Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker (1970)

          How close does this flick get to navel-gazing? It’s a matter of inches. In one scene, excruciatingly self-absorbed protagonist Jonathan (Jordan Christopher) lays in bed with his girlfriend, toying with his chest hairs and lamenting how difficult it is to style them. Upset that his girlfriend doesn’t appreciate the importance of this problem, he suggests she take male hormones. “That way,” he says, “you could share my experience.” Surely both Jonathan and the filmmakers are being playful here, but the presence of such a trivial scene indicates the picture’s myopic perspective. This is yet another hip youth-culture story tracking the misadventures of an entitled dude who resents that life demands he consider other people’s feelings. Like the same year’s The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, this is a character study of a capricious jerk, so the drama stems from situations in which the “hero” discovers that others don’t value his feelings as highly as he does. In modern parlance, these supposedly with-it guys are snowflakes, delicate and prone to melting.
          Jonathan makes his living as a cab driver, and he spends his evenings at cool New York parties, bouncing from one sex partner to the next while finding amusement by helping his nebbish pal, Winslow (Robert Walden), meet women. Alas, self-interest always wins. During a party scene, Jonathan introduces Winslow to a nymphet, but when Winslow botches casual conversation, Jonathan accepts the nymphet’s offer of a tryst. At least until her prattling bores him. Then he abandons her. Nice guy. Eventually, Jonathan begins a proper relationship with a nice girl, only to betray her the first time a more attractive woman offers sex. You get the idea. Complications ensue, but they all run along the same line—how many people will Jonathan injure with his thoughtlessness, and how hypocritical will he become when demanding forgiveness and loyalty despite his transgressions?
          The grotesquerie of male ego notwithstanding, The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker has some appealing aspects. Though unexceptional, the acting and filmmaking are competent. Some scenes are quirky in that special oh-so-’70s way, as when Jonathan demands that his girlfriend prove her altruism by handing out salt-shakers to strangers. A weird motif depicts Jonathan’s ongoing battle with the ants infesting a cabinet beneath his kitchen sink; at various times he declares open combat and temporary amnesty while addressing the insects. Better still, glimmers of truth emerge through the muck of the storyline, which is alternately arch, pretentious, and vapid, though sometimes interesting. The best moment features Jonathan’s declaration of independence, culminating in a sad revelation: “I’m not rebelling,” he says. “That takes strength, initiative, courage, foresight, determination. I’m just earning an easy living. I drive a taxi because I’m basically very lazy. . . . I found myself already, and I was very disappointed.”

The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker: FUNKY

1 comment:

D said...

it's a terrible movie but what's of note is that it's directed by the great theatre director John Dexter and the cast is a veritable "who was who" in the new york theatre scene in the late 60's/early 70's . So for those curious about those aspects, it's of genuine interest.