Don't Fall for the Hype, Joe

O Lucky Man at Cinema 57

Dear Joe,

WELL HERE I am at Harvard Summer School and it sure is neat. The food has lumps, the beds are cold and the people here are swelled.

Last night I went to a movie. It had a lot of advertisements going for it so I figured it oughta be a good night for a change. I figured wrong. I hadn't eaten in about 24 hours and felt sort of sick. Three boxes of popcorn didn't help. The theatre didn't pass out any blankets at the door either. I wish they had 'cause the air conditioners were churning it up like they thought the Sahara desert was due to blow in through the door any minute. I had to leave before the end of the show. They wouldn't let me smoke cigarettes.

The movie? It was called O Lucky Man. Pretty rotten luck is all I can say. All the newspapers here are screaming about how it was in some film festival in France. With all the holler, you'd think this was the movie miracle of the century. (This one critic got very serious about whether or not it was the masterpiece of the month.) The promoters have thought of everything--stickers, folders, posters, and a record of the soundtrack. I'll bet you anything they start leafletting in Harvard Square tomorrow. They even had this interview with Malcolm McDowell tacked on the wall. It ticked me off. McDowell was feeding the interviewer this line like it was intended for a Harvard professor about how his movie was a modern Candide. He called it naturalist cinema and a whole lot of other intellectual chicken shit. What really killed me was when he called this god awful mediocre rock and roll band that strikes up about every ten minutes through the movie a Greek chorus, for chrissake. Seemed to me like this McDowell character had been taken in by somebody. Rock records for hippies. Posters for movie groupies. Candide for the high-brows.

WANNA KNOW what the movie was about? As far as I could see, a whole lot of nothing. Three hours of it. I could have been home watching T.V. and listening to the guys next door getting high or cracking up, and the threads would have hung together better than they did here. I mean this movie was more pointless and more disconnected and ten times more boring than life could ever hope to be. The thing I can't figure out is why Lindsay Anderson -- he's the guy who made the thing, also made If -- even bothered. It was weird, the movie just dripped honey soup. You know, moonlight and mists and flowers in the field. Elvira Madigan and a lot of quaint little blotches of English local color. Like it was pretty to look at. But pretty and pointless doesn't seem to me to be telling how things really are. I guess Mr. Anderson was trying to be ironic, telling this grubby story like an epic lullaby.

What happens is this. There's this coffee salesman--that's Malcolm McDowell--who gets a promotion from this vampy lady who's the Public Relations officer in the Coffee company. She's Rachel Roberts. She and some other actors end up playing several roles apiece so that McDowell keeps getting into situations that you kind of think have happened before. I guess that must have something to do with the movie wanting to be an epic. Anyway, the P.R. lady ends up getting the salesman to bed. That happens alot in this movie. Like every woman McDowell bumps into can't keep her hands off him. Which is something that gets on my nerves. When all a movie ever shows women doing is pawing some man, it seems like somebody somewhere hasn't got a very complete picture of the facts. I mean, I don't know about realism, but from what I know about reality, women don't just go around dropping handerchiefs and snapping garters all the time. Like they gotta make a living too. And everything. But I'm sort of getting off the subject.

SO THEN this salesman goes up to the north of England in this snappy little car the company's given him. He sort of mucks around the lower-classes, trying to sell his coffee to the middle-classes, and getting nabbed by the upper-classes. (All three classes are misrepresented, I imagine. Like the whole human animal is misrepresented. Like this movie is a complete cartoon.) He has all these adventures on the way. He gets mistaken for a spy in an atomic research plant and gets tortured. Or he wanders into a medical center and has to escape from this mad scientist who's transplanting human heads onto pig bodies. Or he gets fished up by financiers who swindle him and hand him over to the police for running their guns and their napalm to some petty African dictatorship. He does five years time and comes out prattling about the goodness of man. He gets done in a couple of more times anyway and ends up auditioning for movies, totally by accident, of course, like everything else he does. In the last part he sits there grinning like an idiot 'cause the director tells him to smile. What's there to smile about? That's the 20 cent question of this $20 billion movie. And just how the whole lousy picture got started; it was the same idiot grin that knocked the vampy P.R. lady in the coffee company on her back and this boring little salesman with the pretty face on the road of his boring and stupid adventures.

Well, what more can I say, except don't fall for the hype, Joe. It's sure to turn up at Penny's Drive-In sooner or later, but I suggest you play poker everynight that it runs, instead. Of course, you could bring your own blanket and nap in the back seat. Because let me tell you. All that stupid sex and bad rock and roll, those mad scientists, those six star generals, and the two dimensional sucker who's the star of the show are bound to put you out cold. Or they should. A lot of cliches about corruption shot through a candy-coated lens ain't much of a reason for staying awake. Not to my mind.

What I want to know is what's with those French movie Festivals. The mind of descartes would have puked. (Just in case you were wondering whether I'm getting my money's worth from Harvard Summer School, I'm not. All I know about the mind of Descartes is that it did some thinking before it decided to advertise its existence. Unlike these movies that advertise and advertise and do a little last minute mental fidget to tintillate the stupid critic.)

That's all for now. Send me some more money so I can go to more movies. If I haven't O.D.ed on this one. Your son,