Friday, May 20, 2011

Circle of Two

(Jules Dassin, 1980)
Hollywood blacklistee Dassin's final film is a serious and thoughtful attempt to portray a platonic love affair between a precocious teenager and a soused painter. Well, the painter isn't actually much of a souse himself, but he is played in glassy-eyed fashion by a 1980 Richard Burton, so you do the math. Tatum O'Neal holds up her end though, and I found myself rooting for this movie right to the end. But there's way too much next-mark pacing around in the staging, Paul Hoffert's score is a nightmare about corn syrup, and utlimately the film's thesis says more about unhappy old men than it does about twinkly young women: its lament for lost youth is thick and maudlin even if it is surprisingly moral. There's a subtle hint in the scene where Burton laments his agent's rejection of portraiture for newfangled modernity; you can just hear the filmmakers indignantly defending their work on the same dubious, fogeyish grounds. I'd expect an old master like Dassin to be above such things, but this is another example of Canadian cinema eating its auteurs for breakfast.

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