Thursday, September 27, 2007

Critical Reactions #9 (The Moon In The Gutter)

I am still working on my main review of the film but I wanted to go ahead with my postings on THE MOON IN THE GUTTER, so I am starting with the critical reactions post.
The critics ranged from being not kind to downright nasty on Jean-Jacques Beineix's innovative and brave follow up to his successful DIVA. While a few seemed to accept the film on its own terms, something that is essential to do with this work, most fought it with everything they had. It seemed 1983 wasn't a good time for an ambiguous European art puzzle...one wonders what the reception would have been like ten years before or ten years later?

"Delirious...Too bad it isn't a homage to anything but Beineix's monumental self indulgence...a headlong plunge into sheer ludicrousness...unrestrained, and often near incoherent...silly and tedious...a gorgeous bore. Beineix wastes alot, an unusually warm and assured Kinski...lots of enticing seedy settings, part of an entire Surrealist world designed imaginatively by McConnico and sumptouusly photographed by Philippe Rousselot."
-Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times-

"THE MOON IN THE GUTTER sits up and begs for the brays of derision which greeted it an Cannes...with all its faults, THE MOON IN THE GUTTER shows a filmmaker straining every nerve to make a film."
-Tom Milne, Monthly Film Bulletin-

"Portentously and preposterously absurd...Beneix's studio marooned THE MOON IN THE GUTTER is bad enough to be almost relish able...Depardieu and Kinski are encouraged to move and react with the verge of somnambulists."
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

"unmitigated disaster...static and boring...Kinski seems to have forgotten everything she has learned about acting..."
-David Denby, New York-

"you will never come up with anything more idiotic than THE MOON IN THE GUTTER...load of rubbish...as the characters go mad, the audience does too...so contrive and obscure it seems to have been made by a man who was hallucinating...Kinski is hopelessly dazed and out of place, but isn't she always...the girl is a cabbage head...THE MOON IN THE GUTTER was unveiled this year in Cannes, where it was greeted with screams of rage, boos and audience insults."
-Rex Reed, New York Post-

"TESS Made Kinski famous. Her films since then have made her infamous. They've been beyond bad, fiasco's. It's as if she brought out the worst in those directors attracted to her...when a director was thinking his fuzziest, he thought Kinski...miasma of artifice...incoherent."
-Joseph Gelmis, Newsday-

"a big failure...mostly sill, still you can still see the great talent in Beineix."
-Jack Kroll, Newsday-

"If cinema were really a visual artform, THE MOON IN THE GUTTER would not deserve its rude reception. Where it fails disastrously is in the invisible structures of drama, narrative, psychology and sociology. It connects neither with its genre, nor with its audience."
-Andrew Sarris, Village Voice-

"a sumptuous, dazzlingly photographed melodrama that becomes, alas, relentlessly boring. It is all style and no heart, and the giveaway is that we never really care about the characters even though each one has a suitably tragic story...I emphasize that the movie is beautifully photographed because the visuals are really the only strength...I saw the film at this year's Cannes Film Festival where it really tried the patience of the audience. For its American release, the distributors have trimmed 11 minutes. Since the whole film is of a stylistic piece, that can only mean 11 minutes less of what was wrong in the first place."
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times-

"Coming right after Jean-Jacques Beineix's sparkling, gift-wrapped DIVA, this oppressive romantic tragedy, in which Gérard Depardieu plays a stevedore obsessed with memories of his dead sister, may be a shock, but it's the kind of excruciatingly silly movie that only a talented director can make. (Hacks don't leave common sense this far behind.) Beineix is celebrating the poetry of the movies, which for him is the poetry of artificiality. Nastassja Kinski is posed like Hedy Lamarr in ALGIERS; she's the unattainable-the moon that shines on poor Depardieu down there in his Brando T-shirt in the film noir gutter. The actors are helpless, because the movie isn't about their characters' emotions-it's about Beineix's swooning response to the earlier movie stars that they're standing in for. Beineix can sometimes engage us by his visual flourishes--abstractions of men at work, blood that's like spilled fingernail polish, a cathedral like a witch's palace. But it's a suffocating, empty movie in thick, nocturnal color, and with glamour music that's an exaggeration of Hollywood's old soaring and slurping scores--the kind that make you wince during revival showings."
-Pauline Kael, New Yorker-

