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

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_lucy

Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.

Thumb_hercules

Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Night Games

  |  

Mai Zetterling's "Night Games" is an absorbing, even brilliant film, but it fails to evoke much of an emotional response. It is a film made entirely in the mind, as if the heart were no concern, and it can be seen that way -- as a cold, aloof study of human neurosis. But not for a moment did I care about any of the characters.

Perhaps that was because the film's hero does not care for himself. The story concerns a young man who brings his fiancée back to live in the gloomy manor where he spent his own childhood. The house is saturated with the presence of his late mother, a domineering woman who smothered his emotional development. His idea is to return to the scene of his crippling and try to break through his hang-ups.

As the man wanders through the house, bits of dialog recall his childhood; Miss Zetterling uses flashbacks to show us the young boy who is alternately loved and hated by his mother, and cared for by an insane grandmother.

There are scenes of a certain impact, as when the boy and grandmother paint faces on a row of eggs and then crush the eggs or cut them in two. It is like eating brains, she says, but he says there is nothing inside but egg.

In a sense, "Night Games" provides a measure of the permissiveness explosion, or whatever Newsweek is calling it this week. When the film was first exhibited at the Venice Film Festival in 1966, it was considered the most daring ever made. The police closed the theater to the public, and the judges saw it at a private screening.

Nearly three years later, with "I Am Curious (Yellow)" on the horizon, "Night Games" can be seen for what it is: Not a sexploitation film in any sense, but a serious attempt to get inside the mind of this character.

And that is a fairly good argument, I suppose, for the freedom filmmakers are currently enjoying films like "Night Games" or "I am Curious (Yellow)," by expanding the limits of allowable subject matter, open up large areas behind them where serious filmmakers can seriously consider the way we live. Eventually this freedom trickles down into the mainstream product, and you get "Goodbye, Columbus" or last year's "The Graduate," playing to enormous audiences who hardly care about the pioneers.

As for "Night Games," it is a movie based almost entirely on technique and intellectual calculation. Miss Zetterling seems to be influenced by Fellini; we get orgies attended by grotesque people who play themselves as if they were trapped inside. And we get the hero, grimly picking his way through this maze, trying to figure out what went wrong. But his problem is the movie's problem: no heart.

Popular Blog Posts

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

James Garner: 1928-2014

An obituary for the legendary James Garner, who has passed away at the age of 86.

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

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

Exploring Israel-Palestine through Movies: Part 1

The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus