Cast: Sandy Dennis, Michael Burns, Susanne Benton, David Garfield, Luana Anders
113min | Drama | US | Canada
When she offers a random stranger sanctuary from the rain a rich but lonely woman has only one thing on her mind in Robert Altman’s strange psychological thriller.
The novel clearly may have captured Altman’s imagination but the film he made is a rather tawdry affair rendered even less watchable by Laszlo Kovacs’ insipid visuals of sober domestic interiors in and around Vancouver where the film created some buzz in the otherwise placid Pacific coastal town where the local film industry ‘du jour’ was hardly setting the night on fire. But it gets worse, Sandy Dennis gives an almost desperate performance as the woman whose ceaseless inane chatter makes absolutely no impression other than gawping disdain on the face of Michael Burns’ monosyllabic nineteen year old boy.
Clearly lonely rich women with no work or interests go for the lowest common denominator when seeking out male company and Frances Austen spends most of her days having a bath or an ‘extra hour in bed’ followed by a spot of light shopping before donning a dowdy housecoat to ply her aimless male house visiter with homemade titbits. An afternoon nap is then followed by introspective navel gazing as she picks her feet to Johnny Mandel’s tinkly score. But after this plausible beginning the narrative descends into torpor as the two play-act and pose like a sadly deluded spinster (who at one point goes out bowling) and her mischievous, naked houseguest who never says a word.
Gradually it comes as no surprise that this vacuous young man is up to no good and, after a brief social realist scene at the family planning clinic where the now slightly neurotic Miss Austen is told that “some men are bigger than others”, she returns home to find young Lochinvar helping himself to a drink and a cigar. Unbeknownst to her, the boy has been entertaining his sister (Suzanne Benton) and offering her a bath and a massage in Miss Austen’s bedroom while the two then traipse around naked for no apparent reason. But then things turn spooky: Fur the purposes of titillation, the now psychotic Miss Austen has also procured the services of a prostitute from a down town dive, to join the house party.
Robert Altman directs his second big screen feature with reasonable competence but fails to instil any real personality in his main characters who are completely unappealing and devoid of depth. The denouement to this doomed drama surprisingly involves and great deal of desultory posturing between the sexually aggressive prostitute and the boy, a knife and plenty of blood. MT
OUT ON BLURAY COURTESY OF MASTER OF CINEMA ON 20 JUNE 2016