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Racer Finds Inside Track to Enjoy Life in 'Deerfield'

April 29, 1993|KATY NOVIELLO

The insular hero of Sydney Pollack's "Bobby Deerfield" is a careful man who believes in neither destiny nor God, and he is not afraid to die.

Bobby, an international star on the Formula One race car circuit, has rigid and effective rules for survival: Distance yourself from cumbersome family ties, set up housekeeping with your girlfriend while keeping her at arm's length, and hire yourself the best pit crew in the business.

While in the midst of such a carefully calculated existence, Bobby (Al Pacino in a brooding, soulful portrayal), falls in love with Lillian (Marthe Keller), a beautiful eccentric he meets at a Bavarian medical clinic. It is through this relationship that Bobby is able to develop the tender and passionate aspects of his inner self.

No longer so concerned with his international image, which involves wristwatch endorsements and wine commercials, he learns to be compassionate, creative and impetuous. Perhaps most important, he learns that taking a risk doesn't always involve negotiating a hairpin turn at 80 m.p.h.

While "Bobby Deerfield" does have its problems (Keller's accent is distracting, and her character's movie-star disease is too nebulous to be taken seriously), it is also filled with some memorable scenes. One of them finds Bobby, in a particularly vulnerable moment, having a conversation with a priest.

In another, Bobby's hastily arranged meeting with his brother in an airport restaurant is a grim reminder that family ties are not easily severed. The film also features beautifully composed shots of the European countryside, quaint Italian villages and death-defying car racing.

Through Alvin Sargent's screenplay, based on Erich Maria Remarque's book "Heaven Has No Favorites," "Bobby Deerfield" offers a memorable portrayal of a man who comes to make choices based more on his own personal values rather than on society's expectations or preconceptions.

"Bobby Deerfield" (1977), directed by Sydney Pollack. 124 minutes. Rated PG.

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