Film Review: Three (dir by James Salter)


Coming to us from 1969, Three is a film about three of the most boring people on Earth taking a vacation together.

Bert (Robie Porter) and Taylor (Sam Waterston, in his 20s but looking like he’s in his early 40s) are two American college students who are taking a trip through the Mediterranean.  We really don’t learn much about Bert and Taylor, beyond the fact that they’re close friends and they go to college together.  Though they visit several historical sites, they don’t really seem to get much out of it.  Though they both appear to be wealthy, they still make it a point to drive an old car.  It’s one of those affectations of poverty in which a certain type of rich person has always enjoyed indulging.

Anyway, Bert and Taylor wander around for a while and basically act like a bunch of stereotypical American tourists.  “Do you speak English?” they ask far too many people.  They drink too much at night.  They stare at every young woman who walks by.  They spend some time lying in a field and talking about life.  Unfortunately, since neither one of them has much depth, it’s kind of a boring conversation.  Bert, it appears, is a bit more experienced with the “ways of the world” that Taylor.  Taylor’s an idealist.  Yawn.

Eventually, Taylor meets an English tourist named Marty (Charlotte Rampling) and, despite the fact that she could obviously do better, she decides to travel around with Taylor and Bert.  Both Bert and Taylor find Marty to be attractive but they decide that all of three of them will just be friends, with no romance and no commitment.

Of course, it doesn’t really work out that way.  Taylor quickly falls in love with Marty but Marty is more attracted to Bert.  Bert, meanwhile, is kind of a jerk who picks up a French girl even after it’s obvious that Marty has feelings for him.  There’s an odd close-up of Bert blowing cigarette smoke on the French girl’s hands.  I’m not really sure why the shot was included in the film, beyond the fact that Three was made in 1969 and filmmakers in the late 60s were bizarrely obsessed with unnecessary close-ups.

Anyway, Three is an oddly lethargic story.  Sometimes, I enjoy films where nothing happens but with this one, it didn’t really feel as if either Taylor, Bert, or Marty had earned the right to suffer from ennui.  Instead, they just seemed like three shallow people who bumped into each other on vacation.  Films like this are only interesting if the characters are interesting but these three seem like they’re all destined to end up working in real estate and boring everyone with stories about the trip they took overseas during their senior year of college.  To be honest, the story is really only interesting if you assume that Taylor and Bert are actually in love with each other and that their obsession with Marty is their way of dealing with their own suppressed feelings for one another.  That’s pretty obviously the subtext of the story, though Three is too much of a product of its time to openly admit it.

It is somewhat interesting to see Sam Waterston playing a character who isn’t in his 60s but again, Waterston is one of those actors who comes across as if he was born middle-aged and that’s certainly the case in Three.  For the most part, Three is a pretty forgettable film, though the Mediterranean scenery is certainly nice.

2 responses to “Film Review: Three (dir by James Salter)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week in Review: 4/20/20 — 04/26/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 4/27/20 — 5/3/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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