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Beyond Therapy

01 Apr

 

Beyond Therapy –– directed by Robert Altman. Lampoon. A bisexual dish blinds dates a ninny in a French restaurant in New York. 93 minutes Color 1987.

I should only give it half a star because I only watched half of it. Altman claims it failed because AIDS emerged at that time, but AIDS emerged five years before, and he is deluding himself. It fails because he has no bone interest in the material.

Julie Hagerty is too vapid to alert our interest, much less that of  the improbable goof played by Jeff Goldblum. All the characters are in therapy including the therapists, I guess, but I didn’t stay around to find out. My hour was up.

The trouble with the film is that a fundamental strand of Altman’s nature was exactly like that of the big studio hirelings he made it his business not to become. That is to say, he is exactly like Michael Curtiz or Allan Dwan if in nothing else than that he would like nothing better than to end one production at 5 PM and start another at 6. There are people who like working in a productiont, and Altman was one of them. He says so himself. So he would take up any project that ripened before him. If one withered before it fruited, he would seize on the next one lying around. He wasn’t a studio hack; he was his own hack.

In his case, however, this crap shoot way of working popped up some fine and entertaining pictures. The Company, his next to last film, emerged like that, and, when he took on Gosford Park, he admits he never thought it would come to pass. One way he was a master-film-maker was simply that he was so productive. He liked to work on all sorts of different genres. I don’t know what genre he thought he was working in here.

At any rate, sometimes he executes a film and sometimes he executes a film. This one is crushed by slapdash improvisations by bit players, and not quite rescued by the entertainment value of supporting players: Tom Conti is spot on as a bored therapist, and Glenda Jackson really knows her stock in trade as a therapist more balmy than her clients.

The fallacy of improvisation is this: improvisation is supposed to generate natural honest behavior in actors, but when actors are let to improves, they tend to fall into their personal schtick, which is no more honest than the falsity they are supposed to evade. The actual matter is that actors often go into acting to cut through their own schtick, their personality, to delve a truth deeper than the strip mining of improvisation ever can reach.

Also the film was made in Paris, which is supposed to stand-in for New York, which is just silly. It also accounts for the casting of Conti and Jackson, jetting in from across the channel. to play parts requiring Alan Arkin and Lily Tomlin. Pierre Mignot filmed it, of course, beautifully.

If you find 52-Pick-Up a riveting card game you might be taken with this picture. Otherwise, graduate to Go-Fish. This is by comparison a Doctorate.

 

 
 
 
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