The Apartment. Billy Wilder ("Some Like It Hot," "The Fortune Cookie," "One, Two, Three") likes to make comedies on grim subjects. ("Some Like It Hot" was about the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.) In this 1960 film an affable loser(Jack Lemmon)plays pim pin order to get a key to the executive washroom. Lemmon is perfect as the "schnook" who gets cornered into lending his apartment to philandering higher-ups in the Big New York Conglomerate in which he works. (Just a few years later, Lemmon, having played this role once too often, turned into a grotesque caricature of himself.) Shirley MacLaine is appropriately touching as the tough-tender waif that Lemmon falls for, and Fred MacMurray is menacing in the uncharacteristically villainous role of Lemmon's sleazy boss. The script, by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, is sophisticated and funny; and although it deals with suicide, adultery, and the impersonality of the modern-day corporation, the film is remarkably cheerful.
Cousin, Cousine is a charming and amusing French farce which, as the title indicates, revolves around an adulterous romance en famille. It may well be that if this movie were in English it wouldn't seem funny but merely silly, as may roommate claims. Nevertheless, there are some great bits about French family life, as when the hero's alienated teen-age daughter shows her snaps of last year's wedding (featuring subjects like "Uncle Pierre flashing a moon at dinner" and "Aunt Jeanne throwing up in the garden") and when the small children are given riot squad outfits for Christmas and run amok clubbing the celebrants a la May '68. Even the love scenes are not too sappy, particularly since the heroine, Jean-Louis Barrault's daughter, is extraordinarily beautiful.
Deliverance. James Dickey's powerful novel has been faithfully translated to the screen by director John Boorman in this very disturbing film. Four good ole boys canoe down a remote country river and find survival in the wilderness to be more than they can handle. As the self-confident superjock who leads the expedition, Burt Reynolds actually gets to act--something he hasn't done since, even in the much-touted but disappointing "Semi-Tough. Jon Voigt and Ned Beatty are also excellent. (The latter's "squeal like a pig" scene is a memorably gruesome portrayal of humiliation.) The film has a great deal of violence, and a long, agonizing sequence in which Voight tortuously scales the face of a cliff. But ultimately, "Deliverance" is most upsetting in its suggestion that civilized man has lost his primitive self-sufficiency. James Dickey has a chilling cameo as a small town sheriff; and yes, this is the movie that made "Dueling Banjos" a hit. (Though purists will note that the duel is actually between a banjo and a guitar.)
On the Waterfront. You've heard all those "I cudda been a contenduh" imitations over the years, so you might as well take in the real thing. Marlon Brando predictably dominates this tale of corruption on the docks of Hoboken; his amoral, streetwise Terry Malone will always be mentioned in the same breath with his Stanley Kowalski and Don Vita. The portrayal of Brando's relationship with Eva Marie-Saint's paragon of prudery rankles a bit, sugary in a few embarrassing moments. Yet Elia Kazan's otherwise slick direction salvages the plot, wisely allowing Brando to showcase his still developing talents and heart-melting looks. Studded with a brilliant supporting cast that featured Lee J. Cobb as a tyrannical union boss and Karl Malden as a crusading priest, "On the Waterfront" remains a prototype of movies The Way They Used to Be: a crisply paced, moralistic film that uplifts and, above all, entertains.
Outrageous! Only Woody Allen at his best could outdo some of the one-liners in Richard Benner's brilliant comedy about a female impersonator's rise to stardom and the whacked-out woman behind his success. Craig Russell's unabashedly gay hairdresser has graced us with a character we will not soon forget, completely stealing the show in the movie's plot and the movie itself. His series of famed singers and actresses belting out "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" will bring down any house, so carefully honed are his Channings and Ellas. Co-star Hollis McLaren is inevitably overshadowed by Russell's stagewise presence but the delicate treatment she gives to her Crazy Liza perfectly complements her outlandish buddy.
2001: A Space Odyssey. Even with the passing of some nine years, Stanley Kubrick's cinematic sojourn into and among the stars remains the ultimate word on spedial effects, "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" notwithstanding. The opening and closing sequences of the film provide some of the most awesome footage in movie history, portraying the beginnings of man's ascent and the possible end of that progression respectively. The eery genius of the film's bookends has a way of throwing the rest of the narrative into relief, but any movie that features as original a piece of technology as HAL the computer has a lot going for it in the first place, so make those trips to the concession stand brief. The final 20 minutes are positively overwhelming as Kubrick hurls his wayward astronaut through a time warp that makes the color patterns of a kaleidoscope pale by comparison. One warning: don't wast too much time trying to figure out the significance of the monolith and some of the more obscure scenes in 2001; you can save yourself the trouble by reading screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke's book on the film if you are analytically inclined. Better yet, just sit back and space out on the colors, man.
Some directors lay on their heavy messages with a trowel; Ken Russell goes at you with a jack-hammer. Women in Love somehow enjoys a reputation as this one-man wrecking crew's most meaningful work, but here, as in all his other films, Russell's only evident meaning lies aching behind his zipper. "Was it too much for you?" Oliver Reed asks Alan Bates after they finish a wrestling match in the raw, the homosexual hints dripping off their bodies faster than swear. Then the line pops up again, this time after Reed has been rollicking in the snow with Glenda Jackson: "Was it too much for you," he asks her, as the irony subtly smashes our way. This is too much, period.
On this beast simplistically lumbers, supposedly in the name of art and sensitivity. See Reed groan and growl with animalistic desires. See the abused Jackson run off with a scrawny but spiritual switch-hitter. See Bates act like a blubbering booby as he tries to convince Reed to reciprocate in a partnership of Platonic love. Art, my Oedipus complex. More like a "Dick and Jane" for voyeurs.