by John Farr
John Farr salutes Donald Sutherland’s finest films.
A killer is stalking Bree Daniel (Jane Fonda), a would-be actress and high-class call girl. Detective Klute (Donald Sutherland) meets her while investigating the mysterious disappearance of a male relative. It’s evident that Bree is a pivotal link in Sutherland’s investigation, but she herself has no idea what that link is, which only makes her more vulnerable. Could she be next to disappear?
WHY I LOVE IT:
Director Pakula builds a creepy, paranoiac mood that makes for mesmerizing viewing. Fonda brings texture and dimension to the central role – part cynical, hardened hooker, part confused young woman – too frightened to let anyone into her life. Fonda deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar that year. Sutherland is effectively subdued as John Klute.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
After the drowning death of their young daughter, British couple John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) travel to the ancient port city of Venice, where he is overseeing the restoration of a dilapidated church. As the canals begin to spill over with murder victims, John experiences increasingly unsettling visions, and Laura slowly loses her grip on sanity.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Based on a ghost story by Daphne du Maurier, Nicolas Roeg’s spooky, enigmatic thriller offers just the right mix of surreal intensity and emotional distress, aided by the presence of two creepy old sisters (Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania), who claim to have psychic contact with the Baxters’ dead child. Roeg gets a lot of mileage out of the labyrinthine streets and murky canals of Venice, which has an otherworldly atmosphere all its own. When John catches a glimpse of a tiny, red-coated figure darting in and out of blind alleys, the hairs on your neck will stand at attention. Definitely not for all tastes, but an arty, eerie entry for those seeking something different. Note: not appropriate for kids, mainly due to one memorably steamy sex scene.
Day of the Locust (1975)
Aspiring set designer Tod Hackett (William Atherton) moves to glitzy Hollywood in the 1930s and takes a romantic interest in his new neighbor, Faye Greener (Karen Black), a talentless actress who lives with her sickly, drunken father Harry (Burgess Meredith), a onetime vaudevillian. Dreaming big despite her chronic failure at auditions, Faye flirts with Tod but opts to move in with a lonely, repressed accountant amusingly named Homer Simpson (Donald Sutherland). Little by little, Tod finds himself immersed in a sleazy, corrosive world of cruelty, false hope, and malignant desperation.
WHY I LOVE IT:
A blistering adaptation of Nathanael West’s novel, “Locust” might be the most audaciously cynical movie ever made about Tinseltown. Peopled with deranged healers, petulant dwarves, painted child stars, and washed-up never-weres, Schlesinger’s film creates a stark divide between the pampered starlets and studio bosses of La La Land and the impoverished hangers-on and wannabes whose crushed desires fuel their fortunes. Black, Sutherland, and Meredith are mesmerizing in their respective roles, playing fringe types with utmost authenticity. By the time the film’s cathartic, apocalyptic finale arrives to resolve all the dramatic and sexual tension, Hollywood has already begun to look more like hell than any place on earth.