Titles and credits on the screen ought always to be in the clear: unmistakable clues to the movies about to be shown. Yet three films under revievs today are back in the period of pitaale pictures. Nor are titles much help to chart their world of agriculture, single parents and desert wastes.
Days of Heaven ("A", Plaza 2) as a title is much of a euphemism for the recherche du temps perclu %%Ilia recollects the coming of mechanisation to the Texan wheatfields. This is the first movie directed and written hy Terence Malick since his very striking "Badlands". The real star of "Days of Heaven" is Malick's director of photography, Nestor Almendros, artist of the excitingly Ph otographed films of Erik Roli mer ("Ma Nuit-Chcz Maude" and the rest).
The plot is minimal. and very elusive. I t is hard to follow accurately the adventures of Bill (Richard Gere) and Abby. (Brooke Adams). partly because of the dialect in which such dialogue as there is is spoken.
But it is also hard because of the very sparseness of dialogue V. here many of us have lost or never learned the language of silent cinema.
C gather from the recollections of the young girl narrator (Linda Manz) that in the teeming scene or 19th century Texas. Bill and Abby pass for brother and sister until, partly through the misunderstanding, the farmer (Sam Shepard) marries A bk. But the real drama is not so much triangular or psychological as social. regional, national and above all pictorial.
"1-he whirling golden wheat, the clanging arrival of tractors, steam engines and other agricultural machinery. the vast open spaces, are the forces, and the general air of growth is magnificently captured by the cameras under Almendros and by Malick's undoubted gift for maintaining a film in tension.
To all who are able to watch a film instead of listening to its dialogue "Days of Heaven" is likely to be a memorable film, though the relevance of the title is not immediately apparent.
Another mystifying title is The Left Handed Woman ("A", Camden Plata) although Peter Ilandke's film from his own novel is in some sense a German equivalent to "The Story of an Unmarried Woman". -At the inigntoirif t Lehr German movie, mv Cleve) s, inigntoirif t Lehr German movie, mv Cleve) s, tbni-ilegirirniNell'sd, living in a Paris suburb and awaiting the return of her husband (Bruno Ganz) from a
They are pleased enough to see each other, but before long she is asking him to remove himself again to give her a chance of living alone with their son, a quaint, bespectacled child. while she works with not much inure than normal problems of concentration, typing translations from Flaubert, and 'only normal frustration and irritation with the off-hand teasing of her son and his little boy-friend.
She lives in a pleasant apartment sparingly furnished with the essentials she needs (typewriter and table) and overlooking pleasant views of Paris. The movie is a strange mixture of alternation between positive boredom and the perpetual promise of interest.
The object. perhaps remotely connected with Women's Lib, is to examine whether the woman can manage on her own.
She has one woman friend who appears but rarely, and one middle-aged gentleman-caller, a professional contact whose mildly admiring proposition she turns down.
It is a question to which a male Austro-German writer-director and German production company much influenced by Wim Wenders are unlikely to give a very convincing positive answer.
The trouble is the film's difficulty in showing what compensations she can find for doing without the normal companionship of a husband or anybody else except a quirky little boy. So although the film is meticulously made, and Robby Muller's lovely unmannered photography is a delight to watch; and although the questioning treatment keeps the spectator agog with hope, the film cannot provide a satisfying answer or relief from the bleak and boring prospect.
Much more baffling than either is Robert Altman's Quintet ("A-, Cinecenta) Altman is a filmmaker extraordinary. He • is fashionable and has made such smash hits, both popular and prestigious, as "Nashville", "M AS H" and most recently "A Wedding". The success series is peppered with curious expeditions into the mitre. the arty and the obscure: such oddities as "Images" and "Three Women".
"Quintet" belongs to this latter category. Following the precedent of "Images", it might as well have been entitled "Games". Altman declares that games have always fascinated him, so he invented one called "Quintet", assembled an international all-star east, headed by Paul Newman, Fernando Rey, Vittorio Gassman and three leading ladies — two Swedish, one French — and took them off on location to Montreal. So much is all Altman would disclose about the film because he wanted audiences to see it without preconceived ideas. Thea will not easily pick up many clues as the go along. The film opens on a wide expanse of sea, sand or
nov.Two white-hooded figures
( Newman and a Swedish lady)tu s mble across the waste in the s wind. I wondered for a moment whether we were in Switzerland and the white robes were not Arab burnous but Cistercian habits. But no, these black dogs tangled dramatically in the centre of the screen were no jolly St Bernards with brandy, but a Teutonic type of Dobermann-cum-lurcher, called Rottweiler.
The travellers conic to rest in a never-never land with . architecture of thin tubular scaffolding or a central curtained camp where the characters (who now include Fernando Rey, the splendid Spanish actor who can make almost anything impressive. Even he seems defeated by the "lethal. inscrutable character named Brigot" in this film. The two Swedish leading ladies are Bibi Ansersson and Nina van Pallanda and the French one Brigitte Fossey. The only saint invoked is a character called St Christopher played by Vittorio Gassman.
In their curtained central set they can either play "Quintet" or exchange dauntingly sententious and pretentious comments on life and its meaning, if any. I confess I found myself quite incapable of guessing at Mr Altman's intended meaning for this charade.
Freda Bruce Lockhart