Motorway To Times Past

FELLINI’S ROMADirected by Federico Fellini. Starring Peter Gonzales, Fiona Florence. Distributed by United Artists. Cert ‘X’

As with The Clowns, Fellini continues his mock documentary technique with his latest full length film, Fellini’s Roma. And as he did with , he uses his extraordinary visionary and stylistic skills to replace what can only be called a fantastic travelogue.

Rome – the city of illusions is, when seen through Fellini’s eyes, both timeless and immediate. The scenes of his early childhood and his growing obsession with Rome open the film which moves on to his arrival in that city at the beginning of Italy’s involvement in World War 2. This is the Rome of Mussolini and the Fascists, but by using ingenious intercutting, makes one notice that the swaggering fascists are not so very different from the brutal, mindless police who set upon a crowd of hippies in modern-day Rome later on in the Film.

The intercutting of scenes from both the past and present is continuous throughout the movie, from Fellini’s first memories and reactions to the city, up to his impressions of encroaching technology and its destructive/horrific effects and impersonality. Fellini’s swirling series of memory images is more than just a’reconstruction of events. The people – the Romans – are shown as we possibly have never seen them before. At all times they are boisterous, alive people, displaying an openness and awareness that is only limited by the ever-dominating power and influence of the Roman church.

Fellini, as usual, displays his hilarious sense of humour to the utmost. The centrepiece of the film is the high society Ecclesiastical Fashion Show – a nostalgic fantasy of an old world-weary princess, who manically craves for the high protocol and exclusive glittering customs of the past. This spectacular sequence has to be seen to be believed. The models show off the latest creations for priests, nuns and the rest of the Roman Church’s hierarchy by walking, swaying, hopping, cycling, roller-skating, etc around a horseshoe shaped platform. The rest of the fashions and the opulent, magnificent final scene of this sequence are better left for movie-goers to discover for themselves.

Fellini also creates a traffic jam, which is equal to anything previously staged in either Jacques Tati’s Traffic or Godard’s Weekend.

Other sequences which immediately spring to the mind of this reviewer, who has had his senses battered and dazed in the way he comes to expect with a Fellini film, are the showing of subway excavators unearthing beautiful, ancient frescoes which soon evaporate through contact with air; the reconstuction of Roman music-hall, and the bizarre meetings of the sexes in both seedy and luxurious whore-houses. And the Romans’ passion for constantly eating is displayed as funny and very human.

Peter Gonzales excellently plays the part of the young Fellini when he first arrives in Rome. Whilst the music of Nino Rota, once again, provides the perfect accompaniment to the moods and events portrayed.

Fellini’s Roma is more than just an enjoyable and successful film – it is a statement of Super Realism*, “where beauty and ugliness exist as absolute forms, without flaws.” It is also a chance for audiences to share the expanding and perceptive visions of an artist, through a mosaic of memory, actuality and imagination.

* John Calendo, Andy Warhol’s Interview, November 1972.

Fun Bubble Boggles Eyes

THE BUBBLEWritten, directed and produced by Arch Oboler. Starring Michael Cole, Deborah Walley and Johnny Desmond. Distributed by LMG. Cert ‘A’.

Sometimes gimmicks work, sometimes they don’t. The idea of 3D seemed a perfect one in the fifties for halting the decline in cinema audiences. But, as cinema historians will remember, 3D was a dismal failure. The special glasses needed to be worn were a nuisance and the films that were only partly produced in the new ‘wonder’ process ruined the continuity of the whole film. And in general, apart from one or two notable exceptions, ie House Of Wax, the gimmick was little more than a lot of spectacular advance publicity.

Despite the past, at the beginning of 1973, along comes Space-Vision. And this time the gimmick is far more than just a novelty, for this newly developed technique really adds another dimension to popular cinema, without the amateurishness and limitations of the earlier process. The vehicle to introduce Space-Vision is a science fiction film called The Bubble.

