Tag Archives: Charlotte Rampling

Three (1969)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Two guys one chick.

Taylor (Sam Waterston) and Bert (Robbie Porter) are two college chums spending their summer traveling through Europe. When they get to Italy they come upon a free-spirited young woman named Marty (Charlotte Rampling) who agrees to become their traveling companion, but underlying sexual tensions soon rise to the surface. Both men want to make a play for her, but resist because they fear it will ruin their friendship yet as the trip progresses the temptations get too strong to ignore.

Normally I enjoy a film with a laid back pace as I feel American movies tend to be too rushed and leave the viewer no time to allow the characters, story, or imagery to sink in. However, here it’s too slow with plot and character development at a minimum. The extraneous dialogue is not interesting and too much footage is given to capturing the Italian countryside, which makes this seem more like a travelogue.

Waterston is transparent as usual, which makes me wonder how he has managed to have the long career that he has had. Porter, who is better known as a composer, is better looking and much more dynamic and I was surprised that Rampling’s character doesn’t just gravitate towards him immediately as Waterston is dull and wimpy and not what most attractive women would want to consider.

Rampling is great and gives each scene an extra kick, which makes sitting through this meandering production slightly worth it, but the sexual tension is lacking. Supposedly this is what it’s all about, but for the most part it shies away from examining it even though it should’ve been constantly reinforced either through imagery, flashback or dialogue instead of being largely forgotten until the very, very end when it no longer mattered.

This was writer James Salter’s one-and-only foray behind the camera and it’s no surprise he never directed another one as he clearly shows no ability or understanding for pacing.  The characters are not unique enough to be captivating and one eventually begins to wonder why they’re bothering to watch it or what point the filmmakers had for even making it.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 23, 1969

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Rated M

Director: James Salter

Studio: United Artists

Available: None at this time.

Vanishing Point (1971)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Racing to San Francisco.

Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a car delivery driver whose next assignment has him driving a white Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum from Denver to San Francisco. He is a former cop who seems disillusioned and detached from the world around him. To give his existence some meaning he decides to ‘challenge’ himself by making the delivery in record time and even makes a bet with a local drug dealer while purchasing some ‘uppers’ that he can get to San Francisco by 3:00 the next day. As his record drive proceeds he gets the attention of the local law enforcement from every state that he drives through, but none of them are able to stop him despite all efforts. He also attracts the attention of a local blind, black DJ named Super Soul (Cleavon Little) who has access to the police radio frequency and able to help Kowalski with his goal.

Richard C. Sarafain’s direction and John Alonzo’s cinematography are the real winners here. In fact my favorite scenes from this film are the long distance shots capturing the car driving along the lonely highways to the backdrop of the stunning western skies and its rugged, sandy landscape. This is a movie that will appeal to one’s emotional senses and bypass the need for logic. Certain things aren’t fully explained particularly Kowalski’s past, but the fact that it isn’t makes it more enjoyable. It’s the connection with his need for speed, escape and non-conformity that attracts us and it’s the adrenaline that propels the movie and viewer’s interest forward thus making this one of the quintessential road movies from its era or any other.

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Newman seems an unusual casting choice as he really doesn’t have the dynamic star power or all that many lines of dialogue. He is also clearly in his mid-30’s for a part that seems better suited for some renegade, long haired 20-year-old, but in some ways his presence makes the movie more intriguing and distinctive by showing middle-aged people can have a dormant desire to rebel as well and sometimes even more so.

Little is terrific in what is probably the best performance of his career even though it seemed highly improbable and even ridiculous for a black DJ playing soul tunes at a radio station located in a small, isolated town inhabited by conservative, white, racist people. Severn Darden is edgy as a traveling evangelist and Dean Jagger is appealing as an old-time snake hunter. On the flip side of the 20th Century Fox DVD you can see the extended U.K. release that features a brief scene with Charlotte Rampling as a hitch-hiker. This sequence was intended to be allegorical, but really isn’t that impressive even though Rampling is quite attractive with her hair highlighted with blonde streaks.

Spoiler Warning!

The ending, which features Kowalski intentionally driving into some bulldozers parked in the middle of the road, which kills him instantly in a ball of flames, has proved through the years to be quite controversial and filled with many interpretations. I found it to symbolize Kowalski’s ultimate need for escape as he realized that he could never achieve the true freedom that he wanted, so he decided in a way to become a martyr and take his chances in another world beyond this one. The wry smile seen on his face just before he does it signifies the ‘fuck you’ that he gives to the authorities who are convinced that they finally have him cornered but really don’t. It also connects to the death of the counter-culture movement who by that time had realized that their dream of a utopian society filled with complete individual freedom and outside of mainstream control was never going to happen.

End of Spoiler Warning!

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 15, 1971

Runtime:  1Hour 45Minutes (U.K. Version) 1Hour 39Minutes (U.S. Version)

Rated R

Director: Richard C. Sarafain

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Night Porter (1974)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: A strange sadomasochistic relationship.

As the title suggests this film deals with the darkness of the human mind, relationships, sex and society as a whole and has a Freaudian theme of exploring the weird sexual obsessions of those who on the outside may seem perfectly functional and ‘normal’.

The story focuses on a concentration camp survivor Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) who twelve years later, by chance, meets her former captor Maximilian (Dirk Bogarde). She is now married while he is working as a night porter at the hotel she is staying at. The twist here is that she decides to go back to him and continue the bizarre sex rituals they once had.

The film’s most interesting aspect is focusing on the long term psychological ramifications of those surviving traumatic experiences. It looks both at the victims and the captors who now must learn to ‘rationalize’ their guilty conscious and it questions whether anyone can truly function normally after surviving such severe circumstances or whether society has any ability to make someone ‘adjust’.

This is definitely complex material and director Liliana Cavani has a good grasp on it. The shot compositions are full of stark shadows with a definite emphasis on the surreal, which comes to play the most during the sadomasochistic fantasy segments.

The problem with the film lies in the fact that it doesn’t have the intended strong impact. There’s no momentum or discernible tension. The characters are complex, but not that interesting and we really don’t care particularly what happens to them.

The films strongest point is actually in its final sequence, which brings the whole thing together. Like in any great movie there’s the one shot that says it all and here it’s the final one where visually, without saying anything, it shows just how isolated these outsiders truly are. It also exposes how their personal demons have imprisoned them and how dysfunctional society is at handling them.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated R

Director: Liliana Cavani

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video