Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.
This week Seattle’s repertory houses take us back to a different era, as the Northwest Film Forum brings in Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie (1971) and the Grand Illusion hosts Agnes Varda’s One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977). By all means, see both (in reportedly dandy new prints).
Some folks argue that The Last Movie is a misunderstood masterpiece, and I can’t really sidle up to that. But it certainly is something. For a long time, it was very hard to see—I’m talking about the era before home video here—and I’ll never forget my excitement when I tuned in to check out the 11 o’clock movie on channel 7 (or channel 4, or whatever) and realized that the movie they had scheduled, Chinchero, looked an awful lot like the way people described The Last Movie. Sure enough, it was—or some version of The Last Movie. Seeing it later in its proper form, the movie still looked like a crazy ego trip, but—for sure—interesting.
For other Hopper items on Scarecrow’s shelves, I strongly advise you to check out Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (1963), a movie that plays like an American-International drive-in cheapie as directed by Josef von Sternberg. Hopper plays a sailor entranced by a woman who does a mermaid act in a sideshow. You might never forget this strange, special movie.
For Hopper-directed films, there’s Out of the Blue (1980), a hugely interesting project that teams Hopper the actor with Linda Manz, the kid from Days of Heaven (and no, I don’t know what ever happened to Linda Manz beyond what Wikipedia tells me). I have a weird weakness for The Hot Spot (1990), from a Charles Williams novel, a noir fable with a truly dirty undertone. Or maybe overtone. It’s got Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen and it gives Don Johnson a role he somehow deserves.
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t is Agnes Varda’s ode to female friendship, but it’s never in an easy or cuddly mode. It has vestiges of the hippie era but is shot through with Varda’s clear-eyed observations, and it builds to a hauntingly lovely final moment—which will look different 40 years after the film’s release than it did in the 70s.
Varda has come into her own in recent years, one of those rare directors more appreciated now than when she was in her heyday. Although it’s quite possible her heyday is now. When you come to Scarecrow and visit the Varda section, don’t miss Le Bonheur (1965), an astonishing study in ambiguity which I happened to see recently on a big screen, or Vagabond (1985), a flat-out masterpiece.
My review of Vagabond is here.
And something on The Beaches of Agnes. https://www.heraldnet.com/life/agnes-treatise-on-french-filmmaker-unconventional/
Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.