American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
All the way across the Atlantic, a flight that took 24 hours and involved refueling in Newfoundland and Iceland, I studied Arthur Frommer's Europe on $5 a Day. You will guess from the title this was some time ago. Following Frommer's instructions, I took the tube to Russell Square, checked into a hotel that would give me bed and breakfast for $2.50, took the tube to Westminster and gazed upon Big Ben.
Then the throbbing magnetic pull of Soho attracted me, as it has so many young men, and soon I stood regarding the facade of the Windmill Theater. "We Never Closed," said the neon sign. That meant they were open, and that I would soon be over my daily budget.
Yes, it was just like you see it in this movie, but a little shabbier. There were comics and song-and-dance acts, and above all, there were dancing girls, and then the lighting shifted and you could see nude models, posed without moving, in "artistic tableaux." I gazed in bliss and wonder. The lighting shifted again, and they disappeared, because how long, really, could a girl be expected to pose like that on a clamshell? All very well for Venus, but hard work six times a day for a variety artiste.
The Windmill Theater introduced nudity to the British stage through the brilliant expedient of convincing the Lord Chamberlain (who censored the shows) that a nude, if she did not move, was not "theater" but "art," and fell under the same exemption that permitted nudes in the National Gallery. Oh, how I agreed. Faithful readers will have followed the controversy over whether video games can be an art form. If I argue that they cannot, how then can I claim that a nude model at the Windmill could be art? Anyone who can ask such a question has been spending too much time in the basement with a joy stick.