Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ragtime Summer

(Alan Bridges, 1977)
More than an hour into this well-observed but highly uneventful period piece about smalltown mores and personal conscience, something finally happens: Joey Davidson's petulant drunken youth pushes Honor Blackman through a glass window, causing her death. Or does he? In one of the dumbest moments of censorship I've ever seen, the video edition of this film cuts straight from Davidson leering menacingly to Blackman hitting the window; in situation it plays out as though she cut her throat on her own steam. I guess somebody in the chain of command thought that the cultured audience this film addresses would not stand for violence against women of any sort, was informed that this incident was the absolute pivot of the narrative, and accepted this 'minor' trim as a compromise. And so the film remains of a piece, because for all its allusions to early 20th century pacifism and feminist thought, it never breaks out of its repressive milieu; people talk about things, people's inner lives are transformed by things, but never is anything substantial actually done or experienced on screen. The meandering road to this inert hell is paved by fine performances and adorned by many small moments of truth and humour. But it leads nowhere.

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