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by Jack Sommersby

"'Gilligan's Island with Delusions of Grandeur"
1 stars

Believe it or not, the legendary B-movie-king Roger Corman produced this international big-budget mess.

Foxtrot is a muddled Mexican-British production that could have viably been interesting if it had been a lot looser and not tried to unearth some kind of supposedly relevant sociological subtext that just isn't there. It's one of those painfully obvious cinematic endeavors that can't be faulted for underlining things twice because there's hardly anything in it to underline in the first place - it's a blank slate no matter what the moviemakers throw at it due to the detrimental vacuousness of it all. There's a pedigreed cast in Peter O'Toole and Charlotte Rampling as the Romanian count and countess Liviu and Julia who've chosen to sail their luxurious yacht with a full crew to an uninhabited Pacific island in 1939 to escape the ramifications of World War II: a giant cabana has been constructed in the same gaudy red color both outside and inside, with tiled flooring, electricity, a full bar, a film projector playing Stan & Ollie comedies, and a sitting room with books and cigars so as to enjoy after-dinner conversations with snifters of brandy; at their disposal are their two butlers, the white Larsen (Max von Sydow) and Hispanic Eusebio (Jorge Luke), with their masters such martinets the countess admonishes the latter for not being properly shaven even on this island paradise that's a good eight-hundred miles from anywhere. These two materialistic aristocrats think they can control their everyday lives even outside the privileged realm they've fled, but of course, like many silver-spoon-raised royalty, away from their usual comfort zones sans reliable structure they're susceptible to unforseen happenstances outside of their control - they just assume their yacht will regularly arrive back with more supplies, but when it doesn't (no doubt due to military-controlled waters) their necessities and non-necessities start dwindling down - Liviu ruefully remarks that he'll have to make due with smoking just one cigar a day, and Julia commenting, "We don't have the island; the island has us." (They're big on ice for their drinks, so even when the gasoline for the generator is running low, they still insist on those frozen cubes.) And all of this is so solemnly rendered you start to wonder just what in the world the point is. The co-writer and director, Arturo Ripstein, is too literal-minded to imaginatively dramatize and give the proceedings any kick or kinkiness (especially with the man-to-woman ratio three-to-one); he's forever lavishing "classiness" onto a humdrum story that could've badly used some trashiness - the movie is as enervated as its protagonists. Violence is eventually introduced into the equation, and that's clunkily arrived at due to some not-so-subtle foreshadowing involving friends of Liviu having given them a visit before things start going awry and game-shoot all the local wildlife, to Julia's snooty chagrin. Though Foxtrot was shot in the luxurious Cabo San Lucas, with that inadequate cinematographer Alex Mills, Jr.'s otiose contribution Ripstein hasn't come up with a single expressive image, and the pacing is so languid the running time feels twenty minutes longer. O'Toole and Rampling are sleepwalking (I guess they just wanted to be handsomely paid for a shoot in a sunny locale), never for a second etching characterizations we could remotely care about. Stiff and superfluous, the whole damn thing is about as titillating as a tax seminar.

One of those ill-conceived failures that is *not* ripe for rediscovery.

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originally posted: 10/02/20 09:08:38
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  01-Mar-1976 (R)



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