"Beineix does manage to charge the affair with a sense of fierce anticipation; that aside, the film seems like an exercise in the non-development of narrative. In the end, though it's not the disaster the French press cracked it up to be, only the images stay in the memory as the Fabergé egg lies smashed on the floor, a pile of glittering fragments."
-Time Out-

"In general, David Goodis's noirish thrillers have inspired short black-and-white movies, but Beineix followed his successful debut with this long and lush adaptation of a 1953 crime novel stressing the somewhat surreal aspects of the writer's work. Extravagantly and audaciously, if not successfully, he shot the entire movie in a studio, encouraging cameraman Rousselot to put a high gloss on the murky story of a worker (Depardieu) obsessed with finding the rapist who drove his sister to suicide. The critics, including the French, rounded on Beineix, having heaped praise on his Diva."
-Channel 4-

"Yet another variation on the favoured Gallic filmic outsider-meets-babe fantasy. Almodovar, even Fassbinder, revisit Hollywood genres with evident irony-in-excess but with Beineix's try-hard exercise in style one's never sure whether its just not bad taste at work, for surely nothing this laboured can be taking the mickey out of anything, let alone itself. Depardieu looks like he's walked off the set of West Side Story, Natassia Kinski fulfils her usual eye-candy function and Victoria Abril is virtually unrecognisable under an 80s perm."
-Cinephilia-

"stylish but downbeat melodrama in which the adjectives “delirious” and “pretentious” sum up the movie correctly...The Moon in the Gutter is visually stunning. It was filmed in elaborate studio sets, mostly lighted by arcs and photo floods, with an elegiac music score by Gabriel Yared, in which the camera movement and choreographed gestures by the actors (call it Stand and Pose Method Acting) were sometimes used as a replacement for real character motivation or plot logic...The cast-particularly Kinski and Abril really rise above the film style and Beneix provides both actresses fantastic entrances: Kinski’s arrival to the café is hauntingly memorable and Abril’s scene on a swing is one of the most erotically charged sequences ever...The Moon in the Gutter may be indulgent and pretentious, but it's never banal or routine, it received uneven reviews on its initial release and won a French Cesar Award for its production design."
-Pablo Vargas, The Spinning Image-

What strikes me in looking at these reviews is the inability of almost anyone to concede that the very things they are criticising are exactly what Beneix was going for in his film. THE MOON IN THE GUTTER is very much a film about film, about artifice, about gloss, incoherence and dislocation. Ironically Rex Reed's complaining that it seemed the film was made by someone who was hallucinating is actually pretty dead on, but just not in the way Reed meant it.
The only type of films that inspire in me the kind of bile many of these 'critics' spat out in the above quotes are films that are lazy carbon copies of other films with no imagination, style or life of their own. THE MOON IN THE GUTTER is a raging, poetic film that is totally unique and alive. It baffles me that so much rage could be thrown at a work as unique as THE MOON IN THE GUTTER, but that is the way it goes a lot of the time. Just go back and check some of the original notices to LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD or BLADE RUNNER, or any other film that dared to sacrifice some of the things that complacent audiences and critics had to have spoon fed to them in order to appreciate their films.
Is THE MOON IN THE GUTTER flawed? Yes, but beautifully so...I would rather spend two disorienting hours with it than have any time with most of the so called 'experts' above that crucified it nearly twenty five years ago.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Try Another World


Up next I will be taking a long look at one of Nastassja's greatest and most misunderstood achievements, the haunting and audacious MOON IN THE GUTTER (1983).
I will began my look at this unforgettable French feature in the next few days. I apologize again for the sporadic posting as of late and I thank those who are continuing to read.

Exposed: Odds and Ends


EXPOSED is a massively important film in Nastassja's career, a fact that makes its current unavailability all the more frustrating. It can be found on a bare bones DVD in Europe and used VHS copies are easy to come by here in the States. Hopefully a Region One disc will appear in America eventually.
Images from EXPOSED aren't easy to come by either online but posters and promo material pops up on Ebay occasionally. Also elusive is the fine Delerue score and a full soundtrack album would be most welcome as well.
The rather elusive EXPOSED is a must for all fans of Nastassja Kinski, James Toback and modern film in general. It is a flawed but defining work and deserves to be seen by more people.

James Toback: The Outsider


Highly recommended is the just released on DVD, JAMES TOBACK: THE OUTSIDER. This documentary on Toback is as strangely penetrating as the man's films themselves and it makes for compulsive viewing.
The film mostly focuses on Toback's brilliant and disturbing WHEN WILL I BE LOVED but EXPOSED is mentioned a few times and some widescreen clips of it are shown.
I highly recommend the disc for fans of Toback or for those just interested in him.

