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Toronto Star (23/May/1992) - Calling Shots



Calling Shots

Great directors do not always make great movies. Here are three lesser but still deserving pictures crafted by some of the best directors in the business:

Alfred Hitchcock: Under Capricorn (1949) is usually dismissed as one of Hitchcock's worst films. Based on a novel by Helen Simpson, it concerns Charles Adair (Michael Wilding), nephew of the new governor of Australia, who meets embittered ex-convict Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten). Sam is married to the alcoholic Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman), who is being slowly poisoned by the vicious housekeeper (Margaret Leighton). The contrast of manners, English versus colonial, is nicely evoked, but Hitch's penchant for long takes lessens the tale's suspense. Bergman was never lovelier as the distressed woman who is handed back to her husband by her lover. Any Hitchcock film is well worth viewing and this one merits a bigger reputation.

Tony Richardson: The Border (1982) came and went quickly and even Jack Nicholson's box-office clout could not save it. Nicholson plays brilliantly against type as Charlie Smith, a decent but flawed man with average problems (such as paying his spendthrift wife's mounting bills). Charlie is working in El Paso with the U.S. Border Patrol, accepting small bribes to pay the bills, but hating himself all the while. He becomes protective of a young Mexican woman (Elpidia Carrillo) and determines to do the best for her by finding her missing child, stolen by professional kidnappers. The subject of illegal immigration was less than popular with moviegoers, but Richardson provides some vivid imagery and extracts a muted performance from Nicholson that will grow on you.

John Schlesinger: Yanks was critically reviewed when it opened in 1979. Critics were hoping for a revisionist version of the impact of American soldiers on the British populace during World War II. Instead, Schlesinger gave them a sentimentalized look at romances between U.S. soldiers Richard Gere and Bill Devane and their British girlfriends Lisa Eichhorn and Vanessa Redgrave. It's all terribly reverential and tasteful with the only ugly moments leading to a race riot when black soldiers discover the limits of English tolerance. Best of the lot is Rachel Roberts as Lisa's bedridden mom. Schlesinger's glowing view of an English village, however, was out of tune politically with the times. It plays better these days.