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Targets and Inga

at the Center and Gary respectively

By Tim Hunter

PETER BOGDANOVICH'S Targets, a low-budget oddity of considerable merit, snuck into Boston last week on the bottom half of an exploitation bill at the Center. Paramount, the distributor, doesn't know how to handle the film--a realistic shocker about an All-American boy-turned-sniper on the rampage--and despite good reviews and box office on its initial theatrical engagements, they stuck a plea for gun control arbitrarily before the credits, then decided not to open the film at all. In the depths of his soul, film critic Bogdanovich probably doesn't care. After all, many films by his idols were mishandled by ignorant distributors--Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry and Ford's 7 Women among them; Howard Hawks' Scarface had a social-conscious message tagged on in order to compensate for its violence; and finally, Bogdanovich can hardly complain about being opened at the Center, Boston's only great cheapie theatre, the one which first showed Hawks' Red Line 7000 and El Dorado to hungry crowds of sailors, derelicts, and Ivy Films regulars.

The stupidity of Targets' distribution has received a lot of press coverage over the last few months, undeservedly I think, since the film itself is every bit as perversely eclectic as its marketing. The camera pulls back to a full shot of a family dinner, and Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life is recreated; Karloff's monologue recalls Welles' in Mr. Arkadin as surely as we recognize Strangers On A Train when the sniper's ammunition falls just out of reach (shades of Bruno and the cigarette lighter).

Bogdanovich picks good models and adds good ideas to his petty thievery. Bobby Thompson's execution of his wife and mother superbly blends diverse gimmicks (stop motion shots, wide angle distortion) into a well-conceived unity. A close moving shot along the floor after the corpses are removed reveals some loose change which fell out of the mother's house coat as she died--truly a good touch, as is Bobby's compulsive neatness: a bit of calculated direction about which I would be more sanguine were Bogdanovich's own camera style less neat and precise. These are better than all the Baby Ruths, charge accounts, and Pepsi bottles which appear, symbols of blind America called into question when employed by a raving maniac.

ANDREW SARRIS correctly analyzed Bogdanovich's inability to mix cinema of contemplation with that of tight Hawksian storytelling. His camera is constantly pulling away from the action to examine the locations or pause on details. Consequently Bogdanovich gives us more visual information than we need to enjoy a crisp narrative, or (take your pick) too much narrative to enjoy a reflective stylistic bent normally associated with Mizoguchi or Rossellini. It is hard to determine what director has influenced Bogdanovich, but the outcome exists largely in terms of meaningless tracking shots which bear down on their subjects. In any case, Targets owes nothing to Hawks, despite a televised quotation from The Criminal Code, followed by Bogdanovich's line, "That man sure knows how to tell a story." Hawks never pulled away from action in his life. Targets relies instead on some elementary Hitchcock principles involving point-of-view shots.

It is generally conceded that an audience forced to watch a movie through the eyes of its main character begins to identify with that character, a point which for my money Bogdanovich disproves. Renata Adler wrote a depressing column suggesting that the audience, looking through the sniper's gunsight, wants him to hit his victims--just as the audience wants that car to sink into the swamp in Psycho although its disappearance serves only to protect nasty old Mrs. Bates. Nuts! An audience made complicit in wholesale slaughter by virtue of POV shots resists with all its might, particularly when they have no information about the sniper to render his rampage comprehensible; at the point in Targets that the gunsight was seeking out the head of a drive-in movie projectionist, someone in the theatre got up and shouted loudly, "That guy's crazy!"

Finally, on the debit side, the film's construction depends overmuch on cross-cutting between Bobby and scenes of Byron Orlock, an aging actor determined to retire, beautifully played by Boris Karloff. We learn early that there is going to be a confrontation of the two at a drive-in, and tend to want to get it over with once the set-up has been established. To some extent, this is suspense generated slickly by Bogdanovich, but mostly it's irritation at having to wade through tentative cross-cutting toward a climax.

But Targets has one hell of a pay-off, and adding it to the film's generally successful calculation, Bogdanovich comes out pretty clean considering this is his first movie. Midway through he begins to set up a contrast between the horror of reality represented by the sniper and the melodrama horror of movie reality represented by Orlock. At the end, Orlock takes Bobby, knocking a gun out of his hand with a cane, asserting a potency he had thought nonexistent. Although ambiguous, the effect is one of total release: we are still in a movie, and in the movies the reality of melodrama always triumphs, as we always knew it could in real life if only given the chance.

MAINLY BECAUSE the nice people at Sack Theatres let the CRIMSON into their theatres free, I wandered over to Inga when Targets ended and was surprised to find the former home of Doctor Doolittle and Gone With The Wind looking and smelling a little like the bowels of the Indoor Athletic Building. I'm not really qualified to tell you whether Inga makes Therese and Isabel look like a milk-fed puppy, not having seen the former film or The Fox; the ads claim that the screen begins to steam, a verb best reserved for about 20 per cent of the audience, but I guess in all fairness a bubble does rise to the surface now and again.

I had expected Inga to be a pure Swedish import in the manner of all those Essy Persson pictures I never saw, but it appears to have been actively produced by an American named Gross who has managed to stick a poster from one of his previous efforts, Teenage Mother, in a scene at a local Swedish train station. I imagine he wants to tell us that Teenage Mother has made it as far out of 42nd Street as Stockholm, but don't you believe it.

I will now proceed to tell you what you want to know about Inga: there are three major sex scenes in it, the first and third being gratuitous montages of sexual intercourse between a 21-year-old ne'er-do-well writer named Karl and, respectively, a fast-and-loose blonde and Inga. The middle scene portrays Inga discovering puberty before our very eyes, then proceeding to masturbate. Not having seen any of the recent films which apparently deal in masturbation, I can't tell you how the masturbation scene in Inga rates in comparison, but I thought it was okay, shot graphically in low angle and accompanied by loud exultant music, as were all the other scenes.

Inga has one of those ludicrous plots of a simplicity so disastrous it would take me half a page to synopsize it. I will say that it concerns a lot of people hassling over sex and money and that four of the film's five degenerates lose out in the end, and the fifth gets Inga, a success of dubious distinction to say the least.

Miss Marie Liljedahl who plays Inga is young and beautiful, if somewhat full of face, and acts with less self-consciousness than her director had any right to expect. Being somewhat of an amateur film-maker in my spare time, I spent much of the film figuring out better ways to use Miss Liljedahl; but these I expect were no different from ways anyone who wasn't an amateur film-maker would want to use Miss Liljedahl in his spare time.

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