The story tells of a young married couple, Catherine (Deborah Walley) and Mark (Michael Cole). At the beginning of the film they are aboard a small plane that lands in what they and their pilot Tony (Johnny Desmond) suppose is a small outlying landing strip. The wife is prematurely in labour, thus the necessity to reach a town and find medical aid. After touching down they discover that they have in fact, landed in a deserted street. Mike, the husband, soon notices the oddness of the nearby town’s inhabitants and the strangely miscellaneous architecture as he wanders around whilst his wife is giving birth to their first child in the local hospital. And a few days later, Mike and Catherine, along with their baby and the pilot, Tony, discover that the town and the surrounding area is covered by an impenetrable transparent bubble. To tell you more of the story would spoil the twists and turns of the plot as well as giving a way the final outcome, to any of you who may go along to see the film for yourselves.

The film, despite the somewhat vague storyline at times and the often wooden acting, has a number of simple social messages to put across, similar to Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And The Bubble, considering the entertainment level it is working on, is fairly successful and frequently becomes quite exciting.

But it is the Space-Vision technique that makes the whole production such good entertainment. It’s a must for kids of course, and will also give much pleasure to those who are not averse to honest to goodness fun. Some of the effects are a bit corny now and again, as they nearly all were with 3D, but more often than not they are deservedly successful and at times quite amazing.

Objects really do appear to leave the screen and come gliding out into the auditorium. The audience still has to wear special viewing glasses, this supposedly accounts for the rise in seat prices for this film. The glasses though are not uncomfortable to wear, as the 3D ones were, and they are easy to slip on top of an ordinary pair of spectacles. Incidentally the use of the added dimension is continuous throughout the show.

The Bubble is a fun film with a message if you care to notice it. The movie is also a valid attempt to bring excitement and adventure back to the cinema. I am looking forward to seeing more films using the Space-Vision process in the future.

Criticism Of Criticism Of Criticism

Phoenix Theatre,
Charing Cross Road,
London W1.

Dear Gay News,

I felt I just had to write and have a moan about your film critic, David Seligman.

A couple of times he has given bad reviews to quite good films. But his latest criticism of the Poseidon Adventure was completely unwarranted.

To start with, to compare this film with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is ridiculous. “The Poseidon Adventure” is pure escapism, whereas “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was a mature study of life.

It’s like comparing “2001” with “Carry On Camping”. Both in their way good entertainment but vastly different.

I feel very sorry for Mr Seligman if he is unable to watch and enjoy a film just for its entertainment value and to stop worrying about the fact that nobody has Jewish schmaltzy neighbours anymore.

Also if Mister Seligman wishes to make references to other films (ie George Sanders) but is unable to give the title of these films, then he should leave well alone.

Martha and Fong


True, my comparisons are sometimes vague and uncertain, but if the audience had reacted positively to the “Poseidon Adventure”, I would have said so. When I saw it at the Carlton, Haymarket, people were continually fidgeting, yawning, or even walking out. In the long run I believe that if the ever emptying cinemas are going to survive, and be recognised as valid competition to the telly, films have either got to be entertaining in a vastly different, totally cinematic way, like good horror movies, or provide a completely alternative, something mind shattering, thought provoking, amazingly visual on a large screen, like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or a “Clockwork Orange”.

DS

New Movies

MAN OF LA MANCHA (United Artists) could have been just another boring, routine eight songs, a dance and a love story musical, but it’s nor, for several reasons.

The story for one, again about man’s mistaken illusions, the subject the cinema seems to tackle best, and most often. This time an eccentric, ageing Spanish aristocrat, who believes he’s Don Quixote, a noble knight. Peter O’Toole, who I believe to be the most gifted actor now working in films, is amazing, made up to look about seventy, as he mounts charges against windmills, woos the innkeeper’s daughter, Sophia Loren, and inspires affection in his loyal Spanish (American accented) servant, played by James Coco. There are several other flaws as well, like badly dubbed singing voices, but well, it is a commercially made musical after all.

