Archive for Theodore J Flicker

Sleepless nights

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 25, 2011 by dcairns

“You’d think that he’d spend his time worrying about China… or Russia… [Shakes head] Hasn’t slept in eight nights, worrying about Libya.”

That line from THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST has always stuck out for me — a slightly smug joke about a no-account country which would become irretrievably dated within two years of the film’s release when Gadaffi seized power.

What’s happening in the middle east is pretty interesting, no? It’s like Europe in 1848. The history of democracy being achieved via revolution is not an encouraging one, but the whole political situ in the countries in question is so wretched that it does feel like any change is potentially positive.

Of course, I love THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST — writer-director Theodore J Flicker (he of the great name) announced his intention as “I want to make the most realistic film ever.”

“He failed!” observes Fiona, regarding his swinging sixties spy comedy.

“And yet… succeeded,” I say, wisely.

I’m a big James Coburn fan, which helps. I’m honestly unsure how good an actor he was, but he was certainly an insuperable James Coburn. A charismatic, versatile James Coburn. The actor came up during my first face-to-face meeting with the Self-Styled Siren. I forget the film under discussion, but she said, “That film made very good use of his James Coburn-ness.”

“– which was his principle quality as an actor,” I added, wisely.

Godardian flat colour-slabs from Mr. Pogostin.

Regular Shadowplayer Chris Schneider recommended HARD TARGET last year, and it’s taken me months to get around to seeing it. This movie, from writer-director S. Lee Pogostin (he of the great name) pairs Coburn with Lee Remick, and throws in Lilli Palmer, Patrick Magee, Sterling Hayden and Burgess Meredith.

The plot: Coburn is a suave hitman who is also the world’s greatest lover, but he doesn’t know it because he only sleeps with prostitutes (cue naked Karen Black), but then he sleeps with millionairess Remick by mistake, after she pretends to be a pro for a lark, and he cures her of her lifelong frigidity — as a result, she becomes obsessed with him and arranges to have him followed, exposing his murderous profession, with potentially fatal consequences —

Yes, that actually is what it’s about. No kidding.

Are all hitmen commitment-phobic? They seem to be in movies. An existential thing, I guess. Pogostin serves up some good discussions, often taking the place of actual dramatic scenes, but his talk is enjoyable. A discussion in front of Goya’s The Executions of May 3, 1808 gives Meredith, as Coburn’s — what? agent, I guess — with his face like a witch’s elbow, the opportunity to cackle and glint seedily. When Palmer asks the moral relativist if he’s saying that murder isn’t immoral, he demurs. “Of course it’s immoral. I mean, to murder for profit like that, it’s immoral. It’s just that, in these times, it’s not that immoral.”

“Are you trying to say that it’s NOT WRONG?”

“Hoho, definitely not! That would be insane at worst; it would be philosophically adolescent at best. Not, it is wrong, I’m simply saying… that in our time… It’s not that wrong,” he says, wisely.

Pogostin, and Coburn’s character, have to find a solution to their dilemma — seeking redemption and the ability to walk away from murder in a genre which demands violent resolution. They fail… and yet succeed.


Quote of the Day

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Politics with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2008 by dcairns

Dr. Sidney Schaefer: You mean to say you can actually legally kill someone?

Don Masters, CEA Agent: Yeah, and it bothers me sometimes that I don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t you think that’s psychotic behavior?

Dr. Sidney Schaefer: No I don’t! It explains your utter lack of hostility. You can vent your aggressive feelings by actually killing people! It’s a sensational solution to the hostility problem.

Head shrinker

THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST, written and directed by Theodore J. Flicker. Yes, Flicker.

Supposedly, T.J.F. presaged the shoot by telling his crew, “I want to make the most realistic film ever.”

“Well, he failed,” observes Fiona.

“Or… succeeded,” I argue.

Spy Kids

Things that strike me as realistic in this film:

The various American secret services hate each other and are happy to see each other killed by foreign powers.

The American and Russian masterspies each have a cordial, indeed affectionate, relationship with their opposite numbers.

Rampant capitalism is a more enduring threat to freedom than communism.

The president is worried about Libya (in 1967, this idea was humorous — it has since COME TRUE).

A psychiatrist uses his techniques to turn a Russian agent.

Politics cause neuroses, which cause politics.

Flicker’s previous film was a zero-budget comedy co-written with Buck Henry, THE TROUBLEMAKER. Presumably Paramount and James Coburn thought he might have an angle on what the kids were after, so they handed him a big budget spy caper. T.J.F. brought with him some of the actors he’d used in his debut, like comedian/thesp Godfrey Cambridge, and Second City improv star Severn Darden.

Some GOOD GAGS in this film! I like the meaningless joke of all the F.B.R. agents being really short. There’s no obvious reason for it but it’s quietly, increasingly hilarious. And when they’re around, the cutting goes all Dragnet, with that back-and-forth q&a shot-countershot rhythm based entirely on the dialogue, with no reaction shots allowed.

“Oh, it’s the ‘Pudlians,” remarks a hippychick called Snow White with no real enthusuasm, and a rock band with bonnets and mockney accents appear, who turn out to be ruthless operatives from the Canadian secret service. Before we can really anticipate how much comic materiel can be mined from this idea, they’re dead, slain by F.B.R. short-arses.

And then there’s the inexplicably festive ending, in which Lalo Schiffrin trots out the best version of “Joy to the World” ever.