Thursday, July 5, 2012

When the Truth is Found

Petulia
1968. 126 minutes. USA. Directed by Richard Lester. Watchdate: 2/3/2012.
In Petulia, Richard Lester rejects the familiar and conventional in exchange for a simultaneous embrace and interrogation of the strange and unstable social fabric of its coincident period. It's like a shopworn melodrama stumbled into San Francisco during the Summer of Love by accident and found itself transformed into a deeply sad but occasionally very funny (and at all times) peculiar tragicomedy (or comic tragedy depending on your mileage). Or it could be surrealism unaware (or uninterested) in its own surreality. Lester gets away with it because he's at the peak of his creative powers, working with a team (including Nicolas Roeg as Director of Photography) that is nonchalant about innovating even further beyond the cinematic vocabulary Lester had already helped transform earlier in the decade, but just as importantly because he had his cameras rolling in the right place at the right time and maybe most of all because he had Julie Christie and George C. Scott. I'll note that this is a movie to observe and absorb more than to understand or "follow" in the classical narrative sense of that word.

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