• Retrospective: Inserts (1975)

    From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Sun Feb 12 17:34:57 2017
    INSERTS (1975)
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2017 David N. Butterworth

    *** (out of ****)

    With the advent of sound and freeways, a once-great silent film director is reduced to churning out stag reels in his Rococo Hollywood mansion, now at
    risk from the wrecking ball. This poetic and predictably downbeat scenario
    is one writer/director John Byrum chose to develop for his controversial
    debut ("Inserts" was rated X for explicit sexuality when released in 1975;
    that rating was subsequently changed to NC-17). Filmed, ironically, at Lee International Studios in Shepperton, England, the film exudes decaying Hollywood elegance circa 1930. The single sound stage provides a
    theatrical mood for this tight and turbulent five-character drama starring Richard Dreyfuss as a washed-up and impotent auteur with the condescending moniker of Boy Wonder, Veronica Cartwright and Stephen Davies as his perky players Harlene and Rex, the Wonder Dog, and Bob Hoskins and Jessica Harper
    as producer Big Mac and his bubbleheaded betrothed Cathy Cake. Miss Cake,
    like everyone else in La La Land, longs for stardom and unselfishly steps
    in to finish Boy Wonder's smut fest in the making after a hopped-up Harlene overdoses on smack. Byrum's stage directions aren't in the same class as,
    say, Mamet or Albee or Goldman, but they're abundantly witty and often
    pointed. And the performances are rock solid: Dreyfuss, thoughtful and affecting, mopes about in a flowered bathrobe, swigging Martell by the
    quart; a squeaky-clean Cartwright is all tousled topped and mousey, boop
    boop de doop; and Hoskins plays his mobster moneyman with raspy aplomb
    (Davies has a notably thankless task, as an ascot-wearing stud-rube).
    Harper, meanwhile, stripped of all worldly trappings, takes her character
    from self-consciousness awkwardness through a growing sense of self-empowerment. It's a challenging role, but one she manages with grit
    and grace--the 67-year-old actress, 26 at the time the film was shot, has recently redefined herself as a children's musician and crabby cook!
    "Inserts"--the film's title refers to shots of significant detail that momentarily break a scene--is a fascinating single-set experiment that
    roils with vigor and vulgarity. The Twilight Time Blu-ray release, like
    most of their limited editions, offers an isolated music track which is bizarre, given that the only music in the film is Dreyfuss' occasional
    ivory tinklings and a raunchy rendition of "Moonglow" at the film's
    conclusion. Byrum would go on to direct just three more films in the '80s before calling it quits, making this sleazy slice of Golden Age nostalgia
    all the more poignant.

    David N. Butterworth

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