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Senin, 04 April 2011

Daniel Petrie - The Idol (1966)

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The 1960s produced some films that have become legendary more for their rarity today than for their actual merits. Most, as it turns out when we finally track them down, don't live up to the legend. A few surpass it. In the case of THE IDOL (1966) we have something in between. The movie is not nearly as bad as some have made it out to be. The way the mid-60s mod London scene is depicted may make some cringe, but on the whole this film is not bad at all. Acting-wise, it's quite good, with not a single consistently poor performance. Much of it is shot with artistry, if not brilliant artistry, at least it's always interesting to watch. John Dankworth's score rises to an intermittently impressive occasion. The screenplay by Millard Lampell (based on an Italian story) does appear to be the stuff of seedy soap-opera, that is, until about midway, when the viewer realizes that some fairly serious stuff is going on. What may seem like a "swinging-60s/swinging London" melodrama turns out to have some pretty intense psychological implications.

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First of all, there is the near-incestuous relationship between Timothy (John Leyton) and his mother Carol (Jennifer Jones). Leyton was 27 and pretty much looks it, so we are treated to a very discomforting set-up with this pair. It's easy to read this type of incest relationship in a film as an expression of the man stuck in eternal boyhood. Several scenes in the film show Timothy struggling to express his manhood and failing. His mother can be seen as a domineering control-freak, unwilling to allow her boy to grow up and abandon her. Into this mess walks the irresistible, too-handsome, over-confident Marco (Michael Parks), an American artist inexplicably residing in London. Is Marco actually talented? One painting we see briefly does look accomplished, but it's probably not his artistic gifts that draw people to him. Drama kicks in when Marco meets Timothy's would-be girlfriend Sarah (Jennifer Hillary) and proceeds to take her for himself.
Spoiler-
Sarah, of course, falls completely under Marco's spell, underscoring Timothy's lack of self-esteem. The viewer might be waiting for Timothy to blow his top and let Marco have it, but he remains resolutely impotent. After a rain-soaked skirmish with some local toughs, in which Timothy is rescued by Marco, things take yet another turn. Carrying poor Timothy home, Marco is met at the door by Carol, who previously had thrown him out of her home for romancing Sarah. By restoring her boy to her, Marco endears himself to Carol. He also decides that Carol looks pretty good in a 'Jennifer Jones' sort of way and proceeds to seduce her. The upshot of that sequence is revealing of both characters, and it is what makes the film more than merely 'interesting'. By sleeping with Marco, Carol symbolically acts out her incestuous impulse towards her own son, thereby creating an intolerable situation. The two women and Timothy now are faced with their own naked feelings and true intentions. In the end, it is not they who must be destroyed. It must be Marco.
-Spoiler

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