Particular praise should go to the soft, mellow colour in which the film was made, which heightens the atmosphere of the slowly ailing, illogical insanity of the main character, and, Arthur Hiller’s stagey, basic direction which helps O’Toole to mould yet another brilliant performance.

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (Laurie Marsh Group). Scripted by Gordon Honeycombe from his novel, this rather charming little British film about a couple who meet in wintry Jersey, fall in love, and who then are prematurely separated by the man’s death which the girl cannot, and refuses to believe, imagining the man still to be with her, makes for two intriguing contrasts, romantic and macabre. Susan Hampshire and Michael Petrovich act simply and beautifully and Fred Burnley’s direction succeeds admirably in capturing the two widely opposing elements of romanticism and the macabre, through the spectacular use he makes of the sight and sounds of the sea and scenery. I must praise the exquisite colour photography (Eastman Colour) which ensures the film works so well visually.

Another film which I found to be absorbing, sensitive and made with great dedication, which has generally been poorly reviewed, and underpublicised by its distributors.

WHEN THE LEGENDS DIE (Fox Rank Distributors). Stuart Miller’s debut as a director (he previously worked as William Whyler’s assistant) uses the American rodeo scene — the modern filmic symbol for the death of the traditional American life-style, to illustrate very poignantly how a young Indian from the reserve (Frederic Forest) another debut, is almost destroyed by the conflict between the rodeo life-style and the modern colour fridge syndrome, and finally rejects them both. The conflict is perpetuated by Richard Widmark as an alcoholic ex-rodeo star who cannot believe his way of life is dying, and has dreams of building the young Indian into a big star.

The film has romantic gestures to both the old Indian and white ways of life, loves its characters and I think shows the relationship between the American white man and the Indian, far more realistically than Arthur Penn’s terrible Little Big Man. It’s a pity this new distribution company didn’t publicise When The Legends Die a little more.

because compared to Penn’s film, it’s so sensitive, realistic and worthwhile.

SNOOPY COME HOME (Fox Rank). The second feature length cartoon, based on Charles Schulz’s well-loved comic strip is witty, inventive, thoughtful in places and visually entertaining.

JEREMIAH JOHNSON (Columbia-Warner). Well, you can’t say they don’t make those good clean All-American outdoor adventures any more, because Sydney (they don’t shoot directors) Pollack has come up with one, and what a bore it is too. Robert Redford, over-exposed to the cold, and these days to the film camera too, is set loose in a frozen Northern Carolina of the early eighteen hundreds, where he comes across just about every bearded, cliché ridden bear-trapping character you can imagine. He marries an Indian girl, adopts a wayward little boy/and naturally his happy little family is massacred by a tribe of marauding Indians, who Redford then kills off single handed, of course.

This film should have stopped after the beautiful opening shots of the snow-covered scenery, and had a good think.

Try Again Woody

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Jerry Lacy. Certificate AA. Released by Paramount Pictures.

It’s not good for any movie star to be likened to another, so it’s invidious to say that Woody Allen is the new Groucho Marx, or even Buster Keaton. But whether it’s fair to call him that or not, that’s exactly what he is.

Just as Peter Sellers showed promise of being a comic talent some years ago, before his ability was squandered in the search for a few dollars more to buy another mini, Woody Allen now looks set firmly on course for being the best comedy actor we’ve had for years. And to cap it all he writes most of his own material.

Until recently (in fact until Bananas) he never put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned.

So it’s with some regret that I have to admit that I didn’t exactly die laughing at Woody clowning his way through Play It Again, Sam, Herbert Ross’ movie from Woody’s screenplay based on his own stage play.

Perhaps it’s because this movie is based on a stage play that it doesn’t work as well as Bananas or Take The Money and Run. Or perhaps it’s because it’s directed by someone other than Woody Allen himself — he directed the others and has just finished Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex etc.

