Friday, January 22, 2010

In Praise of Older Women

(George Kaczender, 1978)
For all its pretensions, this prestige item is fastidious in its adherence to the rules of softcore pornography. With the point of view firmly affixed to Tom Berenger's single-minded horndog, the Hungarian history lessons are merely interludes en route to the next romp in the hay, which is of course as severely shorn of vulgar detail as the political content itself. And when he arrives in Montreal, we get the intensely familiar North American gaze upon the relative sexual freedom of the enlightened European, wittier than usual but just as dubious. This rhetoric also indicates that the filmmakers were quite calculating in their challenge to the uptight cinematic morals of Canada 1978; the movie is fully obsessive in its display of sexual situations whose only practical interest are the taboos they challenge. However Kaczender is a real director working with real actors, and so there is in fact some fleeting interest in the characters doing the romping. In fact the women are infinitely more interesting than Berenger, and are presented with genuine interest and affection, which helps to temper the dominance of the male gaze a wee bit. Karen Black, Susan Strasberg, Helen Shaver, Alexandra Stewart - are all fully engaging with or without boobs hanging out, and the 'frolicking' score does actually keep things moving. Still, keying every exchange to sex inevitably means that the ones who won't put out get short shrift, and portraying the 1956 uprising as a bunch of silly people hopping up and down does nothing for the film's credibility.

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