TAKING OFF (1971)
Milos Forman’s first American film was TAKING OFF. Released by Universal, this film has been little seen since its release. Never released on VHS or DVD, and rarely shown on cable (if at all), for Forman fans, it has been difficult to see.
The Sundance Channel has had a film called TAKING OFF listed on its programming guide a couple times over the years, with the Forman film on the write up. So, I would record it, only to see a documentary on a weight loss camp. Not exactly the film I was looking for.
This past week, looking in the Sundance listings, TAKING OFF is listed again. Before setting the Tivo, I go to their website, and it is the Forman film! So, I finally got a chance to see it.
It was worth the wait.
Although, I don’t know how I am going to be able to describe this one.
The film is essentially a group of comic scenes that flow from one to the next. There really is no set story, and character believability isn't really a priority.
Buck Henry and Lynn Carlin play parents, whose daughter (Linnea Heacock) runs away. They then join up with a group of parents of other runaways, the Society of Parents of Fugitive Children (S.P.F.C.).
The opening twenty minutes of the film is essentially a musical. The daughter goes to New York City to audition for a play. Dozens of different singers are shown auditioning, including the then unknown Carly Simon and a singer by the name of Bobo Bates (Kathy Bates. Never knew she was a folk singer by the name of Bobo. Learn something every day!). This is a fairly entertaining sequence, editing between singers as they all perform the same song, sort of like a 70’s version of AMERICAN IDOL.
Their daughter then disappears. What follows are various set pieces of them trying to find her, and meeting with others whose children are missing. Various sitcom regulars appear along the way. Georgia Engel (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) plays a friend. Audra Lindley (Mrs. Roper on THREE’S COMPANY) and Paul Benedict (the neighbor on THE JEFFERSONS) play members of S.P.F.C.
At one point, the parents stop off at a bar and who is performing? Tina Turner! Great performance by her in this film. And later at the bar, Allen Garfield plays a sleazy guy who tries to pick up the wife. Funny (if predictable) resolution to that scene.
In the films funniest scene, Forman regular Vincent Schiavelli (as a character named Vincent Schiavelli) gives the S.P.F.C. a lesson on marijuana. To tell the parents what their children are using, he teaches them how to smoke, and the proper etiquette of smoking and passing. Very funny scene, as he hands out enough for everyone in the audience to try, and has a question and answer session with them.
I guess you can say I was a big confused by the film, in that I was expecting a more straightforward film, yet that isn’t what it wanted to be, or tried to be. It isn’t about the story, why the daughter left, or where she went. It is just two characters out in this strange world.
SHOULD THIS BE ON DVD: Absolutely. For the Schiavelli scene alone. But, I would think that it has a lot to do with the music rights. The Tina Turner segment, and all the different songs performed at the audition may be a nightmare to clear. Or, the film just be too odd for most audiences. It is one that I can see people having to watch a few times before they really get it.
Or else Kathy Bates is embarrassed about that Bobo billing.
3 1/2 stars out of 5
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Posted by TALKING MOVIEzzz at 12:00 PM