Whatever the reason, this movie just doesn’t hang together as well as most of Woody Allen’s humour.

Basically, his usual maladroit everyman figure is surrounded by disasters, as usual — but this time they’re romantic disasters mostly.

True, there are moments when the usual brilliant visual humour shows through, but, generally speaking, those good patches stick out. And that’s a bad sign for any movie. If the good bits are conspicuous, then the rest can’t be up to scratch.

I love Woody Allen. He is me. He is a human disaster area. He is the victim of gadgets and 20th Century technological hardware. His hairdryer causes havoc in his medicine cupboard as he hurries to meet a girl.

The story is this: Woody is a movie-critic on a rather esoteric movie-mag. His wife walks out because he’s more hung-up about celluloid than sex. So he has to go out hunting for a new mate. He’s helped in this by Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) and his best friend’s wife (Diane Keaton).

The Bogart figure is the product of Woody’s movie-mad imagination. Bogie follows him on his dates and tells him what to do, for Woody is, as ever, completely flustered when faced with the realities of a situation.

Every date fixed for him by his best friends (and that wife of his) turns out to be a shambles, because Woody just can’t pull the birds any more. Not even a roaring nymphomaniac — a crazy cameo played by Viva (from the Warhol factory).

Meanwhile as rebuff after rebuff erodes our hero’s self-confidence. Woody discovers the only woman he feels comfortable with is his best friend’s wife. They have sex.

She tells her husband their marriage is on the rocks and he goes off on yet another of his business trips. Realising that she should be with her husband she rushes off to join him at the airport.

Meanwhile Woody turns up at the airport, but he won’t keep her from her husband because that’s not the way it happened in Casablanca — and sure enough, there’s Bogie at his elbow, mighty proud of him, and that’s the way he’s learned to treat dames.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly my elegant glass of Babycham. But this one’s different. It has to be with Woody Allen involved. Who else could give the woman he loves a plastic skunk for her birthday or say as she walks out of his life that that’s the scene he’s been wanting to play all his life – or, at least, since he first saw Casablanca.

Trouble is the movie’s produced by Arthur (Planet of the Apes) Jacobs and much of his influence seems to have spread throughout the movie. The intercutting of real Bogart footage is overly heavy and unnecessary. But Woody wins out in the end. There’s a scene where he’s elated and walks

along a bridge patting the backs of the boys fishing. One of course, falls off the parapet. Woody, of course, notices nothing.

It’s fun, but it’s not the best of Woody Allen. All the same it’s better than no Woody Allen. And that’s enough to get me into the cinema – even at 10.30 a.m.

Propaganda Or Truth

PRECINCT 45 (U.S. title — The New Centurions). Director: Richard Fleisher. Stars: George C. Scott, Stacey Keach, Colour, Panavision. Distributor: Columbia Warner. Cert AA.

Precinct 45 is the finest and most objective movie about the Police that I have ever seen. It takes a short period in the lives of several cops in a poor, very tough precinct in Los Angeles, and through closely picturing their actions, experiences and reactions, both on and off duty, begins to build in our minds a composite picture of what kind of a man a cop is. What is it that makes him paranoically root out some innocent boy who’s got a couple of joints in his pocket, or risk his life chasing after some nutcase with a shot gun.

Scott as superb as ever, plays the old cop, the cynical, dedicated respected one who goes around punching Rachman type landlords on the nose. But this is not a sentimental, pro-police film, and there are scenes where we see cops at their fascistic, taunting worst, trapping gays in the park at night or illogically smashing up a car because they’ve got a bit of venom to work off. We are also given ideas, with a vengeance, of what it is like to be the wife of a cop, who’s just been shot, or at any time for that matter.

I liked the film very much, because it was entertaining, disturbing through its truthfulness, and above all it helped me to understand what makes a cop tick. After all it’s too easy isn’t it, to cry out “Pig”, or “He’s just a cop because he’s repressed”.

