Finally, I got to see, in its entirety, John Huston’s 1967 Reflections in a Golden Eye (TCM). It was by far the best movie I watched over the past week. It stars Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Keith. Based on a 1941 novel by Carson McCullers, it’s a film of layers – about masculinity, gender power relations, homosexuality, sexual attraction and voyeurism. Yes - all that. Set on an army base Brando is Maj. Weldon Penderton, a man of exceedingly austere emotions. If you thought Brando did a good Godfather impersonation as Vito Corleone, here he holds in his breath with a diminutive monotone as the uptight Penderton, seemingly on the exterior tough but really a weakling in his personal affairs. Meanwhile, his wife Leonora (Taylor) is a coquettish philandering southern belle, cheating on the straitlaced major and mocking any of his attempts to confront her. Taylor is exquisite in the role, totally lacking self-consciousness with an effervescence, putting one in mind of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara. Meanwhile, lurking below the surface is Pvt. Williams (Robert Forster) who meanders around the Penderton’s house and invades it late at night when all are asleep. On horseback rides the major spots Forster in a field, utterly nude. He becomes obsessed with the private. Meanwhile, Brian Keith as Lt. Col. Langdon carries on an affair with Leonora, essentially in the emotionally (and sexually?) impotent Maj. Penderton’s face. Julie Harris plays Landon’s wife Alison, bedridden and mentally distressed, entranced by the houseboy, Anacleto (Zorro David). Psychologists – maybe Freudians? – would have a field day with this story. I’m no psychologist but the storylines, with their outward shows of hypocrisy and subliminal seething, are enough to keep a viewer transfixed. The film is shot through a gold filter, giving the entire production the resulting “golden” hue, as befits the title.
Other recent films of note:
François Ozon’s 5 x 2 (Criterion Channel) explores the marriage of Marion (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Freiss) in receding flashbacks from divorce to their first meeting. Every chapter features a transgression by one or the other spouse. The film features an inventive plot technique and good acting by the principles in what, some would say, is an oh-so-French story.
Joan Micklin Silver’s Between the Lines (1977) (Criterion Channel) is an ensemble production that in my opinion presages Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983) six years later. The settings are different but there are a lot of similarities. Enough to make you wonder if this movie sparked Kasdan to take the idea a step further. Set in an alternative newspaper of the era it stars John Heard, Lindsay Crouse and Jeff Goldblum - even the then cult hero Michael J. Pollard - as a kind of communal family with its countercultural highs and lows. The perky soundtrack alone makes you think this could have been turned into a light TV drama. Crouse as Abbie in particular stands out as a very cute yet exceedingly assertive staff photographer.