First Impressions : An Unmarried Woman (1978)

Paul Mazursky is becoming a screenwriter at the very top of my list. Okay, I’m going to give him the title of my favorite. When I had finished just a quarter of his film, An Unmarried Woman, I instantly felt a surge of excitement that only great screenwriting can do to me. He writes in a way that is utterly real and relaxed. I felt like I was peeking into the life of Erica Benton ( Jill Clayburgh) for a year.  Mazursky, who also directed, gives his film a polish but a realistic one, without that top coat. Erica’s Upper East Side apartment is cream colored Bohemian elegance at its finest, but doesn’t have that overdone “set design” feeling.  In fact everything about this film feels natural and that includes the subject.

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You can see right from the beginning of the film that Erica is intelligent, sophisticated but not stuffy. She’s an independent woman who is married to a businessman for almost twenty years and works in a SOHO gallery part-time. What stuck me right away about their marriage is that they have a relationship full of communication and expression. They leave their bedroom door open morning and night, go jogging together, and talk to their daughter like a respected human being / friend. Now that is really something!

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It looks like the kind of marriage couples strive for, at least for thirty minutes, before Mazursky hits Erica, and us the audience, with the reality that her husband is not only having an affair, but is in love with another woman, and is going to move in with her.  She is told after sitting with him at lunch. I love that the director chose for him to tell the truth as they are walking back to work, because of course that is when he would do it. I have found people just love to tell bad news while they are in motion. The less eye contact involved and movement the better. Hey, that way there is an inability or less of a chance of causing a scene.

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After Erika finds herself unmarried, we too are wondering how she is going to handle it. I think it is very easy to say that we expect her to either cry for weeks or numb her pain by going on a series of dates the very next day. This is certainly what happens in most films no matter the decade. I thought that for a second, but then I remembered this a woman who is very much her own person and was never defined by her husband or daughter. She goes on to show that essence by hanging out with her fabulous girlfriends like she always did, and when they ask her about new men she says, ” If he tries to touch me, I’ll break his arms.” (There are many fierce lines like that!) Some may find that as the film goes on nothing “dramatic happens” for the next hour. Erika dates when she wants to, gets rid of her husband’s mouthwash when she finally is tired of looking at, and continues to support her girlfriends just by holding their hand when they are disillusioned on her bed.

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The drama from beginning to end of  An Unmarried Woman is her life. We see her living and having daily journeys with the people that she finds in her life, and in this two hours experience we can feel like we are doing just that along with her.  – Miss. Classic Film 

 

 

 

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EYES WIDE OPEN : COMING HOME (1978)

COMING HOME (1978) –

This is a film that I had heard about for years, and one that I wasn’t too interested in seeing. This year, I have been actively making a point to get out of my comfort zone and watch films from actors or directors that I initially wouldn’t turn to. COMING HOME was one of these films that out of Jane Fonda’s filmography I had avoided. I have never been crazy about war films, because I don’t like war, and watching it. Now, as a young woman, I’m ready! I thought I was ready, but I found after a half hour of the film I was not prepared for all that it held. There is a quiet power right from the beginning, especially from Jane Fonda. Her eyes as she watched her husband at home get ready to go off to the Vietnam War is glossed with fear of having her life altered. Fonda more than any other film tells all her feelings at each point of this film through those eyes of hers. It can often be overlooked, because people are paying attention to the change in her hair from straight to curly, which symbolizes her spirit of who she was and who she is. I have found many critics noting this hair change as symbolic, which I can easily see to be true.

All eyes on FONDA. 

Thinking about Fonda’s character of Sally, who is this is beautiful, sophisticated, privileged young woman working at a Veteran’s hospital in the thick of the war, I found myself nervous for her and quite anxious inside as I was watching the film. It wasn’t that the men and this hospital were mean to her, it was knowing the feeling of being in a new environment, which is very scary at first that got me tense. It really amazing me the power of film. It can make me physically tense at moments, and make me feel like I am going deep into Fonda’s soul though her eyes, as she tries to figure out John Voight’s character laid up in that hospital bed. Not every actor, actually barely any, act with their eyes and share so much of their soul through them. I wouldn’t even need to see any of her movements to know how she felt about her husband, this new veteran in her life, or how she feels about her gal pal, Vi.