Our highly erratic censor, Mr Murphy has given the film an AA certificate. It contains some very violent, disturbing scenes, which I think warrant an X. They were really so convincingly done that I could feel my stomach drop, and I’ve seen more movie violence than you’ve seen episodes of ‘Crossroads’.

A really fine movie, topical and valid today in our stretched at the seams urban environment. The goodie Richard Fleisher has never quite managed before. Recommended.

Ooh! You Are Awful

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE : Director Ronald Neame. Stars : Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowell, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters. Distributor : Fox Rank.

Old time lavish adventures are fine on lavish budgets, but when you try and make ’em for under a million pounds, things begin to become unstuck – like Shelley Winters’ dress – I mean !! Seriously, you must be joking, there wasn’t even time to set the atmosphere of decadence, aboard an Atlantic cruise ship, badly most of the time, mocked up inside a studio. The publicity handouts suggest this is one of those movies where all our realistic, familiar Jones and Jonettes from next door, are plunged into a real life situation, like a ship turning over in an earthquake which takes place at exactly midnight on New Year’s Eve. Have you ever been trapped in the middle of the lake in a leaking boat with the Vicar ?

Anyway, its all been done before. George Sanders made a movie like this, I wish I could remember its name, in the early sixties. It had an identical plot except the direction of the suspense was excellent, and the characters weren’t all shallow, fine upstanding citizens.

As those of you who read these columns regularly know, I am a great champion of entertaining, exciting cinema, but you can’t make effective big films on little budgets, nor can you fob off the discerning cinema goer, the only people who haven’t succumbed to the telly, whoever they may be, with cheap novel crap about people crawling upside down through an upturned ship with courage, valour and a stiff upper grip, or however Americans handle a situation like this. Incidentally I was very disappointed not to catch even one glimpsette of the Stars and Stripes or a plastic gold replica of the Statuette of Liberteria.

We don’t live next door to schmaltzy, elderly Jewish couples anymore – we live in the world of THE FRENCH CONNECTION Mr Hackman. Go and see The Poseidon Adventure if you can’t ignore the advertising, and then pause, think and compare it to Sunday Bloody Sunday, and see what makes me loathe and love and sometimes despair about the Cinema, as it alternates between firing ones mind with explosive brilliance and alienating its lovers. Its life really.

Oh, Oh Susanah

IMAGES, directed by Robert Altman. Starring Susanah York. Released by Hemdale

IMAGES is a wow, a really good movie. Its main theme (in spite of what some bad advertising says) is madness. This subject is normally looked at in the cinema from the viewpoint of the sane, observing the actions of the insane, and rarely therefore, does it ever seem very real. We never get told what it is like to be mad.

Images is the second movie I’ve seen giving a view of the world from inside the mind of someone slipping into complete insanity. The other film was Polanski’s cruder attempt in ‘Repulsion’. There are a few superficial similarities, sexual fantasy and sinister telephone calls, violence real or imagined and a wealth of domestic detail.

Images is more subtle (less of a horror flic) infinitely more credible but still visually and emotionally shocking.

The central figure is Kathryn (beautifully underplayed by Susanah York) a dreamy looking creature, whose voice we hear in the background endlessly composing a fantasy story. Most of the action takes place when she and her husband, who provides the comic relief, come down to their country house for a stay. Too little of the countryside is shown, but enough to suggest the primitive aspect and isolation of the area, it’s not Cotswold’s coach trip country.

Kathryn begins to see things and people that aren’t there, ie her husband reaching to embrace her turns into someone else, a randy neighbour turns into her husband, and a camera into an old lover.

The most frightening part of the fantasy is rather like the Doppleganger legend, walking down a road on a hazy day you see someone in the distance approaching, as he or she comes nearer you realise it’s yourself. Then, the legend has it, you die.

