Tag Archives: Julie Christie

Shampoo (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hairdresser shags his clients.

George (Warren Beatty) is a successful hairstylist who makes a habit of sleeping with his lady clients. He wants to open up his own beauty salon, but lacks the funds and not enough collateral to qualify for a loan. He is currently sleeping with Felicia (Lee Grant) who tells him to ask her husband Lester (Jack Warden) for the money. Lester is having an affair with Jackie (Julie Christie) who used to be George’s girlfriend. George’s current girlfriend is Jill (Goldie Hawn) who is having the inklings to sleep with Johnny (Tony Bill) since she thinks George is not being faithful to her. Everything comes to head on the night of November 5, 1968 during the election returns when everyone finds out that everyone else has been cheating on them and things get hilariously awkward.

This could quite easily be the best satire on the mores of Southern California culture ever made. The fact that it gets juxtaposed with the election where the same people who voted for an administration that vows to crackdown on the ‘permissive culture’ are the same ones doing the immoral behavior makes a very loud statement on the foibles and hypocrisies of the establishment.

Richard Sylbert was nominated for the Academy Award for his set decoration and he should’ve won as the vibrant and colorful interiors of the plush homes that the characters reside in become almost like a third character and makes you feel like you are right there inside the places with the characters and immersed completely in their world. The spectacular skyline views seen from the window of Lester’s office are equally impressive and I also enjoyed the party sequence, which reflected a true party atmosphere particularly the one attended by members of the counter-culture and the stylized set lighting by a slowly opening refrigerator door that gradually exposes the identities of a couple making love in the dark to the shocked onlookers standing around is outstanding.

The talented female cast is terrific, but a bit misused. Jackie’s meltdown during the election party seemed way overdone. This was a smart woman who would’ve seen through Lester’s thin veneer from the start and therefore wouldn’t have been that ‘traumatized’ when it finally came out in the open.

I was also disappointed that we didn’t see more of Lee Grant’s character. She won the Academy Award for her work here, but there needed to be more of a wrap-up with her as well as a scene showing an ultimate confrontation with her daughter (Carrie Fisher in her film debut) who has a secret fling with George behind her back. However, the shot showing Fisher giving her mother the most hateful and disdainful glare you can imagine that literally burns through the screen is almost a gem in itself.

Despite his many transgressions I found Lester to be strangely likable. His quirky ‘bonding’ with George near the end is cute, but I really wanted to see him jump into the hot tub and smoking some weed with the hippies after they offer him a joint and was disappointed it never came to pass even though it does come close.

Beatty, who co-wrote the screenplay, has his moments too, but they don’t come until the final half-hour, but it’s worth the wait. His ‘confession’ to Jill about what motivates him to sleep with all of his female clients and what he gets out of it is not only funny, but quite revealing to any male with the same traits. His final desperate plea to Jackie at the very end is equally interesting and even a bit surprising.

My only real complaint is the fact that it doesn’t seem like a legitimate ‘60s atmosphere even though that’s when it supposed to take place. The adult characters are too brazen in their actions. The college crowd was the first to embrace the free love philosophy while the middle-agers, who were raised in a more repressed, guilt-ridden era, took longer to catch-up to it. It just reeks too much of the mid ‘70s where by that time ‘everybody was doing it’ particularly in swinging L.A., which is where the time period should’ve stayed. There is also never any explanation for why the fire department comes in to evacuate the guests from the building as they are watching the returns.

Still the message of how people who use other people will eventually end up getting owned by the very same folks that they think they are manipulating is very on-target and amusingly played-out.

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My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: February 11, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Director: Hal Ashby

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Demon Seed (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Computer impregnates a human.

Based on an early Dean R. Koontz novel the story centers on Susan Harris (Julie Christie) who is married to Alex (Fritz Weaver) a man who has created a giant artificially intelligent computer named Proteus (voice of Robert Vaughn) as well as installing a computer inside their own home, which does all of their household chores and is fully automated via voice command.  Things seem to be going fine until Proteus starts to question the assignments that he has been given and his unhappiness with being ‘trapped inside a box’. To remedy the situation he decides to use the computer terminal inside the Harris’s home, so that he can overtake the house through his electronic commands and then impregnate Susan to have his child and therefore experience life as a person instead of a machine.

