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Windows
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by Jack Sommersby

"Yo, Adrian, a Killer Lesbo's After Ya!"
1 stars

Both a critical and box-office disaster, it's a truly indefensible picture without a single genuine vitrue.

Windows, which marks the directorial debut of award-winning cinematographer Gordon Willis, is so confusingly put together and innately inane it's difficult to believe anyone with half a brain saw fit to green-light such a project. It's without so much as an iota of tension or suspense, not a whisper of revealing behavioral insight, and is populated with the most boring protagonist and antagonist in recent memory. And because Willis demonstrates absolutely zero storytelling ability, the horrendous script's countless absurdities stick out all the more. (A director with some vim could've possibly made something nastily enjoyable out of it, though it still would've been exceedingly tasteless and sexist.) Wasting no time to repulse, the story opens with Talia Shire's Emily Hollander coming home to her Manhattan apartment and being raped by an assailant who tape-records her terrified pleas as he holds a knife to her throat; we then segue to the next morning with the police interviewing her at the scene, but the traumatized Emily is unable to give out any details. Enter Andrea Glasser (Elizabeth Ashley), a friend of Emily's who tries to comfort her and invites her to stay at her place; Emily declines, and miraculously manages to find a new apartment to move into that day in a doorman-equipped building -- New Yorkers, notorious for their apartment-seeking woes, will find this bordering on outright fantasy. Unknown to Emily but moronically made known to the audience far too early on, Andrea hired the man responsible for the rape, a cabdriver who gives Andrea the tape recording, which she listens to with a perverted satisfaction in the backseat. Normally, this kind of plot twist would be saved for the last section, and so we're led to expect some ensuing fascinating psychological byplay between Emily and Andrea, but the debuting screenwriter, Barry Siegel, keeps everything frustratingly vague either out of laziness or, worse, the belief that this is to suggest non-spelled-out "complexity." (Well, it might go over well with the French.) Though it's not made explicit, though the very fact that it's not made explicit is explicit enough because there's absolutely nothing else to get a reading on, Andrea is a lesbian hoping Emily's rape will turn her off of men and be receptive to her lustful advances -- which, of course, is a myopically misogynic fantasy that's not half as invidious as it is insulting. (Those who protested against William Friedkin's ludicrous homosexual crime drama Cruising should be taking up the biggest billboards decrying this noxious nonsense.)

Nothing in the logic-loophole-ridden Windows makes a bit of sense, with so many basic story points left hanging that the film can't boast so much as an iota of coalescence. How good a friends are Emily and Andrea? How long have they known each other? Is Emily aware of Andrea's sexual interest in her, and is that why she begs off Andrea's social invitations, or is she completely oblivious? We're shown Andrea to have a good deal of money, but how does she manage to rent a loft in a building directly across from where Emily's moved into on such short notice so she can spy on her with a telescope? Andrea's psychiatrist, who's on the verge of having her committed to a mental institution, advises her she needs to "make a clear distinction between what should happen and what is truly happening," but since Emily is never mentioned during the sessions shown we're not sure what exactly the doctor's referring to. Ashley speaks with a husky, throaty voice that's almost a parody of a film-noir femme fatale and is overly mannered from start to finish, but the character's been so crassly conceived any actress would've been doomed by it. Andrea is conveniently turned into a killer later on down the line, with her choice of victim having absolutely no ratiocination to it. (Brian De Palma's odious Dressed to Kill also involved sexual ambiguity and psychiatry and murder, but it was nowhere this clunky.) At least Ashley puts in some effort, which can't be said for the lackluster Shire, who simply recycles her quiet, mousy bit as Adrian from the Rocky movies -- reticence comes too easily to her, and we yearn for some of the charged intensity she had as the enraged Connie in The Godfather Part II. Emily never has a clue, never wises up, never gains or regains any internal strength, so we have no emotional stake in her. Of course, the filmmakers all but emasculate her by making her subservient to the detective on the case, a bland, "decent" guy who, quite improbably, starts courting her the day after she's been raped. (See, the recently divorced Emily needs a man to know which way the wind is blowing.) Willis has worked under directors as astute as Francis Coppola (The Godfather) and Alan J. Pakula (Klute), but he apparently never learned anything from them. Windows is negligently made, quintessentially inept. Willis is unable to achieve even the most basic effects even hack directors can deliver without much effort, and his artsy photographic effects (the elaborate playing around with reflections from Emily's knockout-view apartment window) are supposed to convey vulnerability but only succeed in exuding banality. In this hopelessly muddled debacle, it's the ultimate in cinematic jerking-off.

What else should one have expected from a film titled "Windows" whose villain's name is Glassner who masturbates with a knife handle?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25434&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/09/13 22:22:31
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USA
  18-Jan-1980 (R)

UK
  N/A (18)

Australia
  01-Jan-1981 (R)


Directed by
  Gordon Willis

Written by
  Barry Siegel

Cast
  Talia Shire
  Elizabeth Ashley
  Joe Cortese
  Kay Medford
  Michael Gorrin



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