Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1977. Midwest Films. Story by Fred Barron, David Helpern, Screenplay by Fred Barron. Cinematography by Kenneth Van Sickle. Produced by Raphael D. Silver. Production Design by Stuart Wurtzel. Costume Design by Patrizia von Brandenstein. Film Editing by John Carter.
The Back Bay Mainline is an underground Boston newspaper that has been provoking the powers that be from a youthful leftist perspective for years by the time we catch up with this examination of the fictional paper’s many employees. Run on a meagre budget and barely making ends meet with their ad sales, the paper is in danger of leaving its rebellious roots behind when the rumours about being purchased by a major news outfit start to show signs of being true, which in turn increases the anxiety of the young idealists who work there. Stephen Collins is a budding novelist whose success only ramps up his insecurities and increases his cruelty to his girlfriend and fellow writer Gwen Welles, Lindsay Crouse is a photographer who has fling with the paper’s ace reporter John Heard, Bruno Kirby is an aspiring member of the team trying to land a difficult (and dangerous) interview in order to become full-time staff, and Jeff Goldblum is a staff writer suffering under the oppression of his miniscule salary, all of them affected by the nagging suspicion that the future of the paper means that their exciting counterculture pasts are waning into capitalist complacency.
Director Joan Micklin Silver keeps a steady and even eye on all her characters, moving between them with ease and avoiding tidy summations of their relationships which results in a feeling of sexy, energetic naturalism. The only thing missing is the context around which they operate, we don’t really get to know Mainline well enough as a publication and for a movie about so many journalists, very little actual journalism happens; when it does, it’s electric, particularly a marvelous sequence in which Heard and Crouse interview an exotic dancer (Marilu Henner). If for nothing else, the film is a wonderful opportunity to see many future heavyweights in early stages of their career (in the case of Heard, Joe Morton and Raymond J. Barry, in their feature film debuts).
Berlin Film Festival: In Competition