Taking Off (1971)When I walk down the street,
All the people that I meet,
Don't seem to know that,
There's a word called love.
I've never seen a film like Taking Off, and while I may have trouble explaining my passion let it be clear that this is the best movie I've seen so far this year. Milos Forman's English language debut seems to capture the exact moment when America's hippie movement of the 60s gives way to a more dangerous experimentation of the early 70s as viewed through the eyes of parents who are being shaken like an earthquake from their 50s state of mind.
The film is a satire of the family during this time that contrasts the vastly different lifestyles of the parents and the kids. It doesn't skewer its subjects like most satires, but instead embraces both cultures and observes how both generations are looking for deeper meaning, trying to be individuals while conforming to expectations and demonstrating a willingness to embarrass themselves if it makes them happy.
When the film begins it seems to have no plot, but an endless parade of music, sometimes sung by many people carefully edited together. Most of the singers are bad, but you can see the joy on their faces. This is bookended by closing scenes involving adults singing, just as bad and just as joyful. I hesitate to say I like the music, but I absolutely love the way it's presented, to the point where I didn't care if the film ever decided to form a plot.
One of the songs is by a very young Kathy Bates.
Forman's approach here I've read compared to Lubitsch. I would include Richard Linklater, but you can also sense a tone that would lead to Cuckoo's Nest. It's a comedy, but not one with obvious laugh lines. There's a message but it isn't spoon-fed or jammed down our throat. Best of all, Taking Off is just wildly unpredictable, anchored by a superb performance by Buck Henry. I happily went along with whatever the film wanted to do.Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Very Good