Comfortable and Furious

Dirty Old Men: Part 3

William Holden and Kay Lenz in Breezy (1973)

Holden is a fave, having starred in brilliant stuff like Sunset Boulevard, The Wild Bunch and Network. Lenz, however, not so much. Here she plays an impulsive, free-spirited, braless hippy chick with a floppy hat, bell bottoms and an acoustic guitar that has her name emblazoned on it. In other words, she’s the sort of girl that Charles Manson would’ve gobbled up and twisted into a devoted killing tool. A shame, then, that Breezy doesn’t play out in such a manner, especially as we have to instead endure her endlessly buoyant blathering, not to mention christening a rescued mutt Love A Lot. Perhaps I’m being unkind. After all, this was her debut and she did snag a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer. Then again, just like Tatum O’Neal, this early pat on the back didn’t stop her career from sinking like a stone.

How do they meet? After hitching a ride with a middle-aged sleazeball, Lenz leaps out, runs away and ends up in Holden’s driveway. Uninvited, she clambers into his car. “Miss, I don’t pick up hitchhikers,” he says. She doesn’t care about such petty objections, though, quickly telling Holden he’s ‘better looking’ than the first dude.

Is our dirty old man rich, powerful, famous or artistic? Real estate salesman Holden lives in a big, beautifully furnished house on his tod in the Californian hills. Immediately before meeting Lenz, he ushers out a blonde, very attractive one-night stand. He’s also just come to the end of a relationship with an equally attractive part-time lover. Whatever he’s drinking, I’ll have some coz babes really, really dig him.

How does he make a much younger chick fall in love with him? Well, all the trappings of wealth certainly don’t do any harm. Lenz, despite some heroic stints as a waitress and a door to door seller of pots and pans, barely has two quarters to rub together. Given that she constantly imposes herself on and takes advantage of Holden’s jaded but decent nature, a harsher critic might call her an upbeat leech. Wannabe dirty old men, however, should take note that showing a young girl an ocean sunrise is a sure-fire way to get your first snog while coughing up some exorbitant vet fees to save the life of the aforementioned injured dog Love A Lot will get her into bed.

Do mummy and daddy object? Lenz is an orphan after both parents were killed in a car crash. Frankly, I suspect it was a double suicide, her folks unable to put up with any more of her inane outpourings about God, fire places and the like. She’s so clueless she thinks broccoli goes with hamburgers.

Do they do it? Oh, yes! Holden might be a craggy-faced cynic just eight years from his real-life, alcohol-soaked death, but he laughs in the face of Viagra. Repeatedly.

Nudity: I have to say that the nudity is the only reason to catch this Clint Eastwood-directed box-office bomb. The slender Lenz has the sort of large, pendulous breasts that make me wonder if I could nestle my silly little head in between, tie them around my neck and enjoy the world’s snuggliest flesh scarf. Holden, of course, does the right thing by remaining partly clothed.

Key speech about the age gap: After Holden points out that he’s more than twice her age (blimey, mate, that’s a conservative estimate), she replies: “I don’t understand why people make such a big fuss about age. All it proves is that you’ve been here longer than I have. I really won’t know where older people are until I’m there myself. Do you start believing what you see in the mirror and forget about what you feel inside? Do you stop feeling because the outside of you makes it seem foolish? Does becoming older mean feeling foolish? What’s there to look forward to if you can’t go on loving and being loved? I’m never gonna let it happen to me.” Written by a woman, Breezy is definitely in favor of old-young hook-ups.

Most embarrassing bit: Well, I’m none too fond of the dopey title track, Breezy’s Song. Played twice, once while they’re walking hand in hand along the oceanfront, it’s sung by some dippy, high-pitched chick who is in dire need of complementing her recent lobotomy with the removal of her voice box. ‘The morning is a friend of mine,’ she trills. ‘It always plays my song/And anytime I ask the wind/It lets me tag along/I read the lessons in the leaves/They have a world of things to tell me.’ Christ, what dribble, although it does tend to match the cockeyed musings that so often spill out of Lenz’s mouth.

Elsewhere, now that he’s snared some teen pussy, Holden pops to the gym and lifts a ten-kilo weight. Twice.

Do they live happily ever after? Holden and Lenz get a pretty easy ride in this trite, undemanding flick. He has to put up with a snide ex-wife laughing at him. Some friends are also understandably surprised at his newfound fondness for young flesh, with one later confessing if he were in a similar situation he’d feel like a ‘child molester’. Holden, too, has his doubts, as when he tells Lenz: “All we add up to is a dirty joke.” Hmm, not much is it? I think I could bear such qualms and mild societal disapproval, especially if a busty, recent high school graduate occasionally took the trouble to tell me: “If I don’t hold you soon or touch you, I think I’m gonna die.”

