Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
John Hancock's "Baby Blue Marine" ends on such a puzzling, inconsequential note that it's easy to forget how many good things came before. The movie's first hour is so absorbingly well done, in fact, that I was beginning to hope this might be the summer's sleeper. But then things go so pointlessly wrong with the story that acting and direction can't save it: We walk out unfulfilled and even a little angry.
The movie involves Jan-Michael Vincent as a trainee in Marine boot camp in 1943. He's a member of the idiot squad, the guys who can't seem to make it. He flunks out of training and is sent home wearing a baby-blue suit that dramatizes his disgrace. But in Los Angeles his luck changes, sort of, when a Marine veteran knocks him out and changes clothes with him in order to desert. When Vincent comes to, he has a hero's uniform. He hitchhikes vaguely toward St. Louis, not eager to tell his parents he didn't make it in the Marines. And so he's happy to stop for a few days when, in a little crossroads town, he meets a waitress (Glynnis O'Connor). It's love at first sight, he's invited to spend a few days with her family and, of course, he's taken as a Pacific veteran.
He plays his deception so straight -- not really lying to people so much as agreeing with their conclusions -- that we're almost on his side. And the waitress certainly is. She lets out a long and worshipful sigh after seeing him for the first time, and her portrayal of a high school crush is so true, so sensitive, that not a moment goes wrong.
The girl's parents like the young Marine, the town admires him, the love affair blossoms (in a field of flowers that's perhaps a shade too romantic), and everybody does things like attend football games, go to church and the movies and stop in the Main St. cafe for a cheeseburger. It's all very all-American, except for the nearby detention camp holding Japanese Americans from San Francisco.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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