In this periodic column we hook back up with our favorite ex's--as in classic movies worth a re-watch.
PrimeCrush & Chill: Movie’s Worth a Re-watch. By Daisy Foster
An Unmarried Woman (1978)
Starring: Jill Clayburgh, Alan Bates, Paul Mazursky
Basic Plot: “Happily” married art-gallery worker Erica is sideswiped when her stockbroker husband Martin (Michael Murphy) leaves her for a younger woman. As the devastation wears off, Erica begins reevaluating her own needs and rediscovering herself in a way that can only come from being newly single. As a new relationship forms with an English artist (Alan Bates), she’s careful to be sure she preserves her newfound joyful self.
Why Re-watch: It’s impossible for me to review this movie without mentioning how it got me, personally, through my own divorce. My situation was the opposite of Erica’s—short-lived marriage, no children—but the shock of something ending, followed by a period of rediscovery, isn’t situational or generational, and will likely stand the test of time. For anyone who’s been through it, the space before the rebirth of oneself post relationship, though different for everyone, is muddled at best and terrifying at its worst. Jill Clayburgh, inarguably one of the best actors of her generation, captures all of this in its layered messiness and wonder. Considered her “breakout role”, An Unmarried Woman earned Clayburgh the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Best part is, you don’t need a crisis to revisit or be inspired by this movie’s brilliance. It’s sure to move and inspire you, no matter where you are in life. Watch trailer here
PrimeCrush & Chill: Movies Worth a Re-watch
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
Starring: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon
Basic Plot: It’s 1969, and Bob and Carol Sanders are ready to embrace the newfound idea of an open marriage, and share the news with their close, conservative friends, Ted and Alice Henderson. After Bob and Carol test the waters with affairs, and everyone’s had an opportunity to wrap their head around this “new way” of thinking, the four decide to trade partners on a trip to Vegas, only to decide that they really do want to stay with the one they’d married.
Why Re-watch: Revolutionary for its time, and right in line with 1969’s free love crusade, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is only dated in its now groovy period-piece style. Plot-wise, it could easily be renamed The Perils of Bored, White Rich People, but its stars have never been more beautiful and vibrant, and this is reason enough to revisit. It earned four Academy Award nominations (including Gould and Cannon), and one for its screenplay. Moreover, like any great work of art, you’re able to remember the first time you watched, who you were, what you thought, and reflect and assess how you’ve changed—or not. There’s a good chance you saw this movie when you were young, and now that you’re older and perhaps wiser…what do you think? Would you ever? Would your movie have the same ending? The questions and theme of “what the world needs now, is love sweet love” will never become dated.
Watch the Trailer Here.
PrimeCrush & Chill: Movies Worth a Re-Watch
Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant and Carrie Fisher.
Basic Plot: In this quintessential early 70's classic, Warren Beatty is George, a rock star Beverly Hills hairstylist, and Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant and Carrie Fisher (in her film debut) play the roles of the rapturous women whose hair (and bodies) he adores. Beatty plays George as tender, earnest and genuinely lovable lothario who is caught in a personal and professional trap that is (only) part his own making. He loves making love to so many women because it makes him feel "like I'm going to live forever," but he also yearns to settle down with the one woman he really loves, start his own salon and build a stable life.
Why Re-watch: The cast, and in glorious early 70's glamour. And the storyline: George's personal struggles are entertaining and moving enough, but what elevates this film is that they mirror the great cultural clash of the period. The movie takes place in 1968 on the eve of Nixon's presidential election. Considered one of the most pivotal years in American political history, US News called it "The Year That Changed America Forever." It saw MLK's and Robert Kennedy's assassinations, shocking depictions of civilian massacres in South Vietnam from the Tet Offensive which started America's withdrawal from Vietnam, and the clash of the sexual revolution of the 60's with the proponents of traditional values. In the film George represents the former and his antithesis and unlikely romantic challenger, the successful and wealthy businessman (and Nixon booster), Lester, represents the latter. They are fighting over the love of Jackie, played by an exquisite Julie Christie.
It is a quintessential early 70's film, overcast with political tension and foreboding, depicting a cultural clash that foreshadows today's. But also, it is a feast of period images: the groovy wardrobes (Beatty's conch belt, Hawn's Mexican-inspired top paired with printed cotton panties, Christie's backless sequined dress); 70's Los Angeles as a backdrop; vintage cars; the intense passion between Beatty and Christie (they were involved with each other during the filming); and of course, the hairstyles! Beatty's shag is an otherworldly star in and of itself.
