Friday, June 30, 2017

This Should Have Been Placed On A Double Bill, With Otto Preminger's "Hurry, Sundown!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

                               Let me start, girls, by stating outright that whatever I say on here about "Reflections In A Golden Eye," viewed at BAM on Wednesday, will be a lot more entertaining than actually sitting through the picture.  It moves at a snail's pace; the iguana slinking across the screen at the start of John Huston's rather good 1964 film of Tennessee Williams' play, "The Night Of The Iguana," certainly moved faster!!!!!!  Huston directed 'Reflections,' though I am not sure he was the right one for it.

                                The sad thing is this film had enormous potential.  Had the pace been picked up, and the excesses increased, it might have been a camp classic.  Had Kazan, in the Fifties--allowing he could get on the screen as much as the story contains--directed this film, in Gothic black and white, not unlike 'Streetcar,' it might have been a screen masterpiece.

                                  Instead, it's a static, plodding film that moves at an all-too leisurely pace.  And the film, while it seems to embrace Carson McCullers' world of the deformed and grotesque, still manages to downplay it, by failing to convey its poetic lyricism.

                                   Certain scenes have to be seen to be believed.  The sight of a back naked Elizabeth Taylor walking up the stairs must have sent viewers of the day--my parents' generation, though you can bet my parents never saw THIS!!!!!!!!--into paroxysms of shock, sending them straight to their liquor cabinets, after locking themselves in their suburban enclaves.  Marlon Brando prancing around like some closet case queen trying to be God knows who as he makes love to himself in the mirror, cruises the Army base for soldiers, and mistakenly thinks he is so hot--which he is so NOT, especially with that fey blonde hair--that any cruiser on the base would come looking for him, is so preposterously silly, I defy anyone to view these scenes without laughing.

                                Now, you may well ask, what a gorgeous thing like Elizabeth Taylor is doing on an Army base?  According to the story, she was an Army brat, so it was the only life for her.  But with that hair, and those gowns, no wonder Robert Forrester, in his screen debut as Private L.G. Williams, is confused.  He can't make up his mind whether he wants to bed Marlon Brando, or be
Elizabeth Taylor.  From the way he is shown fetishizing and almost trying on her garments, it was clear, to me, he had made his decision.  No wonder Marlon gets jealous and shoots him.

                                  That's right.  The whole thing revolves around a murder by a jealous closet case, who was upset the object of his repressed desire went to his wife's room, instead of his.  Hey, anyone who is remotely gay, would go to Liz' room first.  Marlon's character just once more demonstrates the danger of closet cases.

                                  Now, aside from Zorro David, whose Anacleto just about steals the movie, there are two other fascinating performances.  Julie Harris, as Allison Langdon, whose character has an interesting history.  Having had a nervous breakdown over suffering a miscarriage, she cuts off her nipples with garden shears--this could only come from the fervid imagination of Carson McCullers, darlings!!!!!!!!!--and forms a symbiotic relationship with Anacleto, whom she has more in common with than her husband.   I LOVE when Anacleto throws the drink at the boor at Leonora's (Taylor) party, but I have to question the  casting of Harris--her acting is brilliant, but how can a woman with hardly any chest dismember her nipples?
It boggles the mind.

                                Horses as sexual symbols are used throughout.  Marlon Brando's ejaculatory horse ride had me laughing out loud, and it is great to see Taylor astride, 23 years following "National Velvet."  I almost walked out when Brando beat Firebird, but he gets his when Taylor whacks him across the face with a whip!  Another laugh out loud moment, for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                 Irvin Dugan gives a fine, subtle performance, as the real gay on the base, Captain Murray Weincheck, who has never been promoted above this rank, and who the Army is kicking out for being gay.  I mean, oh my God, he reads Proust, and serves tea to the Army wives!!!!!!!!!!!!  Listen, if many gay men today tried to read Proust, or even pick up a book, it would be a miracle!  Carson McCullers' world is far removed from ours.  I prefer hers, frankly.

                                  Poor Brian Keith looks so confused.  He is married to Julie Harris here, on hiatus from "Family Affair," so he does not know what to do.  So he comes off as dull and uninteresting, until toward the end, when he reveals what I knew all along--he had the hots for Anacleto!!!!!!!!!  Those two could paint some fine water colors, girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                  The problem with this film is John Huston.  He gets the surface aspects of the story on the screen, but not the psychological underpinnings.  That was Kazan's specialty, not Huston's.  And the point-counterpoint of the characters is overlooked.  Leonora and Private Williams are outcasts of sorts, because both are rather simpleminded, but that is not how Taylor and Robert Forrester play them.  Anacleto and Allison may be soul mates, but, when she couldn't give birth, Anacleto was adopted, so he should be more like a child, than a pet.  Zorro David is well beyond childhood, and then some. He is probably the same age as Julie Harris!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                  To think what this film could have been, and isn't.  The only thing missing is a Bobbie Gentry soundtrack.

                                     Just look at that Method pose, from Julie Harris!  This is more of what the film should have been.
                                          Too bad the film did not have the visual stylization, the pulp grittiness, of this novel cover.  This is what was needed.

                                     You have to hand it to Carson McCullers.  She knew better than anyone how to poeticize the grotesque, and deformed actors must have loved her, since she wrote roles they could finally be cast in!

                                       Too bad she didn't write "Freaks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

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