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Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s classic novel comes to life in this haunting and darkly humorous film from acclaimed director George Roy Hill. Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) is an ordinary World War II soldier with one major exception: he has mysteriously become unstuck in time. Billy goes on an uncontrollable trip back and forth from his birth in New York to life on a distant planet and back again to the horrors of the 1945 fire-bombing of Dresden. This dazzling and thought-provoking drama co-stars Ron Leibman and Valerie Perrine.
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Top customer reviews
Billy Pilgrim. Everyone was adept to their roles. The film version may
have felt a bit clunky at times, overwrought, but by and large it felt like perhaps
a forerunner to "Forrest Gump." Billy Pilgrim's Every Man was along for the
ride the whole way.
I guess I'd forgotten the disaffection Billy acted out towards his son. Need to
read that part again!
I would recomment this movie, if for no other reason than it might encourage
viewers to read the book if they have not.
Like many late 60s/early 70s war films, this one has a stark look to it, with all the gloss wiped away, revealing the senselessness of war & the hollowness of its justifications. It doesn't excuse the evils of something like fascism, or the necessity of stopping it -- it simply points out that "the good guys" tend to become what they're fighting, that it destroys their humanity, that it swallows human beings whole & sucks out their souls. War is simply an ugly, filthy business, and it shouldn't be decked in patriotic ribbons & noble-sounding phrases.
The cast is superb here, with Valerie Perrine's soft porn actress Montana Wildhack a standout, full of joy & life, the antithesis of war. Tellingly, Billy Pilgrim only seems truly happy & content during his time with her, rather than in his by-the-numbers marriage, where the only true affection in his life seems to be his dog. Ron Leibman's psychotic Paul Lazzaro ("That's two Zs, dammit!") is all too real, a wounded, self-loathing shell driven by his own consuming fear & hatred & insecurities, while Eugene Roche's kindly but fatally naive & trusting Edgar Derby is both comic & tragic at once.
The transitioning between time periods is cleanly & subtly accomplished, one memory leading to another, as well as suggesting the randomness of the universe itself. In short, an underrated gem from the golden age of American filmmaking, and a welcome antidote to films that pander to the most simplistic worldviews. All in all, most highly recommended!
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