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Friday, August 7, 2015

THE KNACK . . . AND HOW TO GET IT (1965)

Another Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod British Sex Comedy from the ‘60s, this one about three London blokes (Ray Brooks, Michael Crawford, Donal Donnelly) vying over new-girl-in-town Rita Tushingham. Brooks, the smoothy with a knack for getting past the knickers; Crawford, the naïf hoping to learn how; Donnelly, there for ballast. Director Richard Lester, fresh off A HARD DAY’S NIGHT/’64, carries his distinctive, disjunctive camera style to its limit, helped (if that’s the word) by lenser David Watkin’s over-exposed/white-ash backgrounds and a knockabout slapstick silliness that leaves realism & gravity behind. All well and good. If only the sexual politics of Ann Jellicoe’s play hadn’t turned rancid with time. (A putative rape supplies the comic engine for the entire third act!) Or if Rita Tushingham still had some of the tough quirky charm that briefly made her seem a major screen presence in her TASTE OF HONEY/’61 debut. Social/cultural history mavens will have a field day (we really have come a long way, baby!), and it’s good to see how effective Michael Crawford’s horny virgin act was before it got broadened for Lester’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM/’66, then regressed to annoyingly fey for Gene Kelly in HELLO, DOLLY!/’69. (Here, he’s a ridiculously bony delight, but with intimations of the powerhouse performer he’d become on stage in BARNUM and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.) Others viewers, proceed with caution.

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