Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1972. Lions Gate Films. Screenplay by Robert Altman, storybook narration by Susannah York. Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Produced by Tommy Thompson. Music by John Williams. Production Design by Leon Ericksen. Costume Design by Jack Gallagher. Film Editing by Graeme Clifford. Academy Awards 1972. Cannes Film Festival 1972. Golden Globe Awards 1972.
Between releasing his panoramic, multi-cast observations of American culture, Robert Altman also made a few intimate chamber pieces that looked deep into a character’s psychology, with That Cold Day In the Park, this film and Three Women forming a sort of trilogy. Susannah York is excellent in her Cannes-winning role as a woman who can’t get a grasp on her sense of reality, harassed by phone calls from voices that sound a lot like hers, suffering visions of a dead lover who comes to taunt her, and frequently having out of body experiences. Her husband (Rene Auberjonois) doesn’t grasp her situation, thinking her distracted or moody and not actually as ill as we know her to be, taking her away from the city to her gorgeous, remote country house (shot in Ireland) where things should get better but, with the visit of a friend and his young daughter (Cathryn Harrison) only get worse. Altman isn’t as much a dramatist as he is something of a collage artist, even in a film with so few characters you feel that he is piecing together observational moments and not building towards a climax and catharsis, so the film will not be satisfying for all who watch it. The razor-sharp perfection with which he moves between scenes of her madness, and the sympathy that he offers the character who is completely lost in her own inability to understand her frame of mind, however, make it a very potent film, while the superb cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond and Altman’s framing confirms it as a work of art.