By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Student filmmaker alienates everyone.
Tony Hall (Robert Forster) is a student filmmaker who feels he is a great director in the making and not afraid to let everyone know it. He becomes obsessed with capturing reality as it is and people’s emotional responses. He goads those around him including his own girlfriend (Sondra Locke) into doing things they are uncomfortable with simply so he can capture that uneasiness and the facial expressions that come with it. Some feel he is going too far, but the more they try to reel him in the more boundaries he pushes.
I’ve attended a film school in Chicago back in the early ‘90s, so for me I found this plot to be intriguing. In a lot of ways, at least at the beginning, I thought they captured the arrogance of these young would-be student directors who are convinced they are the next Kubrick or Scorsese in-the-making quite well. Their elitist attitude and willingness to compromise good taste and common sense simply to attain a shock effect to get attention are all very real.
Unfortunately the film goes overboard especially with the lead character who quickly becomes unlikable. I don’t mind a certain bit of cockiness or a say-it-like-it-is persona, but this guy is downright rude, smug, abrasive and even cruel. You spend the whole time hoping someone will punch him in his face, but it never happens and I believe this is the sole reason why this film failed at the box office as no one wants to sit through an entire movie watching a person whose behavior they can’t stand.
His excessively rude attitude towards a studio head (Jeff Corey) who wants to offer him an opportunity make a feature film is particularly confounding. It’s similar to Troy Duffy the real-life subject of Overnight and the director of The Boondock Saints who became quite arrogant to everyone once he got himself a Hollywood contract, but at least in Duffy’s case he had gotten his proverbial foot-in-the-door and therefore felt it was ‘safe’ to let his obnoxious side out, but the Forster character here doesn’t yet have one and you’re compelled to feel that the guy must be mentally ill to think he ever will by behaving in the outrageous way that he does.
Forster gives a solid performance, but the character seems too similar to one he just got done doing in Medium Cool and bordered almost on type casting. Locke is okay as the girlfriend and can be seen fully nude at the beginning, but why she would want to stick with such a jerk is hard to understand and makes her character annoying because of it. I realize some gals have the ‘bad-boy syndrome’, but it goes overboard with it here.
The film lacks a cinematic touch and its best part comes at the beginning where we watch a student film with a dream-like sequence in a Federico Fellini style that is actually pretty good. Another memorable bit comes near the end where Forster broadcasts to a group of students his own film, which features a scene showing a man jumping off a ledge and then panning over to reveal the shocked expressions of the people on the ground who witnessed it as well as the students watching it on film.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: October 1, 1970
Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes
Director: Noel Black
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: None at this time.