MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

THE LOVES & LUSTS OF MINOR GODS

WENDY MICHENER November 1 1965
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

THE LOVES & LUSTS OF MINOR GODS

WENDY MICHENER November 1 1965

THE LOVES & LUSTS OF MINOR GODS

Michener on movies

Julie’s a paragon of easy virtue—but nobody calls her "darling” now

JULIE CHRISTIE is a model of sorts in London when one day she's interviewed on the street for TV by Dirk Bogarde, a sort of general all-round hack.

She is the darling daughter of a middle-class suburban family who’s “always admiring things I could never hope to do or be.” And Bogarde’s the sort of weak, self-ironic man who always means to write a book but is always too busy.

To her he seems to belong to the glamorous world, “the real world” she calls it, that she’s longing to get into; and to him, she seems to be so good-looking that nothing else matters much.

And so begins the love-hate affair of the “professional bosom” with the “professional bloody question-mark” which is at the heart of John Schlesinger’s fascinating movie, Darling.

“I was afraid,” Schlesinger said when he presented his film last summer at the Montreal Film Festival, “that in England they were going to use the slogan ‘this is the Dolce Vita of England’ and that is the last thing we intended to make.”

In England he escaped the tag, but over here Schlesinger’s worst fears have been realized by Joe E. Levine’s publicity campaign, which has only succeeded in making the picture look cheaply sensational, thereby alienating several critics.

Actually Darling is a portrait of a quite different if equally decadent world. The characters are not bored, aristocratic and rich; they are ambitious, middle class and newly rich, or else good-looking. They belong to the cannibal world of the imagemakers who serve at once a fantasyhungry public, and the real VIPs, their patrons. They are photographers, models, advertising executives, agents and television personalities;

minor gods and goddesses all.

Before making the picture Schlesinger spent months fellow-travelling with this social set, “in my good documentary way,” and acquired a big dossier.

The Julie Christie character, he said, “is very much a product of our times—rootless, lonely, unwilling to commit herself. She makes snap decisions, going from experience to experience like a grasshopper. Her talent is nil. Her code is compliance. She’s successful only in the sense that the public wishes to make her successful — like all those people knocking on the windows of Christine Keeler just to have a part of her life.”

Like Keeler, the heroine of Darling lives by her looks and capacity to please. She climbs the ladder of disaster from Dirk Bogarde, her only near-love, to a “stainless steel” sort of business executive, Laurence Harvey. Harvey introduces her. in Paris, to a group of deviates who practice their destructive sexual games with a frightening lack of enthusiasm.

Here at last is an orgy scene with a real feeling of evil. Orgies sound like movie-naturals but actually are a devil to bring off. The orgy in The Servant was an anti-climax to an otherwise atmospheric study of evil, and American orgies most often are simply childish, as in The Young

Interns. But Schlesinger has succeeded where so many have failed, because he concentrates on the basic human cruelty of the game and the mutual degradation of the participants, rather than on mere nudity or sexual activity.

“These are surface girls,” comments Schlesinger, “but fun to be with. That’s their quality.”

It’s a quality Darling catches perfectly. “The research period was enormously entertaining,” he says, and so is the movie. Some critics have taken this fact as a sign of insincerity. I don’t agree. Darling simply pays the devil his due: evil (war, for instance) is often entertaining and, at least on the surface, attractive.

“It ought to be so easy to be happy,” says Julie during her first taste of the glamorous life. But, of course, it isn’t. And unlike Faust, she doesn’t get a clear-cut offer from the devil. The fateful decisions all seem negligible at the time, until she ends up, as in the song, wondering why “nobody calls her darling anymore.”

Darling has its faults—the ending is jarringly sentimental—but it is on the whole a remarkable picture. And Miss Christie, with her sensual blonde innocence, is the perfect incarnation of this very modern bad/good girl.

ONCE A THIEF presents Alain Delon, another star with the too-perfect looks of the guilty innocent, as a thief trying to go straight with Ann-Margret, in a movie that could easily have been written by a computer and was photographed by a cameraman with the new-wave shakes. The dialogue is as familiar as family arguments: “Get me the ballistics as fast as you can.” “Everybody in this whole world is a thief.” “Do you know what it’s like to get a .38 in the gut?” “This time I’m going to shove you in the gas chamber.” “It’s guys like you and me get the chair— the big guys only do a coupla years.” And even “I want my bayayayby.” On the credit side are 10 tense minutes, and one new line: “Would you mind not blasting me while my mother’s in the room.”

WENDY MICHENER