Best Shot 1977 Party. Chapter 3
Looking for Mr Goodbar (1977)
Directed by: Richard Brooks
Cinematography by: William A Fraker
Finally with chapter 3 in our look back at the Cinematography nominees of 1977 -- a little prep work for the Supporting Actress Smackdown (last day to get your ballots in) -- a real threat to Close Encounter of the Third Kind for the Best Cinematography crown. Close Encounters won the Oscar, its sole competitive Oscar, but William A Fraker was more than worthy as a nominee for his evocative experimental work on Looking for Mr Goodbar. The cinematography (along with its swinging partner, the editing) are ready and able to capture the whirlwind moods, liberated momentum, self-deprecating humor, and multiple flashes of fear within this time capsule of the sexual revolution.
My only regret in showcasing the cinematography for this series is that good images are hard to come by. More (a little bit NSFW) after the jump...
Despite its key position as a famous 1970s picture, a fascinating period window into a singular time in American culture, two Oscar nominations, and the fact that it contains one of the all time great performances from an indisputably legendary actor (Diane Keaton), Paramount doesn't seem to value it. They have not made the film available on DVD OR BluRay OR any streaming service that we're aware of; you can't even give them money to watch it! The only way to see it, apart from very expensive out of print copies that won't work on many platforms, is on YouTube. TFE has always had a strict "no piracy" policy but the studios don't make this easy. In those increasingly non-rare instances (sigh) when studios neglect their classics and don't even give you the opportunity to purchase them, see the pictures however you're able. In these unfortunate circumstances only, piracy is is its own defiant act of preservation.
*NYC readers take note: The Metrograph will be screening Looking for Mr Goodbar in August. It's rarely screened so make time.
Nathaniel's 10 Favorite Leading Actress Turns of the 1970s
Jane Fonda, Klute (1971)
Liza Minnelli, Cabaret (1972)
Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were (1973)
Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H (1975)
Faye Dunaway, Network (1976)
Sissy Spacek, Carrie (1976)
Shelley Duvall, Three Women (1977)
Diane Keaton, Annie Hall, (1977)
Diane Keaton, Looking for Mr Goodbar (1977)
Geraldine Page, Interiors (1978)
But back to the hot picture.
The director Richard Brooks was never one to shy away from sexually provocative material. Standards of the time and the Hayes Code surely got in the way of his renditions of both Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) but the desire was clearly there to illuminate charged libidos, sexual confusion, and the shackles of both conservative morality and wanton desire. The 1970s appear to have freed him up. The picture is so good that if you shut the movie off when Diane Keaton's Theresa announces on New Year's Eve that her night life is starting to interfere with her day life, you might be convinced that you've seen a masterpiece character study mixed with a charged and fascinating take on the libidinous 1970s. Unfortunately the last 15 minutes nearly ruin the movie with an atypical and totally nutso homophobic subplot that found an dishonorable home in the book and documentary The Celluloid Closet. That plus the denouement essentially punishes the liberated woman. So the more cinema changes the more it stays the same. Liberation has yet to come. But that's too large of a topic, and not even remotely our topic today.
Before my choices, take a look at those four gifs below. They're all images I considered and fine examples of the movie's skill with imagery that really pops: a doctor kissing Therese's breasts (they both wink) in a fantasy sequence; a pornographic glass mobile she perversely takes a fancy too, essentially claiming it's "exactly like me"; Therese learning her sexual power with her first wholly unsuitable married lover; and a terrific bit from the movie's best wordless sequence when Therese rushes down into the subway, reeling from a sexual relationship gone sour, only to be confronted by the image of a nun blocking her planned escape. It's a blunt reminder of the Catholic guilt her father is always wishing she'd feel.
Is the latter image too blunt, too on the nose?
Sure... but Therese wants everything as close to her body as possible. (Especially Richard Gere and all his parts in his breakthrough role.)
Anyway... these are three images I was most drawn to this time.
All three are much stronger in motion (which is why I wish I could make my own gifs from a good print) and fine examples of the movie's chief strengths. The first we'll call our "Character Study" - it's Therese on the subway platform, the rushing train as her own meditation and wind machine, before the visual of the nun provides a rude awakening. The second we'll call our "Sexual Impulse" as Therese's favorite lay Tony (Richard Gere), notices the scar on her lower back that the film obsesses over. The image in motion is horny with a hint of violence, much like the movie, but also surprisingly tender and the most wholly pleasurable of the movie's many sex scenes. The third, and 'Best Shot,' at least in this particular moment is our "Curious Whimsy" which, for all of Therese's rage about restrictive expectations of her womanhood, the movie has a lot of. The shot starts wider, at first showing us a roomful of swingers including her sister Katherine (Tuesday Weld) and Therese joins them (while also keeping her distance) -- she's more fascinated by the dirty movie screening than the room of actual soon-to-be-naked bodies. We're watching an actress in her prime starring as a character in a racy movie who is watching a porno movie. Innocent carnality glides all over her face until Therese has moved from nervous and wary of the room to bemused and horny, as fascinated by what she's watching as any sane human being would be while watching Diane Keaton in this masterclass performance.
BEST SHOT 77 - WANT MORE?
Here are other articles from this weeklong party celebrating the Films of 1977:
• Film Mix Tape on insidious notions of "the perfect woman" via Looking for Mr Goodbar
• Film Mix Tape gets personal with The Turning Point - must read!
• Dancin Dan on Film gazes at Julia
• Timothy Brayton on the entire category in one ginormous posting
• Christian Bonamusa loves the hats in Julia and the aftermath in The Turning Point
• Film Mix Tape looks at both Islands in the Stream and Close Encounters
• Rachel's Reviews looks at Close Encounters
Up Next:We'll wrap up with Close Encounters & Julia