 

A lot of films about war can be very action based but the interesting thing about this film is that it is talking about what happens when all the action is done with. The thoughts and feelings about war are what matters here, and getting people to think about what it does, and what people think about when they leave the realities of war. I think had this film come out right when the war was happening, many audiences would have been incredibly stressed and angry by it,  not wanting to see the truth and real reality that is shown in the film. A glossy picture of cookies and the war hero coming home this film is not and was not. Yes, there is plenty of love and conflict but at its core it is a film that takes off the blinders of the superficiality of war, rocking a person to the good and bad repercussions of it. – Miss. Classic Film 

Joanne Woodward’s second time around. SYBIL (1976)

I have been known to watch HEAVY dramas at a very young age and then come back to them a couple years later to rediscover new found glances, words, and camera movements that I had previously overlooked, or may have been too young to realize at the time. This past week the film, THE THREE FACES OF EVE (1957) was  playing on Turner Classic Movies highlighting Joanne Woodward’s Oscar winning performance, and what instantly popped into my head was the TV movie SYBIL (1976) which starred Woodward almost twenty years later in her career this time playing not the patient with dissociate personality disorder, but the doctor here to help!

I had remembered seeing this film on Youtube, back in the day when you could put up a whole movie and it would stay on there for years. It was blurry copy, leaving me the memory that I needed to see this again at a later point when I could afford the DVD. Six years later and here I am having just watched a beautiful copy of the film. Now, Sally Field’s performance is astounding on every level. It is. I mean she was able to transition from sixteen different people in a matter of an hour! Incredible! She was very touching. I thought the scenes especially of her sitting in her apartment in Manhattan with her cat looking out the window not knowing what would become of her life was very moving, and brought me to tears as I sat in my little apartment and watched.

At the time, she was was enormously well received winning a Best Actress Emmy Award for her role. After watching the film again thought I kept thinking about Joanne Woodward as the doctor, Cornelia Wilbur. Paul Newman once said in an interview with Dick Cavett that she had a secret between herself and the camera. He talked about how when he directed her in, RACHEL, RACHEL, ( A film you must see, and one I need to write about soon!) she sometimes looked like she wasn’t doing very much, but when he would see the dailies he would be amazed by the magic she would bring to the screen. That’s exactly the quality that she brings to SYBIL. A magical quality that only she possessed. There is this Woodward warmth I like to call it which is blended with a sincerity and sophistication that makes her a very unique actress in my eyes. The looks she gives, a touch of the hand that she gives her fellow actor in a scene and a quiet knowing in this role.

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She brought to the role of the doctor a quest for not only trying to get to the bottom of Sybil’s illness, but at the bottom of her as a human being. Woodward brought a very sincere quality when she was speaking to Sally Field’s character that she wanted to know her and her thoughts not just her illness. She at one point in the script even says, ” I love you.” She says this with such a look in your eye, it will just break your heart. It was one of the most touching scenes in the film and I think there are very few actresses who could bring that kind of deep warmth to a part of a doctor who one would assume to be sterile in many aspects.

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I have no doubt that Woodward playing a woman like Sybil almost twenty years earlier could not have hurt when she was deciding how to create her portrait of the doctor. I think she must have went into the role understanding at an actor/ human level what the character of Sybil was going through which enhanced her non judgment in her acting.  Judgement, uncertainty, and dishonesty shine through in acting and with Woodward there is never a trace of it.  When she chose the part of Dr. Wilbur it fit her like a glove. I am so glad that this very rare opportunity presented itself and Woodward was given the opportunity at this time in her life to revisit this subject matter on film. – miss.classic film

The two disk special edition DVD is currently out now for you to experience. 

 

 

William Holden in NETWORK (1976)

 My thoughts on William Holden in NETWORK (1976)

It’s very special to be able to relieve a moment where an artist and in this case an actor and a piece of written material fuse together at the perfect moment in time to create a monumental moment on screen. This is what magically happened to William Holden in the year of 1976. It seems fitting that as we celebrate his centennial this year, that we acknowledge the timing of his life and artistry during this period in his career. When Holden received the script of NETWORK by Patty Chayefsky hewas in the prime of his fifties. Only at that time in his life could he have played news division president, Max Schumacher who had been through all the ropes professionally and personally, and still was finding himself grappling with possessing real meaning in his life. With an illustrious career behind him Holden brought all his wisdom, truth, and compassion to the part which he never could have done if he had taken this role in his twenties or thirties.

As I watched this film for the twentieth time for his centennial what drew me in to his character was his loyalty and truth. Now, I know what you are thinking, this is a film about fabrications, deceit, phoniness, and ego, how could I see such admirable qualities in NETWORK but Holden gives it to us in all his complexities and rawness. Right from the beginning of the picture when he witnesses his friend news anchor, Howard Beal get slashed and made into a spectacle on live television, again and again, it’s Holden who stands up and lets him even stay at his apartment to avoid the media frenzy. We quickly see that he is the only one at the station or in what it seems all of New York City who remotely cares about what happens to Beal. I also know what you’re going to tell me next, he may have been a good friend to Beal but he certainly wasn’t a good husband, let’s not forget his stint of running off with Faye Dunaway for months while all the television studio ciaos is going on… Yes, this is true but Holden speaks his truth. He does. Whether you want to call it a midlife crisis or an act of betrayal in his marriage, what is certain and what we see is a character who doesn’t let his desires cloud his need to live in an honest way. When he goes off to live with the Faye Dunaway he knows in his heart it is the truthful thing to do.

