01. The Opening of Misty Beethoven
(Radley Metzger, 1976)
Whereas other Metzger films elongate their pleasure by meting out sex judiciously, making the waiting part of the structure and also the appeal, this hardcore film, shot by Metzger under the name Henry Paris, literally opens with a couple engaged in cunnilingus before cycling through various other positions - the licking and insertion of genitals proudly displayed in frequent in closeups. Metzger's adaptation on Pygmalion
is frequently witty in its dialogue and scenarios (the airline where stewardesses give head is pretty funny), but stylistically, it's just boring. The hardcore obligation forces Metzger to default to a lot of zoomed in shots of crotches, tongues and jizz. Which, you know, great, but it gets monotonous pretty fast.
02. Carnal Knowledge
(Mike Nichols, 1971)
Twin portraits, framed by POV confessionals, of corroded male sexuality. Nicholson's wannabe lothario is blustering, broken; "tell me my thoughts" becomes focal point of his inability to be emotionally understood, thought of that way. Garfunkel is possibly the most odious character in the movie; sensitive, passive, willing to mold himself to the other, but needy and desperate in a way that's unctuous. The film is funny in a toxic sort of way, and then becomes personal in a way that's worse. Nichols stays out of the way mostly, electing to frame for psychological acuity, not pictorial pleasure, but he somehow finds meaningful compositions regardless (Ann-Margret's far-off stare framed with her head in the low-right corner, unknowable to us and to the other characters).
03. Mean Streets
(Martin Scorsese, 1973)
A string of anecdotes awkwardly forced to a breaking point. So many scenes here feel like something that has actually happened. Mean Streets
is great because of how specific it is - the boredom of lounging around a bar where no one wants to play blackjack, the baby tiger, the endless parades of restaurants, bars, everyone and everything familiar. Pretty sure everyone in the film is a cousin of each other. Scorsese forces the modern saint aspect it, or rather overplays it, with his deep crimson lighting when Charlie submerges into the lifestyle or with the oven-top flames acting as an immediate source of penance. Cinema as confession, remembrance; "Be My Baby" tells it all. Sorta like a home movie that just happens to be stylistically bold and happens to have a narrative. So, yeah, it's pretty great.
04. Vigilante Force
(George Armitage, 1976)
Armitage zips through his scenario with remarkable speed, letting the implications of his character's actions do all the heavy lifting. However, stylistically, he never asserts himself in anyway. Feels like the whole thing is passing by without comment, inflection; almost feels anonymous. It's as blank as Jan Michael Vincent's expression.
05. The Last Run
(Richard Fleischer, 1971)
Very smart and nuanced direction at the service of a script that announces its own hackneyed intentions from the very start. The film just seems bored of its own character dynamics, its trajectory, everything. A better film would underplay the Scott/car dynamic, not highlight it with a sudden edit back to the car at film's end. At least we got Clint singing in Gran Torino
. What do we get here?