Directed by the great Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude) with music by Paul Simon. It's playing on Showtime now. Watch the trailer here.
PrimeCrush & Chill: Movies Worth a Re-Watch By Dish Stanley
La Piscine (1969). By Dish Stanley
If you didn't spend your summer tuned into the NYC heat index, then you may have missed the fever around the 1969 French psychodrama La Piscine ("The Swimming Pool"). There's been a lot. It opened at the consecrated Greenwich Village art-house cinema the Film Forum in May and never left, only one of the reasons that Glynnis McNichol of The New York Times called it a "film of New York's 2021 summer." By then Glenn Kenny, also of The New York Times, had named it a "Critic's Pick," The Criterion Collection had added it to its library of vaunted classics and Robert Abele further enflamed with his review in the L.A. Times Desire by the poolside electrifies psychodrama of 1969's 'La Piscine.' Farran Smith Nehme provided some juicy (and much appreciated, for this viewer) back story in Sun-Kissed Tension: On the Staying Power of Deray's La Piscine on rogerebert.com. And, in reaction to all that, one of my favorite film critics, Richard Brody, wrote The Movie World's Misplaced Worship of 'The Swimming Pool' in The New Yorker.
Whether he was successful in dousing out the fire lit by La Piscine I'm not sure. I can only say that I was glad that I did not read Brody's derisive critique ("American art-house cinema mistakes the film's glamour and nostalgia for oginiality") before watching it. Brody took the sultry movie seriously, as its weighty themes (possesiveness, manipulation, control, feminine power and objectification) and even more menacing atmosphere might insist. Also, there was all that ruckus. Me? Not so much. Maybe because I started it on an unseasonally hot, sleepless August night at 2am, or maybe owing to its very slow pace, but I gave up searching for the clues that might ultimately hold the story together early. About ten minutes in, actually.
That's when a young Jane Birkin, playing the role of a detached young woman named Penelope (though I never saw her as anything other than an early version of the boho sensation she would become) and her father Harry (played by the excellently snakey Maurice Ronet) step out of his burgundy Maserati. They are joining the central characters, Marianne (a hypnotic Romy Schneider) and Jean-Paul (a sultry and pensive Alain Delon), who had spent most of the opening scenes playing in and around the pool that is the focal point of the spacious villa outside Saint Tropez friends have lent them. Also by then, viewers had witnessed the one suggestively sadomasochistic scene that could explain the intensity and, ultimately, persistence, of the bond between the two leading characters, Marianne and Jean-Paul (as well as underscore some of the film's themes and connect the story line).
But I'm not going there, because also by then the themes and the story line itself already felt drowned by the weight of the mesmerizing beauty, glamour and cool of the dazzling leads, the villa, the period, the cinematography, the groovy score. Watching gorgeous, tanned bodies in various states of stylish dress, often wet from the pool, seducing and lusting and stretching and strolling around an elegantly relaxed French Riviera villa--all with a glowering hint of danger mixed into the backdrop--was more than enough reason for me to jump in. Those are the reasons to watch La Piscine. It is not soft porn, but La Piscine offers up a kind of quintessentially 60's languid, sultry visual stimulation that slowly builds like drawn-out foreplay, after which you can dive into whatever you'd like.
Watch the trailer on youtube here. Note that the relative jazzy pace of the trailer belies the lazy crawl of the film itself.
If you are a subscriber to Criterion, stream it here.
The Collector (1965).
If you are looking for some hair-raising suspense over Halloween, you couldn’t find anything more chilling - or with more critical chops - than this British psychological thriller. A study in terror and obsessiveness, it is the story of a bank teller’s hobby as an avid butterfly collector. One such butterfly is human, unfortunately. Samantha Egger plays the caught beauty Miranda Grey utterly convincingly - flitting from terrified to clever to seducer and back (as any desperate prey would) - for which she won both an Academy Award and a Cannes Best Actress Award. The bank teller, Freddie Clegg, is played by Terence Stamp, who also won a Cannes. The movie racked up many more nominations, including for Best Direction (William Wyler). And as if that is not enough, it is based on the novel by the great John Fowler’s (who also wrote The French Lietenant’s Woman). The whole thing is an example of artistry and craft. This recommendation was sent in by Crush Reader Steve Kane (follow him on insta here), a fan of both the movie and the novel it was based on. “Because the world has forgotten brilliant author John Fowler’s and it’s a goddamn shame. The movie is also brilliant … [with the] cunning, weird, awesome Terence Stamp as Freddie.” Thanks Steve.
Watch the trailer here.
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The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter curated by Dish Stanley on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?