Shooting Kinski #12 (Helmut Newton)


To promote the release of EXPOSED in 1983, Playboy magazine ran one of the strangest pictorials in its history. The photo spread featured Nastassja, James Toback and a Marlene Dietrich doll. It was shot by the famed photographer Helmut Newton, and it was accompanied with text by Bruce Williamson and an interview with Toback.

While the shoot was disappointing and I have read that Nastassja later regretted it, I thought it was well worth pointing out for those interested. Here is the lovely cover (this particular one is the Japanese edition) and a couple of shots from the pictorial, a scan of the full article appears at Nastassja Kinski JP.

Nastassja On Exposed

Nastassja has not spoken much on EXPOSED since its release. This shouldn't take away from the fact that EXPOSED is one of Nastassja's great performances and the film is one of her most important.
Here are a few short quotes I found by Nastassja on the film, Nureyev, and Toback.

"I guess I've been a creature of the directors imagination. You see, I want to get a glimpse of his eyes searching out things inside of me. I want to go to hell and heaven for him. I want to make his dreams come true."

"This movie is why we're alive. It is why you were born and I was born. If we die when this movie is finished it won't matter, because this is it."

"EXPOSED is a film and an experience I truly love."

"Meeting Rudy was like a legend, like a ghost. Just to meet him, to watch him, to listen to him was great! He has grace and strength, a joy and music within. And he has also the most tremendous beauty and charm. We got along very well in a short time and had so much in common. It was strange. I can't put it into words. Think of a situation where you look at each other and don't even have to say anything or where there is meaning between the words. The music that happens between two people can be just unbelievable."

"I quite like EXPOSED and didn't think I would...I foresaw something bad...EXPOSED may not be perfect all over, but I liked it."

Nastassja On Ebay #2


Here is an item currently up on Ebay that I have never seen. It looks to be, I believe, an original Spanish one sheet for FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY. This has to be one of the least aesthetically pleasing Nastassja poster designs I have ever seen but its rarity certainly warrants posting here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Georges Delerue's Exposed


While EXPOSED is certainly a tribute to Nastassja Kinski, it can also accurately be described as a love letter to the French New Wave films of the fifties, sixties and seventies that Toback owes such a debt to.
The New Wave connection comes up at almost every turn, from the casting of people like Pierre Clementi to the photography of Decae. One of the most obvious and pronounced connections Toback's film had with the films of his youth is the stirring score by New Wave icon Georges Delerue.
The French born Delerue had a remarkable and prolific career that spanned over fifty years and included well over three hundred scores. While he worked in nearly every conceivable genre with directors all over the world, his name will always be synonymous with the French New Wave and one director in particular.
Much like Bernard Hermann's name with always be matched with Alfred Hitchcock, and Pino Donnagio will forever be linked with Brian De Palma, the names Georges Delerue and Francois Truffaut will always be linked together in a very strong and noteworthy way.
Delerue first met Truffaut when Francois was a critic in the mid fifties and the composer had already worked with other New Wave directors, most notably Resnais, before hooking up with Truffaut for the astonishing 400 BLOWS follow up, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER in 1960. Delerue's moody, evocative and at times nostalgic music matched Truffaut's film perfectly and the two would go onto to make cinema history throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties. Delerue would provide Truffaut with some of the most memorable film scores of all time including LOVE AT TWENTY (1962), TWO ENGLISH GIRLS (1971), SUCH A GORGEOUS KID LIKE ME (1972), DAY FOR NIGHT (1973),
LOVE ON THE RUN (1979), THE LAST METRO (1980), THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR (1981), and Truffaut's final film, CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS in 1984.
While his work with Truffaut is among his most talked about, probably the finest score he ever delivered was his haunting themes for Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT in 1963. It is perhaps no coincidence that the theme for EXPOSED shares some similarities with his heartbreaking and beautiful Godard score from twenty years before.
EXPOSED isn't one of Delerue's great scores and I think at times it is a bit underused. But still, the main theme is lovely and his music does match the film's darkly romantic European leanings very well.
It looks as though the score for EXPOSED remains unreleased as I can find no evidence of a soundtrack album for the film. Part of the film's main theme was released on an album called THE LONDON SESSIONS but outside of that it looks like Delerue's work on Toback's film remains in the vaults somewhere. A real pity as it is a fine, if not overwhelmingly great, piece of work.
Delerue would continue working tirelessly right up until his death in 1992. He left behind a wealth of some of the best film music ever composed. EXPOSED is a solid entry into one of the most astonishing film music catalogues in history. Hopefully it will get a full release someday.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nastassja On Ebay #1


