(director/writer: Francis Ford Coppola; screenwriter: based on the short story “Echoes” by Francis Ford Coppola; cinematographer: Bill Butler; editor: Barry Malkin; music: Ronald Stein; cast: Jimmy Kilgannon (James Caan), Shirley Knight (Natalie Ravenna), Robert Duvall (Gordon), Marya Zimmet (Rosalie), Tom Aldredge (Mr. Alfred), Andrew Duncan (Artie), Robert Modica (Vinny); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ronald Colby/Bart Patton/George Lucas/Mona Skager; Warner Archive Collection; 1969)

“Arty pretensions.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Early personal road movie from director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”/”Tetro”/”Rumble Fish”), with arty pretensions. It was produced by the director’s San Francisco based independent company American Zoetrope, aiming to film counter-culture projects.Coppola wrote the free-form screenplay based on his short story “Echoes,” which resulted in a lot of ad- libbing.

Alienated and confused pregnant Long Island housewife Natalie Ravenna (Shirley Knight) runs away from her hubby (Robert Modica) in her station wagon. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike she picks up former college athlete Jimmie Kilgannon, who reveals he has suffered brain damage during a football game. She drives the simple-minded youngster to West Virginia, where he’s been promised a job by his former girlfriend’s father (Andrew Duncan). But the family is unsympathetic to the lad’s condition, so Natalie convinces him to accompany her to Chattanooga. Once there, he wants to remain as her protector. Unable to dump him, the odd-couple head to Nebraska. Here the story gets a bit far-fetched and ends in tragedy, as Natalie gets involved with widowed darkly lustful motorcycle highway policeman Gordon (Robert Duvall).

The slight script and the lethargic pace are overcome by the committed lead performances, as the actors show their vulnerable side that likens them, we are told, to people made of rain: “The rain people are made of rain, and when they cry, they disappear altogether.” Don’t ask me what that means, but it sounds good! The film’s heavy symbolism is a bit too Freudian for me, but I appreciate the effort to make art out of soap opera episodic dramaics and also relish the eerie location shots that give the film a bizarre feel.