May 19, 1979
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.
Arts and Lives
July 29, 1978
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.
TNR Film Classic: 'Dog Day Afternoon' (1975)
October 04, 1975
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.
TNR Film Classics: ‘Gone With the Wind’ (January 25, 1975)
January 25, 1975
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.
Why I'm Not Bored
November 30, 1974
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.
TNR Film Classics: ‘The Exorcist’ (February 9, 1974)
February 09, 1974
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.
TNR Film Classics: ‘The Godfather’ (April 1, 1972)
April 01, 1972
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.
A Rage To Write
February 26, 1972
The EwingsBy Michael O’Hara(Random House; $6.95)I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him, and was wrong on both counts. This is John O'Hara's last finished novel but not the last of the finished work that he left; and there's no point in pretending that he didn't know his job. That job is of some interest in American literary history.Through most of his career, even those who disliked O'Hara's work conceded that he was a sharp social historian, a ruthless investigator of sexual mores and a connoisseur of cultural data.
June 14, 1969
The first shot: in the middle of the vast Panavision-Technicolor screen, a closeup of two flowers, in soft focus. It looks like Red Desert revisited. There are distant buzzes on the sound track. The camera moves lowly over a greensward with figures on it, still misty and gentle. Then--wham!--we cut to a roadway, the buzzes turn into roars, and cars are whizzing at us. It's a racing picture! Those opening ten seconds of Winning are a sketch of the changes in American culture in the past decade or so.