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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Puzzle Of A Downfall Child (1970)

Slowly recovering from a complete nervous and mental breakdown, a once famous high fashion model (Faye Dunaway) recounts her life story for an ex-lover (Barry Primus) who is planning a film on her life. Inspired by the life of model Anne St. Marie, a prominent model of the 1950s, director Jerry Schatzberg (PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK) delivers an meticulous portrait of a woman gradually spiraling into a descent to insanity. That the film is clearly self indulgent and often ponderous does not detract from the film's honest and accurate core. Schatzberg started out as a fashion photographer so he clearly knows the milieu and anyone who has worked with the mentally ill can recognize the precise details of Dunaway's performance, who thankfully doesn't overplay her hand. There's a wonderful yet subtly shocking moment when we realize that Dunaway's character, who we've thought as quirky and eccentric is stark raving mad! The film is fragmented and it's difficult to gauge Dunaway's history because it contradicts itself in a morass of fantasies, outright lies and Freudian truths. But Dunaway at this stage of her career was not only at the height of her creative powers as an actress but she's never been more of movie goddess too. A failure perhaps but in many ways more fascinating than the less ambitious successes. Written by Carole Eastman (FIVE EASY PIECES). The low keyed underscore is by Michael Small, the cinematography by Adam Holender (MIDNIGHT COWBOY). With Roy Scheider, Viveca Lindfors, Barry Morse and Barbara Carrera.

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