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5001 Nights at the Movies

5001 Nights at the Movies

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5001 Nights at the Movies

4.5/5 (6 évaluations)
2,185 pages
29 heures
Aug 2, 2011


The intelligent person's guide to the movies, with more than 2,800 reviews

Look up a movie in this guide, and chances are you'll find yourself reading on about the next movie and the next. Pauline Kael's reviews aren't just provocative---they're addictive.

These brief, informative reviews, written for the "Goings On About Town" section of The New Yorker, provide an immense range of listings---a masterly critical history of American and foreign film. This is probably the only movie guide you'll want to read for the sheer pleasure of it.

Aug 2, 2011

À propos de l'auteur

Pauline Kael won the National Book Award for her film criticism in 1974. The film critic for The New Yorker from 1968 to 1991, she is the author of more than a dozen books on the movies.

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5001 Nights at the Movies - Pauline Kael

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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Notice





























About the Author


Copyright Page


It is unlikely that anyone in the world has reviewed more movies than Pauline Kael. It is also unlikely that anyone in the world carries around in his or her head more information about movies. When Pauline Kael sits down to review a new film, she is able to sum up pertinent details from the thousnds of American and foreign films that preceded it. She remembers, and can describe, scenes, sequences, performances, shots, images, touches, gestures, effects. In herself, she is the international history, library, archive, encyclopedia of film—the cinemathèque. If numbers, or even knowledgeability, were all that mattered, she would be the champion. But these are merely a point of departure. She brings to her criticism more than stamina and a phenomenal memory, more than scholarship. What is most important, perhaps, is that she loves movies. Good and bad, they are her passion. Movies sustain her, and she, in turn, sustains many of the people who make them. Moviemakers may be satisfied or dissatisfied with her reaction to any given picture, but they are not inclined to dismiss it, and they never question her rapt involvement with movies. They know that she takes their work seriously, that she judges it by the most rigorous standards, that she gives it the attention it deserves. When she thinks that a picture has failed, she can become so intent on getting to the bottom of what went wrong that now and then, to her own astonishment, she wounds somebody’s feelings, but even on those occasions the charms of her criticism are such that she is apt to be forgiven. And when she thinks that a picture succeeds she rejoices.

The originality of Pauline Kael’s mind and temperament, her formidable intelligence, her eloquent use of the vernacular, her extraordinary analytical powers, her insight into character, her ability to shed light wherever the real world intersects with the world on film, her enormous gift for social observation, the wit and energy and clarity of her prose all go into making her the singular critic she is. What she is primarily is a writer; one reads her for the sheer pleasure her writing affords. Her opinions are forceful, convincing, often unexpected, but whether or not one agrees with them one comes away from her writings in a state of exhilaration.

Pauline Kael’s reviews are normally longer than most—long enough to daunt the uninitiated but not too long for her admirers. Yet in this volume she has assembled several thousand reviews—written for the Goings On About Town department of The New Yorker—that are not only dazzling but brief, are models of compression. Nothing like this collection of short reviews has ever been seen before. They can be read by moviegoers or television viewers as a guide or they can be read for their own sake: either way they are a marvel. A master of synopsis, Pauline Kael has contrived to tell us between the covers of one book what eight decades of film are about and who is in them and behind them, and to reflect, swiftly but astutely, on what they signify. No one else has done that; no one else could have done that.



A bout de souffle, see Breathless

A Ciascuno il Suo, see We Still Kill the Old Way

À double tour, see Léda

À nous la liberté (1931)—René Clair’s imaginative social satire on the mechanization of modern life begins with a man (Raymond Cordy) who escapes from prison and builds a phonograph-record business with an assembly line that’s as regimented as the prison. This factory owner is modelled on Charles Pathé, who said of his phonograph-cinema empire, Only the armaments industry made profits like ours. The tycoon’s pal from his prison days is a softhearted little man (Henri Marchand)—the underdog embodiment of a free, humanistic spirit. Beautifully made, the picture has elegantly futuristic sets by Lazare Meerson, and Georges Perinal’s cinematography has a simplified, formal perfection; the whole film is paced to Georges Auric’s memorable score—one of the earliest (yet best) film scores ever written. Clair’s directing demonstrates that sound pictures can be as fluid as silents were, and this picture is rightly considered a classic. Yet it isn’t as entertaining as his earlier (silent) The Italian Straw Hat or his later Le Million; the scenario (which he wrote) turns a little too carefree and ironic—the film grows dull. A nous la liberté was obviously the source of some of the ideas in Chaplin’s 1936 Modern Times; the producing company filed suit against Chaplin for copyright infringement, but Clair had the suit dropped, saying that All of us flow from Chaplin, and I am honored if he was inspired by my film. In French. b & w

The Abdication (1974)—This Warners picture about Queen Christina’s stepping down from the Swedish throne, in 1654, is embalmed in such reverence for its own cultural elevation that it loses all contact with the audience. Liv Ullmann is the virgin queen who becomes a Catholic hoping to find ecstasy in God, and Peter Finch is the cardinal who examines her motives. Anthony Harvey directed, on his knees. We’re never allowed to forget the exalted rank of the characters, and nothing like human speech intrudes upon the relentless dignity of Ruth Wolff’s script (adapted from her own play). Ullmann doesn’t have the high style or the mystery that her grand-gesture role requires; her performance is dutifully wrought and properly weighted—she’s like a hausfrau who’s too conscientious to give good parties. With Cyril Cusack, Paul Rogers, Michael Dunn, and Edward Underdown. The turbulent, pseudo-liturgical score is by Nino Rota; the pictorial cinematography is by Geoffrey Unsworth. color (See Reeling.)

About Last Night … (1986)—In Sexual Perversity in Chicago, David Mamet’s one-act play about singles bars and the hostility between the sexes, Bernie, the major character, is a macho braggart; his stooge, the passive Danny, soaks up Berrue’s poison—his obsession that women are out to trap them. In this adaptation, written by Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue, and directed by Edward Zwick (it’s his first picture), Danny, played by Rob Lowe, is the major character—and a hero. He’s intimidated by his pal Bernie (Jim Belushi), but he learns to trust his love for Debbie (Demi Moore) and get off the singles treadmill. And Debbie casts out the doubts that are engendered by her roommate, the caustic Joan (Elizabeth Perkins). The movie is close to being a conventional romance about the adjustments that lovers have to make in their first year together—except that Bernie is around yelling, and Joan keeps putting everybody down. The screenwriters retain much of Mamet’s dialogue, but they piece it out, and the director punches up the breaks between scenes with rock music. It’s like being pounded on the back every two minutes when your back is already sore (because the dialogue has been whacking you so hard). If anyone comes out of this enterprise with honor it’s Perkins, who, in her first screen appearance, brings appealing, plaintive undercurrents to a ghastly role. Tri-Star. color (See Hooked.)

