Retro: The Unquiet American


USA 1979
99 min

The brassy and obnoxious show-biz type that Albert Brooks plays in his first and funniest feature (1979) – so close to Brooks’ own public persona that he’s called Albert Brooks – professes to be impervious to all the self-consciousness that engulfs him. Even when he’s shooting an extended documentary about the life of a “typical” family in Phoenix, Arizona in the style of the infamous 1973 cinéma-vérité TV series <![CDATA[<i>]]>An American Family<![CDATA[</i>]]>, he claims that anything the family does in front of the camera is “right”, ­without ever admitting that the acute self-consciousness created by his film and camera crew ultimately has more to do with movies than with real life. Charles Grodin brilliantly plays the animal doctor at the head of this family, and Brooks is so skillful at ­juggling all the mannerisms of pseudo-documentary and all the specious claims of pop psychology that
his periodic and compulsive regressions to old-time show business – whether it’s the big-time pop vocal in the opening sequence or the conflagration inspired by <![CDATA[<i>]]>Gone with the Wind<![CDATA[</i>]]> at the end – manage to be both ­welcome and ludicrous.

  • Albert Brooks - Steven Phillips
Paramount Pictures

UIP Sales

35 mm
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