Sunday, 19 October 2014

Tarot (1973) Jose Maria Forque

I wasn't much impressed by Jose Maria Forque's earlier film In The Eye of the Hurricane, so there was little logical reason for me to watch Tarot, more bloody mindedness. But I'm glad I did and it's a worthy illustration of how hard it is to predict one film from another, even by the same director in much the same field. I like to be reassured of this, that art isn't a one shot and you're out deal but something that can grow and improve, something that lives. Not that Tarot is some gem, in fact it only prowls the edges of being good, committing only rarely, but it's definitely worth a look for serious genre fans, some way more than can be said for the very much completists only stature of In The Eye of the Hurricane.

The key here is that there's enough here to prevent boredom setting in. The story is hardly original, pretty young Angela is invited as a carnal companion to a rich old blind man Arthur (Fernando Rey) but catches his hearts eye instead. But of course there are grasping servants, including handsome young Marc (Julian Ugarte) and older, wiser Natalie (Gloria Grahame), and soon there's deceit afoot, and things going all awry. This works by establishing its atmosphere and its intrigues quite well. Angela, played by Sue "Lolita" Lyon pursues Freedom, biking unbound across the lands, yet she also practices Tarot reading without deceit or apparent irony. The film never turns into an existential study of Being within Fate but the conflict is interesting and Lyon's performance is deftly conflicted, there's manipulation and cruelty there but also fear, naivete, even possibilities of tenderness. Fernando Rey is equally good as Arthur, he's deluded and silly and not even an especially nice guy but he brings pathos and dignity too. Slick, shallow, mean Marc has less to grapple with but is perfectly reasonably essayed, while Gloria Grahame is oddly amusing, pitching almost constant quizzical disdain that after a while comes across directed not just at the other characters but the film itself and probably its makers and audience. It's not exactly "good" work but it is fun and it does work for the character. Other characters have less time and register less, but they work by providing more motivations and possibilities. Arthur's mansion deserves a note too, with zebra striped furnishings, a pool, a set up bowling lane on the lawn and so forth it's a bright, opulent, seductive sort of a place, one could really believe Angela falling under its spell.

This all has a decent pull and its fun trying to figure out how exactly things will come together, but it does take rather too long to do so. Nearly an hour before the turning point, simply too long for interest not to be slipping away. Said turning point is an effectively intense, nasty scene that is worth the wait though. And while the fall out is not as well managed as it might be, with not enough twists and one surprise turn into surreal visuals that is a bit of a misjudgement, it does on the whole work out in a reasonably satisfying manner. I'm sure plenty will be disappointed, especially those not used to this kind of thing, but for the genre it all comes out at about average to me. Others have enjoyed it more so I may be a harsher judge I think. Not something I can fully recommend but if it does seem your cup of tea go for it. You could surely do worse...

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