Friday, January 12, 2024

Olde Review: Ramparts of Clay

This was part of a series of reviews of the ASUW Film series back in the '70's. Except for some punctuation, I haven't changed anything from the way it was presented, giving the kid I was back in the '70's a break. Any stray thoughts and updates I've included with the inevitable asterisked post-scripts.
Ramparts of Clay aka "Remparts d'argile" (Jean-Louis Bertuclucci, 1968) Ramparts of Clay was on John Hartl's ten best list this year—that doesn't mean anything, it's just a fact—also a fact that a co-worker at KCMU thought it was an extremely oppressive film, and I respect his opinion, as well.
Okay, this is just to tell you that the opinions vary, and my opinion is just one in the crowd's. Ramparts of Clay is oppressive; its narrative moves at a snail's pace, and there is almost no truly-defined dialog (what there is, is elliptical at best).

Depressing prospect for ninety minutes' viewing, isn't it?

But there are many other films with these qualities: Nicholas Roeg's (Walkabout), Richard Lester's Petulia, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The burden of these film's story-telling abilities falls on the shoulders of the images, and you have to be damned talented with your camera to pull it off. Jean-Louis Bertucelli is awful-damned talented, and so is his camera person Andreas Winding. It's a shame the print being shown on Saturday has so many scratches that distract from the beauty of the images. But you can glean some satisfaction from it, if you concentrate and let your eyes tell you the story, and let Bertucelli's elemental film-making—the way stories were told in silent (film) times—give you the information and direct your mind to what's going on.
On the other hand, you may find the film dull, but that is your opinion and it is the last one—and the one that's most important.

Cee-ripes! Way to "commit," Mr. "Reviewer!" Could we be any more vague? 
One of two things are happening here: either I didn't see the film (or fell asleep during it--not unlikely, although I do remember Ramparts of Clay and being moved by it) and I'm tap-dancing, or I didn't want to hurt that co-worker's feelings by saying they were "full of it" and a "film-weenie" just because the film was being told solely by images, which they considered "oppressive."

I'm way over that these days.

These days I don't quibble, or consider other people's opinions--I just tell them they're wrong, and, quite possibly, an idiot. Then, I'll compound the problem by telling them WHY they're wrong, and expect that to convince the poor soul that, yes, they truly are an idiot, thank you, thank you, James, for opening my eyes to that fact, woe is me.

Yeah, that doesn't happen much.

But I will say that any film drawing comparisons to 2001, Walkabout, or Petulia, is in august company, and worth another look-see.
2024: I'm older. These days I don't quibble. I say "Uh-huh" and leave it at that. If the argument "for" and "against" is valid (and I've seen the film), I'll weigh it against my own and it might alter. I consider opinions "grist for the mill" now. If I haven't seen a film, it goes on "The Must-See List" that I will probably never complete. 

John Hartl, by the way, was the film reviewer for The Seattle Times at the time. He died in 2022.


  1. This was great fun to read! The pale pink coda is current; the yellow original is from the 70s; when did you write the red (cranky) commentary?

  2. That would have been June, 2008. Remember, those were the days when there were suggestions that I name the blog "The Concession Stand" and you and I both agreed that I don't concede ANYTHING?