Revisiting Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie-and-Clyde-Featured

“This here’s Miss Bonnie Parker and I’m Clyde Barrow. We rob Banks!” – Warren Beatty

   The first time I saw Arthur Penn’s now iconic Bonnie and Clyde was soon after its release in 1967. It was at a Manhattan theater and the audience, including me, was at times unsure how to respond to what we saw on the screen. In the language of the sixties – it was mind blowing! New York Times critic Bosley Crowther didn’t think so. When his scalding review came out, there was no doubt where he stood. He disliked the film immensely. He wrote calling it in part, “a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cut-ups in Thoroughly Modern Millie.” In fairness, Crowther wasn’t the only critic of the day to knock the film. The studio faced with the negative reviews pulled the film from circulation. Continue reading

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Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) Irvin Kershner

eyes3Some movies, well actually a lot movies, are flawed, but you like them anyway. There are reasons that even though you know the movie doesn’t work, it connects with you. When Eyes of Laura Mars came out in 1978 I was excited. On paper it had a lot going for it; a script by the then hot and upcoming John Carpenter, there was Faye Dunaway, still hot with recent hits like Chinatown, Network and Three Days of the Condor, just behind her, and most personally  for myself, the main character was a photographer.  Continue reading

Three Days of the Condor (1975) Sydney Pollack

 

Sydney Pollack’s 1975 paranoid thriller still holds up more than thirty five years later and is as relevant today as it was then. Why? A three letter word… OIL.  Redford, coolly dressed in his Bobby best, denim jeans and shirt, is a CIA agent known as Turner, code name Condor. Turner is not your typical CIA movie screen secret agent; you see what Turner and his fellow agents, working out of a brown stone building, do is read. They read everything, books, magazines, newspapers in all languages searching, highlighting anything that may contains some kind of secret code or messages passing it on to another office in Washington. So why then on one cold rainy December day do two gunmen sneak their way into the building and kill everyone inside. Turner managed to escape the massacre when he went out to the local deli to pick up lunch for that day (it was his turn, luckily). 

When Turner calls in the shooting and wants to come in from the cold the situation turns more sinister as he discovers there is a rouge CIA unit within the CIA and you can trust no one. Turner is out there alone, well almost alone except for a  lonely and somewhat dowdy photographer Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway).  The free lance assassins for hire are led by Max Von Sydow who  will change sides or targets on the flip of a coin or rather the signing of a paycheck.

I originally watched this film upon its first release and liked it quite a bit. I hesitated in watching it again now because I thought the film would be dated but soon as I heard the word OIL and invading the Middle East, I lost any uncertainty that I may have had. Redford was at the top of his superstar status in these years and he plays it to the hilt. Faye Dunaway is wasted in a role that could have been played by a lesser talent. She has one decent scene but other than that her character is a prop for Redford and remains in the background for much of the film. 

The paranoid thriller fit the times with the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War and of course a few years earlier the assassination of JFK but it is still is a relevant topic today.  “Paranoia runs deep”, as the line from the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth” says and Hollywood is always ready to follow trends. “All the President’s Men”, “The Parallax View” were also released during this same period. More recently, we have had “Conspiracy Theory” and “Michael Clayton.”  In “Three Days of the Condor” the paranoia is there right up to the last frame of the film where it is even hinted that the news media, in this case The New York Times, can be under the control of the CIA.

One of the more unsettling aspects of watching this film since 9/11 are the scenes that take place inside the World Trade Center ( One World Trade Center- North Tower  and at 7 World Trade Center). From my understanding this is only film to ever shoot inside One World Trade Center.

The Arrangement (1969) Elia Kazan

The Arrangement poster

“The Arrangement” opened to mostly terrible reviews in  November of 1969. Vincent Canby of the New York Times said, “The Arrangement” is Elia Kazan’s most romantic movie. It may also be his worst…”  Later on Canby in the same review he says,  “The Arrangement” reeks with slightly absurd movie chic but, unlike Douglas Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” or Vincente Minnelli’s “Two Weeks in Another Town,” it’s not only not much fun, but it’s a mess of borrowed styles.”  Harsh words and while I am not going to claim that “The Arrangement” is a lost masterpiece or even a satisfying film that has grown better with time, the film is not the mess Mr. Canby seemed to think it was.

The Arrangement1    Based on Kazan’s successful novel (it was on the New York Times bestseller list for 37 weeks)  which ran over 500 pages and had to be condensed down to a film slightly over two hours. It is the story of Evangelos Arness, a man who spent his life selling out, he even changed his name to Eddie Anderson. Eddie is a successful advertising executive  married to Florence (Deborah Kerr), they live in a large house with servants. The marriage is affable, they seem to have it all, she seems content, Eddie we find out is not.

The Arrangement still    On his way to work Eddie cracks up, both figuratively and literally when he lets go of the wheel of his sports car and crashes into a truck in the next lane. Not able to not willing to speak he remains silent during his recovery drifting in and out of painful recollections of his childhood with a father who intimidated and dominated him and his mother. These memories are intermixed with visions of his affair with Gwen (Faye Dunaway), a sexy bright independent office associate who finds it painful that Eddie has sold out and how much he must hurt him to imagine what he could have been.

When Eddie physically recovers, his sanity is still in question. His father is taken ill, Eddie goes to New York to stay with the dying man but their time together only brings back the memories of his anguished childhood. He meets up with Gwen, who now has a child, she claims to not know who the father is. Gwen is living with another man, Charles, who asks nothing from her, even when she has affairs with other men, he is there for her.

The Arrangement lc2   Florence comes to New York, only to find Eddie back with Gwen (she literally finds them in bed together). Convinced that he is still unbalanced she make arrangements with the way too friendly family lawyer, Arthur (Hume Cronyn) to have him hospitalized. Eddie, who after a lifetime of being what everyone else wants only wants to be himself even if that means staying in a mental hospital. Gwen comes to get him out and they agree to make another go at a life together. When his father dies, at the cemetery Eddie is there with Gwen, Florence stands close to the family lawyer, her arm in his. They all seem to be okay with the arrangement.

Kazan wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Eddie, but Brando was reluctant to take on the role. Weather it was a fear of working with the man he did some of his greatest work with or it was too soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, which Brando claimed, he turned Kazan down.  The alternative choice was Kirk Douglas, which probably hurt the film. Nothing against Douglas but Brando would have brought a sensitivity and depth that Douglas lacks. Faye Dunaway, who first worked with Kazan in a Lincoln Center production of Arthur Miller’s “After the Fall”, gives a perfectly pitched  performance as Gwen, a woman working in a man’s world, intelligent enough to rebel with wit and strength. She seems to have little respect for the men she worked with or for.

The Arrangement lc1  A criticism at the time of its release is the film was too choppy and Kazan could not find the key to slim down the massive book into a two hour cohesive film. What works for me is Dunaway’s performance, and by the way, she never looked better, plus a couple of other interesting scenes, one between Eddie and Florence at the boathouse and the scenes with Eddie and his father, Sam. “The Arrangement” is a hard film to recommend. It is slow in spots and I’ m sure some will find it disjointed and dull but if you look, you still see Kazan’s touch, the outsiders, in both Eddie and Gwen, a theme that he has used over the course of his brilliant career.