Unsettled by his experience in World War I, Lake Forest cutup Bill Murray resigns the shallow materialism of his friends and fiancee and sets out on the narrow path to spiritual enlightenment. This intensely embarrassing film clearly has great personal value for Murray (the real-life parallels become chillingly explicit when a subplot introduces a dope- and booze-addicted friend whom Murray is unable to save), but if the motivations are authentic, the result is anything but. The screenplay (cowritten by Murray and director John Byrum) shies away from specifying Murray’s spiritual achievements; instead of maturing, the character simply becomes more smug and condescending, and the movie’s ultimate subject is his fatuous self-satisfaction in the face of the other characters’ carefully delineated weaknesses. Not one moment in the film works the way it was plainly meant to. With Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, and Denholm Elliott. PG-13, 128 min.
Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest serious critics, the Catholic-minded Cahiersgroup, revered this 1953 film above all his 50s work; today it’s very seldom revived. Montgomery Clift plays a stone-faced priest (Hitchcock’s only direction to him seems to have been “don’t twitch”) who hears a confession of murder and assumes the killer’s guilt. The movie is more interesting than achieved: it’s the most forthright statement of the transference theme in Hitchcock’s work, but it’s also the least nuanced. Still, there are shots of extraordinary beauty, emerging from the grayish Quebec background like flashes into color. With Anne Baxter, Brian Aherne, and Karl Malden. 95 min.