… a stern and haunting admonition, that has reverberated through the decades, for sure.
This movie, when first released in 1971, was banned in Albany, Georgia, for that ever so slippery charge of “obscenity.” Albany has always had a special place in my heart, due to progeny that had lived on either side of W.E.B. du Bois’s “veil.” My favorite quip was that the “city fathers” of Albany got it right, for the wrong reason: ban the movie, since it provided such a disturbing and uncomfortable message, a la, “the ghost of Christmas future.” If you do not change your ways…
In reality, of course, that is the reason it should be seen, and seen again, as I most recently did. Weren’t Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen, Art Garfunkel and Ann-Margaret so young back then… as was I?
Cringe, and cringe again. Nicholson and Garfunkel are roommates at Amherst, a “sorta,” but not actual Ivy League school. Candice Bergen attends Smith, then, and now, an exclusive college for women at the undergraduate level, draped in Ivy. Garfunkel meets Bergen at one of those ever-so-awkward “college mixers.” And it is off to the races, as it were, with tentative and additionally awkward moments along the way. If the word “cad” is still operative, Nicholson plays the character, in spades, and unbeknownst to his trusting roommate, puts the move on Bergen also. If that is not bad enough, he principally evaluates women based on the upper front part of their anatomy. The fact that Bergen goes along with his duplicity, should place her in the “cad-ess” category. And what should we make of the character-insight when she declares “The Fountainhead” her favorite book?
I thought of Agnes Varda’s “One Sings and the other One Doesn’t.” This movie could also be entitled “One gets Married, the Other Plays the ‘Field.’” Yes, it is Garfunkel who marries Bergen (whom we never see again), and it is cad Nicholson, replete with sexual insecurities who plays the field. They stay friends as the decades pass. In one memorable line, from Garfunkel, that I had to shudder with, a la, “Say it ain’t so, Art”: “Maybe it’s not meant to be enjoyable with women you love.”
Turning to younger women when a man ages: Why do so many men do it? Yet more embarrassing scenes… with proclamations that a 19-year old knows far more than a woman twice her age… Oh, and that final scene, so grimly ritualistic… so needy…so… a lesson from the ghost of Christmas future.
Yeah, isn’t the standard journalist cliché concerning the repetition of past mistakes: “the lessons unlearned”? I did see the movie, though obviously not in Albany, and did take a few lessons to heart. There was no slideshow, for her, or anyone else to be included into. And I’ve never made the “younger woman” mistake, when a wrinkle or two connotes a better and possibly more understanding life… still waiting for the next adventure. For me, a classic movie: 5-stars, plus.