Sydney Pollack – The Slender Thread (1965)

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Plot Synopsis by Paul Brenner
Sidney Pollack marked his feature film directing debut with this taut suspense drama, based upon an actual incident reported in Time Magazine. Sidney Poitier stars as Alan Nuell, a student volunteer at a medical clinic in Seattle who answers the phone to find Inge Dyson (Anne Bancroft) on the other end. Inge, depressed about her life, has just taken an overdose of sleeping pills. With Inge slowly dying, Alan tries to keep her talking on the phone while the police try to trace the call and save her life. Inge tells Alan that she has decided to end it all because her husband has discovered that he is not the father of her son. Continue reading

Sydney Pollack – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)

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They Shoot Horses Don’t They? is set in the dark years of the l930s, when dance marathons became popular as a way for desperate people to compete for prize money. Sometimes the events would drag on for weeks as contestants pushed themselves far beyond the point of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, the dancers shambling around the floor in a half-dead stupor. People would then pay to sit in the bleachers, watch the event and cheer on their favourites. Taken from hard-boiled pulp writer Horace McCoy’s novel of the same name, Jane Fonda plays a bitter young woman paired up with Michael Sarrazin for the ordeal. Gig Young portrays the unctuous MC of the event, bringing equal parts compassion and sleaze to his role. Many of the film’s images are unforgettable, such as “the derby”, a heel-and-toe race around the dance floor with bouncy, light-hearted music to accompany the miserable spectacle. It’s a powerful, tragic period piece that reminds us of the privations of the Great Depression. In the largest sense, the film has existential overtones that go far beyond the story of enervated dancers staying on their feet for a month or more. This film brought home a string of Academy Award nominations for the cast and director Sydney Pollack and a win for Young. Continue reading

Sydney Pollack – Absence of Malice [+Extra] (1981)

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Paul Newman plays the son of a long dead Mafia boss who is a simple liquor warehouse owner. Frustrated in his attempt to solve a murder of a union head, a prosecutor leaks a false story that Newman is a target of the investigation, hoping that he will tell them something for protection. As his life begins to unravel, others are hurt by the story. Sally Field, the reporter, is in the clear under the Absence of Malice rule in slander and libel cases. Knowing nothing to trade to the prosecutors, Newman must regain control of his life on different ground.
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