Three Days of the Condor. I had two problems with this film. In the first place, I found it difficult to follow the plot--but this was my fault, since the level of difficulty here would hardly stymie a seasoned viewer of Mission: Impossible. In the second place, when I did figure out what was going on, I thought that the C.I.A. was entirely right. Three Days seems to be saying that the C.I.A. is like a big anonymous corporation in which pawns get knocked off in the senseless palace intrigues of the bigshots. Redford's one major policy statement at the end of the film is designed to make us cheer the idea of the small man fighting the bureaucracy, only instead of the harried housewife trying to get the phone company to correct a billing error, this is blood 'n' guts stuff. It doesn't work. The C.I.A. is doing its job in this film, and ther heroes--Redford and Max von Sydow (the completely amoral killer-as-artist)--are hollow and unconvincing. Three Days of the Condor illustrates some of the dilemmas of liberalism faced with the need for a C.I.A.--the final appeal, the deus ex machina of the film, is The New York Times. The C.I.A. comes off as sane and well-organized, in contrast to the radical, destructive individualism of both Redford and von Sydow. The acting of course is wooden and the fight scenes amatuerish and unbelievable. There is some good fancy footwork in the technology department, but this film has nothing to say about the larger issues of the C.I.A. and doesn't even work too well as an action-packed suspense drama.
Advise and Consent. Among the best of American political movies. Preminger's film is far more exciting than Allen Drury's book. Drury, now a rightist so outre that he must dredge the outer reaches of the solar system for solutions to America's political problems, was at his best in his first novel, probably the best Washington novel of all time. The plot concerns the attempt of a dying President to put a supporter of his foreign policy into office as Secretary of State, and the moral issues that confront Senators when it turns out this otherwise wise and honorable man has lied about membership in the Communist party. The issues are cast in fifties terms, but the "Profiles in Courage" feeling is universal. The chief attraction lies in a stunning performance by Charles Laughton as Seab Cooley, the archetypal Southern Senator, who, like Sam Ervin, turned out to be a fairly wise man. The climactic scene, when the Senate votes on the nomination, is as exciting as anything that happened during Watergate. Absolutely staggering.
Les Violons du Bal. One of the best of the current spate of films on Jews in Occupied France.
Juliet of the Spirits/Nights of Cabiria. Early Fellini. Attenuated mysticism, and an eerie, compassion-soaked realism.
Harold and Maude. A split-personality film. Half of Harold and Maude--to be specific, Harold--is very funny and wildly macabre; the other half-Maude--is maudlin and soppily sentimental. Harold is a nineteen-year-old morto-phile who gets his mother's attention by faking suicide, and Maude is an octogenarian whose "love of life" is on the level of Rod McKuen and Hallmark greeting cards. --Paul K. Rowe
Francophiles, unite, for this is your week. Alain Robbe-Grillet, a writer and director from the Land of the Eiffel Tower, turns up tonight at the Carpenter Center to give a lecture entitled "Order and Disorder in Cinematic Narrative." He'll also show his 1967 film The Man Who Lies. All this takes place starting at 7:30.
While it's a bit in the future, another Frenchman will grace Harvard soil next week to talk about natural child-birth. Frederick Leboyer, a film-making doctor, will appear at the Yenching Institute next Thursday, November 20 to present his film Birth.
At Gund Hall, Gene Hackman doesn't do much to foster goodwill between nations as he stalks Frog One in The French Connection. Along with Popeye Doyle, Dirty Harry livens up the weekend and makes the double bill a strong contender for first prize in the Blood and Guts Unorthodox Cops Division.
If you're adventurous, Lucia, which is described as a Cuban epic of love and revolution, makes its debut in the Science Center B on Saturday night. A wise man told me to steer away from epics, but maybe this is an exception, and at least you can be sure it isn't a remake of the Nibelungenlied.