Leo the Last (John Boorman / United Kingdom, 1970):

The nobleman in exile, not composing verses à la Cavafy but rather getting ready for a Guy Fawkes Night uprising. Into the cul-de-sac mansion with the meek imperial scion (Marcello Mastroianni), all around are London slums, he turns his spyglass from pigeons to tenement dwellers. The African immigrant family from across the way is at the center, the husband (Calvin Lockhart) is "a true people's leader" locked away and the wife (Glenna Foster-Jones) drifts into prostitution. Commitment is the call heeded at last, the Rear Window pane gets shattered: "What revolution? I'm a pacifist!" John Boorman back in England for nothing less than an adjustment of Ealing comedy in the scruffy new decade, the sense of bizarrerie is richly carried all the way to the conclusion (sparklers against rifles prepare a Zabriskie Point detonation). A feathered Billie Whitelaw deep-throats a chunk of meat during a bourgeois feeding frenzy, Vladek Sheybal on roller skates yearns for the Old Order, Ram John Holder breathes virtuosic fire as a preacher as well as on the bluesy soundtrack. Epiphanies in the swimming pool and howling in the pulpit, "where do the dreams go?" Songs, disembodied hubbub, Beatles lyrics and Dylan Thomas stanzas comprise the most attentive tessitura—British Sounds, as it were, and there's Godard that same year with the camera among factory workers. High-spirited obscurantism builds toward a crystalline upshot, start changing the world by changing your street. "I don't get it. What kind of movie is it, anyway?" "Let me explain..." The American answer is Ashby's The Landlord, unless of course it's Boorman himself in New York with Where the Heart Is. Cinematography by Peter Suschitzky. With Graham Crowden, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, David de Keyser, and Keefe West.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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