Whether it’s exploring Peter Jackson’s gore fuelled horror films, or Stanley Kubrick’s rarely seen Fear and Desire, there is a certain fascination to be found in discovering how future masters of their craft honed their cinematic vocabularies in the early days of their careers.
Whether it’s exploring Peter Jackson’s gore
fuelled horror films, or Stanley Kubrick’s rarely seen Fear and Desire, there
is a certain fascination to be found in discovering how future masters of their
craft honed their cinematic vocabularies in the early days of their
Taking Off, the 1971
feature debut for the U.S. market by Czech-American director Milos Forman, is an almost forgotten
gem and a must see for any fan of his later work, such as the bonafide
masterpieces One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s
Nest and Amadeus.
Jeannie Tyne is a shy teenager who runs away from home to take part in an
audition with a popular anti-establishment band. Naturally her parents Larry and Lynn are sick with worry,
and at a loss as to how to begin searching for their special only child. But as time passes the empty hole that
Jeannie leaves in their lives begins to give way to a strange sense of rediscovered
Opening with a sequence
showing countless auditioning young girls singing their hearts out, Forman
makes brilliant use of music and unorthodox editing. The auditions continue to be intercut throughout the film,
acting as a kind of Greek chorus complimenting and enriching the unfolding
Larry, memorably played
by Buck Henry, soon discovers a
whole subculture of parents searching for their lost teens. Together with his wife he joins the so
called ‘Society for Parents of Fugitive Children’, and they find themselves at
such a large and prestigious meeting of this group that it feels like an awards
dinner. The many parents there are
willing to try anything in an attempt to understand the youth of the day,
culminating in an outrageous but hilarious drug taking experiment.
entertainingly studies the growing divide between an ageing and conservative
generation and their offspring, young people growing more and more disenchanted
with the free world that was won for them in World War Two.
Interestingly there is a
young actress who is on screen for no longer than a minute or so, yet she sings
a song so haunting and with such obvious talent that it might be the most
lasting memory that the film leaves with you. It’s the brilliant Kathy
Bates, making her feature film debut as one of Jeannie’s musical peers.
Although a product of a
bygone era Taking off can still speak to us in 2011, what with every successive
generation of parents perpetually lamenting over ‘kids today’. Using a blend of edgy themes and
absurdist comedy Forman instantly made his mark on American cinema, and given
the stone cold classics which were to follow it’s something to celebrate that
he was given that chance.