SCREENnArthur the Bedbug, Tepid Corpses & Other StoriesnArthur; Written and directed bynSteve Gordon; Orion Pictures.nBody Heat; Written and directed bynLawrence Kasdan; A Ladd CompanynRelease (through Warner Brothers).nby Eric ShapearonNothing better exempHfies the finalndemise of the Hollywood film culturenthan the failure of a trifle. A trifle of anmovie may rise to an unexpected statusnprovided it possesses one ingredient—ncharm. A charmless trifle is in the categorynof junk, and Arthur—widely advertisednby the venal mercenary establishmentnreviewers from the ChicagonTribune to Women’s Wear Daily as anhumorous, graceful romp—is an utterlyncharmless piece of trash perfumed withna dimestore cologne of an allegedly sophisticatednmise en scene. It’s vulgar,nbanal, primitive, on occasion repulsive,nalways boring and pretentious in itsnincessant effort to present uglinessnand platitude as comicality. It’s horrendouslyncute and boorishly coy. Itnamounts to two hours of obnoxiouslynmincing grossness. Although it is anstory of rich Wasps and Italian urbannpopulism, beneath its surface it pushesnthe Yiddish, Lower East Side theater’snnoisy corniness without the latter’s authenticity,nsentimentality and painfulnwit. In short—it’s a sorry heap of cinematicnmanure sold as a heart-warmingnescapist comedy. But escapism must benwinsome, like the screwball picturesnof the 1930’s; if it is not, it stinks withnall the odors of the borscht-belt farceurs’naesthetics.nWe seldom dwell on actors in thesenpages, but Arthur requires a few wordsnon that matter. Charm and winsomenessnonce meant Clark Gable, Gary Cooper,nyoung Henry Fonda, Gary Grant. InnArthur charm is diffused by a certainnMr. Dudley Moore, a new Hollywoodnmale idol, who has all the looks andn44inChronicles of Culturenpersonality of a cocainedrugged bedbugnafflicted by an outburst of gonorrhea.nBut he’s not the only one who representsnallegedly high actorship there.nThe second is John Gielgud, giant ofnBritish stage and screen, who plays anquintessential English butler—a sort ofnJeeves, if Jeeves had been marketednby Bloomingdale’s. Mr. Gielgud doesnnot act, he does shtick—as they usednto say in the bars around Seventh Avenuenand Broadway where the extrasnhung out. His main source of humor isna four-letter word pronounced with annupper-class British accent. So much fornthe taste and inventiveness of Arthur’snscriptwriter and director.nBody Heat is supposed to be filmnnoir. What is a film or rotnan noir innthe perception of the semieducatednmovie consumer, fed on popular moviencriticism whose smart-alecky gurus innthe newspapers and magazines reviewnmovies.’ It’s a picture or thriller novelnthat depicts bad people and bad deedsnthat originate in an oppressive, menacing,noften horror-ridden ambience creatednby the lower depths of a socialnreality shaped by rampant Darwinismn(seedy bars, Los Angeles slums, SannFrancisco skid-row dwellings) or by excessesnof climate (musty Southern mansions,nmalodorous in a stale heat wave).nnnor by a relentlessly hyped, syntheticnevil that needs neither motivation nornexplanation. The more interesting practitionersnof literature noir were JamesnCain and James Hadley Chase; RaymondnChandler, a novelist of deepernbreadth and more complex sensibilities,ncertainly dabbled in the genre. In thenmovies a succession of respected directors,nHitchcock and Clouzot included,nknew how to make out of motifs noirna lasting cinematic value. A lot couldnbe said about the affinity between thennoir manner and the melodrama ofnviolence, or character vice, but thisnwould lead us perhaps to Lady Macbethnor even Euripides—a futile notion whennwe only want to talk about Body Heat.nIt’s a story of an unmitigated femininenevil mercilessly flattened by thenmodern necessity to inject sexual activities.nThese requisite exertions are nevernintimated but are always made so explicitnthat they become mechanical, if not grotesque,npuffing and perspiring, therebynpulling passion—the vehicle of wickedness—downnto the level of a glandularnexercise available in any porno movienhouse. The characters become pedestrian,npetty, often repulsive and this,nof course, promotes an evil allegedlynengendered by unbearably hot Floridanweather. A heat wave may certainly bena force which induces a lot of dermatologicalndiscomfort; however, it is anbit demonologized in Body Heat, thusnmaking one ponder whether an air-conditionednspace, or some meteorologicalnrelief, might not cancel the movie’snplot. What should we, sane viewers, donwith a dialogue in which a lawyer andna district attorney delight in laughter,nmerriment, exhilaration as they discussna potential witness, a subteen girl whonsurprised the protagonists in an act ofnoral intercourse and whom the servantsnof the law now suppose has been traumatizednby the sight of male sexualnequipment? This is only a part of thencontinued on page 46n