Last Tango in Paris. A year ago next week I wrote in the Scrutiny column that Last Tango in Paris had already been much abused. The film had been bandied about as sensational, labeled both a sex film and a cult film, I wrote, all with the result that many people tried not even to show an interest in it or, worse yet, saw a lurid sensationalism not actually present.
Now, at last, it's becoming just another movie. Seeing Last Tango on the double bill at Harvard Square, even with such a distinguished film as Streetcar, seems a lot like seeing a sensational former best seller as one more overstock stacked in mounds around a remainder bookstore. Last year the film seemed so alive, so intense, so involving. "Escaping down 59th Street to Central Park," I wrote, "rerunning the film in our minds, two of us followed a silent, twisted path around boulders and lifeless trees. The fog joined nearby buildings into solid walls; the isolation, the desolation, were nearly as great as the initial feelings engendered by the film." This week, with showings of the film stuffed in between showings of another, there won't be time for the emotions to sink in.
It's destructive to both movies to show them together but on the other hand it's good for Last Tango in Paris to be seen opposite another masterpiece--especially another one starring Brando. The comparison won't be fair, though. A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the most firmly entrenched American plays, loved by the public and critics alike. Last Tango in Paris still hasn't found its niche, it's still a cult film or a sex film or whatever depending on your point of view. People still don't know how to react. But maybe in a year or so--if it keeps being shown without fanfare--Last Tango in Paris will be acknowledged as the great movie it is, not dismissed as the Media Event of some year in the past.
Godard. The chic attitude nowadays is to be down on Godard. He wasn't actually as important, self-appointed arbiters declare, as we thought he was during the '60s. A stylish innovator, perhaps, but without content. That's probably true for an early, exuberant fool-around film like Breathless, a quick-paced sort of Bogart parody. Pierrot Le Fou is more ambitious and more complex, however, and so the revisionists had better look twice before they go about their revising.
Compulsion. I have a friend who can recite giant chunks of Clarence Darrow's summation from the Loeb-Leopold trial--the summation that brought tears to the judge's eyes. All dressed up with his suspenders, I think he'd make a better Clarence Darrow than Orson Welles. Spencer Tracy was better than Welles but still no match for my friend, who in his prime could make high school debate judges cry. They're a lot more insensitive than real ones. But Orson Welles does O.K.
The Exterminating Angel is disappointing Bunuel. His symbolism, for once, goes overboard without being effective. Usually Bunuel goes over-board--in outrageous fashion--but is effective. This movie should probably be described as fascinating, nevertheless.
Big Foot. The Sasquatch is, or may be, an abominable snowman from British Columbia. A film that may be evidence that the Sasquatch really does exist is being shown in 35 mm at Quincy House.
Czechoslovakia. South House has two underground Czech films: One is about the first seven black days of the Soviet invasion in 1968, the other about the funeral of hero Jan Palach. An important discussion with Karel Kovanda, former chairman of the Czechoslovak Student Union, is planned following these significant shorts.