Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two films of their times

Two movies, both very much of their times, one of which is still ongoing. Loving (Irvin Kershner, 1970) stars George Segal (left)  and Eva Marie Saint as husband and wife. They’re living the suburban commuting life in Westport, Conn. He’s a struggling commercial artist. She’s on the home front with two small children. Segal (Brooks Wilson) is a philanderer, having an affair with a gallery owner, Grace (Janice Young) in Manhattan, and is the sexual interest of Nelly (Nancie Phillips) the wife of his commuter buddy Will (David Doyle – John Bosley of Charlie’s Angels fame). The film, shot by Gordon Willis – well known as photographer on Woody Allen flics – has a remarkable sense of realism, with an outstanding performance by Segal whose character is frustrated by his marriage and work and who cannot relinquish his appetites for alcohol and women. This storyline is almost an update of that of the characters in TV’s Mad Men, only the story takes place at the end of the Swinging Sixties, culturally long after the conformist era captured by the television show though chronologically only several years apart. The film’s next-to-final scene is an extraordinary voyeuristic moment - one of the most embarrassing to which characters are subjected in any film I’ve seen - leading to the final resolution, which may be no resolution at all.....The other movie is Henry Jaglom’s 1992 Venice/Venice. I’ve long been a fan of Jaglom (above right), as quintessential a “modern” director as Robert Altman, and whose films with ensemble casts have the same documentary feel. They deal with the post-1960s Me Generation zeitgeist, marked by affluent characters’ introspection and neuroses. Both directors’ films are more complex than that of course. And in Jaglom’s case it’s his focus on women that really defines what they are all about. Jaglom is fascinated by women. Yes, he is physically attracted to them but he’s also absorbed by their psychologies. He finds them more interesting than one-dimensional men because they’re more open, honest and straightforward about what they’re thinking, their attitudes towards men and to the world at large.  Films like Someone to Love, Babyfever, Eating, and Last Summer in the Hamptons are good examples of this viewpoint. But so is Venice/Venice – half shot in the Italian city, half in the Los Angles seaside neighbourhood. The film opens at the Venice (Italy) film festival and seems like a documentary as Jaglom plays a director fielding press interviews. But he is not really Jaglom but a director named Dean, though he is for all intents and purposes Jaglom, right down to Jaglom’s trademark hat. Nelly Alard is the French journalist Jeanne with whom he has an affair in this most romantic of cities. She is a modern Mona Lisa, an inscrutable woman who is at turns intrigued and disillusioned by the director. Alard's acting has been mainly confined to French films though she was in Jaglom’s Eating (1990). Too bad we have not been able to see more of her because she is indeed a real find. (photos: Segal - librarising.com; Jaglom - informedinvestor.ic24.net)

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