Archive for Robert Benton

Pg. 17, #13

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2020 by dcairns

His room was high-ceilinged and ornately furnished. He noticed a television set built into the wall in such a way that it could be viewed from the bed and he smiled tiredly on seeing it — he would have to watch it sometime, to see how their reception compared to that on Anthea. And it would be amusing to see some of the shows again. He had always liked the Westerns, even though the quiz programmes and the Sunday ‘educational’ shows had provided his staff at home with most of the information that he had memorized. He had not seen a television show in . . . how long had the trip taken? . . . four months. And he had been on earth two months, getting money, studying the disease germs, studying the food and water, perfecting his accent, reading the newspapers, preparing himself for the critical interview with Farnsworth.

*

‘Jesus,’ Don said, rattling the paper. ‘At the Tropical Drive-in they’re showing five John Wayne movies! Who in hell could sit through five John Waynes, for Christ sake?’

*

If I have, I’ve turned it off. Not out of bitterness. I do that with any picture I’ve ever worked on. When they’re over, they’re done. I’m not interested in them any longer.

*

‘Time to be getting back to the studio,’ Chatsworth announced, rising and stretching himself. ‘Dr. Bergmann’s coming along with us, Sandy, Have that Rosemary Lee picture run for him, will you? What the hell’s it called?”

*

‘Even if I described it to you, I doubt if you’d understand what it is.’

*

“We can’t go on calling the child number seven behind his back. It’s most improper and injurious.”

*

After the Three Stooges the curtains came to, but then when they put the next picture on they stuck halfway. We all cheered and then The Bull got this long pole and pulled back the curtains with it. Not that it mattered much because this that they put on now was a travel thing about Paris or something, and this kid in front of me started flicking little silver paper pellets into the light to make it sparkle. The Bull saw him and clonked him on the nut with this long curtain pole and gave him his first warning. Good job for us The Bull was after these seats and Chinese Charlie was up at the front else we’d’ve been out three week since.

*

You know the drill. Seven bits of seven page seventeens.

The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis; The Shark Infested Custard, by Charles Willeford; Backstory 4, edited by Patrick McGilligan; interview with Robert Benton by Christian Keithley; Prater Violet, by Christopher Isherwood; A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole; Darkness Visible by William Golding; The Tuppenny Rush, by Norman Smithson, from the collection Best Movie Stories, edited by Guy Slater

For Art’s Sake

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2017 by dcairns

Have I ever watched a whole Robert Benton film? Maybe BAD COMPANY? It’s not from any great antipathy, honest.

THE LATE SHOW is, in Sarris’ useful kiss-off phrase, Lightly Likable. I was trying to work out who should have been cast. They must surely have wanted some RESONANCE, since it’s a variant of THE LONG GOODBYE’s gimmick of 40s P.I. meets 70s L.A. (Altman was a producer on it). But who was around who would have been good — Mitchum would have seemed too cool and tough, no matter what you did with him. His hangdog perf in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE is great, but it relies on a dopey melancholia that’s different from the quality needed here — a tough old scrapper on his uppers. in fact, Art Carney is perfect. He just doesn’t call to mind 40s movies, which is a shame. Burt Lancaster wouldn’t have worked, Kirk Douglas didn’t think he was old, Tony Curtis was still trying to look like the kid with the ice-cream face, only the cream had not only melted but curdled. Everyone else was dead (Bogart), drunk (McGraw) or just wrong (Elisha Cook Jnr.) Art Carney is perfect.

But the normally magnificent Lily Tomlin isn’t perfect. I think they got the wrong one by mistake — I think they thought they were hiring Goldie Hawn. Tomlin can’t play scatterbrained, or she can, but she doesn’t make it in any way charming. It took me half the movie to work up a tolerance to her. By the end, I was OK with her, but I never had that kind of difficulty with the Divine Miss T before.

Best perf in the film may be Bill Macy, but Eugene Roche and John Considine make good baddies, and Joanna Cassidy confirms her status as a queen of neo-noir. Howard Duff, making a brief cameo at the start (he’s the Inciting Incident), is the only one with actual resonance from golden age Hollywood.

As director, Benton never gets excited by his own material, which makes it feel a bit Rockford Files — not a bad thing, if it were a piece of television. He milks outrageous suspense with a corpse in a Frigidaire, before blowing the pay-off in disappointing fashion. And the generational clash depends on caricaturing both leads in unconvincing ways (the way he keeps calling her “doll”) which would maybe work better if the film had a handle on how to behave or look like a film noir.

Still, I picked up a copy of Benton’s vampire-free TWILIGHT in Bo’ness a year or two ago, maybe I’ll finally watch it — this was enjoyable enough.