Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Loving, 1970

LOVING. Finally I get to see Irvin Kershner’s 1970 drama with terrific performances from George Segal and Eva Marie Saint. This is a very typical 1969/1970 American film, featuring another dissatisfied middle-aged man, unfaithful to his wife, and unsure of the quality of his work. He was usually either Segal, Jack Lemmon or Elliot Gould (Donald Sutherland delving into more quirky roles). Kirk Douglas did it in Kazan’s THE ARRANGEMENT, Jean Simmons showed us a female version in THE HAPPY ENDING.

Other “little films” of the era include THE STERILE CUCKOO and LAST SUMMER, while the big hitters were Antonioni blowing up America, Fellini going back to Ancient Rome, Visconti high-living with those decadent Nazis and mooning around Venice in search of beauty, while Ken Russell wrestled with D G Lawrence, Tchaikovsky and those demented nuns. LOVING though was, here in the UK, relegated to the lower half of a double bill and promptly forgotten. One can speculate why – Segal had some big hits (with Streisand in THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, the engaging NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY with Lee Remick, and FUN WITH DICK AND JANE with Jane Fonda) but had done several smaller films – BYE BYE BRAVERMAN, WHERE’S POPPA? – that sank without trace.

LOVING is one of Segal’s better roles as his illustrator has a very trying day, we see him initially having a row with his mistress, harried about work, and at business meetings with sidekick Roy Scheider – one client Sterling Hayden does not see why illustrations for his trucks have to include scantily clad girls. Drink takes its toll too, as he gets sauced and makes a fool of himself at a private members club. Back home his wife Selma , Saint, is keeping everything together, including the two daughters and the cat whose tail he steps on. Worse is to come, as they view a larger house which they could afford if he gets the new project he is after, but it turns out it is being sold by a grim divorcing couple dividing up their possessions. Selma is keen to move but Brooks (Segal) sees it as a “30 year trap” so a row ensues with Selma saying she does not want to be regarded as a trap and he is free to leave if he wants – just how much does she know or suspect? There is also another woman, a neighbour’s wife, who makes it clear she is interested … so, a witty dissection of middle-class life? and a man in mid-life crisis willing to to strike up an affair with any attractive woman who makes eyes at him.

Things comes to a climax at a neighbour’s party at a full house as Brooks gets more and more drunk, and sneaks off with the neighbour’s wife (he even goes back to the house without his pants looking for more booze) but there is an early type of camera link to the rooms and soon the whole assembly is watching their drunk coupling. The film ends or just stops just as it is getting interesting (it’s a brief 89 minutes) with Selma hitting him in a rage. What happens now? Will they also be another divorcing couple selling up? Is he determined to lose everything? Brooks here is that new anti-hero of the era fed up with the hell his life is in suburbia – but 40 years later I bet a lot of people, women particularly, will see him as a prize jerk, tossing everything away and unable to resist other women. Sherry Lansing is another beauty in the background. The advertising world of these heavy drinkers is pitilessly exposed and Gordon Willis’s photography – lots of dark interiors – is exemplary (he went on to shoot KLUTE). Kershner directed several oddball little films: A FINE MADNESS, THE LUCK OF GINGER COFFEY, UP THE SANDBOX, EYES OF LAURA MARS, before joining the Star Wars and James Bond bandwagons. LOVING is a fascinating little oddity then, with Segal and Saint (a decade after her sleek, mesmerising Eve Kendall for Hitchcock) outstanding. I would think Kershner was influenced too by Antonioni’s LA NOTTE with it’s own long party sequence…. [I now remember Kershner's A FINE MADNESS had a similar scene: wild man writer Sean Connery is in the bath with mistress Jean Seberg, when they are discovered by wife Joanne Woodward - not seen it though since 1965!).

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