One of the things that got on my nerves right away was the way the film immediately telegraphs where it is going and reeks with ‘70s paranoia about computers ‘overtaking the world’, which was a prevalent fear during that era as computers were just in their infancy and their ultimate place in human society still not fully understood.

The Alex character is too ambivalent towards the warning signs and comes off like the clichéd super scientist with a child-like enthusiasm about his ‘creation’ and not the slightest concern for what might happen if things go wrong and the way he becomes so quickly shocked when the computer does start to behave in a way he had not considered seems almost laughable. Real-life scientists would most assuredly have considered these issues and had safeguards already put in place and the fact that the characters here don’t just doesn’t seem believable.

When the Proteus computer takes over Susan’s home I didn’t find it frightening, but more unintentionally funny for many of the same reasons. I don’t think that I myself could ever get used to a computer running everything for me and doing whatever I said at the sound of my voice. In the back of my mind, and in any sane person’s mind for that matter, I would be worrying about it malfunctioning and the consequences that it would entail, so when things finally do go wrong I found it laughable because anyone could have clearly seen it coming from the start. In fact the only thing that saves this thing from a being a complete dud is Christie’s brilliant performance and the fact that she gets you to see her character as a real human being and someone you care for and want to see rescued.

Spoiler Alert!

The script suffers from a myriad of other logical loopholes as well. One of them is the whole basic premise of how a computer can somehow manipulate human DNA in order to get supposedly his ‘genes’ into the child, so that it fully has his own traits and even his own voice. There is also no suitable explanation for how he was able to speed-up the gestation period from the 9 months to just 28 days. I was also surprised that the husband never bothers to call his wife during that 28-day period. Yes, I realize that they had just separated, but it was a very amicable one and I would still have thought he would’ve called-in at some point simply to check-in. There is also another character played by Gerrit Graham who comes into the house and tries to shut down the computer and is killed in the process making me believe that his disappearance would’ve caused suspicion and others would’ve come looking for him. There is also the issue of her mail, which I’m sure would’ve been piling up at her front door and causing both the mail carrier and neighbors to take notice.

End of Spoiler Alert!

The film is full of many colorful graphics and effects although they may no longer be considered as state-of-the-art as they once were. The idea is an intriguing one and Robert Vaughn gives the Proteus character a lot of menace with his voice, but he is still no HAL. The ending is really over-the-top, but in a wildly interesting sort of way even though it does nothing but create more questions than answers.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 8, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Donald Cammell

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)

Petulia (1968)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: A very brief affair.

While attending a medical fundraiser Petulia (Julie Christie) who is a married rich socialite, decides to come-on to Archie (George C. Scott), a doctor who performed a life-saving surgery on a young Hispanic boy (Vincent Arias) that she brought to him a few months earlier. Archie is still hurting from his recent divorce to his wife Polo (Shirley Knight) and not sure he wants to jump into another relationship so quickly especially with a woman that behaves in such an eccentric way. However, her kooky personality and good-looks get the better of him and the two spend the night together. In the days that follow Archie learns of her abusive relationship with her husband David (Richard Chamberlain), but when he makes an attempt to help her get out of it she resists, which causes him a great deal of frustration as he is unable to get a good grasp on why she behaves the way that she does.

The film is based on the novel ‘Me and My Arch Kook Petulia’, which was written by John Haase who worked as a dentist and wrote his stories between his appointments. What makes this plot stand out from the rest of the romances is that it focuses on the chance meeting between two people who share an immediate attraction, but are unable due to various extraneous circumstances to ever get it into a relationship stage. They become like two-ships-passing-in-the-night and go on with their lives and even other relationships while quietly longing for ‘the-one-that-got-away’. Most movies portray romances where everything falls into line and works out while blithely ignoring the ones that get shown in this film even though these are much more common.

