THREE-QUARTER FACE: Reports & Reflections by Penelope Gilliatt

THREE-QUARTER FACE: Reports & Reflections

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mixture of film reviews, film-retrospective essays, and interview-profiles (mostly on cinema folk)--the best of this British novelist/storyteller/critic's recent work for The New Yorker. Gilliatt takes a happily short-winded, personal approach to the New Yorker profile--and her portraits of much-admired figures manage to be endearing/adoring and shrewd at the same time: Luis Bunuel, 77 and deaf and mannerly and absolutely committed to his current project (Obscure Object of Desire), a ""stoic optimist"" whose ""work is born of the humor of a sad man distressed by his own vision of the world but with a fond eye for the mass of self-deceptions that make life bearable""; hippopotamus-like Henri Langlois, father of the CinemathÉque Francaise, ""who treats a lost film like a quarry to be coaxed, lured, hunted down, and nourished back to health by hand""; very serious Jeanne Moreau, who makes rabbit stew for P.G.; iconoclastic Jean-Luc Godard (he and P.G. play ping-pong)--who, though ""as innovative as Braque,"" is laconic, tentative, and ""seems to despair of himself daily""; Woody Allen, who makes coffee for P.G. (""One feels that this frail man suspects himself of weighing two hundred and forty pounds and of treading on everyone and every piece of outlying furniture""); and. . . even frailer Nabokov, who plays anagrams with P.G.: ""I gave him 'cart horse' (the solution is 'orchestra')."" Generally, however, Gilliatt's reviews of films themselves are less successful--often too generous (Interiors, Family Plot), intellectually sound but awfully predictable, sometimes limited by her English-ness (Annie Hall), sometimes flashily obscure, only very occasionally arresting (she's best on the anti-Vietnam film Hearts and Minds and Fellini's Amacord). Uneven, then--but a nicely paced volume with far more variety and color than the review-after-review collections recently offered by Pauline Kael and Stanley Kauffman.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1980
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan