All through City of Women I kept wondering what had been going through Federico Fellini's mind while he was making it. That's an unorthodox way to view a film--Intentional Fallacy is only one of the canonical errors--but a few directors are so close to me that I feel personally involved in their new films. Some of their past works are so tightly knitted into my experience and fantasy that I can't escape a proprietary, even nervous feeling when a new film by one of them comes along.
What's going to happen in film? The question recurs--and not only in this column--for assorted reasons, econommic and cultural. It's not arbitrarily a gloomy question: possibly, in the long run, we're just going to have to ask it under different aspects, toward different ends. But in a shorter long-range view, we ask it in terms of directors.
The chief impediment of Manhattan (UA) is the hype. It's as if the media had been braiding laurel wreaths in advance, hoping for a minimal excuse to hail Woody Allen, as if they badly needed a U.S. filmmaker to garland, especially since their last genius, Robert Altman, is in disarray. The media's nature abhors a vacuum, and Allen has in fact given them a bit more than a minimal excuse to fill the genius-vacancy.
The Films in My Lifeby Francois Truffaut(Simon & Schuster, $12.50) In 1954, Francois Truffaut was 22 and a critic on Cahiers du Cinema. He was asked to review a new film by George Cukor because he liked Cukor's work. "But," he said in his review, "the trouble is that Cukor isn't the kind of director you write about: he's someone to talk about with friends on the street or sitting in a cafe." No cute epitome will sum up so complex a man as Truffaut: still that line sets the tonality--the cafe-conversation tonality--of much of his collected critcism.
Dog Day Afternoon (Warner Bros.) At least once a week there's something in the newspapers that is believable only because it actually happened. And in the current strained relation between fact and fiction in our culture, fictionmakers of prose and film sometimes let life do the inventing for them, then use fictional techniques of conviction on the nearly incredible material. The producer Martin Bregman sponsored Serpico (TNR, Jan. 19, 1974) which was made in that impulse; out of the same impulse he now presents the much-superior Dog Day Afternoon.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Cinema 5 The Invitation Janus If news from Britain these days is only moderately good, it's exceptional, and welcome. The British economic gloom is made even gloomier by the fact that Ken Russell, of Tommy, sometimes seems to be the only filmmaker on the island able to get backing. Untrue. Here is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is neither as sparkling as it is said to be nor as bad as it seems to be at the start.
Her name, O’Hara, is deliberately Irish. Her Irishness is to be associated with impetuosity, wild courage, low class and the ability to lie charmingly. All these Scarlett has and does, though not once in the movie does she refer to her Irish heritage. She pretends to no ancestry other than Tara. Her father, played by Thomas Mitchell, is the stock Irishman of the piece, speaking as no Irishman has ever spoken and showering himself in as many Irishisms as the plot allows. He dies mad, on his horse. We learn from his tombstone that he was born in County Wicklow, made famous by J.M.
The two most frequent questions are: "How many films do you see a week?" "Don't you get bored with going to films?" I've been writing about them in TNR since 1958, with one intermission of a year and a half, have heard each of these questions at least once a week in that time, and am always pleased by them. As for the first, the number has varied sharply from none to 12--usually it's about three--but the point is that most weeks it wouldn't have been less even if I weren't a critic. And, grown gray in the ranks, I still get a thrill out of getting in free.
I dragged my feet about going to The Exorcist because of the gimmicky subject, and the adverse reviews I saw made me purr at my prevision. But this film about the diabolic possession of a 12-year-old girl has become such a huge hit that I thought I ought to grit what’s left of my teeth and investigate. I’m glad I did. In this case, anyway, vox populi vox diaboli. This is the most scary picture I’ve seen in years —the only scary picture I’ve seen in years. (Though I admit I don’t see many “horror” films.
Hurricane Marlon is sweeping the country, and I wish it were more than hot air. A tornado of praise—cover stories and huzzahs—blasts out the news that Brando is giving a marvelous performance as Don Corleone in The Godfather, the lapsed Great Actor has regained himself, and so on. As a Brando-watcher for almost 30 years, I’d like to agree. But from his opening line, with his back toward us, Brando betrays that he hasn’t even got the man’s voice under control. (Listen to the word “first.” Pure Brando, not Corleone.) Insecurity and assumption streak the job from then on.