 

Holden then in the end leaves Dunaway because he cannot keep living dishonestly to himself because he knows that she doesn’t know how to love him or want to. Yes, this is what in the end makes him such a great character in Network, and why it is one of Holden’s films. He gives a man who is grappling with how does one be authentic when everything surrounding him has become a freak show of fabrication to gain attention and wealth. I believe more than ever that we all need William Holden today because as our media society becomes closer and closer to the world of NETWORK, seeing a man like him who makes us think about how we are behaving and with what values is immensely important. I am forever grateful for this film and for this man, William Holden for giving us such a character depicted on screen. – Miss. Classic Film

First Impressions : Rafter Romance (1933)

I had been hearing about Rafter Romance from fellow old movie fans since they played it at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Tell me I’m going to see a pre-code film and I instantly get excited. One because the scripts were much fresher, spunkier, and honest at this time in the early 30s and then add on to it that I get to see many film stars I love at the beginning of their careers. Rafter Romance has all of this. It stars a very young Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster who have to share an attic apartment due to not being able to pay their rent when they had single apartments downstairs. The landlord makes a deal that it can feel like they have their own apartment if they agree to live their home life on a shift schedule… Only in the land of films would this ever work out, and it does for some time until Ginger realizes that the man she has been going with is actually the same man she lives with in the attic. Dun Dun Dun!  They end up  living happily ever after, once they realize all of this and the film abruptly ends.

Okay, so what made me enjoy this film overall was thanks to Ginger Rogers. She brings so much emotion to all her characters but this one in particular you can feel her struggle of trying to get by in the big city.

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She actually brought me to tears when she is working so hard to make her side of the attic attractive, and then when she sits on the bed it collapses into pieces as you can see in the picture above. Tragic!  If you pause the film right there as she sits in all the debris I dare you to not feel how her whole being just doesn’t know how she can go on. It’s that feeling you get when you are just completely worn out and raw. Through out the whole film, even to the very end she is struggling which makes this romantic comedy not too funny. Had there had been another actresses who didn’t bring the sincerity to the role that Rogers plays I know I would not have cared much about this film, so I am grateful she did it… Okay, so now I shall move on to the pre-codeness. When my dad watched some of this with me he was stunned that they showed Roger’s legs. All of that dancing she had done in films and we rarely see skin like in this film. It even begins with her cleaning her  stocking and proceeds with many moments of her dressings and saying sometimes scandalous things for the time. Oh those pre-codes moments! This may seem like not a big deal to movie fans today but for us old movie fans seeing Roger’s leg above the knee is rare! I often wonder why in interviews nobody asked stars like her about their pre-code films and what they thought of them… Anyway, I do recommend seeing this film at least once. It has some very nice moments and Rogers is touching and daring. This is on DVD so give it a go! – xo miss. classic filmRafterRomance4.jpg

First Impressions : Gaslight (1944)

“If I were not mad, I could have helped you. Whatever you had done, I could have pitied and protected you. But because I am mad, I hate you. Because I am mad, I have betrayed you. And because I’m mad, I’m rejoicing in my heart, without a shred of pity, without a shred of regret, watching you go with glory in my heart!”- Gaslight

Honest! I did not mean to be writing about another George Cukor film but I see it has ended up that way! It just so happened one of the early Cukor films that I had yet to see was Gaslight from 1944. I was reminded of this from a very non cinematic source. It was a Saturday morning and I was listening to my favorite inspirational podcast, Dear Sugars when the hosts used the phrase, ” You’ve been gaslighted.” It suddenly dawned on me that I had not seen the film that this phrase had originated from. I rushed Monday morning to my school library where I found one copy of Gaslight left just for me! Yay! I excitedly tweeted when I got home about my new find, and I got an outpouring of wonderful classic film fans telling me how I was in for a real treat.

After the film was over I found myself quite agitated inside and anxious. I was in my little bed with calm candles around me and a cup of tea so how come I felt this way?! The power of the movies ladies and gentleman! That Charles Boyer in all his gaslighting behavior made me feel that way! This is one of those movies that if you are paying attention really makes you feel how the main character is feeling right from the start. I felt Ingrid Bergman’s hesitation at the beginning when she is persuaded so quickly to get married to this mad man, Charles Boyer, as well as feeling the enormous stress of being deluded. Cukor’s direction seemed like it could have been very simple. I felt that his creation of having the set be so claustrophobic in design really made everyone feel a sense of anxiety instantly without him having to say too much.

