comedy by FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART
I WO PLAYERS unknown to movie audiences and studios were found for this year's major Oscars. The Academy Award for Best Actor of the Year went to an unknown, Art Carney.
The Best Actress Oscar went to Ellen Burstyn, who had a small part in the same picture, "Harry and Tonto," and who scored as the mother in "The Exorcist." Her Oscar was awarded for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore ("AA", Curzon.) In this, she is the mother of a clever but not particularly prepossessing teenager Tom (Alfred Lutter.) Mother and son are left alone together when Tom's rather uncouth father (Billy Green Bush) is killed in a truck smash.
They are naturally upset, but not heartbroken. Innocently released from an unsatisfactory marriage, Alice soon regards this as a providential second chance to take up her former life as a would-be singer (pop, not opera). Accompanied by the awkwardly aged Tom, she decides to leave Oklahoma and set out for Monterey, a town where she had once glimpsed happiness. When she takes a fairly lowly singing joh in Albuquerque, her first choice of a boyfriend is doubly unfortunate. Ben (Harvey Keitel) is both married and beastly.
Frightened by his brutality, Alice and Tom set off again. On the way to Monterey they halt at Tucson, where Alice can find nothing nearer singing than a job as a waitress in a hectically busy "diner." Life there is made just bearable for Alice by a kindly boss, Jacobs (Murray Moston) and a fellow dish-washer, Flo (Diane Ladd), with a brazen tongue but a heart of gold in the best Hollywood tradition of the heroine's wisecracking friend.
Along comes David (Kris Kristoffersen), a big, tough customer who knows how to bide his time and make up to the boy as well as to his Mum. As a story it doesn't sound up to very much. But it is an amiable American provincial comedy with interest aptly enough centred on relations between the young, inexpert mother and her amusingly precocious son. The simple story is kept alive and moving by Martin Scorsese's lively direction and the heroine's wholesome, self-deprecatory charms are enormously enhanced by Ellen Burstyn's radiant and humorous performance as Alice.
Her honest, hard-working, essentially wholesome portrait of a little American provincial widow fully earns her Oscar, especially reinforced by her telling performance in quite a small part in "Harry and Tonto" the Oscar-winning picture and before that in "The Exorcist" as the possessed girl's mother.
am not yet quite convinced that her Oscar heralds the birth of a new star. Ellen Burstyn — a fresh face ever so slightly reminiscent of June Allyson — strikes me as an actress who will always shine in a supporting role, but may need, and be hard-pressed to find, parts as good as this in which to star.
It always surprises me that an actor as clever, polished and sophisticated as Sidney Poitier, when he comes to make films of his own, should show such naive judgment. Uptown, Saturday Night ("A", Warner West End) admittedly shows him as a lively enough director able to keep a large cast on the move.
But as a story this is a very crude all-black comedy indeed about the misadventures of hard-working Steve (Poitier) and his friend Franklin (Bill Cosby), who leads him on the town one Saturday night, They lose their money and their lottery ticket. They come up against small-time crooks and feuding gangsters, and even a private detective does them down.
The cast seems to include half Hollywood's favourite black actors, from Harry Belafonte (non-singing) to Calvin Lockhart. But it seems very curious propaganda to show them as such a bunch of thugs and crooks.
I regret that the only one of the Norwegian season at the National Film Theatre which it proved possible to show to the Press was Maria Maruszka, with its singularly un-Norwegian name. This bucolic tale of a light-house keeper, his wife and daughter and the young man he impulsively invites to take a hut on their island for the season, has considerable charm.
It is difficult to make a film of the Norwegian scene without charm. But the lovely sunlit green and rocky coasts are as grimly contrasted with the traditional gloom of the human drama as they sometimes are in Fact.
Both the heavy-handed psychology and the ponderous style of the acting make the whole thing almost too true to the conventional notion of a Scandinavian saga drama. The rest of the Norwegian week included several offerings which sounded more like the gaiety and sophistication of Norwegians as they are — outside their drama. I hope, for instance, to get a look at "Bobby's War" an evocation of Nazioccupied Oslo through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, or "Line's Wedding," said to be very beautiful. The season is very short but even five films from Norway are an exceptionally high number. Alas, it was not found possible to show any of the rest to the Press in advance.