The Luck of Ginger Coffey

The Irishman in Canada, “this is Canada’s century!”

Benjamin Franklin’s pressroom.

Good, bad, indifferent luck. Hitler the editor makes him a proofreader.

A theory of newspapers.

As the song has it, “I’m a dreamer, Montreal...” (Expo 67 several winters away).

A lonely jog around the gym floor at the YM goes into Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with Khachaturian behind it.

The wife and daughter are for Ireland. “You were too selfish to give God or anyone else the time of day,” he hears.

He takes the diaper job to keep the girl, working day and night.

Washing machines, disposable diapers, rent-a-crib” he comes up with.

Three syllables, di-a-per.

“You don’t know what love is,” he hears.

“I don’t know a reporter in this province you couldn’t buy for twenty bucks in a plain envelope,” he hears.

He perseveres, against the temptation of an office and a typist and a bit more money for rent-a-crib.

The would-be cub on the Tribune gets the bum’s rush, “good riddance,” he says.

“Give me liberty, to hell with Hitler,” he hears. The police arrest him for taking the wee-wee.

“I couldn’t look after my wife and the child,” he testifies.

As Beckett says, “la vie lui enfin sourire...”

“As a newspaperman...” wrote Bosley Crowther of the New York Times.

“Well-turned-out” (Variety).

“Compellingly probing” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).

Halliwell’s Film Guide records it as “mildly interesting”.

 

 

A Fine Madness

Poetry, that is. The poet who is must find a chord of response, the obstacles are many.

In the space age he works for Athena Carpet Cleaners. Cultured ladies want no part of him. Dr. Gachet is still around.

Shelley was sent down, Pound was locked up, he points out.

Samson Shillitoe, poet of hellish bores and boring hells, Hellebore (128 copies sold).

He cannot be reckoned, the gift is not his own.

 

The Flim-Flam Man

Knavery is the scourge to folly, a course of education that enlightens one as to the meannesses and stupidities that are the human character, among other things.

It brings the fool to wisdom, in other words, and there he stays, which is the title character’s proud boast.

Kershner’s film is at the heart of George Roy Hill’s The Sting and, by way of Guy Hamilton’s Live and Let Die, also Hal Needham’s Smokey and the Bandit.

“An outstanding comedy,” Variety said, “socko comedy-dramatic direction”.

Ebert thought Harry Morgan ought to have had the role.

Tom Milne of Time Out Film Guide found it “mainly a matter of mild charm and much cracker-barrel philosophy”.

 

Spys

The essential action is to give a Russian defector back, all he wants is money and Linda Lovelace, he’s a gymnast, not a scientist or even a writer, also to return a list of Soviet agents in China.

Heavy-handedness on the British side puts two CIA agents in jeopardy from their own as well as the Russians, French anarchists played for suckers are also a factor, the Chinese have the list in the end, the anarchists are kaput, the two American agents saunter off singing.

Kershner’s virtuosity is something to behold, nevertheless the plot has confused more than one critic.

“The script is tasteless, Irvin Kershner’s direction is futile, and the whole effort”, says Variety, “comes across as vulgar, offensive and tawdry.”

 

Raid on Entebbe

The Israeli military operation to recover Air France passengers from Tel Aviv hijacked and threatened with death by Palestinians.

Amin has a role to play, he liberated all but the Jews, “shalom” (Time Out Film Guide says, “avoiding caricature... a notably intelligent and charismatic impersonation”).

 

Eyes of Laura Mars

Cocteau’s “death in action”, then “Borges y yo”, finally the critic-philistine out of Marnie.

The defense of photography, a very mysterious art, devalued by diffusion and mass allure, conveying something.

 

Never Say Never Again

A gloss on Thunderball, with the star and the director of A Fine Madness. The screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. transposes the original poetically (like Bond gazing underwater through a glass-bottom bucket), with a surreal or magic lantern effect. So, the game of chemin de fer is now a shocking game of world warfare. Largo does not simply torture the girl, he consigns her to an Arab slave market. The undersea cavern where Bond is temporarily stranded has the look of an Assyrian temple. Bond does not merely hoist Fiona’s petard, he blows her up.

 

Robocop 2

Robocop 2 is also the name of OCP’s latest model, which does battle with its namesake and predecessor, thoroughly befooling the critics against this more than brilliant film.

Kershner sacrifices the impressionistic poesy of Verhoeven (akin to the reincarnations in Mailer’s novel, Ancient Evenings) for sharp, quick, perfectly clear images that are nevertheless complex. This is a very natural progression, as well as a necessary one, as Kershner demonstrates.

In place of the subjectivity that gave Robocop its drama in one sense, Kershner presents a more complete objectivity, so that there is no mistaking Robocop 2 for a meditation or a dithyramb. The critical response shows unequivocally that the original film was not comprehended at all, and when the critics saw what really was intended, they rejected it. Unless, that is, the prevailing rule held true that a film must capture the critics’ attention in fifteen minutes or be lost to their understanding without recourse.

Kershner’s chase scene opens the film as a measure of the plot, but it’s nothing to what follows. Here you may see a miscalculation as far as the critics are concerned, if you like.

The main dispositions of Robocop 2 are a historical layout of the city in collapse amid the rise of the drug trade, their attempted coalescence, and then the Management Revolution. Democracy is replaced by stock options, the city itself is replaced—OCP’s New Detroit has precisely the skyline of Boston or a hundred other American cities that have finally succumbed to the New Order (Los Angeles has its own plan on the table, called “The Ten-Minute Diamond Plan”, possibly inspired by the ending of Miracle Mile), and location details highlight the resemblance to Speer’s antimodernity.

That is a plain fact. So much, then, for the “mindless script” Ebert complains of. Everyone misunderstands a film from time to time, but where is the professional film critic aware of Robocop 2’s acuity? The real beauty of its analysis is doubtless in seeing the New Order as the old writ large, “run like a business,” but observe the nicety of its renderings, the juvenile drug lord, the feeble and duplicitous mayor, and above all its villainess, a middle-management type with a mind toward “what it takes” to settle matters, something more than Robocop, namely Robocop 2.

The direction is more than savvy, fully conversant with its science-fiction and horror models, fast-paced and brimming with action. Each revelation of the disaster announced in the script appears in its own setting, ensconced altogether like the jewels they are, and capped at the end by Robocop putting a socket wrench to his own head for a slight adjustment as he says, “we’re only human.”

As a general thing, Kershner’s films have at least one thing in common, there’s far more to be said of them, far more on the screen, than fits comfortably into a few columns of type, even if the writer has a cool sense of the factors at work. Which is to say, there is a uniquely cinematic quality in his work that presents various equations joined together by, what, film grammar? Notice how the opening chase could pertain to a different film style, or how closely Phil Tippett has modeled his animations on Ray Harryhausen. Everywhere, the film is put together with inspiration, which gives a sense of consciousness and interrelation amongst its component aspects. It’s rare to find a film so utterly comfortable in its expression of a difficult situation, and so perfectly inhabiting the traditionally ignored area of the numerical sequel. For these reasons, and a hundred more (the performances, Leonard Rosenman’s score, etc.), no relation exists between Robocop 2 and its critics. They shoulda stood in bed (and maybe they did).