Absence of Malice (1981)—A trim, well-paced newspaper melodrama that queries journalistic practices. Sally Field is the basically insensitive, eager-beaver Miami reporter who snaps up a story that the head of a federal strike force investigating the disappearance of a union leader leaks to her. The story is false—the federal man’s purpose is simply to stir things up by putting pressure on an honest businessman who has Mafia relatives. Paul Newman is the victim, and the movie is about how he turns the methods of the authorities and the newspaperwoman against them. It’s doubtful that people who are out to get even are as calm and well-balanced as this character; Newman gives revenge class, so we can all enjoy it. The script, by Kurt Luedtke, a former newspaperman, is crisply plotted, but he doesn’t write scenes to reveal anything more in the characters than the plot requires. Sydney Pollack’s directing is efficient and the film is moderately entertaining, but it leaves no residue. Except for the intensity of Newman’s sly, compact performance (especially in the one scene when he blows up at the reporter and hisses his rage right into her ear), and the marvellously inventive acting of Melinda Dillon in the role of an achingly helpless, frightened woman, and the character bits by Barry Primus, Luther Adler, Josef Sommer, Wilford Brimley, Don Hood, and John Harkins you could get it all by reading an article. As the head of the strike force, Bob Balaban must think that he’s doing Captain Queeg. He has devised an attention-getting nervous shtick—he spins his hands around while playing with rubber bands—and he never gives it a rest. Columbia. color (See Taking It All In.)

Absolute Beginners (1986)—Colin Mac-Innes’s 1959 novel—an inventive, slangy, poetic celebration of youth and jazz and London, and a cry of disgust at the way teenagers, who didn’t emerge as a group with money to spend until the 50s, are already being commercialized and corrupted—has been turned into a stylized, widescreen musical by Julien Temple. Whether because of the fast-cutting style that Temple developed from his work in rock videos or because of the generally undistinguished choreography, it’s peculiarly unlyrical and ephemeral. The film has a glossy immediacy, and you can feel the flash and determination that went into it. What you don’t feel is the tormented romanticism that made English adolescents in the 70s swear by the novel the way American kids had earlier sworn by The Catcher in the Rye. David Bowie, James Fox, Ray Davies, Anita Morris, and Sade provide entertaining moments; Lionel Blair, Bruce Payne, and Graham Fletcher-Cook come through with glints of humor. But the two central teen-age characters—Colin (Eddie O’Connell) and the girl he loves, Suzette (Patsy Kensit)—seem generic. Musical arrangements by Gil Evans; cinematography by Oliver Stapleton; screenplay by Richard Burridge, Christopher Wicking, and Don MacPherson. Also with Slim Gaillard, Steven Berkoff, and Mandy Rice-Davies. Released in the U.S. by Orion. color (See Hooked.)

Accident (1967)—Joseph Losey and his scenarist, Harold Pinter, use sexual desperation amid the beauty of Oxford in summertime to make our flesh crawl. A cleverly barbed comedy of depravity—uneven, unsatisfying, but with virtuoso passages of calculated meanness and, as the centerpiece, a long, drunken Sunday party, with people sitting down to supper when they’re too soused to eat. As a weakling philosophy don, Dirk Bogarde goes through his middle-aged-frustration specialty brilliantly, gripping his jaw to stop a stutter or folding his arms to keep his hands out of trouble. With Stanley Baker, who is properly swinish as another academic, and Vivien Merchant, Jacqueline Sassard, Michael York, Alexander Knox, and Delphine Seyrig as a dumb blonde. From the novel by Nicholas Mosley; cinematography by Gerry Fisher; music by Johnny Dankworth. color (See Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.)

The Accidental Tourist (1988)—It begins with the numb grief of a punctilious Baltimore travel writer, Macon Leary (William Hurt), whose 12-year-old son was senselessly shot by a gunman in a Burger Bonanza. Macon has become such a depressed loner that his wife (Kathleen Turner) leaves him. The movie, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the screenplay with Frank Galati, closely follows the 1985 Anne Tyler novel, and it’s about Macon’s coming to life. A fiercely eager oddball (Geena Davis) who pulls him into her bed turns out to be his salvation. The plot construction is that of a screwball comedy of the 30s: poor working girl has the life force that upper-class prig needs. But people talk a formal, affected English that sounds counterfeit and everyone seems catatonic—even the skinny oddball, whose tense talkativeness is as panicked as Macon’s recessiveness and silence. This picture’s ponderousness doesn’t keep it from affecting some people deeply. It provides a new romantic myth of the 80s—a time of widespread remarriage and hoped-for rebirth. Essentially, this is a dating movie, like Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman, but for darker times, for times of lower expectations. The film’s minimal fun has to do with the wry, pixillated family humor of Macon and his siblings (Amy Wright, Ed Begley, Jr., and David Ogden Stiers). The cast includes Bill Pullman and Robert Gorman. Cinematography by John Bailey; the offensive rippling score is by John Williams. Warners. color (See Movie Love.)

The Ace, see The Great Santini

Ace in the Hole Also known as The Big Carnival. (1951)—Billy Wilder produced and directed this box-office failure right after Sunset Boulevard and just before Stalag 17. Some people have tried to claim some sort of satirical brilliance for it, but it’s really just nasty, in a sociologically pushy way. Kirk Douglas is the big-time New York reporter who is so opportunistic that when he gets to where a collapsed roof has buried a man in New Mexico, he arranges to have the rescue delayed so that he can pump the story up. The trapped man dies, while Douglas keeps shouting in order that we can all see what a symptomatic, cynical exploiter he is. With Jan Sterling as the trapped man’s wife, Porter Hall, Richard Benedict, Ray Teal, and Frank Cady. Script by Wilder, Lesser Samuels, and Walter Newman. Filmed on location near Gallup, New Mexico. Paramount. b & w

Across the Bridge (1957)—Graham Greene’s protagonist is a crooked international financier (Rod Steiger) who runs to Mexico, and the film is one long chase after this disintegrating quarry. Ken Annakin directed this English production, photographed in Spain, which some English critics regarded as their best thriller since The Third Man. (There may not have been much competition.) If the film had sustained the tension of its opening scenes the comparison with The Third Man might be apt, but the middle of the picture (and it’s an extended middle) falls apart. It was invented by the screenwriters, Guy Elmes and Denis Freeman, who filled out Greene’s 1938 short story. Steiger gives a dominating performance; Bill Nagy plays Scarff, whose identity the financier takes, not knowing that Scarff is a revolutionary, who is wanted in Mexico. Noel Willman is the vicious police chief; David Knight and Marla Landi are young lovers (she is beautiful, he is dreary). b & w

