Arthur Penn:"Night Moves" (1975)

Night Moves (1975)
Like Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) and Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974), Arthur Penn's Night Moves rethinks the conventions of 1940s film noir with a 1970s sensibility. In the noir world, the L.A. lifestyles of the rich and famous masked an amoral core over which the detective could momentarily assert his ethical power; in Penn's 1970s version (as in those of Altman and Polanski), the detective cannot even manage that small a victory. The noir shadows that swathe Harry Moseby's Florida trip in Night Moves only emphasize how little he can see of what is really happening; and even what action Harry (Gene Hackman) can see is blocked by clear water and glass barriers. Increasingly less receptive to films that delved into the unethical morass of contemporary America, the audience did not embrace Night Moves as earlier ones had Penn's previous revisionist genre movies, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Little Big Man (1970). Still, the final image of this Penn outing indelibly sums up the quandary of a detective with some grasp of how to do the right thing, faced with a society that couldn't care less.

The Walker Brothers :"Portrait" (1966)

The Walker Brothers Portrait
The Walkers' second U.K. album was their most commercially successful, reaching number three, yet its quality was quite erratic. Like some other pop/rock LPs of its time, it suffered from an apparent strategy to appeal to a wider demographic than those that typically bought pop/rock records, adding a cover of Louis Armstrong's "Just for a Thrill," the moldy standard "Old Folks," and the pedestrian white-boy soul workout on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." On the other hand, this had the dramatic "In My Room," a fine antecedent of Scott Walker's moody late-'60s solo outings. The two songs Scott actually wrote or co-wrote, "Saturday's Child" (which sounds too close to "River Deep, Mountain High" for comfort) and the easygoing crooner pop of "I Can See It Now," are okay but nothing more. The LP was filled out by a decent reading of "Summertime," covers of a couple of obscure Leiber/Stoller tunes ("Take It Like a Man" is very much in the Drifters style), and the melodramatic "No Sad Songs for Me" (the best tune that doesn't show up on the After the Lights Go Out compilation). The 1998 CD reissue essentially makes this into a whole new product by doubling the length to 24 songs, adding a dozen cuts from singles and EPs of the era. Some of the bonus tracks are among the Walkers' best, such as "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," "After the Lights Go Out," "Archangel," "Deadlier Than the Male," and "Mrs. Murphy." Yet all of these are available on After the Lights Go Out, and the rarer cuts aren't worthy of intense scrutiny. There's some excellent stuff on this disc, but as the best songs (from both the original Portrait LP and the extra tracks) are on After the Lights Go Out, it's only recommended to serious fans.


Jerry Schatzberg:"Scarecrow" (1973)

Scarecrow (1973)
An ex-con learns the value of friendship in Jerry Schatzberg's picaresque road movie. Trying to hitch a ride on a desolate California road, fresh-out-of-prison Max (Gene Hackman) meets ex-sailor Lion (Al Pacino). They are both headed east, as Max dreams of opening a deluxe car wash in Pittsburgh and Lion believes that the wife and child he left behind will still welcome him home. The two decide to journey together, forging an increasingly deep yet uncertain friendship, as Lion teaches Max how not to be so pugnacious and Max senses Lion's fragility. When the pair hits Detroit, Lion finally gets in touch with his wife and discovers how she really feels. When Lion is shattered by the revelation, Max must decide if he should forge on alone or sacrifice his carefully guarded savings to help his friend. One of a cycle of late 1960s-early 1970s buddy movies that included Midnight Cowboy (1969) and California Split (1974), Scarecrow suggests how alienated men had become from such traditional institutions as marriage and family. Max's and Lion's salvation comes from being on the road with each other, rather than settling down with jobs and families. Pacino's first film after his triumph in The Godfather (1972), and Hackman's follow-up to The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and his Oscar for The French Connection (1971), Scarecrow won the 1973 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but the two stars were not enough to make it a hit. Even so, their nuanced performances enhance this moody study of contemporary dislocation.

Kris Kristofferson:"The Silver Tongued Devil and I" (1971)

Kris Kristofferson The Silver Tongued Devil and I
By the time Monument came to release Kristofferson's second album, The Silver Tongued Devil and I, in July 1971, he was the author of four songs that had topped the country or pop charts for others. Kristofferson himself had not yet reached the charts with a recording of his own, but his spectacular success as a songwriter made The Silver Tongued Devil and I a much-anticipated record. One consequence of this was that Monument was willing to spend more money; three of the album's songs boasted strings and another a horn section. But the key, of course, was still the songwriting, and though there were several excellent songs, the album could not live up to its predecessor, which was the culmination of years of writing. Typically for a second album, Kristofferson reached back into his catalog, presenting his own treatments of "Jody and the Kid" and "The Taker," which had been hits for Roy Drusky and Waylon Jennings, respectively. In his newly written material, Kristofferson continued to examine the lives of society's outcasts, but the antiestablishment tone of some of Kristofferson was gone along with much of the wry humor, and in their place were touches of morbidity and sentimentality. Kristofferson retained his gift for intimate love songs, and the album's most memorable selections turned out to be "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" (which became a semi-standard) and "When I Loved Her." And even if his observations seemed less acute, his talent for wordplay often rescued the songs from banality. On its way to becoming a gold record, The Silver Tongued Devil and I reached the pop Top 20, Kristofferson's career high on that chart, and the country Top Five; thus, Kristofferson made the transition from being a successful songwriter to a successful recording artis

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More