Director Richard Lester, who is better known for his slapstick comedies, shows an astute eye for detail and his fragmented narrative works seamlessly. I enjoyed the quick edits and color detail as well as the subliminal symbolism including showing the David and Petulia characters wearing all-white to display their sterile marriage as well as capturing David’s father (Joseph Cotton) sitting in front of a giant window that looked like a cobweb to help illustrate how he had entangled Petulia into his own personal web. The film, which was shot on-location in San Francisco, features great shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the world famous cable cars as well as an interesting scene at the Jack Tar Motel, which has now been demolished but was famous for its ability to check customers into their rooms without the use of a live clerk, but instead through close circuit TV and a room key that would light up when the person passed by their assigned room.

The two leads give strong performances particularly Scott who for a change doesn’t play a character with a forceful personality, but instead someone who inadvertently gets bowled over by a woman who has an even stronger one than he. Even Chamberlain does well. Normally I find him to be quite bland, but here he is surprisingly effective.

This movie also marks the film debuts of many performers who are seen in brief, but quirky bits including: Richard Dysart as a virtual hotel clerk, Howard Hesseman as a hippie, Rene Auberjonois as a seat cushion salesman and Austin Pendleton as a hospital orderly. Members of the Grateful Dead get some funny moments while inside a grocery store and Janis Joplin can be seen onstage singing during the opening party sequence.

Romance fans will like this, but so will those living in the Bay area during the ‘60s as the city gets captured well. However, fans of that decade will also like it as it expertly exudes the vibe from the period and making it seem very real to the viewer even if they weren’t alive during the time it was made. Also, John Barry’s haunting theme nicely reflects the character’s mood and evasive film style.

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My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Heat and Dust (1983)

heat and dust

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Illicit love in India.

Anne (Julie Christie) has acquired a great fascination with her long-lost Aunt Olivia (Greta Sachi) who was involved in scandal while living in India during the 1920’s. After doing some extensive interviews with Harry (Nickolas Grace) a man who knew Olivia and was friends with her during the period, Anne decides to make a trek to the region herself.  Although several decades removed Anne still manages to find some interesting things about her Aunt including her illicit affair with a local ruler named Nawab (Shashi Kapoor) which caused great scandal at the time and forced her to go into hiding.

The film has a unique structure in that it weaves back and forth between the ‘60s when Anne travels to the region and the ‘20s when Olivia was there. Initially this is slightly off-putting as it cuts back and forth quite suddenly and without warning, but eventually I adjusted to it and amazingly it comes off quite seamlessly most of the way. The film spends more time on Olivia, but by the end it’s cutting between the two every couple of minutes and it one cool moment even have the two come together in a surreal type of way. The only real problem I had with this is when Anne meets a young American man who has ‘purified’ himself from the capitalistic culture of the west, but then still seems to fall back on his old ways at times creating a tumultuous relationship with Anne that I found rather interesting and was upset when the film suddenly cut back to Olivia and then stayed with her for too long a time before going back.

I enjoyed the on-location shooting of India, which makes you feel almost like you’ve traveled there yourself. The film not only analyzes the crowded squalor of the big cities, but also the rocky beauty of its rugged terrain. The film immerses the viewer in the culture looking at both the positive aspects of it as well as the negative, which gives you an overall balanced viewpoint. However, I would have liked more an expansive look of the area with greater use of a wide angle lens and a few bird’s-eye shots of the city, but this was most likely limited because of budget restraints.

I enjoyed the wide-eyed idealism of the Olivia character and Sacchi captures it just right. Christie is also solid, but in the end a bit wasted. The film itself is interesting enough to hold your attention, but some of the scenes go on longer than necessary and could have easily been trimmed. The story seemed rather simple and predictable and has no action at all making the runtime excessive especially with a final payoff that is not too exciting and leaves more than a few loose ends open.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 15, 1983

Runtime: 2Hours 13Minutes

Rated R

Director: James Ivory

Studio: Merchant Ivory Productions

Available: VHS, DVD