Across the Pacific (1942)—After his exhilarating début film, The Maltese Falcon (1941), John Huston had a commercial failure with In This Our Life; then he tried to repeat the success of the Falcon with an action-adventure story, using some of the Falcon cast—Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet. The film was supposed to be about a group sailing to Honolulu to thwart a Japanese plan to blow up Pearl Harbor; during the second week of shooting, the Japanese did blow up Pearl Harbor. The production was shut down and there was a hasty rewrite. The result is a complicated plot about spies who plan to blow up the Panama Canal, and there are assorted captures and hairbreadth escapes. Huston manages to give the sequences some tension, and though the shipboard scenes were—in the custom of the time—filmed on the studio back lot, the images are airy and spacious. But Huston couldn’t do anything about the essential mediocrity of the material, and when he was drafted into the Army Special Services before the picture was finished, he showed what he thought of the mess: he hurriedly shot a scene with Bogart trussed up and about to be killed, and then left his replacement director, Vincent Sherman, to figure out how to save Bogart in time to prevent the bombing of the Canal. The movie isn’t really bad—just bewildering. Mary Astor comes off the worst; cast as a conventional heroine, she looks heavy and uncomfortable, and too big for Bogart, who, incidentally, was called Rick here—the name that was carried over the next year in Casablanca. With Victor Sen Yung, Charles Halton, Richard Loo, Keye Luke, and Monte Blue. Script by Richard Macaulay, from Robert Carson’s SatEvePost serial Aloha Means Goodbye; montages by Don Siegel; cinematography by Arthur Edeson; music by Adolph Deutsch. Produced by Jerry Wald and Jack Saper, for Warners. b & w

Act of the Heart (1970)—Geneviève Bujold, in one of those passionate, spiritual jobs about a girl who is different. The heroine sings the solo with the church choir; she suffers while singing in a nightclub; she even—God help us—makes love with an Augustinian monk (in the unlikely, affable person of Donald Sutherland) at the front of the altar. After hours of fire symbolism, she finally pours kerosene on herself to create a new sacrifice for a world that has forgotten Jesus; by then you’re ready to toss her a match. This Canadian film was written and directed by Paul Almond (Bujold’s husband at the time) who goes for obsessions and fatalities and an elliptical style, and is very high on portents. Bujold has some lovely bits, but the masochistic feminine-fantasy material forces her to fall back on the old fragile, incandescent child-woman shtick. color (See Deeper into Movies.)

The Actress (1953)—Ruth Gordon adapted her autobiographical play Years Ago, which dealt with a young girl in New England determined to make her way in the theatre, and it was turned into a pleasantly modest though disappointing picture by the director, George Cukor. Jean Simmons plays the title role with grace, but the author has neglected to provide indications of talent and drive in the character; this girl seems too nice, too ordinary—she could never grow up to be that tough, indefatigable trouper Ruth Gordon. (The heroine sets out on her own in 1911.) Despite the title, the central character is the girl’s gruff, lovable father (Spencer Tracy); Tracy overdoes it, but he shows some energy, and the film is sadly short of it. With Teresa Wright giving a wan performance as the mother, Anthony Perkins making his first screen appearance, Ian Wolfe, Mary Wickes, Jackie Coogan as the joker in the gymnasium, and, in the best sequence, Kay Williams as a musical-comedy star. M-G-M. b & w

Adalen 31 (1969)—An extraordinarily sensitive re-creation of a strike and riot that altered the course of Swedish political life, seen through the eyes of an adolescent boy whose father dies in the events. Bo Widerberg, whose previous film was Elvira Madigan, wrote and directed this beautiful yet uninspired piece of work; lush and lyrical as it is, it’s fundamentally didactic, with stereotyped social-realist characters. And because Widerberg seems to work best in vignettes and to have architectural problems when he’s working on such a large scale, his argument isn’t clear; he makes the little points but not the big ones. So when the violence erupts, we don’t really understand its political significance—we’re left appreciating it, in a rather embarrassed way, for its pictorial values. In Swedish. color (See Deeper into Movies.)

Adam’s Rib (1949)—George Cukor directed this uncinematic but well-played and often witty M-G-M comedy about the battle of the sexes. Katharine Hepburn, thin, nervous, and high-strung, keeps pecking away at Spencer Tracy, who is solid, imperturbable, and maddeningly sane. She attacks, he blocks; their skirmishes are desperately, ludicrously civilized. They are married lawyers on opposing sides in a court battle; the case involves equal rights for women, i.e., does Judy Holliday have the right to shoot her two-timing husband, Tom Ewell, in order to protect her home against Jean Hagen? The script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin is lively and ingenious (though it stoops to easy laughs now and then). Cukor’s work is too arch, too consciously, commercially clever, but it’s also spirited, confident. Holliday and Ewell have roles that seem just the right size for them; intermittently, Holliday lifts the picture to a higher, free-style wit. And as a composer-neighbor of the married lawyers David Wayne airily upstages the two stars; Hepburn is overly intense and Tracy does some coy mugging, but Wayne stays right on target. With Polly Moran, Clarence Kolb, and Hope Emerson (as a circus strong woman). b & w

The Admirable Crichton, see Paradise Lagoon

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)—Gene Wilder’s talent is evident in the many nice leafy touches, but in his first attempt at a triple-header (writer-director-star) he shows poor judgment and he gets bogged down in an overelaborate production. The idea—Holmes’ bringing in his insanely jealous younger brother, Sigerson, to help on a case involving Queen Victoria’s state secrets—has mouth-watering possibilities, but they aren’t developed. There’s no mystery, and since you can’t have a parody of a mystery without a mystery, there’s no comic suspense. And Wilder, keeping his eye on his responsibilities as a director, loses his performing rhythm. A vaudeville number is disconcertingly like the specialty number in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (which Wilder co-wrote and starred in) and calls attention to the general similarity between the two films. With Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Leo McKern, and Roy Kinnear. 20th Century-Fox. color (See When the Lights Go Down.)

The Adventurers (1970)—This Paramount–Joseph E. Levine release seems to have been put together by scavengers with computers. It cuts back and forth between the massacres and upheavals of a mythical poor country in South America and the tortured sex lives of the international celebrity set in Europe and America, and every 15 minutes or so there’s carnage or a cloddish sex scene to keep you from losing interest in the slack story. Sleazy (the Harold Robbins novel) and square (the approach of the director, Lewis Gilbert) don’t blend entertainingly here; the film lacks crude dynamism—it’s dispiriting. There are only a couple of amusing scenes: a nice moment when Thommy Berggren, as a gigolo, tips his doorman father (Ferdy Mayne), and a villainous moment or two by Alan Badel, as a Trujillo-style dictator. The international cast of this $10 million clinker includes Bekim Fehmiu as the Porfirio Rubirosa-like hero, Candice Bergen, Charles Aznavour, Rossano Brazzi, Olivia de Havilland, Leigh Taylor-Young, Fernando Rey, Sydney Tafler, Ernest Borgnine, Anna Moffo, and John Ireland. The script is by Michael Hastings and Gilbert, the music is by Jobim, and the cinematographer, Claude Renoir, gives it all a better look than it deserves. color (See Deeper Into Movies.)

