â€¢ A Woman in Her Window â€¢ Days of Heaven â€¢ The Revenge of the Pink Panther
â€¢ Romy Schneider, the star of A WOMAN IN HER WINDOW, portrays a wealthy heiress, intelligent, sensitive, emotionally flaky.
Man No. 1 is her husband, secretary to the Italian ambassador to Greece. He loves her but knows her all too well.
Man No. 2 is a communist sought by the Greek police, and his hope for humanity lies with Stalin. She is madly in love with him.
The time is 1936, and the Greek dictatorship under Metaxis has just taken over. The Spanish civil war is on. Hitler is arming Germany and preparing for the Anschluss.
This film is no ordinary love triangle. It opens at one of the most beautiful sites in the world, the mountains at Delphi, site of the ancient Greek oracle. They walk in the Delphian ampitheater; when Oedipus was performed there, one character remarks, it was timed so precisely that just as Oedipus blinds himself at the end, the sun sinks into the Aegean and the red sky turns gray. The talk turns to the relation between man and the State, between Oedipus and Thebes, between Antigone and Creon. After the rich have been dispossessed, can the State really be trusted to protect the working class? Man No. 1 says no, Man No. 2 says yes. She is nonpolitical and knows only whom she loves.
Bit by bit we learn in a series of flashbacks about her, about Greece, about the conflicting ideologies awave over Europe, about fascism and communism and how these wash over her life. The story unfolds psychologically rather than chronologically yet must be pieced together chronologically by the viewer (each flashback is marked with the exact date)â€"a fact that will keep the viewer confused unless he pays unremitting attention; it also inhibits his emotional involvement in the story.
It has been popular for years in French films to hate fascism and be sympathetic to communism. The script writer who did the best of these films, Z, also did this one. But he may have mellowed through the years, for now neither ism is treated with great sympathy. Perhaps the publication of Solzhenitsyn's Gulag in Paris, long before it appeared in English, and its electrifying effect on French thinking (see "The New Philosophers Rock France," REASON, September) had something to do with this. Some of the lines in the script would never have appeared during France's love affair with the left of a few years back. Sample from Man No. 1: "The bourgeoisie don't need to play politics. They deal in money and goods. They leave politics to neurotics." And from Man No. 2, defending human equality: "Equality doesn't mean eating with your servants. It means that you will never be able to say mine any more." The implications of such statements are, of course, tremendous, and if everyone fully understood them there would be no socialist governments left. Since such lines pass without comment in the film, one doesn't know whether their implications are realized even by the author; but at least they are there.
In the end, the message is that all political affiliations, even all attempts to work for a cause, are vain and foolish; only love and friendship countâ€"a trite ending after such an auspicious beginning. Yet the film is worth seeing, on one level for the personal lives (insightfully depicted) of those caught in the clash of international movements, at another level for the international movements in which they are caught. The two never really fuse into a chemical combination but only coexist as a mixture, yet the mixture of such elements as coexist here is more satisfying than many a combination that has been fused out of lesser elements.
â€¢ What there is of a story is an old-fashioned love triangle, set in 1916, and unremarkable as a story but with promising new talent (Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz). But one shouldn't see this film for the story, which is a set of pegs on which to hang one of the most beautiful visual canvases in American films. The camera engages in a continuous love affair with the American land: the wind stirring through the wheat fields; the harvest, with large threshing crews and old-fashioned threshing machines; the vast bowl of the prairie meeting the inverted bowl of the sky; the feel of the earth at twilight, with grouse and pheasants stalking through the fields; the summer night settling like an enormous mantle over the endless prairie. In no American film within memory has the sight and feel of the earth been so intimately captured. To spend time there, after the factories of Chicago, must indeed have been DAYS OF HEAVEN, and in no film since Dersu Uzala has the camera kept us so riveted to the soil. This is an aspect of the beauty of America that has seldom been shown on the screen and never half so well. And the dependence of the city on the land is never so dramatically brought home as in this film, particularly in the dramatic scene of locusts destroying a year's crop.
The scene is supposedly laid in the Texas Panhandle, and the stark lines of the farmhouse set against the steel-blue sky are reminiscent of the Texas of George Stevens's film Giant. But judging by the terrain, most of the picture must have been filmed in the great spaces of Montana and Wyoming and is reminiscent of Howard Hawks's The Big Sky. For the majority of Americans who have never traversed this land, other than by a highway, and for the even greater majority of Europeans who have never seen it at all, this film introduces with warmth and passion the beauty of the vast interior of America. It also brings with it nostalgia for a happier time when work was harder but liberty greater.
If writer-director Terrence Malick never makes another picture after this, he will have added to the American legacy a film as fine in its own medium as the fiction of Willa Cather, Ole Rolvaag, and Hamlin Garlandâ€"all literary material thus far untapped by films and all of which deserve to be transmuted into pictures as memorably beautiful as this one.
â€¢ There is more than a small streak of dÃ©jÃ vu in THE REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHERâ€"not only in the person of Inspector Clouzot (Peter Sellers) and his usual entourage, but in the story line of the bumbling detective blundering into success through a series of happy and increasingly far-fetched coincidences.
Sellers is, as usual, much better than the material he has to work with. It's a long time between good parts like I'm All Right, Jack and Dr. Strangelove. Dyan Cannon puts her all into the part, as always. Some day she will receive a role worthy of her very considerable talents.
Here and there are moments of wild slapstick Ã la Chaplin, bursting into genuine humor like fitful lightning flashes over a dull landscape. The funniest scene of all involves not Sellers but Herbert Lom, his detective competitor through this interminable series of films, giving a funeral eulogy on Clouzot full of double entendre. The chase scene in Hong Kong has its moments. Otherwise, it's pretty thin soup.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Movies".