Kathryn does not die, but certainly comes face to face with herself on a few frightening occasions in the movie. The film is often confusing, the difference between reality and fantasy becomes less marked. We are forced to change our minds again and again about whether or not some things (the stabbing of her neighbour) did or didn’t happen.

In spite of some flaws, it’s a beautifully made, very personal film and needs to be seen more than once, I feel. Otherwise one might share to a greater or lesser degree the feeling of a lady in front of me who said, as we got up to leave, “What happened?”

Rags To Riches

THE RAGMAN’S DAUGHTER directed by Harold Becker. Screenplay Alan Sillitoe. Starring Simon Rouse. Victoria Tennant, Patrick O’Connell, Leslie Sands. Released by 20th Century Fox.

The Ragman’s Daughter is one of those films which make me want to be able to write more vividly, more tenderly, because it stained my eyes with tears, not because of its sloppy sentimentality, but because of its simple poignant reality. It’s one of those films one falls in love with, one wants to see it over and over again.

Filmed almost entirely on location in and around Nottingham, it traces, largely in flashback, the brief stpirited youth and inextricable fast decline of one of yer average Nottingham lads, or perhaps he’s not all that average; he is in fact a sub-conscious revolutionary. He doesn’t work — he won’t work. He steals for kicks, for money, and this is what attracts the girl to him. She’s wealthy; her Dad’s a kind of Nottingham mafia regime. When yer short of cash, he gives you a pittance for your bundle of old clothes.

Stealing’s exciting and the boy’s good looking, good in bed, but she won’t go away with him – likes her monied security as well. He falls in love with her of course. Gets her pregnant; gets caught burgling. Approved School. His hair’s cut; he emerges stooping, unattractive, youthful vitality gone, the grey drag of life on his shoulders. She got married while he was inside, killed in a motor accident. They used to ride madly on his bike without accidents, but that was in the brief period of youthful freedom fate allowed.

We also see the boy ten or fifteen years later, married, kids, living in a tower block. That’s not as friendly as the old terraced houses, where you met the neighbours at the row of loos behind the terrace. Nottingham’s as grey as ever. He’s got a soul destroying job in a wholesale dairy. Gets the push for stealing a pound of cheese. His life with fifty million others has congealed in a drab rut. Super movie.

Strange Trivia Of Rosalie

THE STRANGE VENGEANCE OF ROSALIE directed by Jack Starrett. Starring Bonnie Bedelia, Ken Howard, Released by Palomar Pictures International. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

8pm in a cinema in central London – 10 people in the stalls. The film showing, is being advertised in underground stations and sparsely in newspapers, but the posters don’t really show what it’s about, ie, scantily dressed girls aren’t the main subject of the film after all, which is made by an unknown director and cast. There have been a few very tiny write-ups in the papers, but no mentions as far as I know on the telly cinema programmes. In other words, the film has received the minimum amount of publicity without even having the good start of having a famous name. There are lots of good films which get this treatment and deserve better; after a loss making two week run in the West End of London, they disappear forever, never to be seen in the rest of the UK. Johnny Got His Gun was a recent example of this. There must be something wrong somewhere.

This particular film, The Strange Vengeance Of Rosalie – well I don’t think it’ll be missed very much. A pleasant, modern but unimportant tale about an American travelling salesman who is held hostage by a crazily lonely Indian girl in New Mexico. Although I believe the intentions of the makers were reasonably serious, the film succumbs to what are fast becoming the cliches of the modern American cinema, as it makes great play on the disappearing wilderness of America, and the inability of the average suburban American male to cope with any situation outside the confines of his motorised plastic environment.

It is a technically superb film; the colour photography makes the best of the glorious New Mexico scenery and the soundtrack is 100% audible, a rarity in modern films. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really lead anywhere and isn’t really successful either as a piece of entertainment or as a piece of serious cinema. Not to be wholly negative, you might well find it an easily forgettable, pleasantly flippant 106 minutes.