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)—The Baron, who lived from 1720 to 1797, was a fibber of genius—a fabulist. Terry Gilliam, who directed this special-effects extravaganza, sees his theme as the liar as artist; his Munchausen (John Neville) is a poet, a man of imagination. He’s pitted against the practical men who believe in facts and compromise and conformity (i.e., the men who finance movies). The elements are here for a fantasy on the order of The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio and the 1940 Thief of Bagdad; the Baron and a 10-year-old girl (Sarah Polley) voyage to a city on the moon, fall into the fire god Vulcan’s foundry inside the belching Mt. Etna, and are swallowed by a monster fish. Yet the picture is dry and choppy and remote. The design (by Dante Ferretti) and the cinematography (by Giuseppe Rotunno) are sometimes magnificent, and there are scenes that are near-inspired. Something is missing, though: a bit of conviction—of ardor and awe. Gilliam’s hip silliness is deflating; his gifts—his gagster’s prankishness and his sense of beauty—don’t harmonize. The picture is almost devoid of emotional shadings. With Oliver Reed, who’s a great rampaging Vulcan, Robin Williams (uncredited) as the King of the Moon, Uma Thurman as Venus, and Eric Idle, Jonathan Pryce, Sting, Valentina Cortese, Bill Paterson, Winston Dennis, Jack Purvis, Alison Steadman, and Charles McKeown, who co-wrote the script with Gilliam. Released by Columbia. color (See Movie Love.)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Also known as Buckaroo Banzai. (1984)—Making his début as a director, W. D. (Rick) Richter doesn’t bring out the baroque lunacy of the material—a kind of fermented parody of M*A*S*H, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the TV series The A-Team—but though the characters don’t develop and the laughs don’t build or come together, the film’s uninflected deadpan tone is somehow likable. Dr. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller), the half-Japanese, half-American hero, is a neurosurgeon, a physicist, a jet-car racer (who goes right through a mountain), and the leader of the Team Banzai—seven dapper whizbang Renaissance men. For relaxation, Buckaroo and a few of the others have formed their own rock group, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, and it’s at a Cavaliers’ performance in a New Jersey night spot that the hypersensitive Buckaroo picks up the disturbed vibes of someone in the audience; that’s how he meets the heroine, Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin). Richter and the scriptwriter Earl Mac Rauch don’t seem to have an angle of vision on the interplanetary fantasy world they present; what they’ve got are an unmoored hipsterism and a lot of inventiveness. As Dr. Lizardo, the mad-genius villain (a comic-strip mixture of Eisenstein, Klaus Kinski, and a Wagnerian tenor), John Lithgow gives the movie the anchor it needs. White-faced, with bloodshot eyes, dark greenish teeth, and a wild foreign accent, Lithgow’s Dr. Lizardo can make you crazy with happiness. With Jeff Goldblum, Matt Clark as the Secretary of Defense, Carl Lumbly as the friendly alien who disguises himself as a Rastafarian, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Rosalind Cash, Ronald Lacey, and the platinum-blond Lewis Smith. The picture went through a change of cinematographers (it was completed by Fred J. Koenekamp), but the young production designer J. Michael Riva has given it a consistent—and radiant—whimsicality. 20th Century-Fox. color (See State of the Art.)

Adventures of Don Juan (1948)—By this time, Errol Flynn’s offscreen life had colored the public’s view of him, and this wry, semi-satirical swashbuckler was designed to exploit his reputation for debauchery. William Faulkner and Frederick Faust (Max Brand) were among the writers whom the Warners producer, Jerry Wald, brought in to work on various drafts of the screenplay, which was finally credited to George Oppenheimer and Harry Kurnitz. Flynn looks far from his best, and the whole lavish production has a somewhat depressed tone. The story has Juan saving Queen Margaret of Spain (Viveca Lindfors) from a traitor’s skulduggery. With Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Alan Hale, Robert Warwick, Robert Douglas, Helen Westcott, Raymond Burr, Una O’Connor, Fortunio Bonanova, and Monte Blue. Those with keen eyes may spot bits of footage lifted from The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and The Adventures of Robin Hood. The director Vincent Sherman’s work is no more than adequate. color

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)—One of the most popular of all adventure films—stirring for children and intensely nostalgic for adults. As Robin, Errol Flynn slings a deer across his shoulders with exuberant aplomb; he achieves a mixture of daring and self-mockery, like that of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., in the 20s. The film gives the legend a light, satirical edge: everyone is a bit too much of what he is. (The archetypal roles that the actors played here clung to their later performances.) With improbably pretty Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian, Alan Hale as Little John, Ian Hunter as Richard the Lion-Hearted, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains as the villains, and Herbert Mundin, Patric Knowles, Melville Cooper, Una O’Connor, Montagu Love, and Robert Warwick. The story is clear, the color ravishing, the acting simple and crude. Erich Wolfgang Korngold did the marvellous score; the script is by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller; the rousing, buoyant direction is credited to Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, the former having replaced the latter. Hal B. Wallis produced, for Warners.

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1952)—Luis Bunuel’s version of the Defoe novel (made in English) is free of that deadly solicitude that usually kills off classics. The film is a simple, unsentimental account of Defoe’s basic themes: a man alone face to face with nature; then a man terribly alone, unable to face lack of love and friendship; and finally, after the lacerations of desire, a man ludicrously alone. Bunuel used Dan O’Herlihy, a fine actor with a beautiful voice, and photographed him in the jungle of Manzanillo, near Acapulco. In the delirium sequence, Bunuel is the same startling director who made film history. When Crusoe shouts to the hills in order to hear the companionable echo, and when he rushes to the sea in desperate longing for a ship, loneliness is brought in sudden shocks, to the pitch of awe and terror. Crusoe’s eventual meeting with Friday (James Fernandez) changes the tone to irony. color

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)—Norman Taurog, who had scored at the box office with Skippy and other films starring children, directed this fairly straightforward version, for David O. Selznick. It’s a reasonably good family-style comedy-melodrama of its period, and the humor in many of Mark Twain’s episodes survives the studio-made scenery, the Technicolor sunsets, and the obviousness of the tone. May Robson is Aunt Polly, tapping her thimble briskly; Tommy Kelly plays Tom, and Ann Gillis is Becky Thatcher. The adaptation is by John Weaver.

The Adventuress, see I See a Dark Stranger

Advise and Consent (1962)—Mindless inside story of Washington political shenanigans, directed by Otto Preminger. Accused of having been a Communist, Leffingwell (Henry Fonda), the nominee for Secretary of State, perjures himself. A senator (Don Murray) is victimized because of a homosexual episode in his past. (When he goes to a gay bar, it’s such a lurid, evil place that the director seems grotesquely straight.) There are noteworthy performances by Burgess Meredith, as Leffingwell’s accuser, and by Franchot Tone, as the President; Charles Laughton is entertainingly flamboyant as a Southern senator. With Lew Ayres as the Vice-President, and Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Peter Lawford, Paul Ford, George Grizzard, Inga Swenson, Will Geer, Betty White, and some actual Washington personages. The procession of people helps to take one’s mind off the overwrought melodrama. Wendell Mayes adapted Allen Drury’s best-seller. Columbia. b & w

