What makes movies a great popular art form is that certain artists can, at moments in their lives, reach out and unify the audience—educated and uneducated—in a shared response. The tragedy in the history of movies is that those who have this capacity are usually prevented from doing so. The mass audience gets its big empty movies full of meaningless action; the arthouse audience gets its studies of small action and large inaction loaded with meaning. Almost everyone who cares about movies knows that Orson Welles is such an artist.
Two for the Road and Accident—very chic, clever, skillful and with the very latest in color and time-and-memory techniques—give us the La Notte view of marriage. Boredom, desperation, resignation. Both Frederic Raphael, who wrote Two for the Road as an original screenplay for Stanely Donen, and Harold Pinter, who adapted the Nicholas Mosley novel Accident for Joseph Losey, get a laugh with the same gag: men so self-centered that they don't remember the existence of their own daughters—Caroline in one, Francesa in the other. Great minds travel in the same TV channel?
The Myth of the Machine by Lewis Mumford(Harcourt, Brace and World; $8.95) Here comes Lewis Mumford again, sailing majestically down the river of time. Having illuminated the history of architecture and the phenomenon of cities (among other subjects) on previous voyages, he makes the journey once again out of different scholarly and humane concerns. Let him describe his new book himself.
The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder (Harper & Row; $6.95) Thornton Wilder's career is one of the oddest in American letters. After the publication of his first two novels in the twenties, he was accepted by the most demanding critics as a serious figure. In the same breath Edmund Wilson spoke of "Hemingway, Wilder, Fitzgerald" or, a dozen years later, of "Hemingway, Dos Passos, Faulkner, Wilder." The incongruity of those groupings today is almost comment enough.
In Cold Bloodby Truman Capote(Random House; $5.95) Here is a readable, generally interesting book about four murders in Kansas in 1959. If the author were John Doe, literary consideration could well end there. One might perhaps add that some of the writing is overripe, much of the detail is extraneous "color," some of the handling of material injudicious, and that a 343-page true-crime chronicle which does little more than recount a crime is inflated. Beyond that, however, the treatment, the style, the result would preclude extensive criticism.
"Movies have now gone past the phase of prose narrative and are coming nearer and nearer to poetry. I am trying to free my work from certain constrictions--a story with a beginning, a development, an ending. It should be more like a poem, with metre and cadence." Thus Federico Fellini, in a recent New Yorker article by Lillian Ross, speaking about his latest film, Juliet of the Spirits. What he describes is not a new impulse in filmmaking; it has been felt by (among others) such varied directors as Vigo, Ozu, and Godard.
My Autobiographyby Charles Chaplin(Simon and Schuster; $6.95) In 1913 the manager of an English music-hall company, which had been touring the US and was laying off for a week in Philadelphia, received a telegram from the New York office of a film company: "Is there a man named Chaffin in your company or something like that?" If so, the man was to communicate with the sender.Turning points, clearly defined, occur in many theatrical careers.
A Moveable Feastby Ernest Hemingway(Scribner's; $4.95) The very first entry in Camus' Notebooks might serve as epigraph to Hemingway's posthumous memoirs: "What I mean is this: that one can, with no romanticism, feel nostalgic for lost poverty." It is the city of Paris, in memory and effect that is the moveable feast; to it, Hemingway sat again in these recollections, written between 1958 and 1960, of his Paris life in the early 20's. This book, highly affecting and invaluable, is an anomalous performance in literature.
The Groupby Mary McCarthy(Harcourt, Brace & World; $5.95) Mary McCarthy is both representative and sui generis. An intellectual child of the thirties, she has long been concerned with matters that concern many of us; and her total range of interests, has been wider than any other American woman writer's of her time.She has now published a new novel about women. The Group, dealing not merely with her contemporaries but with her classmates, eight members of Vassar '33.
Like most autobiographical works Federico Fellini's scintillating new film 8 1/2 reveals something more than its author intended. Begin with the title. It derives from the fact that, up to now, Fellini has made six full-length films and has contributed three "half" segments to anthology films. Before we step into the theater, the title tells us that he is clever, and that he sees the film as part of his personal history.