1976: Part 1

The Best Way to Walk. Directed by Claude Miller. This overlooked, almost obscure French film, set in a boys’ summer camp circa 1960, had been on my Netflix queue for a long time, but after Claude Miller passed away on April 4, I knew I had to finally see it. Patrick Dewaere was nominated for a César Award for playing a macho camp counselor who discovers the secret life of another counselor played by Patrick Bouchitey: a preference for dressing in drag and makeup. Bouchitey’s delicate features and trembling lower lip help him demonstrate the extent of his character’s torment at the hands of Dewaere, whose own soulful eyes and chiseled chin provide strong contrast both with Bouchitey’s physicality and perhaps also with Dewaere’s character’s cruelty. Tragically, Dewaere’s real-life troubles led him to commit suicide in 1982. Even sadder, Christine Pascal (who plays Bouchitey’s girlfriend) committed suicide in 1996. What a shame; in the film she was so beautiful.

Carrie. Directed by Brian De Palma. What sets Carrie apart from most horror films and puts it in the pantheon of masterpieces like Psycho and Rosemary’s Baby is that Carrie is not simply about blood-and-guts sensationalism. It is a film that explores the very ordinary and unfortunate ways in which bullying and ostracism can affect a person; it’s the consequent experiences of those whom Carrie exacts revenge on that are unlike any other story. Sissy Spacek is absolutely the right choice for the title loner teen, blending a sweetly angelic look with extreme creepiness. Her mother, played by Piper Laurie, is one for the books: a religious zealot who ironically makes Carrie’s life a living hell. Laurie’s combination of eerie serenity and insanity makes her character unforgettable. The softly glowing light captured by cinematographer Mario Tosi – partially a result of being a film from the 70s, but also an achievement on Tosi’s part – and the score by Pino Donaggio create a perfect counterbalance to the dark nature of the actual plot. In current movie news: I’m not sure how to feel about the upcoming remake. While I enjoyed Chloe Grace Moretz’s performance in Hugo, I can’t imagine her (or anyone) besting Spacek.

Network. Directed by Sidney Lumet. Network is just as prescient as critics say it is; it predicts the rise of reality television and the lengths to which people will go to ensure ratings. Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning screenplay hits all the right notes, pinpointing both the issues involved with the network and echoing the problems experienced by those who are responsible for maintaining the level of shock value on TV. Peter Finch is stellar as Howard Beale (“the mad prophet of the airwaves”), but I think William Holden is even better. He provides the emotional core of the movie and has most of the script’s best lines of dialogue. There has been some controversy as to whether or not Beatrice Straight, who plays Holden’s wife, should have won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for a role which is essentially comprised of one scene. To me, Straight’s performance does exactly what it needs to and is more than worthy of the coveted award. Watch Network and tell me it doesn’t predict all the horrors of the way we live today.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Directed by Blake Edwards. I have been a fan of the Pink Panther series since I was a little kid. Peter Sellers is, as always, an unparalleled comedian. Unlike the first two films from the 60s, The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark, the 70s sequels (at least the first two – I have not seen Revenge of the Pink Panther) have that extra special something. Clouseau’s first standoff scene with Cato and subsequent hunchback costume scene are comedy gold. The real tour de force, however, belongs to Herbert Lom as the long-suffering Dreyfus, whose mental instability reaches new lows when he emerges as Clouseau’s latest nemesis. Dreyfus’s descent into madness, which somehow gets the UN and Gerald Ford involved, is brilliant stuff. There’s even time for a Tom Jones song “Come to Me,” which garnered an Oscar nomination and sets the mood for a hilarious seduction scene with Lesley-Anne Down. Oh and last but never least: keep your eye out for a cameo by the very suave Omar Sharif.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Directed by Herbert Ross. Nicol Williamson, who passed away last December, might just be the greatest Sherlock Holmes ever to grace the silver screen. He is joined by some of the finest actors of the 70s: Robert Duvall as John Watson, Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud (who is called upon to psychoanalyze and cure Holmes of his cocaine habit) and Laurence Olivier as Professor Moriarty, along with Vanessa Redgrave, Joel Grey, Samantha Eggar, Jeremy Kemp, Charles Gray and Georgia Brown. Williamson’s portrayal of Holmes not only as an eccentric wit but also as a drug addict gives the film a tone which is otherwise missing from the Robert Downey, Jr., Jeremy Brett, etc. versions of the character. Besides the top-notch actors, the direction by the late, great Herbert Ross, as well as the Oscar-nominated screenplay and costume design display both wit and flair, contributing to making the entire experience a truly memorable one.

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