Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The '80s - 2: some rarities

THE COMPETITION - a 1980 drama I had missed, despite my affection for Lee Remick. Its one of those movies that never surfaced since so I was pleased to finally get a copy. The movie centers on a piano competition whose winner is assured of success. It is Paul's last chance to compete, but newcomer Heidi may be a better pianist. Can romance be far away? Will she take a dive despite the pressure to win from her teacher, Greta, or will she condemn Paul to obscurity?
It began with my thinking that I could fast-forward a lot of this but it becomes totally compelling as we get to know the six contestants in a music competition in San Francisco - there is the Russian girl with a kidnap sub-plot, the good-looking Italian guy who thinks he can tap into the DeNiro-Pacino-Travolta market. We spent most time though with our two leads: Richard Dreyfuss as the cocky musician desperate to win, and Amy Irving, so it is all very 1980s with more big hair. Sam Wanamaker is good as the orchestra conductor, but the movie is totally stolen by Lee Remick, in the role of Amy's teacher. It is one of her best roles and she totally compelling here, as we await her next appearance. She is wise, witty, and more beautiful than ever as she sees her pupil Amy falling for Dreyfuss, and tries to advise her that he may be manipulating her to gain a competitive edge. 

Who wins? who loses? It is interestingly worked out, Joel Oliansky directs with a sure hand. Dreyfuss was very lucky indeed to be in 2 of the '70s biggest hits - he worked well with Spielberg in both JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (my review is at '70s label), and of course AMERICAN GRAFFITI and also had that enormous success (and Best Actor Oscar) for THE GOODBYE GIRL (so very 1970s) when his mannerisms were becoming apparant. I found both him and his character (with that cap glued to his head) deeply unlikeable here, but it does not spoil the movie. The best I can say about him is that he plays an egocentric jerk to perfection ....

The music scenes are well handled too -  the actors must have rehearsed so that they could actually mimic the hand movements of a pianist. The overall score is by the splendid Lalo Schifrin. There is a theme song as well sung by Randy Crawford. Good as Irving and Dreyfuss are, it is Remick who scores here as the hard-nosed, totally serious, single-minded taskmaster who demands, and brings forth, the best from her pupil. Dreyfuss is driven and desperate but, while gifted, has never been able to break through as a serious musician, and who will be washed up if he does not win. He and Amy become romantically involved, much to Remick's dismay, only to find themselves competing head to head for the most coveted prize in their field. Can they work it out knowing that only one of them can win? A solid, well-crafted romantic drama then.  

Can't say the same for HIGH SEASON - which I was really looking forward to, due to good comments on it over at IMDB. This is a supposed comedy from 1987 about a disparate group on holiday and mixing with the natives in Rhodes, Greece. It is though an absolute snoozefest, which I could not bear. Top-lining are those '60s people Jacqueline Bissett and James Fox, we also have young Kenneth Branagh and Leslie Manville, both very annoying here (she was wonderful though in Mike Leigh's ANOTHER YEAR recently, as per my review, 2000s label). The great Greek actress Irene Papas is also present, and again has too little to do.
Now I know Rhodes well, but writers Clare and Mark Peploe make nothing much of it here - the stunning village of Lindos (see my comments at Greece label) is not even well served here, it could be any old Greek village, we barely see the temple - and we don't even see the great medieval Rhodes Old Town! The plot too is too dreary to go into. So, not one I liked at all. Clare Peploe directs (she is married to Bernando Bertolucci) and her brother Mark has associations with Antonioni, having scripted THE PASSENGER - so art-house associations then, but no wonder this one sank without trace.

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