A Movie A Day: Quint on DESPERATE CHARACTERS (1971) Salvation comes from staring at the pubic region of strangers.
Published at: Aug. 5, 2008, 12:15 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Shirley MacLaine bridges us from yesterday’s watchable, but unmemorable CAN-CAN to today’s damn near unwatchable lost-for-a-reason experimental head-up-its-ass 1971 drama, DESPERATE CHARACTERS.
Guess what I thought of the movie?
I think I understand now how non-movie fans feel when they accidentally watch a Terry Gilliam or David Lynch movie. Instead of being enthralled by the bizarre qualities of those filmmakers and seeing the subtext, imagine if it just seemed like shit happened for no reason, people were saying weird things for no reason and you could tell the filmmakers were spending the time inbetween set-ups bent over in front of a mirror, peering between their legs and admiring the beautiful and unique puckered butterfly they have. Okay, so that’s INLAND EMPIRE, but I mean good Lynch.
That’s the impression I got from this film. Mr. Frank D. Gilroy wrote and directed it and probably thought he was the best goddamn thing to hit the moving picture industry since John Cassavettes.
I’m struggling to tell you what the movie is about and I watched every single minute of it. You have Shirley MacLaine trying her damndest to give a good and important performance as the lonely, cheating wife of a… I don’t know… somebody who was in a partnership that just dissolved. Lawyer, maybe?
Her husband is played by Kenneth Mars and this pairing was what made the movie appealing to me. I haven’t seen enough of that guy… he’s in everything from FLETCH to POLICE ACADEMY 6… but I remembered him the most as Inspector Kemp from YOUNG FRANKESTEIN (“Fushtops! Fushtops!” “Oh, foot steps!”).
Really, the movie doesn’t have any structure at all. MacLaine goes from a 5 minute long dinner conversation with her husband to a dinner party to a store to buy a pan and no one says anything fucking interesting or revealing… they just talk. And talk. And talk, sometimes quoting poetry.
It’s almost like an Andy Warhol movie or a Sprockets episode. I don’t know how this read on the page, but in the movie it’s just pretentious weird-for-weird’s-sake garbage.
The big event in Act 2 is “Black man comes in to use the phone.” I’m not kidding.
This movie comes in a line of flicks released by a company called Legend Films and they have some really interesting looking stuff. They’re all first-time-on-DVD releases and I hope that the rest of them are better… Got some coming up in the next week as they sent me all 30+ titles they released, mostly ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s films ranging from drama to horror of which I’d only seen 2 or 3.
In a way, even though this is probably my least favorite film I’ve seen in the last 2 months of AMAD entries, I still love that this is on DVD. It’s titles like this, forgotten movies, that are fascinating to me. This one was a stinker. There was a reason it was forgotten, but I have a feeling in the batch of Legend Films we’re going to find something really special that very few people have ever seen.
That was the joy of raiding Mom and Pop video stores for obscure VHSs back in the day. This one was worth a shot because of an interesting pair of leads. I got a little fucked, but maybe the next one will become a cult favorite of mine. We’ll see.
Final Thoughts: MacLaine is at a very interesting time in her career, just hitting middle age and she embraces it in this film. She’s actually quite attractive here (and shows her boobaloobies), but unfortunately there’s very little other reason to watch this movie. Carol Kane shows up for 2 lines at a party playing a hippie chick and there’s a funny/disturbing sequence where Kenneth Mars and Shirley MacLaine try to trap a stay cat. Yeah, no. Don’t ever watch this movie. Trust me.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Tuesday, August 5th: THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972)
Wednesday, August 6th: QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX (1970)
Thursday, August 7th: START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970)
Friday, August 8th: HELL IS A CITY (1960)
Saturday, August 9th: THE PIED PIPER (1972)
Sunday, August 10th: PARTNERS (1982)
Monday, August 11th: BARRY LYNDON (1975)
I’m really looking forward to getting to Barry Lyndon. Unless I’m forgetting something it is the only Stanley Kubrick film I haven’t seen (I even saw FEAR AND DESIRE off a bootleg… must have been 7 or 8 years ago).
Anyway, tomorrow we follow MacLaine over to horror flick THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY. Should be a good one! See you then!