By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: Teen learns hard lesson.
Peter (Peter Kastner) is 18 and looking to spread-his-wings, but doesn’t like what he sees in the adult world. Everyone seems trapped by their dull jobs and mundane routines, which is something he doesn’t want to fall into. He has big dreams. He wants to run away with his girlfriend Julie (Julie Biggs) and live a life based completely on his own whims while never becoming a slave-to-the-system like everyone else. Then he gets in a fight with his parents and they kick him out and after struggling to find work without even a high school diploma his attitude quickly changes.
If you can get past the wretched opening song, which is sung by Kastner and played over the credits, then this film really hits-the-mark. I was impressed with the camera work especially during the dinner time conversations amongst the family members where director Don Owen shoots it with a hand-held camera and zooms in and out on the person’s face as they are speaking. This is something that is quite common today especially on TV-shows, but back then was rarely if ever used, which makes this well ahead-of-its-time and even groundbreaking. I also enjoyed the conversational quality of the dialogue and having two conversations going on at the same time, which again didn’t come into vogue until years later when Robert Altman did it in M*A*S*H.
The film also clearly allows for ad-libbing amongst its actors. There is a scene in which Peter and Julie go paddle boating and come upon a large sofa submerged in the water and then comment on it. Clearly the filmmakers didn’t put the sofa into the lake simply to film the short scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it still helps set the tone for keeping things fresh and real.
Kastner is great and it’s refreshing to have a protagonist in a film that you like at some points and feel like wringing-his-neck at other times. Too many movies today, especially Hollywood ones, create lead characters that are politically correct caricatures while this movie instead has real human beings that are not tailored made to conform to the likings of any particular demographic.
It’s a shame to say that a movie that came out over 50 years ago is still considered cutting-edge, but compared to the tired, formulaic glop coming out today it really is. The script is uncompromised and holds-no-punches while keeping things gritty and stark and making profound, universal points along the way. I also found it fun that the main character here, who was clearly a baby boomer, displays the same anti-establishment, anti-work attitude that now gets placed squarely onto the ‘dreaded millennials’ and yet it seems the boomers were just as reluctant to get into the rat race as all the generations that have followed them and therefore shouldn’t be waiving their finger at anyone.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: August 13, 1964
Runtime: 1Hour 20Minutes
Director: Don Owen
Studio: National Film Board of Canada
Available: None at this time.