Tuesday, February 26, 2013

40 Carats (1973)

If Harold and Maude is the most interesting older woman/younger man picture released during the ’70s, then 40 Carats is quite possibly the least interesting. Originally produced as a stage play, the piece is painfully contrived and old-fashioned, its artificiality exacerbated by terrible casting. Liv Ullmann, so great in Ingmar Bergman’s chamber dramas and other serious-minded European films, flounders delivering cutesy rom-com banter. Her costar, Edward Albert, the would-be leading man whose career sputtered from dubious promise to an indifferent level of accomplishment throughout the early ’70s, plays fluffy scenes with too much intensity and heavy scenes without enough substance. Together, they achieve supreme mediocrity. The story begins in Greece, where vacationing New Yorker Ann (Ullmann) meets Peter (Albert), a young American roaming the Continent on a motorcycle. They enjoy an unexpected sexual tryst, and Ann withdraws the next morning, expecting never to see Peter again. Yet upon returning to New York, Ann discovers that by sheer coincidence, Peter has been fixed up for a date with her adult daughter (Deborah Raffin). Unfortunately, he still wants Ann. Meanwhile, a wealthy Texan (Billy Green Bush) is fixed up with Ann, but he secretly wants Ann’s daughter. The resulting slog of trite misunderstandings drags on for the better part of an hour. Eventually, the movie gets a smidgen of energy once Ann and Peter throw aside social conventions to pursue their relationship. For instance, a long scene in which Peter’s nasty father (Don Porter) tears apart his son’s romance has edge, so Ullmann finally gets to showcase dramatic chops. Alas, far too much of the movie comprises limp dialogue like this exchange between Ann and her charmingly irresponsible ex-husband, Billy (Gene Kelly). “You are a multi-carated blue-white diamond,” he coos. Then the phone rings, so Ann says, “That must be Van Cleef & Arpels.” 40 Carats tries mightily to entertain, and watching the filmmakers exert so much wasted effort is exhausting. (Available through Columbia Screen Classics via WarnerArchive.com)

40 Carats: FUNKY

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