By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Hippie falls or businessman.
Edith Alice ‘Breezy’ Breezerman (Kay Lenz) lives the life of a hippie after losing both her parents to a car accident years earlier. Her transient lifestyle consists of one-night-stands and hitching rides from strangers. One day she jumps into a car owned by Frank Harmon (William Holden). Frank is a middle-aged man who went through a tumultuous divorce years earlier and isn’t interested in getting into a relationship especially with someone young enough to be his daughter and yet Breezy’s carefree ways begin to grow on him and despite his reluctance the two slowly form a bond.
The script was written by Jo Heims who also penned Clint Eastwood’s earlier hit Play Misty for Me. Originally she wanted Clint to play the part of Frank, but he felt he was too young for the role and decided he would direct instead although you can still spot him for a brief second leaning against a wooden rail during a scene at a boardwalk. Unfortunately his fan base was expecting to see more of an action or western flick and not some laid-back counter-culture love story and much of his following gave it a-bad-word-of-mouth to others who then stayed away. After some bad reviews from an initial screening the studio decided to shelve it for a year before finally releasing it to select theaters with very little promotion, which caused it to tank at the box office, but this is definitely a movie that deserves a second look.
One of the things that I liked is that it tackles the controversial subject of relationships with a wide age difference something that is still sometimes considered ‘gross’ even by otherwise liberal minded people today. Yet the subject gets examined in a refreshingly non exploitative way where it is actually the man who is reluctant to get involved and even at one point outright rejects her while she continues to pursue it convinced that despite one of them ‘being on this planet a little bit longer than the other’ they still have the same wants and needs.
The film like its title has a nice ‘breezy’ pace too that reflects its Bay area setting quite well and allows the viewer to get to know the characters and their interpersonal dynamics without ever feeling that it gets rushed or is forced. The introspective script makes many key insights particularly with the Holden character and how his ‘old school’ upbringing and fear of being judged by others makes him hesitant to get involved despite the strong feelings that he has for her.
Eastwood shows astute direction as well. I particularly liked the scene where Holden writes down the phone number from a lady guest and then the camera follows the woman out of the house and remains focused on her through the front window as she gets into a cab while we also see the back of Holden’s hand who crumples up the piece of paper with the phone number on it and throws it into an ashtray, which shows us his disinterest in her visually without having it verbally explained and is a hallmark of good filmmaking.
The motivations for Breezy’s character particularly the reasons for why she falls so quickly for Holden isn’t clear. There is also a scene where Holden puts an injured dog that he rescued from the side of the road into his car, but it never shows what he did with it. Then an hour later that same dog comes back into play as we realize he had taken it to a vet., but I felt that segment should’ve been shown since it ends up being integral to the story otherwise this is a really well made sleeper looking to find new fans who can appreciate an intelligently done romance.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: November 18, 1973
Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes
Director: Clint Eastwood
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B), Amazon Video, YouTube
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Old actress stays young.
This Review Contains Spoilers!
Barry ‘Dutch’ Detweiler (William Holden) is a struggling film director looking to make a big splash by trying to convince a reclusive Greta Garbo-like actress (Marthe Keller) to come out of retirement and star in his next big picture. He however, has trouble getting into contact with her as she resides on a secluded island estate in Greece. Finally after giving his script to her plastic surgeon (Jose Ferrer) he is able to meet her, but finds things to be on a strange side as she looks almost ageless and living with an authoritative Countess (Hildegard Knef) and personal secretary (Frances Sternhagen) who treat her like she is a child and refuse to let her out of their sight. As Barry investigates further he unravels the dark secret that the three share and the shocking reason why Fedora never seems to age.
Based on a short story by actor-turned-author Tom Tryon this was director Billy Wilder’s second-to-last film and as legendary as he is it was surprising to me why this film has never been released to DVD despite the fact that all of his other ones have. However, after viewing it the reason became clear as this is a real dud and a great director’s worst movie. The plot is poorly thought out and leaves a bundle of loopholes. In fact the believability is so low that it’s hard to get into it at all and the big twist that occurs near the middle where Fedora’s secret is exposed, which is that the old, ugly Countess is the real Fedora while the woman masquerading as the young looking one is really her daughter, is not surprising as I had suspected it from the very beginning. The acting and melodramatics are so much on a goofy soap opera level that the studio ended up dropping the film from its distribution when test audiences were found laughing in all the wrong places.
The island residence used to represent Fedora’s secluded home appeared rather old and rundown and the interiors were a bit cramped and not looking as luxurious as one would expect for a rich actress and Holden’s character is able to invade the place a bit too easily. I also thought the idea that the young Fedora would be constantly seen wearing white gloves to supposedly to cover up how young looking her hands were and thus tip people off that she really wasn’t an old woman at all didn’t make any sense as the daughter had already made three movies under the guise as being the old Fedora and it is impossible to believe that she would have been allowed to wear gloves through all of those roles.
The part where the Holden’s character gets knocked unconscious is equally stupid. For one thing he is not taken to a hospital, but instead back to his seedy hotel where he lies in bed for a whole a week before finally, miraculously regaining his consciousness. However, if a person is knocked out for that long a period it almost inevitably leads to a coma and how where they able to feed him and give him water? A hospital could’ve hooked him up to an IV that a dingy hotel wouldn’t have, which most likely would have had him dying from dehydration long before he makes his magically recovery and for someone who was hit over the head so violently you would expect some bruising, swelling and cuts and yet Holden wakes up without a single scratch on him!
The plastic surgery angle is another mess. Supposedly the whole reason Fedora got her daughter to pretend to be her is after she had some experimental surgery done on her face that became botched and made her too ugly to look at and yet one can see far worse plastic surgery disasters by observing many of today’s actresses attending your average Hollywood gala. Since the movie gets so over-the-top with its melodrama anyways they really should have made her face much more grotesque and thus given the viewer and film a lasting image.
Initially Marthe Keller was expected to play both the young and older Fedora, but when it was found that she had an allergic reaction to the old age makeup that was used Knef was then hired to play the part of the countess. Since their voices did not sound similar German actress Inga Bunsch dubbed for both of them, but her excessively deep voice gets really annoying to listen to.
After watching this film I came to the conclusion that Wilder had fallen into the same trap as his famous Norma Desmond character from Sunset Boulevard as he seems to be clinging too much to sentiments and a filmmaking style from a bygone era that no longer has relevance and unfortunately embarrasses himself in the process.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: May 30, 1978
Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes
Director: Billy Wilder
Posted in 70's Movies, Drama, Movies Based on Short Stories, Movies with Nudity, Obscure Movies
Tagged Billy Wilder, Entertainment, Hildegard Knef, Inga Bunsch, Marthe Keller, Movies, plastic surgery, Review, William Holden