BE­TWEEN THE LINES

Author and critic Kim New­man ex­plores the dark cor­ners of cin­ema

Empire (UK) - - RE.VIEW -

THERE ARE PLENTY of great films about news­pa­pers, but pre­cious few about mag­a­zines. The most ac­cu­rate, hon­est de­pic­tion of mag­a­zine jour­nal­ism is Joan Mick­lin Sil­ver’s ex­cep­tional Be­tween The Lines (1977). In the 1980s, I wrote for a left-ish London list­ings mag­a­zine very much like the film’s Bos­ton-based ‘Back Bay Main­line’ — fash­ions and mu­sic had changed, but ev­ery­thing else was the same. Founded by stu­dents as an un­der­ground po­lit­i­cal sheet in the ’60s, the ‘Main­line’ is age­ing (like its 30-ish em­ploy­ees) in the ’70s. Cri­sis hits when a mini-mogul (Lane Smith) wants to add the ti­tle to his pub­lish­ing em­pire, per­haps at the loss of its soul — rep­re­sented per­fectly by the of­fice man­ager (Jill Eiken­berry) who re­ally runs the pub­li­ca­tion.

Young writer Michael (Stephen Collins) lands a book con­tract which enables him to quit and be­come pre­ma­turely pompous, while per­hapsmore-talented col­leagues — burnout Harry (John Heard), manic mu­sic journo Max (Jeff Gold­blum), young hus­tler David (Bruno Kirby) — seethe with envy. The de­tail is al­ways con­vinc­ing: a pho­tog­ra­pher needs to store her en­larg­ing equip­ment at her old boyfriend’s pad be­cause she hasn’t got room for it; the con­stant low-level feud­ing be­tween the smug writ­ing staff and the sim­mer­ing ad­ver­tis­ing man­ager; the un­end­ing nui­sance of try­ing to live a free­wheel­ing cre­ative life on a crip­plingly low $75 a week (aug­mented by sell­ing books and records sub­mit­ted for re­view).

Pho­tog­ra­pher Ab­bie (Lind­say Crouse) skew­ers boyfriend Harry’s vision of writ­ing in the coun­try while she makes bread with a ter­rific speech about how his am­bi­tions side­line hers (“and some­times maybe I’ll get to pho­to­graph the bread”), then un­der­cuts him when her real rap­port with a strip­per (Mar­ilu Hen­ner) he is in­ter­view­ing gets more in­ter­est­ing an­swers than his ag­gres­sive quizzing. It also fea­tures a rare movie scene of a night out at a club which looks as if folks are ac­tu­ally hav­ing fun.

Michael J. Pol­lard — then the big­gest name in the cast — weaves through it as the flake who’s on the streets ac­tu­ally hawk­ing the rag, while the ba­ton of char­ac­ter ac­tor quirk­i­ness is passed to young Gold­blum, who shows off his pat­ter skills in a cus­tom-writ­ten role.

Robert Alt­man and John Sayles racked up sub­stan­tial fil­mo­gra­phies but the talented Sil­ver — who casts from the same tal­ent pool as her male col­leagues and has a sim­i­lar ap­proach to en­sem­ble drama — only man­aged one real hit (Cross­ing De­lancey) be­fore her ca­reer pe­tered out, giv­ing a dark edge to Be­tween The Lines’ vision of the coun­ter­cul­ture me­dia as a boys’ club. BE­TWEEN THE LINES IS ON IM­PORT DVD

Above: Star Michael J. Pol­lard as ‘The Hawker’, hawk­ing.

Be­low: An early role for Jeff Gold­blum as rock hack Max.

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