SOMETHING TO DECLARE: Twelve Years of Films From Abroad by John Simon

SOMETHING TO DECLARE: Twelve Years of Films From Abroad

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Simon's magazine reviews of non-American films since 1970--in a bulky collection that's no more (or less) impressive than Reverse Angle (1982), his gathering of US-film reviews. Again, though Simon's preface praises ""the better foreign films"" for having (unlike US movies) ""something to say,"" the vast majority of the notices here are dismissive put-downs--of minor efforts, of ""overrated"" successes, of talents in ""decline."" Simon has little use for post-8(apple) Fellini, for Resnais, for Joseph Losey or late Bunuel. (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is ""absolutely worthless."") He loathes Visconti, Hitchcock, and Bertolucci--especially when touted by other critics: ""Give the Hitch-hawkers their bittersweet pablum of allegedly sophisticated murder, and they'll salivate themselves right into their habitual hurrahs for the work of this polished, unpleasant infant."" (Or, on Last Tango in Paris, Pauline Kael, and Molly Haskell: ""so clearly does this film inspire free-floating sexual fantasies in women viewers that. . . ."") As for the likes of Herzog or Fassbinder, Simon offers only distaste (""an offense against God and man"") or, in recent years, neglect. And most of Simon's few enthusiasms--for Lina Wertmuller and Jan Troell especially--come across in strident, hyperbolic, uninfectious terms. (""There is more going on in a minute of [Seven Beauties] than in an hour of Hustle or Hester Street or Barry Lyndon."") Still, Simon can also be a straightforward, lucid, if unremarkable, critic--appreciating the quiet strengths of The Lacemaker, Breaker Morant, or Ozu; best of all are his sketchy but resonant responses to Bergman through this period, the only pieces in which Simon's brand of moralistic esthetics seems to reach beyond mere snobbery. And, though neither trustworthy as an overview nor distinguished as essay-literature (except for the nastinesses, Simon's writing is terribly flat), this uneven assemblage will provide film-students with a non-academic, idiosyncratic viewpoint for provocative contrast.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Potter--dist. by Crown