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  Revolutionary, The Power To The People
Year: 1970
Director: Paul Williams
Stars: Jon Voight, Seymour Cassel, Robert Duvall, Collin Wilcox Patton, Jennifer Salt, Elliott Sullivan, Alexandra Berlin, Warren Stanhope, Peter Carlisle, John Orchard, George Margo, Earl Cameron, Julie Garfield, Alan Tilvern, Lionel Murton, Bill Nagy
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Somewhere in the free world a man known only as A (Jon Voight) wishes to push forward social change for a more equal and fair society, but first he falls down the stairs. He had been asked to move on by the police after attending a small protest, and on his way home he stumbled on a flight of steps and took a tumble, injuring his ankle. His cohorts back at the commune where lives with girlfriend Ann (Collin Wilcox Patton) are sure a cop must have pushed him, but when he denies this they decide that if he hadn't been asked to move along he would not have fallen anyway. Such is the logic of the revolutionary, which A believes himself to be...

Before Jon Voight became a champion of right wing conspiracy theorists in the United States of America, well before in fact, he starred in this movie about the opposite end of the political spectrum, where he was a character drawn from a novel by noted leftie Hans Koning, here credited under his original name of Hans Koningsberger. But where you might have anticipated a frothing at the mouth socialist tract in narrative form, it seemed Koning, who scripted, and his director Paul Williams (not the singer/songwriter/actor, though he did do some acting), had a more ironic take on the earnestness of their central freedom fighter.

Something not unlike a more dramatic-flavoured variation on a popular British sitcom to arrive at the end of the decade in Citizen Smith, the series which made Robert Lindsay a star and started John Sullivan's comedy writing career - this was filmed in London, too, though not identified as such. So there were laughs here when the reality of the world is forced up against A's rather intractable opinions, which in true left wing groups fashion doesn't take long until he and his compatriots have descended into in-fighting over various semantic and interpretative issues. Still, A is a fairly sympathetic chap, he may live in a cloud cuckoo land of where he thinks society truly belongs, but his lack of guile is more endearing than expected.

The impression is that if he wasn't looked after by his older, more maternal girlfriend Ann then he would simply flounder as she is the one who takes care of him and attends to his needs so he can get on with the serious business of thinking very hard about the world, with additional breaks for leafleting and protesting. A is actually a student, though his fervour for attaining social justice is leaving those studies neglected, and we find out as the story progresses he is being supported by his wealthy father which makes his attempts to join up with the working man in a show of solidarity the source of some scepticism among, say, the workers led by union organiser Robert Duvall who he tries to ally himself with.

Romantic problems also interrupt his heavy musing, so he latches onto a girl who also has wealthy parents, Helen (Jennifer Salt), and she joins him in his endeavours when Ann leaves to marry someone else, though we remain unconvinced either of this new couple are able to really plan through their arguments into action. This is where the final act enters into it, where A's mild-mannered demeanour is at odds with a revolutionary who is not aversed to using violence to bring about an uprising in the shape of Leonard (Seymour Cassel). The question endures whether A will carry out such acts or will stick with the more cerebral path through life, and that results in an ending which will either be thought-provoking or frustrating, depending on how far Williams and Koning have won you over. There was certainly a loose quality to The Revolutionary which undercut potential tension, even in the final scenes when you might have considered that a bonus, but there was something in Voight's naive, oddball portrayal (that walk!) which had you worry about him. Music by Michael Small.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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