The African Queen (1951)—An inspired piece of casting brought Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn together. This is a comedy, a love story, and a tale of adventure, and it is one of the most charming and entertaining movies ever made. The director, John Huston, has written that the comedy was not present either in the novel by C. S. Forester or in the original screenplay by James Agee, John Collier, and himself, but that it grew out of the relationship of Hepburn and Bogart, who were just naturally funny when they worked together. Hepburn has revealed that the picture wasn’t going well until Huston came up with the inspiration that she should think of Rosie as Mrs. Roosevelt. After that, Bogart and Hepburn played together with an ease and humor that makes their love affair—the mating of a forbidding, ironclad spinster and a tough, gin-soaked riverboat captain—seem not only inevitable, but perfect. The story, set in central Africa in 1914, is so convincingly acted that you may feel a bit jarred at the end; after the lovers have brought the boat, the African Queen, over dangerous rapids to torpedo a German battleship, Huston seems to stop taking the movie seriously. With Robert Morley as Hepburn’s missionary brother, and Peter Bull. Cinematography by Jack Cardiff. Bogart’s performance took the Academy Award for Best Actor. (Peter Viertel, who worked on the dialogue while the company was on location in Africa, wrote White Hunter, Black Heart—one of the best of all moviemaking novels—about his experiences with Huston.) Produced by Sam Spiegel, for United Artists. color

After Hours (1983)—Martin Scorsese directed, and his work here is lively and companionable; the camera scoots around, making jokes—or, at least, near-jokes. But this skittish paranoid fantasy is just a classroom exercise of a movie: elegant, crisp, and flashy, with perky zooms and cute little dissolves. Scorsese uses his skills (and even his personality) like a hired hand, making a vacuous, polished piece of consumer goods—all surface. Griffin Dunne plays a young wordprocessor operator in midtown New York, who goes down to SoHo for a date and finds himself trapped in a nightmare world, where he has to contend with one flaky, threatening woman after another: Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, and Verna Bloom. The cast includes John Heard, who gives the movie its only rooted moments, and Cheech and Chong, Dick Miller, and Bronson Pinchot. Script by Joseph Minion; cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. Released by Warners. color (See Hooked.)

After the Fox (1966)—An international collaboration that turned into a box-office calamity, yet, for a messy satirical farce, this picture has a surprising number of funny moments. Neil Simon and Cesare Zavattini wrote the screenplay about a crook who pretends to be a moviemaker. Vittorio De Sica directed, and the cast includes Peter Sellers as the crook, his then-wife, Britt Ekland, playing his sister, Martin Balsam, Victor Mature (who parodies himself and earns the biggest laughs), Paolo Stoppa, Akim Tamiroff, and De Sica himself. The score is by Burt Bacharach. color

After the Thin Man (1936)—This second of the six films that make up the Thin Man series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, doesn’t live up to the first. It isn’t particularly entertaining; it’s just busy. Elissa Landi (who has peculiarly mushy, ladylike diction) is in distress because she has lost her husband (Alan Marshal) to Penny Singleton. There are a couple of murders, and Asta’s mate has puppies. The cast includes James Stewart, Joseph Calleia, Sam Levene, and Jessie Ralph. Like the first film, this one was directed by W. S. Van Dyke, from a screenplay by Albert a and Frances Goodrich. M-G-M. b & w

Against All Odds (1984)—Suggested by the 1947 Jacques Tourneur suspense film Out of the Past, this rewed-up picture is of the everybody uses everybody genre, set in swank surroundings and outfitted with electronic music to make you twitch. With a plot that borrows from Chinatown and North Dallas Forty, it has so many convoluted double crosses that each time you’re told what was really going on behind the scene you just witnessed you care less. Rachel Ward is the woman who steals and kills, lies all the time, and makes love alternately to Jeff Bridges, a pro football player, and to James (The Snake) Woods, a gamblin’ man. It turns out that she’s just confused, from having grown up in a nest of vipers, with a real-estate-tycoon mother (played with considerable cool by Jane Greer) and a smoothly villainous stepfather (a hambone special by Richard Widmark). The scenes aren’t shaped to get anywhere, so even though the movie hops about L.A. and Mexico, the effect is static, and some sequences—such as the lovemaking set in the ancient Mayan steam house at Chichén Itza—should earn their place in the annals of camp. With Dorian Harewood, Saul Rubinek, Alex Karras, and Swoosie Kurtz, who has only two or three minutes onscreen (as a lawyer’s secretary) but gets a relationship going with the audience; she’s the only member of the cast who doesn’t seem to have been pulped. Directed by Taylor Hackford, from a script by Eric Hughes. Columbia. color (See State of the Art.)

Agatha (1979)—Vanessa Redgrave has a luminously loony quality as the distraught heroine of this fictional romantic mystery, which purports to be about the 11 days in 1926 when Agatha Christie, whose husband wanted a divorce so he could marry his mistress, took off for a Yorkshire spa, where she used the mistress’s name. Dustin Hoffman is furiously theatrical in the role of a preening star journalist from America who trails Agatha to the spa and falls in love with her. There is a blissful romantic moment when the goddess-tall, swan-necked Agatha responds to the journalist’s (previously denied) request for a kiss by coiling over and down to reach him. The movie has a general air of knowingness, and some of the incidental dialogue is clever, though it doesn’t seem to have a story—with its lulling tempo and languid elegance, it seems to be from a musing. The talent of the director, Michael Apted, is for the tactile, the plangent, the indefinite; when the action dawdles, he lets the cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, take over. The rooms look smoked, and everything is in soft movement; this is the rare movie that is too fluid. Yet there’s a gentle pull to it, and Redgrave endows Agatha Christie with the oddness of genius. With Timothy Dalton, who gives a strong, funny performance as the husband exhausted by his wife’s high-powered sensitivity, and the curly-mouthed Helen Morse as the friendly woman Agatha meets at the spa, and Celia Gregory, Carolyn Pickles, Tony Britton, Timothy West, and Alan Badel. The script is credited to Kathleen Tynan, who initiated the project, and Arthur Hopcraft; additional writers were also involved. The production designer was Shirley Russell. A First Artists Production, for Warners. color (See When the Lights Go Down.)

