I Saw A Film!
A well done film about the awkwardness of teenage wasteland, is less about careless adults and systems and more about the painful ineptness of developing youth. Those that play with that human tendency to review our misdeeds and misfortunes and twist justice and heroics out them, are the most fun. It’s easy to identify with these characters, we’ve all been lost in their day-dreams and desires. And while these kids are fairly well off– boats, cars, electric toothbrushes– it’s not hard to be less involved with the accoutrements. Our hero, Paul (Barry Gordon), is a Camus-reading, journal-writing, writer of fantasy movies and is a long way from what would pass a decade later in the form of Nick Cage in Valley Girl as a believable teen navigating life’s struggles. In the former we at least get realistic awkward dates, and plenty of in-the-head fantasizing, even if he does take them to an actual Shakespeare performance (the performance gets warped by Paul’s obsessing about his date’s bust, in the latter it’s just drinking, hilarious hair-cuts, and pop music.
This film popped up, rather unexpectedly, and like Dan Wakefield’s Going All the Way, which has a much more recent film version, is touching in a variety of real life exchanges that are probably nearly universal if not in fashion at least in structure. These kiddos have Long Island and the nearby big city to explore, as well as beaches to hang out on. When they are rescued by a pair of black police officers (helping them get into a car they locked keys in) they have a brief conversation about the negro officers, they’re impressed and a bit amazed. Where they come from you don’t see black officers.
High school football and John Voight as a very believable lout, round out the High School experience, you don’t see much about classrooms, or actual efforts at work. But you do see a rather sadistic coach paddling the players, which strikes us moderns as downright bizarre. Meanwhile Voight’s towering footballer tortures everyone while glued to his AM radio listening to sports, it seems to be the most natural part of the experience. Though the confused emotions of the kissing and love declaring in the front seat of a convertible are very understandable. No one quite gets what they’re after, and no one knows the road to it. Three quarters the way through the tale, we have Paul proclaiming his love for the young lady he doesn’t love, meanwhile, the girl he does pine for his busy having a beer fight with Russ, who earlier in the story was humiliating our hero physically. Never satisfied with our gifts we seek to exchange, or rationalize, but our hormones and emotions run roughshod over our better ideals. Did a young lady ever have an experience she was happy with with the young men? Paul talks too much, and ruins his moments, makes poor Barbara cry. Never knowing when to shut up and just have a moment.
It’s a beautiful film, in part, because it never gets overwrought, or explanatory. It never seals a revenge, and the one Paul does get over Russ is only a joke. It’s a fully realized tale that requires no one getting killed and no one having to be bludgeoned with a lesson. They talk everything over at Howard Johnsons.
This is running free on Prime (usa) and it’s black and white, low-budget qualities are charms all the way around. More should be like this, but I’m afraid modern audiences are too conditioned for a certain formulaic buffet.