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SITTING DUCKS

USA, 1980 (MIFF 1981)

Director: Henry Jaglom

A pair of crooks figure out a way to steal three quarters of a million dollars They shift the loot into the tyres of a Cadillac and set off for Florida and a plane for Costa Rica. However, they fall in with two women and many peculiar things happen to them.

"At first it looks like just another cheaply-made off-beat heist movie with a script that seems made up on the spot and delivered with less than ace professionalism.

Gradually, though, it takes flight. It is not what it seems, but a comedy of modern American manners that is at once cheerfully free-wheeling and cunningly structured. The people in it may indeed be caricatured, but they're not parodies By the end, though, the story is preposterous You believe in them utterly.

The film is original because it is really about personal relationships and how individual obsessions first fuel them and then foul them up. Yet it dares also to suggest that eccentricity could after all be the spice of life. Emil and Norman, bickering as much because they are exact opposites as because their plans, both financial and sexual, tend to go awry, become increasingly chenshable figures — Emil, a cautious pedant with a rooted belief that he is sexually supreme and Norman, a ridiculous conman permanently on the edge of hysteria. Patrice Townsend. a real find as a sex kitten who can actually act, is the vital link between them.

What the film best achieves is a sense of what might happen if ordinary people are forced into extraordinary situations — like getting the chance to make off with a fortune. That and a feeling that most ordinary people are in some way extraordinary and also very funny.

Sitting Ducks is a good comedy because it is light years away from mainstream plastic and goes two or three steps further than most situation comedies It is also a fine advertisement for what an independent filmmaker can do without money or conventional stars and with a modicum of irony behind the camera. And like the extraordinary Tracks it says a lot about America, as much in its minor detail as in the main thrust of its argument."

Derek Malcolm The Guardian

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