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I cannot not mention Cotten! Thank heaven for that dapper, Joseph Cotten who saves the day! I am used to seeing him play dark, difficult men so it was very nice to see him this kind of part, where he is so nice and seeks ultimate truth in everybody. How refreshing it was to see Cotten in the end not get the girl completely. We don’t really know friends.  Yes, he saves the day, but do they go riding into the sunset… He very sincerely ends by saying that he is just next door if she ever needs him. THAT’S ALL. I quite like these mysterious endings which allow me to create what happened next. Flash-forward to My Fair Lady and Rex Harrison just says to Audrey Hepburn,  ” fetch me my slippers”, and the film ends. That’s right, Cukor, I have caught on to your slightly ambiguous romantic endings.319c35101e306ea35dfb2829caa05442.png

What have I ultimately learned from this film:  Any male suitor better think twice before they think they will ever gaslight me! Thanks, George Cukor. – miss. classic film

First Impressions : Bisset & Bergen in Rich and Famous (1981)

” I have been thinking a lot about us. We are terrific. We have accomplished one hell of a lot in one lifetime. ” – Rich & Famous 

Sometimes it takes us years to finally see that film that we remember as a blurred image from years back. I have always been a fan of director George Cukor. If you asked me to name only one filmmaker I would say Cukor. He has such a body of work, work which I thought I have seen all of. Even when you think you know someone’s work so well, there always seems to be something that slips through the cracks that you missed. Rich and Famous (1981) was that film for me. I remember watching a sensational documentary called On Cukor (2001), a PBS documentary which is also a book about the director’s life. The last film they mention is Rich and Famous which didn’t appeal at all to me at the time when I was eighteen. I disregarded it as being his last film, which looked like an 80s soap opera from the short scene they showed. I hadn’t even thought about the film since I last saw that clip, but it sneaked up on me the other night when I was looking for the film T.R. Baskin (1971) from ten years earlier which I hope to do a post on soon!

MCDRIAN EC024So, I was having one of those nights, you know what I’m talking about, where I was lucky to have hundredths of films in my apartment but felt like I had nothing to watch at all. A great excuse to get this film, which I just knew wasn’t going to be good due to all my horrid pre snobby film judgment, but I was desperate. Well, I put it on, and I am now writing to say I actually have a lot to say about it! The film begins with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen, two women who I adore, running out of Smith College in 1959 ( a college I almost went to) to get on a train so that Bergen can go off and get married to man and set out to Malibu. Bisset says goodbye tearfully and yells that she is going to be a successful, independent writer the next Dorothy Parker. All of this does happen and quite quickly. Next, I find myself in Malibu with Bisset visiting Bergen at her spacious seventies Malibu home. It is now the early 70s and Bisset is a very well regarded writer just like she told us she would be. What is her book about I couldn’t really tell you at all except women and men seem to hold it in positive regard. This is what Bergen wants to we find out in life. Then comes one of what I think is the best scene in the film with the two of them discussing their current life and Bergen’s need to write too.  You can watch it here -> Liz & Marry talk book. ( clap, clap)

 Now this scene really got me, and made me think this movie has the kind of dialogue and acting that I like to call cinema’s little golden moments. How rare they are but when they come thanks to these two superb actresses along with a brilliant director; I cannot help but get a jolt of cinema power energy.  I wanted more scenes like this!! The screenwriter gets us off to such a good, strong start and then there are very few moments again like this for the rest of the sixty minutes. Why! Why! No! The movie goes on with Bergen getting her book published thanks to Bisset with lots of Jacqueline Susann like publicity, and follows these two friends into the nightmare of living with the lure of recognition. A lot is talked about in this film when these two are actually together and not with their love attractions, but then there are so many moments where Bergen is given such poor dialogue that even her pure expressions made me just want more. I kept thinking, I want to know more about what she thinks about her friend not writing like she used to, or about her own career. Why is it now only Bisset that has so much of the honest dialogue spewed out to every lover she has. I know Bergen has heart and knows the complexities of life based on my favorite beginning scene, but I don’t get any more of this depth until the very last scene. Sigh.

When the end rolls around I start to get excited! These two bffs are alone in a cabin, the fire is going, no smores yet, but I know they are coming, and they can finally have a good heart to heart to balance this film. Does this happen. Ehh.. I would say 60% so. Am I pleased with the ending? I wanted a bit more of a look, or phrase but actually let me take that back. I will give it 80% because although I wanted a bit more of them together really delving in, these two dear friends do show us two things. One, that whether you are writing books or not, having a friend for decades is a success in its own and is hard to do in almost every possible way. Two, celebrating that you have done number #1 has to be a priority.  Love for oneself is important but then love for your dear friend should be given attention to. Bisset says to take a year with your friend, sail those Greek islands, or have that ultimate slumber party at fifty with pajamas and all.  This is what is most important, and if you think that is cheesy than I am sure these two would agree that you need to get lost. – miss. classic film