I've decided to start a new series here that will focus on unique Nastassja items that randomly pop up on Ebay. Unless I get luck and they are specific to the film I am talking about at the time, they will be a bit out of order but I still think they are worth posting here.
Above is a two page spread from a 1977 German magazine with a lovely shot I have never seen before.
Also, here is a rare reversed shot from ONE FROM THE HEART that I thought was particularly striking.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rare Scan #13 (Three Jumbo Lobby Cards)


Here are three very large lobby cards that I got scanned as well as I could. I just chose the most interesting I had since my scanner quality is less than great.

Also a quick note on the postings as of late. Please forgive the more than usual sporadic nature of them. School just started up for me and it is taking me a little longer to post stuff than I like. Postings will continue here and I hope to be as in depth as I can and remain interesting for those reading.
Thanks for the patience and support.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kinski On Letterman


One of the most fascinating, misunderstood and incredible moments in Nastassja's career came when she stopped by David Letterman's show in December of 1982 to promote EXPOSED. Nastassja had apparently just come from shooting a layout for Interview magazine which explains her rather wild hair, and this talk is one of the most entertaining and strangely beguiling things I have ever seen. I really miss the days when late night talk show hosts would feature interviews so long and detailed as the original interview goes on for well over twenty minutes. Letterman seems simultaneously enchanted, confused, and near bewildered by Kinski, who is downright surreal and completely unforgettable.
Kinski speaks honestly on not only EXPOSED but her career up to that point. She talks on her disappointment about not getting to do Milos Foreman's RAGTIME and even talks some on her brilliant but difficult father Klaus. Other topics include the Avedon shoot, comparisons to older stars and Roman Polanski's legal troubles.
Nastassja comes across as super intelligent, inquisitive, eccentric and ultimately very charming.
Rumors have circulated about this show for years. Some have commented on Nastassja's supposed state, while others have misquoted the actual transcript and some have even reported she stormed off in tears. All I can say is that the interview I see is with a very sober and complicated young woman who is positively Dylanesque in the way she handles Letterman and the questions he is sending her way. Television is rarely as memorable as it is in this clip, and actors are rarely as fascinating as she is here.
A small section of this strange and iconic television moment is on YouTube. If I ever have the ability to upload videos online, the full interview will be the first thing I do.

Shooting Kinski #11 (Henri Decae)


Legendary cinematographer Henri Decae was nearing the end of his prolific career when he shot Nastassja in EXPOSED. He would pass away at the age of 72, just four years after Toback's film had its premiere.
The French born Decae shot his first film in 1949 working under the iconic and great French film master Jean Pierre Melville in LE SILENCE DE LA MER. The film would be the first of many Decae would lens for the great Melville with some other notable films for him being BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1956), LE SAMOURAI (1967) and LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970).
Deacae's most famous and influential work will always be linked with the French New Wave and his work for director's ranging from Claude Chabrol to Louis Malle to Francois Truffaut is among the best of the period. His work on Truffaut's 400 BLOWS (1959) alone makes him one of the most legendary of all cinematographers.
Henri photographed some of the most beautiful faces in screen history so it is fitting that one of his last assignments was shooting Kinski in possibly her loveliest period. With EXPOSED she joined the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Jane Fonda and Al Pacino as being memorably captured by Decae's lens.
EXPOSED is not remember as being one of the most memorably shot of Henri's career but I have always admired his photography in it, especially in the cold and wintry New York scenes and of course the two startling black and white fades that bookend the film. EXPOSED would be the last major work for the master photographer with just a handful of minor productions following.
I believe a proper restored dvd release of EXPOSED would highlight how solid Deacae's work is in the film. His role not only went along thematically with Toback's New Wave leanings but I believe his work added another valuable layer to an already complex film.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Roger Ebert On Exposed

I was hoping to provide a direct link to Roger Ebert's original near four star review of EXPOSED as I think it was one of the best of Nastassja's career but for some reason the review is not available online. So I pulled out one of his old film guides and here are some select quotes from it. I often find myself disagreeing with Ebert and sometimes he makes me flat out angry but every so often he really hits one out of the park. I think his look at EXPOSED is one of his best reviews.

