Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ebert's Best: 1971


1. The Last Picture Show
2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
3. Claire's Knee
4. The French Connection
5. Sunday, Bloody Sunday
6. Taking Off
7. Carnal Knowledge
8. Tristana
9. Goin' Down The Road
10. Bed and Board

Of the four I've seen, Goin' Down The Road is the most familiar -- and anyone who lived in 70s small-town Canada could tell you why. Cable television was a privilege reserved for people in fancy-pants cities. With a decent antenna on our roof we could pick up four channels (including the all-French one); with a pair of rabbit ears, we could get two, maybe three. The only channel we received with any clarity was the Corp., and if they weren't broadcasting Hockey Night In Canada, they were showing Goin' Down The Road. When SCTV cooked up and served Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice (Part 1, Part 2), you can be sure the nation laughed -- with relief. The CBC also put GDTR on hiatus. When I caught up with it ten years later, I was surprised to see how affecting it actually was. If you can't Netflix this, then I suppose you could settle for The Last Picture Show (sheesh -- what a downer year!).

I think Carnal Knowledge is a strange and very uneven movie. The sexual tension in the early scenes between Jack Nicholson and Candice Bergen is as finely tuned as any of the famous Bogey/Bacall exchanges, and communicates precisely that sickly thrill that takes over two people who realize they are about to do something very, very bad. But the Bogey/Bacall movies were finally about people rediscovering and holding true to a standard, while this movie is about establishing hurtful behavior as a personal norm. Guess which of these templates makes for the sort of movie you'd like to see again and again?

These days, when The French Connection is referred to it's for the car-chase. A revolutionary use of storyboarding, stunts and editing to be sure, but let me just evoke the "ripple effect" clause: if that's all this film is going to be remembered for, I'd say we've left the grocery store with the wrong parcel of goodies. This flick has several memorable "movie moments", but the best of them is Popeye Doyle's distracted indifference when Cloudy tells him he's just blown away another cop. When I first saw that, it took me a while to realize that my point of view had become completely in sync with Popeye's. Now that's a movie moment, and you ain't gonna pull it off with just a car-chase!


Andrew said...

It's been a while since I've seen any of the movies, but you're right: The French Connection should be remembered for much more than a car chase. (Besides, Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen and out a couple of years before this movie, featured the mother of all car chases that no doubt influenced all that came after it.) For me, it was the gritty cinematography of it all -- more a documentary style than a slick moviehouse production.

Carnal Knowledge has to be Art Garfunkel's best movie. I agree that it was an unsteady film, a bit meandering and never quite fulfilling.


ジョエル said...

That scene at the end when Gene Hackman shot the other cop and didn't care at all really shocked me when I first saw it. I wasn't even sure it had really happened and had to rewind and watch it again.

The car chase wasn't all I thought it would be. Perhaps the problem of high expectations. I had heard so much about the infamous car chase scene, I was really expecting something spectacular, but its nothing by todays standards.

Whisky Prajer said...

AC - you're absolutely right about Bullitt getting the whole car chase thing going. Of course, it also got American men to wear turtlenecks to work. My wife likes me in a turtleneck, so I won't complain.

ジョエル - yeah, there's not much to FC's chase when you set it alongside (choke) Gone In 60 Seconds, or (much better) The Road Warrior.

DarkoV said...

Andrew, I disagree with you as regards Art Garfunkel's best movie being Carnal Knowledge. I state firmly that it is Catch-22 that exhibits his talents the best. Why? His scenes in Catch-22 are even shorter.

WP, I agree with you about t-necks and Bullitt. It turned that hoity-toity effete apre ski-wear into clothing for smoldering silent guys who bit their lips before slugging/shooting/kissing you. I'm typing this as I sit here smoldering and t-necked myself.

paul bowman said...

Geez Darkov — cracking up here!

My own neck's always been too scrawny for the turtlenecks. Don't smolder convincingly either — or slug/shoot/kiss, for that matter. A pity.

DarkoV said...

Hold On!
Vanishing Poiont came out in 1971 as well. While i would not call it a great movie, I would call it the Greatest Car Chase movie since the whold film is basically one very long (but not boring!) car chase. Every guy with a gram of testosterone wanted a Dodge Challenger after seeing this film. ANd if they didn't have a gram I'm sure they could borrow a gram or two from some of the women that I remember at this movie. Leather pants were not an option, they were de rigeur.

Vroom! Vroom!

Paul B., there is no neck so scrawny a T-neck cannot be found for. Hell, I've seen Steve Buscemi in turtlenecks (can't seem to find an image now..isn't that always the case).
So, self-viewed as scrawny or not, there's a turteleneck for you.

paul bowman said...

DV — Now that you mention it I seem also to have some picture in memory of Buscemi in a turtleneck (Fargo maybe?) — pretty convincing on the physiological question at least. But then, if I wanna come off as McQueen-like, and the women are seeing Buscemi instead ....

Whisky Prajer said...

Hey, women like Buscemi, too.