Mash 1970 Based on Richard Hooker’s novel, “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.” Directed by Robert Altman. Tales of a unit of medical personnel stationed at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War. An exception – smart black humor manifest without losing a whit of poignancy or authenticity.
Super cast: Donald Sutherland, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, Jr.; Eliot Gould, Captain John Francis Xavier “Trapper John” McIntyre; Tom Skeritt, Captain Augustus Bedford “Duke” Forrest; Sally Kellerman, Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan; Robert Duvall, Major Frank Burns; Roger Bowen, Lt. Colonel Henry Braymore Blake; Rene Auberjonois, Father Francis John Patrick Mulcahy… Here are characters in life-threatening circumstances who make it through with cooperation, dedication, and humor.
The studio was concerned that because Mash was released during Vietnam, people would forget it took place in Korea. PA announcements throughout are meant to to remind. Neither Sutherland nor Gould got along with Altman. Gould later apologized and was used in several more of the director’s films. Mash inspired the multiple-Emmy-winning television series M*A*S*H which ran from 1972 to 1983. Only Gary Bergoff as uber-efficient “Radar” O’Reilly made it from the film to the television series. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Klute 1971 Directed by Alan J. Pakula. Contemporary call girl-hoping-to-secure-modeling-or-acting-work Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda – Best Actress Academy Award) is drawn into the missing persons case of a former client when an obscene letter addressed to her is found in his office. She’s received several letters but doesn’t recognize a photo of the man. Authorities come up empty.
Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi), a fellow executive in the man’s company, hires private detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to investigate. The PI takes an apartment in Bree’s building, taps her phone and tails her. He tries to be up front about what he’s doing, but she’s paranoid. Klute comes to appreciate Bree’s unusual integrity while she grows to trust him and cooperates in so far as she’s able. Eventually a kind of romance develops.
A body is found in the river (not that of the missing man), there are indications of blackmail, two prostitutes die. Bree is stalked. A visceral thriller. Initially Fonda was unsure she could carry off the role and asked to be released, but Pakula held firm. After spending weeks observing high class call girls and madams in New York, characterization was apparently based on several French professionals she’d known who worked for the famed Madame Claude. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Don’t Look Now 1973 can be found under Stream Films “in” Italy
Ordinary People 1980 Based on the novel by Judith Guest. Robert Redford’s directorial debut. The wrenching story of an upper middle class family’s breakdown after the death of one son and the attempted suicide of another. Buck and Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) were in a boating accident together. Conrad survived and is trying to cope with post traumatic stress and guilt compounded by his mother Beth’s (Mary Tyler Moore) coldly shutting him out. His father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) is abjectly sympathetic, but unable to cut through Beth’s dogged pretense of normalcy.
Pain is palpable. Calvin is sent to psychiatrist Dr. Tyrone C. Berger (Judd Hirsch) The boy makes a connection with fellow student Jeannine Pratt (Elizabeth McGovern), but can’t otherwise seem to reintegrate himself back into life. Sensitivity is high, confrontations visceral, the outcome harsh but authentic. Beautifully done all around. Four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Eye of the Needle 1981 Based on the novel by Ken Follett. Directed by Kenneth Marquand. WWII German spy, alias Henry Faber (Donald Sutherland), is nicknamed “The Needle” because a stiletto is his preferred method of murder. He’s acquired critical information about the Allies invasion of Normandy, but must exit the town quickly and has no chance to communicate with superiors.
On his way back to Germany, bad weather washes him up at Storm Island occupied by only Lucy (Kate Nelligan), her bitter, disabled husband, David (Christopher Cazenove), their son, and Tom (Alex McCrindle), a shepherd. Henry misrepresents himself and takes the love-starved Lucy to bed. David, however, is suspicious of what he finds in the stranger’s pack, confronts him and is summarily killed. Tom is next. Lucy realizes Henry has been lying and radios the mainland. Until help comes, she’s stuck out there. When he tries to radio Germany and then escape… An effective thriller. Free with Amazon Prime.
Six Degrees of Separation 1993 Adapted from the John Guare play which was inspired by the real-life 1980s story of a young con man/robber who convinced people he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier. Thoroughly intriguing, the more so as it derives from an actual series of events.
One night, his suit disheveled, his arm bleeding, Paul (Will Smith) shows up at the door of socialite Ouisa and art dealer Flan Kittredge (Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland), claiming to be a friend of their Ivy League kids. He also modestly professes to be the son of Sidney Poitier. The young man has been mugged and knows no one in New York.
Poised, articulate, flattering, and knowledgeable about the kids, Paul is welcomed into the Kittredge home the same night they’re hosting Geoffrey Miller (Ian McKellan), who could be pivotal in securing an art sale for Flan. The unexpected stranger whips up a gourmet meal charming everyone and helping to promote the deal. He’s invited to spend the night. Waking to a commotion, it’s discovered he’s brought back a street hustler. Pieces of the façade fall away. It turns out the couple are not the first to believe the scammer. Still Ouisa is sympathetic and… Free with Amazon Prime.
The Leisure Seeker 2018 Based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian. Directed by Paolo Virzi. When their son Will (Christian McKay) arrives with a birthday cake for his father’s scheduled party, he finds John and Ella Spencer (Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren) have disappeared from their home. Angry and upset, he calls his sister Jane (Janel Maloney) who discourages Will from alerting the police. The folks’ old 1970s camper The Leisure Seeker is also missing.
We join the senior Spencers en route from Wellesley, Massachusetts to The Ernest Hemmingway House in The Florida Keys. John drives – apparently against doctor’s orders. Setting up at camp sites is automatic, but he fades in and out of dementia, repeating simple demands; recalling everything about an old student who approaches, then forgetting his wife’s name; perfectly quoting long passages of literature to waitresses, then becoming jealous of a man Ella knew forty years ago. She tries to keep her husband close (not always successfully) and wearily chides him for forgetting. They clearly love one another deeply.
The trip is full of small adventures, mishaps, and frustration. Ella is increasingly ill. This is a last vacation. A master class on nuanced acting. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Top photo: Bigstock