"This movie contains moments so exhilarating they reawakened me to the infinite possibilities of movies...EXPOSED contains the most exciting evidence yet that Nastassja Kinski is the next great female superstar. I do not say she is a great actress, not yet, and perhaps not ever. I do not compare her with Meryl Streep or Kate Nelligan, Jill Clayburgh or Jessica Lange. I am not talking in those terms of professional accomplishment. I am talking about the mysterious, innate quality that some performers have to cast a special spell, to develop a relationship with the camera that you can call stardom or voodoo or magic, because its name doesn't really matter.
Kinski has it. There are moments in this film (two virtuoso scenes, in particular, and then many other small moments and parts of scenes) when she affects me in the same way that Marilyn Monroe must have affected viewers, in movies like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE or ALL ABOUT EVE. She was not yet a star and audiences did not even know her name, but there was a quality about her that could not be dismissed. Kinski has that quality. She has exhibited it before in better films, such as TESS, and in ambitious, imperfect films such as CAT PEOPLE and ONE FROM THE HEART. Now here is EXPOSED...The sheer quality of Kinski's abandon in these two scenes (the solo dance and violin seduction) made me realize how many barriers can sometimes exist between a performer and an audience: Here there are none...
If a movie can electrify me the way this one did, not once but twice and then some, I'm prepared to forgive it almost anything."

Ebert shared the same frustration I did with the film, mainly that it falls apart in the end. The above quotes are just a few highlights. It is a passionate piece of writing and I always appreciated that he saw the same thing in Nastassja that I did. I don't know why this full review isn't on his site. I hope it appears one day, in the meantime the full review can be found in his pre 1990 MOVIE HOME COMPANION books.

Critical Reactions #8 (Exposed)

Critical opinion was, and is, sharply divided on EXPOSED. Some view Toback's film as a major work while others felt it was a real failure. Nastassja earned some of the best reviews of her career though and I think it is fair to say that EXPOSED is regarded as one of Toback's most interesting, if flawed, works.
Here is a sampling of critical reactions on EXPOSED:

""The odds on favorite for the most idiotic movie of the year...A vulgar-auteurist masterpiece, the film fairly reeks of personal vision: the only problem is that the vision, expressed by an inept style, is literally nonsense...the only exposed is Toback."
-Ed Sikov, Cineaste-

"Kinski is perfectly cast, tempestuous, willful and smouldering beautiful. You can believe her rapid rise as a model and you can believe her impact on Nureyev...You appreciated Toback's wit and intellect, the comprehensiveness and intensity of his passions and overall bravura, but EXPOSED reveals he has yet to project his own world with complete conviction."
-Kevin Thomas, LA Times-

"The best film ever made about a fashion model...the narrative of EXPOSED is the most effective cage of all, and one of its delights is in its sense of control...an extraordinary mix and match operation...In making over his native cinema, Toback has both out-Europeaned the Europeans and found his way back to a powerful narrative root: looking at it in any context, EXPOSED is a powerful achievement."
-Richard Combs, Monthly Film Bulletin-

"Toback has too many pretensions and too little talent to make a straightforward suspense film...Kinski struggle mightily and looks great."
-Robert Asahina, New Leader-

"Mr. Toback seems unaware of how funny he is."
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

"Toback seems unable or unwilling to create scenes of plausible behavior...Toback is genuinely inept and genuinely entertaining...EXPOSED is weightless-a procession of high flown fatalistic attitudes...Toback gets a very likable performance out of Kinski...Kinski has begun to use as an actress the challenging sensual fullness that has been hers since she was a young teenager."
-David Denby, New York-

"For accidental comedy, you can't beat EXPOSED...Kinski may be lovely to look at, but she plays a wayward girl with Jean Seberg delusions like a member of the Mickey Mouse Club."
-Rex Reed, New York Post-

"Toback is a minuscule talent...EXPOSED is an outright fiasco...Kinski acquits herself respectably..."
-Joseph Gelmis, Newsday-

"Not so much a movie as it is a torrential wet dream...Kinski is a throwback to the great sirens in old movies whose exquisite desirability was both burden and a glory..."
-Jack Kroll, Newsweek-

"Astonishingly EXPOSED seems to have been taken seriously....relentlessly ludicrous...Kinski's gamine streak is as fetching as ever...she emerges from the morass remarkably unsullied..."
-J. Hoberman, Village Voice-

