In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_mv5bmjixmdywmtg3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdq1nzq0mze_._v1__sx1216_sy712_

Red Army

Emotionally charged, viscerally exciting and consistently enlightening, Gabe Polsky’s Red Army is a sports documentary like no other.

Thumb_mv5bmtg4mjuxodczm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdy4mjy0mze_._v1__sx1216_sy712_

Son of a Gun

Avery’s more than capable behind the camera, he just needs to be met halfway by his screenwriting, which dwells in overly familiar territory.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Primary_screen_shot_2014-06-02_at_4.57.40_pm

The Unloved, Part 7: "At Long Last Love"

Scout Tafoya's video series "The Unloved" continues, appropriately enough (considering the title!), with "At Long Last Love." This flop 1975 musical, which finally became available on Blu-ray, is known as the film that nearly ended director Peter Bogdanovich's genius-who-can-do-whatever-he-wants period. The former film journalist, historian and raconteur transitioned to directing with 1968's "Targets," then had three early '70s successes, "The Last Picture Show," "What's Up, Doc?" and "Paper Moon," before cratering with this Burt Reynolds-Cybill Shepherd-Madeline Kahn musical comedy. His cast was, to put it politely, not aces at singing and dancing, but carried on as if they were the next generation of Astaire and Rogers, performing Cole Porter's songs on set, with microphones recording their live and in-the-moment singing, flat notes, faulty rhythm and all. 

As Scout points out in his piece, the film was destroyed by pretty much every critic alive, partly because it was a featherweight concoction during a rather dour period of American cinema, but mostly because, apart from Kahn, none of the principal actors could sing on the level of the musical stars that the movie's period details strained to evoke. There was a sense that a sacrilege had been perpetrated even though it was a mild case of chutzpah. Bogdanovich continued to make features (including 1979's "Saint Jack," a cult success whose reputation has grown in recent years), but he never recovered his initial career momentum. The movie's title became a synonym for gross directorial overreaching, at least until 1979's "Apocalypse Now" and "1941" came along. Reynolds had another ten solid years of hits in him, though he learned his lesson and never appeared in another musical (oops:  "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"). Shepherd was partly redeemed almost ten years later when she appeared in ABC's hit series "Moonlighting" opposite Bruce Willis, where she was called upon to banter charmingly and occasionally sing and dance.

Too bad; like Coppola, Spielberg and other filmmakers from that period, Bogdanovich was an adventurous spelunker whose sense of fun matched his ambition. He was just fooling around with a budget of several million dollars. Almost nobody is allowed to take those sorts of risks now—not at the Hollywood level anyway. The film's most notable legacy is probably Tom Hooper's film version of "Les Miserables," which was likewise fused a live-on-set audio technique with go-for-broke performances by a cast that seemed to have put any thought of embarrassment out of their minds. Hooper's film drew many of the same complaints about substandard performances, although the source material's Broadway pedigree at least stopped critics from asking why anyone with half a brain would attempt such a ridiculous enterprise.--Matt Zoller Seitz

To watch the rest of Scout's "The Unloved" series, click here. To read an interview with Shepherd, click here

The Unloved - At Long Last Love from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Popular Blog Posts

Confessions of an Awards Season Skeptic, Part Two: I, A Lone Voice of Sanity and Calm Awash in a Sea of Noise and Indignation

Glenn Kenny tries to provide some calm, reason, and perspective to today's major Oscar nominations.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

They're All Gonna Laugh At You: The "Carrie" Remake

A look at Kimberly Pierce's 2013 version of "Carrie."

Gratitude

A note of thanks from Chaz Ebert to the wonderful people behind "Life Itself."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus