Monday, August 10, 2009

The Thrill of Détente

Having made my first ventures to the cinema in the days of Glasnost, my memories of the aesthetics of détente are very much those of a depressing and integrated spectacle: Yanks and Russkis brought together to tame the Ay-rab enemy, in Iron Eagle II, or showing Soviet muscle-bound discipline and good ol’ American maverick can-do joining forces against crime, like the to-be-Gubernator and James Belushi in Red Heat.

But the pre-Reagan détente produced a rather odd and charming genre-of-one, Don Siegel’s ‘détente thriller’ Telefon, which I was lucky enough to see recently. With an obsessively malicious Don Pleasance as a rogue Stalinist agent dead set on unleashing a formidable array of ‘sleepers’ on the US (there is one sublime moment, captured above, where he appears in a disguise that resembles nothing to so much as a peroxyded Guy Debord), Tyne Daly as the probability-obsessed friend of the machines (clunky statistical ‘super-computers') who repeatedly upstages her patronising CIA bosses and Charles Bronson’s impassive Soviet Beruf playing off of Lee Remick’s chatty double-agent, this is a peculiarly entertaining film – not least in an innuendo ending (innuending?) that doesn’t take the great power rapprochement as an excuse to reinforce authority, but to evade it. (The film, as far as I know, also contains the first truck bomb attack on an American military establishment, 5 years before Beirut – see the trailer below.)


Blogger ECW said...

Miles to go...

... before I sleep.

Seriously, a dead ringer for Debord. Wow. I need to get a copy of this stat. I'm on the hunt.

"Your mission has been cancelled."

11:18 AM  

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