Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Twist (1976)

Recalling the production of this obscure European sex comedy in his memoirs, Bruce Dern admits “I didn’t really get what the movie was getting at until about two-thirds of the way through.” In fact, most of the chapter Dern devotes to The Twist concerns meals, Parisian weather, director Claude Chabrol’s preoccupation with complicated camera movements, and a weird episode with Ann-Margret and her husband at a nightclub. Watching The Twist, you’ll quickly understand why the circumstances of the picture are more interesting than the picture itself. A dull would-be farce about rotten people cheating on each other, the movie concerns an American writer (Dern), his French wife (played by Chabrol’s real-life spouse, Stéphane Audran), and their various extramarital entanglements. Ann-Margret plays the writer’s mistress. The wife fantasizes about killing the mistress, and the husband has a fever dream about all the women in his life—including his hot stepdaughter—molesting him before the wife shows up to cut off his manhood with a pair of scissors. (Not exactly Mr. Subtlety, Chabrol juices this sequence with a closeup of a fake penis becoming engorged, lest the audience somehow misread the wife’s intentions when she shows up with the scissors.) The Twist is not wholly negligible, because Dern plays his role with intensity (perhaps too much so); the production values are slick; and there’s a lot of fodder for the male gaze, with Sybil Danning as a flirty secretary and Sydne Rome as the stepdaughter. Additionally, scenes depicting the marital dynamic between the main characters exude believable hostility, with the husband coming across as a self-involved prick while the wife comes across as a shrew desperate to be tamed. (Wait, you’re surprised that a sex farce from a French director born in 1930 has gender politics from the Stone Age?) Nonetheless, beyond those eager to see everything Chabrol or Dern ever made, it’s hard to imagine many viewers finding the stamina to endure all 107 minutes of The Twist.

The Twist: LAME

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