The Triple Echo
The action of the film is as simple as a music hall sketch, yet it has confounded reviewers since the very first preview. Variety as much as admitted it.
A soldier gone over the hill to be with his mistress gets dolled up by her as sister Jill, only to be found out by a tank sergeant turned military cop.
This is the realm of Polanski’s Cul-de-sac and The Tenant. Such an expert analysis is entirely conducted within rural confines (farm, village shop, army base) in wartime Britain. The script has remarkable vigor, the performances are more than equal to it, and the direction is perfect.
This magnificent corker springs, in a full-dress television production of the play with its “two islands and a promontory”, hinging on Olivier’s Harry Kane as Watson, all the way from Roy William Neill’s Dressed to Kill anagrammatically indicating la Piozzi and the Great Cham.
It opens with a walk among the best across the street and to the door, followed at some distance by a model for Modigliani.
The spectacular ease with which this is built up out of splendid characterizations like Dustin Hoffman’s journalist, a refined American from the soles of his shoes to his modestly tended hair, as the setting for a furiously detailed study of the criminal mind in felo de se, is the real drama.
Most passionate, most lovely, most wonderful in the harmonies delicately generated between Vanessa Redgrave as a betrayed woman and Hoffman as a man of the world.
The structure is worthy of note as describing a shock to the system in revelatory terms. A Chicago Sun-Times columnist (John Belushi) uncovering corruption in an alderman (Val Avery) is set upon by goons in police uniforms, his editor (Allen Goorwitz) sends him to the Rocky Mountains to interview an ornithologist (Blair Brown) specializing in eagles, with a side-interest in a local mountain man who is a former pro football player fleeing the system.
The corruption case finally hinges on the murder of an informant, and the columnist marries the ornithologist. Continental Divide played in New York as “sweetly screwball”, and even at the Sun-Times was thought to be a romantic comedy with journalism as a “backdrop”. It makes you understand why some people just don’t even bother.
The enchanting structure of parallel “tribes” seems to have been derived, as it were, from an enchanting tale in Charles F. Lummis’s Pueblo Indian Folk-Stories, concerning the childhood of a great hero who is mocked by a tribe of witches. Anyway, this is said to be based on historical accounts, like most legends.
The acting is uncommonly pleasant, given the nature of these events. The last scene is remarkably like the ending of Charles Bail’s Black Samson, also Schlöndorff’s A Gathering of Old Men.
Apted achieves a stunning tour de force in a long night exterior on the plateau, which vast as it is looks as if it were illuminated from a single light source, the moon being intended, and in fact looks exactly as if it were filmed on the moon entirely.
When President Reagan declared “Morning in America”, certain things fell by the wayside in the Whole New World that was created, everyone was born yesterday by definition, there is no other way to explain Maslin’s review, in which the central premise of Extreme Measures is somehow construed as taking it “off the rails”, or Ebert’s, with its sad and ultimate doubt over what is unequivocally the moral, to say nothing of countless subtle observations arising necessarily from it.
Apted begins with a night helicopter shot of New York City, a comforting image and the preface to many a thriller, then plummets the camera down all the way to the street. The altitudinous view not to be accommodated is shortly revealed to be that of Yuppiedom in the ER, and this is where the great stylistic pivot of the whole film occurs, derived as it is from Coma, but tellingly mirrored in the awakening of an insular surgeon.
The cocaine condos look down on a sea of lost men (as they were known in the Thirties) with, consciously or not, a point of view painstakingly analyzed here as the backward utilitarianism of Nazidom.
That’s a serious position, but in view of the critical outlook in New York and Chicago, presumably the response was to be expected, as without it what need for Extreme Measures, a physician to the sick? And the truth of what it tells is moreover borne out in every word of critique, one of its many advantages over inordinate composition by the military-industrial-entertainment complex or conglomerate—and yet, it’s as simple as the one about Gautama’s enlightenment, a very ancient story—or maybe it’s a joke, in the end, on Yuppies as Yippies or hippies who didn’t “drop out” but, as it were, “fell in”.
The World Is Not Enough
Col cuoio d’asino, Q’s replacement demonstrates a global refuge from stark avalanche. King’s daughter unthrones him with piss-money to pipe caviar “right outta ya house”, L’Or Noir it’s called, The Big Sleep’s casino. L’Immortelle, Istanbul, delenda est.
Three architectural wonders of the postmodern world light the way, thematically speaking, the Bilbao Guggenheim (with Koons’ toy dog), MI6 and the Millennium Dome. The Directors Guild of America at about this time struck D.W. Griffith’s name from the award given to the most illustrious among its storied members.
Bond’s BMW, on the other hand, is cut in half along its length. The title is to be sure a family motto, the Latin phrase was earlier given by Peter Hunt (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Diamonds Are Forever is in the résumé.
This is quite in the run of the BBC, has a thriller ending, historical incidents, a love theme from L’Avventura, and is set at Bletchley Park.
Tom Stoppard, Shirley Russell, John Barry and of course Apted have signed it (Lorne Michaels and Mick Jagger are the producers). The leading man’s resemblance to Tom Courtenay is quite striking.
The point of this message to Garcia is quite the same as Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon, but who would believe it?
Very arcane symbolism (the proffered rose, surveillance, etc.) prevails at certain junctures, set off by precise direction at a few points. The key to understanding the technique is in Apted’s superb direction of his child actress, and a great virtuosity revealed in a bit of editing during the car chase.
There is a brush with Jehovah prophesying to the serpent, which only points more decidedly toward the switcheroo at the diner. There is a pretty decisive analysis throughout, which only points to a minuteman readiness. It’s all rather abstruse, being couched in a rather dull thriller format enlivened by quick handling here and there, though it can’t be taken at face value.
This is a case where the surface handling is openly contemptuous of any harboring of plot per se, and all the critics or very nearly could not see past it, of course. To be fair, it’s a film that dawns on you after you’ve gone to press, deadlines being what they are and the stylistic presentation as off-putting as it is.
There is an image that points this up par excellence. The brutal husband has knocked the wife down in the last scene, and lifts his foot over her, preparing to kick. Apted introduces a clumsy flashback to the premonitory instructions from her martial arts instructor against just such an eventuality, but the purpose or anyway the effect of it is merely to draw the cinematic interest away from the scene in itself and isolate the image of the raised boot over the supine woman.