Stripes has generally been regarded as funny or not, depending on the existence of your sense of humor. It remained for Eastwood to do the first really exhaustive analysis as Heartbreak Ridge, and that’s another way of cutting the critics’ cake for them, as Eliot would say.
With the exception of Ebert, no-one in that honorable profession seems even to have heard of Private Buckaroo, Jumping Jacks, or The D.I., which brings to mind the airy New York Times comment on Marlon Brando in The Freshman, “an unexpectedly deft comic actor”.
It must have seemed a thing impossibly absurd, at face value, to do a full-scale study of Hitchcock after Donen, so Reitman works with Donen in mind. Part of the fun in Legal Eagles (a working title left unchanged) is in analyzing the treatment given to scenes from The 39 Steps, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, Marnie, Frenzy, or Family Plot (with material from Arabesque and Charade added on).
There’s no time for style, only the constructive working apparatus in play, nevertheless when Logan’s daughter announces her trip to California, Reitman catches a picture of a train on the wall just behind her, but more typically the complex structure finds Debra Winger typing in this scene like Barbara Bel Geddes at her drawing table in Vertigo, and the subtle interlacing of compositions educes a remarkably discreet resemblance to Audrey Hepburn.
The scene in Hannay’s apartment becomes at least one such composition, as Redford not merely looks out at the watcher below, but rather timorously (as in Three Days of the Condor) peeps out, then walks around and confronts the fellow.
The major difficulty for the critics was a courtroom scene evidently modeled on The Paradine Case, a rarely-seen film, which incredibly they mistook for Adam’s Rib.
There’s a further point, the main one, which is that in constructing his hyperbrilliant masterpiece on the subject of art, Reitman has transcended his use of models and amply justified it. And still, knowing the critics’ incapacity, their failure to identify any aspect of it whatsoever corresponding to its reality is overwhelming.
It’s so great, so capable in the fulfilling of its ambition, that it actually provides the veritable sense of a Hitchcock film (or a Donen) in which the particularly keen and artful acting of Robert Redford can be seen, and that is quite a feat, over and above its analysis of Hitchcock and its refined position on art.
You never would glean it from all the reviews, but Dave might perhaps be best described as a commentary on Auden’s great poem, “Elegy for JFK”. These lines have languished in a manner of speaking, being a form of rhetorical question as you might say. Well, Dave is an answer to them. “What he was, he was: / What he is fated to become / Depends on us. // Remembering his death, / How we choose to live / Will decide its meaning.”
Stravinsky set them to music for solo voice accompanied by three clarinets. James Newton Howard’s orchestral score sugarcoats the pill so effectively it seems to have passed right through the system of our film critics without ever stopping to be digested. And so there is a need for a proper analysis of the script and Reitman’s handling of it. It will be found to work exceedingly well, particularly the turning of the metaphor of the moribund President through “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
Members of the Washington press corps and even of Congress appear as themselves, which at least helps to dispel one’s trepidation lest our newspapers and our government really be only as strong as the weakest among them.
I’ve always wanted to write a screenplay for Sidney Lumet in which Don Rickles, who is a great actor, would play the President of the United States dealing with the various problems of the nation and the world in a kind of stark incredulity strictly from Brooklyn. Dave isn’t really like that at all, and it’s still a great film.
Six Days Seven Nights
An intensely amusing and charming comedy on a structure of maximum seriousness, with all the variables expressly contingent on models in the Thirties and Forties.
The storm that wrecks the lovers’ plane is a digital effect like the shell that sinks the pirate boat, and the score is representative as a winner of the BMI Award that year.