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Jesus Arkhipov
Jesus Arkhipov

Three Days Of The Condor ...

Redford's research has turned up a book translated into just three languages: Spanish, Dutch and Arabic. Why only those three? Well, by the time we figure out those are the languages of major oil-exporting areas, all of the workers at the society except Redford have been shot dead. He was, luckily, out to lunch. He calls up the CIA to ask them to bring him in from the cold (how quickly we learn the latest spy jargon!), and the Company sets up a rendezvous at which he's nearly murdered. Here's a man, if ever there was one, who has paranoia thrust upon him.

Three Days of the Condor ...

He's assisted by Faye Dunaway, playing a girl named Kathy who's the very embodiment of pluck. He kidnaps her in order to use her apartment as a hideout, but something about him (perhaps his uncanny resemblance to Robert Redford) convinces her that he's not paranoid -- that, indeed, there really are people trying to kill him. She's fairly neurotic herself, but she's a good sort and she helps all she can. And she has three lines of dialog that brings the house down. They're obscene and funny and poignant all at once, and Dunaway delivers them just marvelously.

The film's director, Sydney Pollack, has worked with Redford three times before (they made the epic "Jeremiah Johnson" and the considerably less-than-epic "The Way We Were"). He does an interesting job of gradually revealing the net around his character. It's made up of business like types, the most chilling thing about them, indeed, is their bloodlessness as they discuss death and other "contingency plans."

Make no mistake, the disc looks very much like a movie shot in the 1970s. The 2.35:1 photography is grainy and has drab colors. Contrasts are flat, and the movie exhibits little sense of three-dimensional depth. The picture is generally soft, but looks appropriately so considering the style of the day. It doesn't appear to have been filtered with any Digital Noise Reduction. Detail is well-rendered throughout, especially in fabric textures on the actors' clothing.

I think that the critics are falling into all kinds of traps with this movie. Absolutely falling all over themselves. Half the critics are looking at it as a serious political piece of propaganda and criticizing it on that level which, god knows, wasn't intended. The film was three-quarters finished before any of these CIA revelations began to happen.

In the 1970s, when prominent movie stars started to become the driving forces behind films, the jazz musician Dave Grusin was a favorite choice for film composer by several above-the-title male actors, notably Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Warren Beatty. Redford starred in director Sydney Pollack's spy thriller 3 Days of the Condor, and Grusin got the scoring nod. The film was set in the New York City of the present day, the present day being 1975, and Grusin turned in music imbued with familiar elements of jazz fusion and R&B-funk. His "Condor! (Theme From 3 Days of the Condor)" could have been the instrumental track for a Steely Dan song of the time, and "Yellow Panic" was one of several tracks to employ wah-wah guitar à la Shaft. "Yeah! Make it funky," declared Jim Gilstrap at the outset of "I've Got You Where I Want You," a funk workout. The music only occasionally, with its use of suspended strings, betrayed the potboiler plot (timely as it seemed in the immediate post-Watergate days) in which a government conspiracy theme was overlaid on a typical Hollywood man-alone-against-the-universe story. Like many movies meant to catch the popular zeitgeist, 3 Days of the Condor quickly began to seem dated, and its music does, too. Still, it would have been nice, when DRG licensed the soundtrack for a CD reissue 29 years on, if the label could have dug up the names of the jazz musicians who played on it. But then, it would have been nice if the initial Capitol Records release had listed them back in '75, too.

As my brother mentioned, New York City of the 1970s is on full display. There are some great shots of the World Trade Centers as well as the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park among other iconic locales. Like The French Connection before it, this movie is set in the city at the holidays. The festive decorations in the background along with the Christmas carols heard throughout the movie provides a sharp contrast to the events of the story in this grimy, gritty metropolis.

Though uneven, Three Days of the Condor these days particularly impresses as a model of suspense-film economy. Smartly adapted by Lorenzo Semple Jr. from James Grady's novel Six Days of the Condor, this Watergate-era paranoid thriller engages by ever so slowly doling out information. Semple and director Sidney Pollack accomplish this task so well that they don't need to slather the story in excessive style or overblown action. The film further benefits from the photography of Owen Roizman (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Network, Tootsie), shrewd leading performances by Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, and supporting turns by Max von Sydow, Cliff Robertson, and John Houseman. 041b061a72

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