"Nastassia Kinski does remarkably well, however, with her American accent as a Midwestern heroine who quits school, comes to New York, makes the big time as a fashion model, and then becomes involved with Rudolf Nureyev's plot to kill Keitel."
-Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader-

"An eccentric thriller meandering an uneasy route between jet-set melodrama - Toback's earlier Fingers won some critical support, and his script here is not without philosophical moments concerning the ambiguities of the 'look' and the 'self'; but Exposed does not entirely have the courage of its frequently heady high art absurdities, despite moments like the one in which Nureyev (cast as a renowned violinist) literally attempts to play Kinski's body like a violin. For this kind of material the temperature must not be allowed to drop, but it frequently does."
-Time Out-

"Intelligent and illogical, beautiful and erratic."
-Variety-

" Indeed, the film is first and foremost a study of Nastassja Kinski, here ripely at the zenith of her magazine-cover fame, every head-toss and lip-bite an event devoured by the camera -- in that sense, the film is Toback's true Nouvelle Vague dig, Kinski's ad-libbed studio pas de deux with chair and mirror to "The Shoop Shoop Song" serving to illustrate the movement's dictum of cinema boiling down to boys taking pictures of girls."
-Fernando F. Croce-

"Despite the fact that director James Toback is given sole screenplay credit, the film seems more like a "committee" project. To its credit, Exposed is never dull; with that cast, how could anyone fall asleep?"
Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide-

"Kinski is brilliant, stripping the barrier between performance and audience."
-VIdeohound-

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

James Toback On Exposed

Here are several interview clips with James Toback from 1983. He is an open, combative and honest guy and these are all really fascinating to watch. I'm grateful to the person who posted these on YouTube because these are not your typical puff piece interviews.





This final clip is the most Kinski specific of the clips but they are all worth watching.

Rare Scans #12 (Times Articles)

Here are three vintage newspaper articles on EXPOSED from 1983.
First up is Janet Maslin's review of the film:

Carol Lawson's look at the making of it:

And finally Tom Milne's really interesting take on the project:

Monday, September 3, 2007

10. Exposed (1983)


James Toback's EXPOSED is in its first hour one of the great films of the eighties. It is so close to being a major masterpiece that its second half failures are still particularly stinging. Final act flaws aside, EXPOSED is an incredibly inventive film by one of America's most complicated directors and it features one of the great performances of Nastassja Kinski's career.
Writer and director James Toback is an interesting guy. He has hardly been prolific, shooting less than ten features in a thirty plus year period. He is one of the few American filmmakers though who can claim to have at least one truly great film in the seventies (1978's FINGERS), the eighties (EXPOSED), the nineties (1997's TWO GIRLS AND A GUY) and finally this decade (2004's WHEN WILL I BE LOVED). Toback's films are demanding, frustrating and finally rewarding, but it is finally the performances he manages to bring out of his actors that is perhaps the most noteworthy thing about him.
EXPOSED opens up with a startling tracking shot of Paris set to to the haunting strains of Georges Delerue's unforgettable score. This languid shot quickly closes into none other than New Wave icon Pierre Clementi mysteriously walking through the streets of Paris. Toback then switches his camera's obsessive eye to a pretty blonde entering a restaurant, planting a bomb and quickly leaving just before the building explodes. It's a shot people in 1983 would remember from the then recent NIGHTHAWKS (1981) but more in tune viewers would have also thought of Gillo Pontecorvo's astonishing 1966 feature, BATTLE OF ALGIERS. Indeed Toback's decision to switch slowly from a vivid color scheme to black and white over the destroyed restaurant seems to be a very deliberate nod to not only his idol Jean-Luc Godard but also the heated political films of people like Pontecorvo and Bellochio.

After this very mysterious and indeed explosive opening we are then taken to a Midwestern American college where Toback himself is teaching a class. He is speaking of Goethe and lamenting on how the "Western world is falling apart." It is here that we get our first look at the troubled and lonely Elizabeth Carlson listening intently, even while looking completely disconnected.
Kinski's first full scene as Elizabeth is a real stunner. We find her packing in her room listening to fifties rock music (which recalls Harvey Keitel's lost and angry soul in FINGERS) arguing with Toback's brutish, pig like professor. Surrounded by photographs and posters (including Garbo in CAMILLE) this is a Nastassja Kinski we haven't seen on screen before. She oozes tension and frustration and at one point screams "I feel like a caged animal" (the first of many moments when the film seems as much about Kinski's professional and personal life as anything else). Kinski is incredible in this very natural feeling scene and its improvised nature sets the tone for the startling first half of EXPOSED.

