In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_november_man

The November Man

In this excitingly nasty but ultimately confused action picture, Pierce Brosnan plays a retired government hitman drawn out of retirement to untangle a global political…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

That Cold Day in the Park

  |   May Contain Spoilers

"That Cold Day in the Park" is one of those movies you can't adequately discuss without using the word "see" as a refrain. There's this spinster, see, and she finds this peculiar 19-year-old boy sitting in the rain in the park, see? And she invites him into her apartment, and it turns out that he never talks, and she's a little weird herself.

Eventually, she locks him into a bedroom, but he leaves by the fire escape and meets his sister and her boyfriend, a draft dodger. And they turn on and then the guy returns to the apartment but things get complicated. And after his sister takes a bath in the spinster's apartment and tries to seduce her brother, the spinster hires this prostitute and locks her in with the boy, after she (the spinster) has confessed her secret desires to what turns out to be a pillow and some blankets artfully arranged on the bed, see? And then she gets a knife out of the kitchen, and....

The plot is too improbable to be taken seriously, and yet director Robert Altman apparently does take it seriously. And so we get a torturous essay on abnormal psychology when, with less trouble, we could have had a simple, juicy horror film. There are some of the same exploitation angles as "Rosemary's Baby" (clinical discussions of reproduction, an eerie apartment, strange games), but they just don't work. In a straightforward horror movie, you can push pretty far before the audience starts laughing; they want to be scared. But "That Cold Day in the Park" doesn't declare itself as a horror film until too late, and the audience is already lost.

In a famous little essay on detective novels, Raymond Chandler observed some years ago that it didn't matter how well written a thriller was; what mattered was whether it worked. If it didn't, the writing wouldn't help, and if it did the writing didn't matter. Much the same is true of horror movies; if they don't work on the basic level of suspense, it doesn't matter how well they're done.

More's the pity. "That Cold Day in the Park" is pretty well done. Sandy Dennis supplies a convincing portrait of the repressed, sex-obsessed spinster. Michael Burns is adequate as the boy, in a role that makes small demands on acting ability. Gillian Freeman's script shows a good ear for dialog, especially during scenes in a birth-control clinic and a nightclub. And the photography by Laszlo Kovacs (who shot "Hell's Angels on Wheels" so well) does more than the direction or the script to establish a mood of approaching horror and tragedy. Too bad someone besides the cameraman wasn't thinking in those terms.

Popular Blog Posts

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Ferguson, Missouri: Third World America vs. Atlas Shrugged

An FFC looks at the horrible situation in Ferguson, MO and what it says about where we are and where we're going.

Retrieving the Grail: Robin Williams and "The Fisher King"

An examination and appreciation of one of Robin Williams' greatest films, "The Fisher King."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus