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  Joanna Spirit Of The Sixties
Year: 1968
Director: Michael Sarne
Stars: Geneviève Waïte, Christian Doermer, Calvin Lockhart, Donald Sutherland, Glenna Forster-Jones, David Scheur, Marda Vanne, Geoffrey Morris, Michelle Cook, Manning Wilson, Clifton Jones, Dan Caulfield, Michael Chow, Anthony Ainley, Fiona Lewis, Jenny Hanley
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joanna (Geneviève Waïte) jumps from the train onto this grey London railway platform and the world explodes in colour - she's determined to have fun here as she attends art school and makes new friends... and boyfriends. Having moved out of her family's home she moves in with her grandmother (Marda Vanne) who she greets with an abundance of jars of jam, which explains why her case has been so heavy; Granny offers her the spare room which should suffice as a place to live when she's not out living it up. But Joanna will learn she cannot live it up forever...

This was the first feature writer and director Michael Sarne, otherwise known as Mike Sarne of hitmaking Come Outside record fame, made and although it won some dreadful reviews, for many who were the same age as the lead character it struck a chord, and just as it was supposed to sum up the spirit of the age. That age being those Swinging Sixties, which unlike something in the mould of the more cynical Smashing Time this took very much with a straight face, bending over backwards to accommodate the attitudes and atmosphere of that heady time. This had comedy in it, but was more interested in the drama.

Our star was model Waïte, whose movie career pretty much stalled after this debut, though watching her thespian approach you're not exactly shocked as she got by on her girlish voice, wide eyed expression and flighty personality, not something that spoke much to an enduring career when it arrived in such an amateurish package. She went on to wed John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas; a rather more successful actress is Bijou Phillips, her daughter. Here she gabbles her way through scenes designed to allow Joanna her amusements, but also to eventually put her through the emotional wringer as things don't work out quite as sunny for those around her.

Needless to say she was better at the former than at the latter, but oddly she does encapsulate a lot of the era so even if you were not around back then, you can imagine there were a number of girls who Joanna personified. As to the plot, you can break it up into two halves as she meets Beryl (Glenna Forster-Jones) who introduces her to a new circle of friends, among them nobleman Lord Peter Sanderson (Donald Sutherland seizing every chance to make an impression). Before our heroine knows it, she is whisked off to Morocco on a holiday, all financed by Lord Peter who is spending his money like water, and he has a good reason for that which is aimed right at the audience's tearducts.

The second part concerns Beryl's brother Gordon (Calvin Lockhart), whose business got off the ground thanks to Peter's funding, and he and Joanna grow very close, although fate has other plans for just how happy they will be. Almost as if Sarne thought in the early stages, wait a minute, this young woman needs a few life lessons, so it is that she finds no bed of roses await her in the big smoke, but then he felt guilty about doing so and decided to brighten up what could have been a depressing yarn with a number of wacky dream sequences and musical interludes. You know that Scott Walker song Joanna? Well that isn't here, but a different song about her is, accompanying her wandering gamine-like through the park, which sums up what you have to expect. More than anything, this illustrates how even less skillful tries at capturing the dreaded zeitgeist can be more effective than the classics. Music by Rod McKuen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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