Patrick Dewaere and Ariel Besse in Stepfather aka Beau Pere (1981)

The behavior of the above men on this tawdry list can either be excused or celebrated, but the immature, subtly malign protagonist of Stepfather is a dirty dog. He’s not exactly a predator because the writing and direction are far too nuanced and clever for that, but his behavior is illegal and appalling. Stepfather is also different from the above movies in that it’s classy, a genuinely interesting (if overlong) exploration of forbidden love.

How do they meet? Rémi (Dewaere) is the stepfather of fourteen-year-old Marion (Besse), a relationship that appears in check until their mum/wife is killed in a car accident. There are no scenes where he’s spying on her or inadvertently catching an eyeful. Instead Marion does all the chasing and there are plenty of scenes in which it feels like she’s the predator and he’s the uncertain child.

Is our dirty old man rich, powerful, famous or artistic? Rémi is a pianist. He has some talent, but lacks application and ambition. He’s a freeloader, preferring to latch onto those more successful. There’s something pathetic about this dude and I’m not just talking about his habit of drinking coffee from a cereal bowl. In fact, he’s a handsome, feckless, sad-eyed leech, a man who will lose his job and then live off a schoolgirl’s babysitting wages.

How does he make a much younger chick fall in love with him? By just being there. There’s no doubt he’s behaved appropriately and with considerable care during the eight years he’s raised Marion, even if his character is in question from early on. Mind you, there’s something a bit odd about Marion, too. She doesn’t cry when she receives news of her mother’s death or at the funeral. She doesn’t care for or want to live with her actual father. She has no friends. She also admits to listening to her mother’s ‘eloquent’ cries when Rémi was making love to her (“Her sighs were a lullaby to me.”) Add it all up and it suggests that the environment Rémi has provided has somehow been not quite right.

Do they do it? The first time she admits her attraction happens when he’s consoling her. “I have desires… strange feelings… and I think about you all the time,” she says. He immediately takes his hands off her, suddenly conscious of the fact she’s only wearing a T-shirt and in his bedroom. Rémi says and does all the right things in the aftermath of her confession, including mentioning the shock of her mother’s death. “You’re too young… too vulnerable… and I keep feeling someone is watching us,” he tells her. This is a man that knows the difference between right and wrong. His subsequent rejection of her increasingly blatant advances, including coming home late at night to find her naked in his bed, is the one thing in his favor.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t keep holding onto the unquestionable truth that she’s underage and he’s in a position of trust. After he takes her virginity, there’s a marvelous scene where he’s driving alone at night tearfully communing with his dead wife. “I tried to avoid it, but you know me… I’ve never been heroic. But you needn’t be too upset because I was very gentle with her. Very, very gentle.”

Do mummy and daddy object? Well, mummy’s dead and Marion doesn’t like her alcoholic, somewhat distant, club-owning daddy. Initially, she’s forced to move in with him, but the unsatisfactory arrangement only results in her returning to Rémi’s ‘care’. There’s an odd, hard-to-read scene in which the father catches his daughter with Rémi in a passionate embrace but chooses to ignore the implications. Like

Rémi, he appears piss-weak.

Nudity: Given the film’s promotional poster shows the fifteen-year-old Besse sitting bare-breasted on Dewaere’s lap, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get. Saying that, the well-acted Stepfather never feels like a pervy exploitation flick. Its opening shot is an upside-down reflection of people in a piano’s shiny lid, an image which suggests we’re going to get a picture of a similar world. Hence, it’s not long before we meet a virginal schoolgirl that’s more mature than her spineless guardian. Even so, when she starts insisting she’s a woman it clashes against the sight of her stick-thin arms and impossibly narrow shoulders.

Key speech about the age gap: “So what?” This is Marion’s blunt response when Rémi points out that he’s nearly thirty and she’s fourteen.

Most embarrassing bit: There aren’t any. This is a well-crafted film, although if I were pushed to pick a fault, I’d say Marion is a bit too poised and articulate. “I don’t ask anything,” she declares after once again clambering into Rémi’s bed with a schoolbook. “I’m just here… available. The classic woman as object. I’m a 14-year-old woman in perfect working order. All systems go. If you had any curiosity at all, you’d notice I have breasts which, despite their small size, react when touched.” Hmm, I don’t think girls speak like that, even those liberated European ones.

Do they live happily ever after? Well, one thing’s for sure, the actors didn’t. The excellent Besse only made another two flicks before retiring from acting and dying in her mid-fifties in 2022. The depressed, drug-addicted Dewaere shot himself less than a year after Stepfather’s controversial release. As for the movie, it has an unsettling denouement that I won’t spoil.






One response to “Dirty Old Men: Part 3”

  1. Don Avatar

    Great series of reviews, Dave, thank you!

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