L’Age d’or (1930)—The most anti-religious, most anti-bourgeois of all Luis Bunuel’s films and, naturally, the most scandalous. This episodic 60-minute film—surreal, dreamlike, and deliberately, pornographically blasphemous—was written by both Bunuel and Salvador Dali, who had collaborated two years before on Un Chien andalou. With Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Max Ernst, Pierre Prévert, and Jacques Brunius. In French. b & w

Age of Infidelity, see Death of a Cyclist

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)—There is a dreadful discrepancy between Michelangelo’s works and the words put in the mouth of Charlton Heston, who represents him here, and this picture—which is mostly about a prolonged wrangle between the sculptor and Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison), who keeps sweeping into the Sistine Chapel and barking, When will you make an end of it?—isn’t believable for an instant. It was a terrible fiasco for all concerned—the financiers as well as the artists. Carol Reed directed, from Philip Dunne’s lugubrious adaptation of the massive Irving Stone best-seller. With Diane Cilento and Harry Andrews. Released by 20th Century-Fox. color

Ah Wilderness! (1935)—This piece of ordinary-family-life Americana, centering on the sweet love pangs of adolescence, is so remote from Eugene O’Neill’s life and his other work that it’s something of a freak. O’Neill said that the play came to him at night, as a dream, but it seems to be a dream based on Booth Tarkington’s world. Eric Linden (who always looks as if he’s just about to cry) plays the mooning high-school-valedictorian hero in the era of choking starched collars; that cloying old fraud Lionel Barrymore is his father; Wallace Beery is his tippling uncle; Mickey Rooney is his little brother; and Aline MacMahon and Spring Byington wear neat shirtwaists and make themselves useful about the house. If it sounds Andy Hardyish, it is, and more than a little; in 1948, M-G-M tried to capitalize on the resemblance by starring Rooney in a musical version of the play, called Summer Holiday. The musical turned out to be an abomination, but this early version, directed by Clarence Brown, while not a world-shaker, and rather dim as entertainment, has at last a nice, quiet, comic sense of period. With Cecilia Parker, Charley Grapewin, Frank Albertson, Bonita Granville, and Eddie Nugent. The adaptation is by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich. M-G.M. b & w

L’Aigle a deux têtes, see The Eagle with Two Heads

Air Force (1943)—One of the contribution-to-the-war-effort specials—the biography of a Flying Fortress, a Boeing B-17 nicknamed Mary Ann, that heads out into the Pacific on the eve of Pearl Harbor and goes on to Wake Island and then takes part in the Coral Sea battle and, at the last, is about to participate in the raid on Tokyo. The film is one crisis after another, and the director, Howard Hawks, stages the air battles handsomely, but for the rest it helps if you’re interested in the factors involved in getting a bomber somewhere and back. This is one of the most impersonal of the Hawks films; it feels manufactured rather than made. The script by Dudley Nichols, with dialogue by William Faulkner, provided what is meant to be a microcosm of democracy in motion—a melting-pot crew; on board are John Garfield as aerial gunner Winocki, George Tobias as assistant crew chief Weinberg, Gig Young as co-pilot Williams, John Ridgely as Captain Quincan-non, Arthur Kennedy as bombardier Mc-Martins, Harry Carey as crew chief White, Charles Drake as the navigator, and James Brown as Rader, who replaces the pilot. Stereotypes all, though acted with professional conviction. The cast includes Edward S. Brophy, Faye Emerson, Dorothy Peterson, Addison Richards, Ann Doran, Stanley Ridges, Willard Robertson, and Moroni Olsen. Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Warners. b & w

Airplane! (1980)—If you were a teen-ager in the late 50s and read the movie lampoons in Mad and watched a lot of TV series shows and a lot of cheapie old movies on television and remembered parts of all of them, jumbled together into one dumb movie—that’s Airplane! It’s compiled like a jokebook. Except for a genuinely funny sequence that parodies Saturday Night Fever, it has the kind of pacing that goes with a laughtrack. But the three writer-directors (Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker) keep the gags coming pop pop pop, and the picture is over blessedly fast. With Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays as the young lovers, and Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; celebrities such as Howard Jarvis, Maureen McGovern, Jimmie Walker, and Ethel Merman turn up in bits. Based on the 1957 movie Zero Hour. Paramount. color (See Taking It All In.)

Airport (1970)—Arthur Hailey, the author of the novel on which it’s based, publicly explained his methods of work—the number of hours of research per character, the amount of time spent on plotting, etc. The result was the No. 1. best-seller—it sold over 4 million copies—and was bought by the producer Ross Hunter, who assembled a cast and crew with 23 Oscars among them. The baldness of all this might lull you into imagining that the result would be slick fun, but there’s no electricity in it, no smart talk, no flair. Written and directed by George Seaton, it’s bland entertainment of the old school: every stereotyped action is followed by a stereotyped reaction—cliches commenting on clichés. The actors play such roles as responsible, harried executive (Burt Lancaster), understanding mistress (Jean Seberg), spoiled, selfish wife (Dana Wynter), man who needs to care for someone (Dean Martin), and the someone (Jacqueline Bisset), with Helen Hayes doing her lovable-old-pixie act. The only performer who suggests a human being is Maureen Stapleton; she manages to bring some intensity out of herself—it certainly isn’t in the lines. The picture was a huge success. The cast includes Barry Nelson, George Kennedy, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Hale, and Jessie Royce Landis. Universal. color

Airport 1975 (1974)—Processed schlock. This could only have been designed as a TV movie and then blown up to cheapie-epic proportions. One can have a fairly good time laughing at it, but it doesn’t sit too well as a joke, because the people on the screen are being humiliated. Jack Smight directed, fumblingly; Karen Black and Charlton Heston do the most emoting. The cast includes George Kennedy, Myrna Loy, Linda Blair, Helen Reddy, Gloria Swanson, Dana Andrews, and Sid Caesar. Universal. color (See Reeling.)

Alex & the Gypsy (1976)—Off the beaten track, but that’s just about the only thing you can give it points for. Jack Lemmon is Alex, a cynical, loquacious bailbondsman, whose character is taken from the Stanley Elkin short novel The Bailbondsman, but the movie involves him with a gypsy (Genevieve Bujold) invented by the screenwriter, Lawrence B. Marcus. Lemmon is always up, and works desperately hard. And so Bujold, who’s meant to be the vibrant, tempestuous one, has to fight him for every bit of audience attention, and what should be a love story is a shouting match—ersatz D. H. Lawrence and ersatz Billy Wilder. Directed by John Korty; cinematography by Bill Butler. With James Woods, Robert Emhardt, and Gino Ardito. Produced by Richard Shepherd; released by 20th Century-Fox. color (See When the Lights Go Down.)

Alex in Wonderland (1970)—Paul Mazursky’s account of a movie director (Donald Sutherland), who has just made his first picture (Mazursky had just made his first, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), fretting and fantasizing over his next project. Alex’s fantasy life has no intensity—it’s a series of emotionally antiseptic reveries, staged like the big production numbers in a musical. And the film is so loose that one’s attention wanders. (It was a total commercial failure.) But Mazursky and his co-writer, Larry Tucker, have an affectionate, ambivalent way of observing the contradictions in how people live—especially in the domestic scenes of Alex and his wife (Ellen Burstyn) and their two daughters, and in the chaotic ambiance of the late-60s Hollywood, where bearded executives wear Indian headbands and consider themselves anti-Establishment. The film has very funny moments, and at least one satiric triumph: a long revue skit in which Alex goes to lunch with a manic producer (played by Mazursky). Sutherland isn’t bad—he has a soft-spoken way with dialogue and he’s wonderful when he leans back in fatuous satisfaction as Jeanne Moreau (who appears briefly as herself) sings to him, though he’s so cool he drifts away while you’re watching him. With Federico Fellini (as himself), Meg Mazursky, Glenna Sergent, and Viola Spolin. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. Produced by Tucker, for M-G-M. color (See Deeper into Movies.)