EXPOSED is very much a film about escape and throughout the first half we watch as Kinski escapes from one level of heartbreak to another. From school she escapes to her parents house (Where we hear Kinski speak of her destructive father and how she inherited her "restlessness from him.") and from their she escapes to New York. It is interesting to note that almost all of Kinski's escapes in the film are from men. First from the cruel leanings of her professor, then her judgemental father to finally the gaze of millions of men staring longingly at her photograph. If the film's final heartbreaking shot does have one positive aspect it is that she is no longer a woman escaping from a man, but simply from herself.
Continuing our journey with Elizabeth, she is immediately mugged upon arriving in New York and she loses all of her money. It is another scene that feels remarkably unscripted and natural and Toback's New York is an incredibly vivid snap shot of the town. The city is one of the films biggest assets and it is one of the major characters of the film. After applying at a record store where another fight breaks out (violence never seems far away in any of Toback's films) she finally breaks down and gets a job as a waitress.
It isn't long before she escapes from her waitress job into the world of high fashion. If it was anyone other than Kinski playing Elizabeth then her getting discovered so quickly and out of the blue by a fashion photographer would seem ridiculous, but because it is Nastassja it seems completely believable. The photographer promises her "Different clothes, different looks and different selves", and for the first time in her life Kinski's tragic character feels at home in her new role of inhabiting different persona's and characters.
I typically don't like to do plot synopsis but it is very important to understand that EXPOSED, more that any other film she ever made, seems to be about Nastassja Kinski. The first hour of the film is a remarkable character study and portrait of a woman very much separated from her own identity, her own persona if you will. One person even says directly to Kinski at one point, "You have the mystery of Garbo, the wit of Lombard and eroticism of Monroe." What is striking about this isn't Toback's mirroring the critical reaction Kinski always received but the near disgusted and exhausted look on her face hearing it. Only Nastassja Kinski knows just how close EXPOSED was to her own self but I am willing to bet their are few portrayals she gave that were more personal and close to her.
Around this time Rudolf Nureyev is introduced into the plot and at first his addition is very successful. Nureyev might not be the worlds greatest actor but he has an undeniable quality about him and he plays well off Kinski in their first few scenes together. Unfortunately Toback begins rolling some unnecessary plot mechanics in order to explain Nureyev's character when he should have been left mysterious.
All of the power and majesty of the first hour of EXPOSED quickly gives away to the films disappointing final 40 minutes. Why Toback decided to introduce a bizarre plot twist involving terrorists in Paris has always been beyond me. While it does all connect back to the unforgettable opening scene, Toback would have been much better off just having the terrorists as another example of the world surrounding Kinski collapsing. Instead he takes us into weird and convoluted section of the film that focuses on a fringe terrorist, played by a menacing Harvey Keitel, and his group of mostly female soldiers.

I won't go into any kind of plot synopsis of the convoluted final forth of the film. It really does seem like a totally different film from the first half, with only Kinski's fearless performance keeping the work grounded. Despite the problems of the film's final act, EXPOSED still manages to be completely arresting and its final shot featuring a stunning black and white close up of Kinski's face is just about the most unforgettable shot Toback or Kinski ever put on film. It very much recalls Keitel at the end of FINGERS but it is even more effective here as we are given a woman who has found something in herself that she wasn't prepared for, something else she is going to have to escape from after the credits role and the audience has left the theater.
EXPOSED opened up in the United States in the spring of 1983 to very poor box office returns. Critics were divided on the film, with some, like Roger Ebert and Tom Milne, hailing it as a major work and others damning it and Kinski. It would do a bit better in Europe but EXPOSED never really found its audience back in 1983. It fared better on VHS throughout the eighties but it has still never been released on Region One DVD and remains out of print.
I will be looking more closely at the people behind the scenes of EXPOSED throughout this week. You might be surprised by some of the people behind it. I will also be looking at some rare articles and Toback himself in the upcoming posts.
Despite some last act flaws, EXPOSED remains one of the most eerie and well conceived films of the eighties and among the best films Nastassja Kinski has ever appeared in. Less a film about plot and more a film of personality, EXPOSED would find James Toback very boldly making a film not only for his leading lady but ultimately about her.