything going on there that would startle me. Mind you, I have occasionally been given a turn by the size of some people, however they manage to sit down in those little wooden seats I just don’t know. To be serious though, I suppose the ‘guardians of the law’ have nothing better to do. Maybe now that the weather has become chilly, the criminals aren’t committing so many robberies, or else ‘lily law’ is feeling the cold a little too much and wants an excuse for a warm up. Anyway dears, take care. Better to be safe than sorry I always say, so keep a watchful eye open even if you are totally captivated by the delights showing.

Back to the silver screen. On 2nd November for three days, Marlon Brando and Richard Boone star in Night Of The Following Day. Lovely actors, both of these men, and they perform well together in this moving film. Support is our own Kenneth Williams, ably assisted by Phil Silvers, in Follow That Camel. It sounds rather rude but Ken should make it interesting enough to watch.

Sunday 5th November, for one day only, has Burt Lancaster, being ever so hulky, in a western called The Scalphunters. He shares the credits with super Shelley ‘Bloody Momma’ Winters. The naughty and puzzling My Wife’s Husband completes the bill. French comedy star Fernandel and Clair Maurier are the principal actors. A good laugh if you like a bit of the continentals. It’s also Bonfire Night this Sunday, but if you ask me, it is a lot safer to be in a cinema than taking part in the Gay Fawkes celebrations. I like a good bang like anybody else, but I feel a lot better about it if I know that the fireworks are only in responsible hands.

The shocking, but thought-provoking Soldier Blue is the major attraction for three days on Monday 6th November. The beautiful Candice Bergen and luscious Peter Strauss star in this violent saga from the ‘old west’. Second feature is Charro, which is one of those forgettable movies made by Elvis Presley. But his hips are still a treat.

The truly underrated Downhill Racer, starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman is one half of the programme on Thursday 9th November. That Robert Redford, ooh! It’s a skiing epic with a moral or two. Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis are together in The Out Of Towners, which is also being shown. I haven’t seen this before but it sounds fun.

Sunday fare on 12th November is Operation Kid Brother, starring Neil Connery. It’s nothing very special, but the support feature, Trunk To Cairo is much more interesting. Two recently deceased movie stars, Audie Murphy and George Sanders are in the leading roles. The film is an exciting thriller.

The double bill of the fortnight is on Monday 13th November, when Carnal Knowledge and Catch 22 are being shown. The former stars sexy Jack Nicholson and the latter, Orson Welles. A very generous programme this, if not a little exhausting.

Well, my lovelies, that is what’s in store for you during the next couple of weeks at the Bio. Mind you heed what I mentioned earlier. I’ll let you know when things get back to ‘normal’. And I hope that none of you, including Mr Wheelan, think I have been too malicious with my words.

Before I go, thanks for all your letters, some of you are ever so kind. I might take some of you up on your offers too, but I’m rather busy still with the person I spent my recent holiday with. Love you all though.