Alexander Nevsky (1938)—Sergei Eisenstein’s ponderously surging epic has a famous score by Prokofiev and a stunning battle on ice. When it’s great it’s very great, but there are long deadly stretches (which isn’t the case with Eisenstein’s other films). The plot has something to do with the 13th-century invasion of Russia by German knights; needless to say, the Russians drive the invaders out. The propaganda isn’t Communist but nationalist: the medieval story was used to warn Hitler to stay out. Photographed (as were all Eisenstein’s feature films) by Eduard Tisse; with Nikolai Cher-kassov as Prince Nevsky. In Russian. b & w

Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)—The twenty Irving Berlin songs are reason enough for seeing the film, but you have to be prepared for the persistent, mosquito-like irritation of the plot—from 1911 to 1939 two songwriters (Tyrone Power and Don Ameche) are rivals for the affections of Alice Faye, who smiles her overripe, slow smile. Her mellow voice is wonderful on the title song and you want to cheer her rendition of When That Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam’, but you may get to shuddering when she ponders the First World War (exhibited to us in three seconds of newsreel shots) and murmurs, It was all so futile, wasn’t it? This big, lavish 20th Century-Fox musical, directed by Henry King, has Ethel Merman, Jack Haley, Dixie Dunbar, Chick Chandler, Douglas Fowley, John Carradine, Helen Westley, Ruth Terry, Wally Vernon, and Jean Hersholt. Sets by Boris Leven; dances staged by Seymour Felix; the writers include Kathryn Scola, Lamar Trotti, Richard Sherman, and Irving Berlin. b & w

Alfie (1966)—Michael Caine gives us Alfie, the swaggering Cockney Don Juan, as he sees himself. Alfie doesn’t know his own limitations; that’s what makes it possible for him to charm so many birds. Bill Naughton adapted his own material (it had already been a radio play, a stage play, and a novel—in that order) for this British picture, directed by Lewis Gilbert. It’s still basically oral—Alfie addresses us, narrating his own story, and his sexual encounters are used as illustrations of his character. But Caine brings out the gusto in Naughton’s dialogue and despite the obvious weaknesses in the film (the gratuitous cinematic barroom brawl, the clumsy witnessing of the christening, the symbolism of the dog), he keeps the viewer absorbed in Alfie, the cold-hearted sexual hotshot, and his self-exculpatory line of reasoning. The supporting performers, who appear in a series of sketches and have highly individualized roles, include Julia Foster, Jane Asher, Vivien Merchant, Millicent Martin, Eleanor Bron, Shirley Anne Field, Shelley Winters, Denholm Elliott, Alfie Bass, Graham Stark, Murray Melvin, and Sydney Tafler. The score is by Sonny Rollins. color

Alfredo Alfredo (1973)—Dubbed with a mellifluous Italian voice, Dustin Hoffman gives a warm and friendly performance as a shy young Italian bank clerk, and the novelty of seeing him without his own frightened, choked-up voice adds an extra dimension to this Pietro Germi comedy. Germi’s method pits individuals—heaping collections of foibles—against the rigid Italian legal system, with its irrational laws governing marriage, divorce, and cohabitation. But the comic tone is a bit used; everything Germi does here he has done before, and better (especially in Divorce—Italian Style). Stefania Sandrelli plays the flighty, extravagantly romantic girl Alfredo marries; his bride’s exquisite features give her a look of mystery, but she’s an imbecile sphinx, mysterious yet dumb as a cow. The early scenes of her imperiousness and her enslavement of the deliriously impressed Alfredo are high slapstick. But since this character’s comedy is all based on the one gag of her insatiability, she becomes as wearying to us as to the exhausted Alfredo. After the first third, the picture sags under a load of uninspired, forced gaiety. It has some beautiful gags, though. Carla Gravina plays the modern independent working woman who liberates Alfredo. Written by Leo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Tullio Pinelli, and the director. In Italian. color (See Reeling.)

Algiers (1938)—An entertaining piece of kitsch, featuring a torrid romance between Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, making her American film début. Directed by John Cromwell, it’s a remake of the infinitely superior French film, Pépé le Moko, directed by Julien Duvivier—and so close a remake that many of the original sequences are followed shot by shot. Yet this version is pure Hollywood, sacrificing everything to glamour, and the heavy makeup and studio lighting make it all seem so artificial one can get giggly. In the role that Jean Gabin made famous, Boyer (who may be an even greater actor than Gabin) is reduced to giving so many passionate, hot glances at the inhumanly beautiful Lamarr that he almost becomes a self-caricature. He plays Pepe, the French crook who is safe in the Casbah, where he lives like a lord, but who longs for Paris. And Lamarr, with her slurry German-English, plays a Parisienne visiting Algiers. Sigrid Gurie is the native girl in love with Pépé, Joseph Calleia slinks about corners as the suave detective, and Gene Lockhart is the rotten squealer. With Johnny Downs, Alan Hale. Cinematography by James Wong Howe; adaptation by John Howard Lawson, with additional dialogue by James M. Cain. (A 1948 remake, Casbah, with Tony Martin as a singing Pépé, tried for—but missed—the heat and glamour.) A Walter Wanger Production; released by United Artists. b & w

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944)—Maria Montez and Jon Hall in a follow-up to Arabian Nights, a picture of such dreamy fatuousness that Universal made a bundle out of it. This time, plump-cheeked, slit-eyed Turhan Bey is the camp treat. With Andy Devine and Fortunio Bonanova. Directed by Arthur Lubin. color

Alice Adams (1935)—Katharine Hepburn, with her young, beautiful angularity and her faintly absurd Bryn Mawr accent, is superbly cast as Booth Tarkington’s eager, desperate, small-town social climber. Her Alice is one of the few authentic American movie heroines. George Stevens directed with such a fine sense of detail and milieu that the small-town nagging-family atmosphere is nerve-rackingly accurate and funny. Alice is cursed with a pushing mother (Ann Shoemaker), an infantile father (Fred Stone), and a vulgar brother (Frank Albertson). The picture is cursed only by a fake happy ending: Alice gets what the movie companies considered a proper Prince Charming for her—Fred MacMurray, as a wealthy young man. Even with this flaw, it’s a classic, and Hepburn gives one of her two or three finest performances—rivalled, perhaps, only by her work in Little Women and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. With Hattie McDaniel, Evelyn Venable, and Hedda Hopper as a rich bitch. (A 1923 silent version, with Florence Vidor, had a more realistic ending.) R K O. b & w

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1975)—Ellen Burstyn stars in this Martin Scorsese comedy, from an original script by Robert Getchell, about a 35-year-old widow who sets out with her young son to make a new life. Full of funny malice and breakneck vitality, it’s absorbing and intelligent even when the issues it raises get all fouled up. With Harvey Keitel, Kris Kristofferson, Valerie Curtin, Lelia Goldoni, Lane Bradbury, Diane Ladd, Jodie Foster, and, as the son, wire-drawn little Alfred Lutter, who has crack comedy timing. Warners. color (See Reeling.)

