Slogging to the finish line.
One hundred and twenty four minutes separate the two phases of Al Pacino’s film career.
By 1976, the actor was coming off four consecutive Oscar nominations in iconic films: The Godfather (1972); Serpico (1973); The Godfather, Part II (1974) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975)–for a short–but spectacular–period, nobody in the film industry seemed hotter. And then there’s the Al Pacino we recognize today: though certainly still capable of fine work, the man is arguably just as famous for the Saturday Night Live caricature modeled after a succession of bug-eyed, spittle-flecked, histrionic displays that characterized many of his latter-day performances.
Whether it ultimately represents the end of his golden era or the beginning of his gonzo era, Bobby Deerfield remains Pacino’s most head-scratching career choice.
When he’s not circling his way to glory, world famous race car champion Deerfield (Pacino) keeps very much to himself. A man of few words, he’s the kind that makes every exhalation of cigarette smoke an act of deep, soul-rattling rumination. What’s going on inside him? Search for the answer and you’ll search in vain. It’s said that the eyes are the windows to one’s soul, but alas, Bobby’s the sort that keeps his sunglasses on indoors.
His icy reserve begins to melt–if ever so slightly–upon meeting the mysterious Lillian Morelli (Marthe Keller, Marathon Man) in a Swiss hospital. Though she refuses to discuss (or even acknowledge) her illness with him, Bobby knows something’s seriously amiss when, while stroking her head as she sleeps, a tuft of Lillian’s hair comes off in his hand.
Ah, but we know that the lady suffers from acute actress-itis, that ultimately fatal affliction which requires hospitalization and medication, but never seems to detract from a beautiful young leading lady’s ability to smoke and drink, make love or witty repartee. Of course, the real purpose of the tragic heroine’s life–and untimely death–is to awaken her lunk-headed suitor to the realization that he can love, after all.
Bleccch! Why does this pathetic, moth-eaten movie scenario refuse to die the grisly death it deserves?! O.K., let’s be charitable: there are two shining cinematic examples–Camille starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor, and Love Story with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal–but let’s face facts: both of these benefit from a certain kitsch appeal and consider that there’s thirty four years between the first and second examples.
Meanwhile, Bobby Deerfield founders among the also-rans, despite the considerable talents of Pacino, director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie), screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People) and composer Dave Grusin (Fuzz) on board. As for Keller, the former model certainly doesn’t want for physical beauty, but as an actress, she’s playing with a deck impossibly stacked against her–honestly, I doubt even Meryl Streep could survive unscathed after delivering a line like: “I’ll come to death on my own terms.”
For their part, the hard working folks at Twilight Time bring Bobby Deerfield to Blu-ray in the best terms possible, optically and aurally speaking. The 2.39:1/1080p transfer fully translates Henri Decae’s (The 400 Blows) gorgeous cinematography–truly the film’s finest feature–and there are three (that’s right: three) audio tracks to choose from, all well-suited to pipe into your home system, whatever its sonic requirements. English SDH subtitles are also available.
Extras are limited to a previously released audio commentary track by Pollack (who sounds a bit defensive here–feeling guilty, perhaps?), an Isolated Score track and the original theatrical trailer. Consider this: Twilight Time’s in-house historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo couldn’t even work up enough enthusiasm over this one to carry out their usual commentary duties; what does that tell you? Kirgo does, however, contribute yet another skillfully composed essay for the colorful booklet enclosed.
I’ll humbly admit that the 124 minutes it takes to get through Bobby Deerfield weren’t nearly as painful as I imagined they might be, but put a gun to my head and I’d still insist that they only added up to so much wasted time.