Alice in Wonderland (1933)—Charmless, wooden version, with Paramount’s most famous stars barely recognizable—and then only by their voices, since they appear in huge false heads. And though it’s fun to recognize them that way, those voices don’t do much for the Lewis Carroll lines. The film was lavishly produced, with great care given to the sets and costumes and makeup, but the spirit is missing. Charlotte Henry plays Alice (with plucked eyebrows), Cary Grant is the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper is the White Knight, Louise Fazenda is the White Queen, Richard Arlen is the Cheshire Cat, Ned Sparks is the Caterpillar, Jack Oakie is Tweedledum, and Alison Skipworth is the Duchess. Perhaps the best remembered, however, are W. C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen, Sterling Holloway as the Frog, and Baby Le Roy as the Joker. Norman McLeod directed; the text, by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and William Cameron Menzies, includes material from Through the Looking Glass. b & w

Aliens (1986)—An inflated sci-fi action-horror film, this sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien is more mechanical than the first film—more addicted to advanced weaponry and military hardware. The movie is really a combat picture set in the future, in space. The writer-director James Cameron pits a platoon of United States Marines (ethnically assorted, of course) against a family of extraterrestrial monsters—a queen and her slimy brood. He does it in an energetic, systematic, relentless way, with an action director’s gusto, and a shortage of imagination. The imagery has a fair amount of graphic power, but there’s too much claustrophobic blue-green dankness. As Warrant Officer Ripley, the only human survivor of the spaceship that voyaged forth in the earlier picture, Sigourney Weaver seems to take over by natural authority and her strength as an actress. She gives the movie a presence, and Cameron toys with the sex-role reversal by turning the final confrontation with the queen into the Battle of the Big Mamas. But at 2 hours and 17 minutes this is just a very big Boo! movie, with bum dialogue. With Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez the bodybuilder, and Carrie Henn as the wraithlike little girl, Newt, who is out there in space to arouse Ripley’s maternal instinct. Produced by Gale Anne Hurd, for 20th Century-Fox. color (See Hooked.)

All About Eve (1950)—Ersatz art of a very high grade, and one of the most enjoyable movies ever made. A young aspiring actress, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), intrigues to take the place of an aging star, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), on stage and in bed, and the battle is fought with tooth, claw, and a battery of epigrams. The synthetic has qualities of its own—glib, overexplicit, self-important, the You’re sneaky and corrupt but so am I—We belong to each other darling style of writing. The scriptwriter-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s bad taste, exhibited with verve, is more fun than careful, mousy, dehydrated good taste. His nonsense about theatre is saved by one performance that is the real thing: Bette Davis is at her most instinctive and assured. Her actress—vain, scared, a woman who goes too far in her reactions and emotions—makes the whole thing come alive (though it’s hard to believe Anne Baxter could ever be a threat to Bette Davis). With George Sanders (as the critic Addison De Witt), Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Thelma Ritter, Gregory Ratoff, Hugh Marlowe, Barbara Bates, Walter Hampden, and Marilyn Monroe, who has one of her best early roles. Based on a short story and radio play by Mary Orr. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Sanders), Costume Design (Edith Head, Charles Le Maire), Sound Recording. 20th Century-Fox. b & w

The All-American Boy (1973)—Jon Voight is a prizefighter suffering from a type of working-class alienation that is indistinguishable from bellyache. He mopes through the picture looking puffy, like a rain cloud about to spritz. Charles Eastman wrote and directed this disgracefully condescending view of America as a wasteland populated by grotesques, stupes, and sons of bitches; they are incapable of love and have false values—and to prove it Eastman sets Voight to walking the Antonioni walk. This is probably the only movie on record in which you can watch boxers working out in a gym while you hear a Gregorian chant. With Carol Androsky, Art Metrano, E. J. Peaker, Anne Archer, Ned Glass, Harry Northup, Rosalind Cash, Jeanne Cooper, and Jaye P. Morgan. Warners. color

All Fall Down (1962)—Adapted by William Inge from a James Leo Herlihy novel, this ambitious and elaborately staged John Frankenheimer film is set deep in the Inge tern-tory of homespun and gothic—that strange area of nostalgic Americana where the familiar is the Freudian grotesque. It’s also a peculiar kind of fantasy, in which hideous, lecherous women (schoolteachers seem to be the worst offenders) paw handsome young men, and the one girl who might seem attractive (played by Eva Marie Saint) disqualifies herself by becoming pathetically pregnant. As the mother, Angela Lansbury at times steps free of the howling caricature she’s playing and becomes extraordinarily moving. But the film turns out to be a portrait of the writer as an adolescent (Brandon deWilde plays the part) who grows up—matures—when he learns that the older brother he idolizes (Warren Beatty) is an empty wreck. Does anybody really grow up the way this boy grows up? He learns the truth, squares his shoulders, and walks out into the bright sunlight, as Alex North’s music rises and swells in victory. How many movies have pulled this damned visual homily on us, this synthetic growing-into-a-man, as if it happened all at once and forever? Suggested party game: ask your friends to tell about the summer they grew up. The one who tells the best lie has a promising career ahead as a Hollywood screenwriter. With Karl Malden, Barbara Baxley, and Madame Spivy; cinematography by Lionel Lindon. Produced by John Houseman, for M-G-M. b & w

All My Sons (1948)—Edward G. Robinson is the money-hungry industrialist who ships a batch of defective airplane-engine cylinders to the Air Force, blames his partner for the crime, and causes one of his sons, an aviator, to commit suicide out of shame. Another son, Burt Lancaster, newly returned from the war, refuses to believe in his father’s guilt until overwhelmed by incriminating facts, whereupon he tries to kill the old man. Meanwhile Lancaster has fallen in love with the partner’s daughter (Louisa Horton), and has also had a soggy time of it at home, owing to the iron refusal of his mother (Mady Christians) to believe in the death of his aviator brother. Arthur Miller conceived this idea-ridden melodrama, and Irving Reis directed it. Surprisingly, it does work up some energy, but by then you have to be a little saintly to care. With Howard Duff and

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Ce que les gens pensent de 5001 Nights at the Movies

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  • (5/5)
    The trick with reading any review of anything such as a play, a movie, a record or any art or exhibition is to know the reviewer. In San Diego we've had the same movie reviewer, Duncan Shepard, for the San Diego Reader for two or three decades.
  • (4/5)
    Scathing, hilarious and completely unpredictable. I first happened upon Pauline Kael in a film appreciation class which was taught by a muppet-like old man; he adored her to pieces and photocopied a few pages of this book for us to read. I never know what she'll say about a movie. For example, the first lines of her review of Casablanca:"Ingrid Bergman became a popular favorite when Humphrey Bogart, as Rick, the most famous saloonkeeper in screen history, treated her like a whore. Although their romance was certified by a collection of Academy Awards, they didn't press their luck and never appeared together again."Glorious! Love her or hate her, sing her praises or disagree with every word she writes, you won't find Kael's reviews dull.