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“VINCE GIORDANO: THERE’S A FUTURE IN THE PAST”— Learning About Giordano

“Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past”

Learning About Giordano

Amos Lassen

Vince Giordano is a jazz and swing musician and bandleader. In this new documentary by co-directors Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards, we learn about Giordano’s career as a musician, his childhood and his personality. I suppose I must have been out of the county when he was popular here in America because I knew nothing about him before seeing this film.

Born and based in Brooklyn, Mr. Giordano, 64, has for forty years been leading his 11-piece band the Nighthawks that specializes in the pre-swing era music. Giordano himself plays several instruments, including tuba, string bass and bass saxophone, and sings. He gained popularity playing hotels and today he has a group of young fans that come to his concerts dressed in the style of the earlier period. His music has been featured in Woody Allen’s movies and the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” It is said that he has made his music new again and this is because of his devotion to stylistic authenticity.

Giordano is a collector and has some 60,000 big-band arrangements that he has found in his extensive search for original manuscripts and radio transcriptions of music that here is called “hot jazz”. What the singer, pianist and cabaret performer Michael Feinstein is to vintage popular songs, Mr. Giordano is to hot jazz.

“There’s a Future in the Past” is a ground-level exploration of this historian at work, leading the Nighthawks or one of their satellite ensembles and traveling the country to examine and rescue old arrangements that have turned up in radio station archives and musicians’ basements. What others would dismiss as trash is the equivalent of discovering gold to Mr. Giordano.

This documentary goes deeply into Giordano’s world to show us the “drudgery and headaches of being a bandleader” and that includes juggling personnel, scheduling, dealing with unions and carrying instruments. This is not a “get rich quick” profession but rather one that is based on loving what one does.

We see persuasive revivals of tunes and arrangements and solos from the 1920s and ’30s and understand how difficult it is to do this. — and the great present-tense effort it takes to pull them off. Giordano doesn’t just lead his band, he also finds vintage arrangements from the days of Fletcher Henderson and Paul Whiteman, handles bookings, checks that all his band members and their instruments have gotten onto the bus. Giordano also has to break down his band’s setup before he’s finished hauling it to the stage..

Regular gigs, even for small crowds, are invaluable to the sharpness of the band. I wish that the film considered the value of the painstaking recreations that Giordano provides. The music is not improvised but rather the band tries to discover what it might have been like to hear those bands of yore.

Giordano has been keeping vintage big-band jazz alive in concert venues and onscreen. He has devoted his life to doing so. What we really see are the basics of the band’s perseverance as working musicians.

The documentary follows Giordano over a three-year period capturing the bandleader and multi-instrumentalist as he makes the radio rounds and leads his 11-piece band through their twice-weekly shows at a Manhattan theater-district hotel. There is a new set for every show and as many as 2,500 arrangements on tap thus the musicians on their toes. It’s a challenge they welcome and a gig that makes them proud.

We see and hear a rousing rendition of “Rhapsody in Blue” and an engaging “Boardwalk Empire” recording session with David Johansen. We also see a dwindling audience yet the film ends on an especially satisfying high note.

Giordano’s passion is his preserving and curating history through the archives in his side-by-side Brooklyn houses. He brings new energy into older pieces of music and is masterful as he does so.

The directors present the struggles and the hard work that go along with Giordano’s career. He is aperfectionist and that is a difficult task and it is upsetting to see his minor meltdown onstage at the New York Hot Jazz Festival over a missing piece of equipment. During this, the camera observes discomfort in the band members’ faces. Moments later, however, we see a brilliant performance.

“UNDER THE TURBAN” What It Means To Be Sikh

“UNDER THE TURBAN”

What It Means to Be Sikh

Amos Lassen

 Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion, yet most of us know very little, if anything, about it. Directors Satinder Garcha, Michael Rogers and Meghan Shea take us into the world of the Sikh and we learn that there are diverse communities of Sikhs all over the world. In “Under the Turban” we meet maharajas, cheese makers, fashionistas, farmers and scholars who are part of the religion. This exploration began as an answer to Zara Garcha’s question to her parents, Satinder and Harpreet Bedi about what being Sikh means. In order to better explain the religion, they decided to show her and set off for Parma, Italy where they met Sikh cheese makers. Their next stop was Amritsar, Sikhism’s holy city and home of The Golden Temple where they learned about the historical foundations and social history of the religion. Continuing on to the United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada and America, the Garchas and viewers of the documentary gain a better understanding of modern Sikh communities and the fundamental aspects of their religion.

If you are curious like me, you ask yourself how this family could be members of a religion and not know much about it. Looking into myself, I realized that many of us do not know all we have to know about the religion that we are members of. Having been born and raised Jewish, I don’t remember asking my parents questions about the faith, I just did what I was supposed to do without question or if I had questions, I kept them to myself. In fact, I only begin questioning some of the laws and practices after graduating from college. In our house, we did not talk about religion. Obviously the same is true of many others who went through life observing without questioning.

Bedi and her husband, Satinder Garcha were not sure how to answer their daughter’s question and so they decided to explore the religion as a family. They invited a camera crew to join them and thought about making an educative film for Sikhs and others about the philosophy and values behind Sikhism that go beyond the rituals. This exploration involved traveling to seven countries and asking people about Sikhism. They met some fascinating people including the already mentioned cheese maker, members of a Sikh motorcycle club and the oldest marathon runner in the world. As I watched and listened, I had questions about my own religion and wondered why in Orthodox Judaism one cannot pray unless in a community of ten men and why we light two candles (and not three or four) to mark the Sabbath and other holidays.

Upon visiting the community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, they went to the temple that had been targeted by a hate crime where many American Sikhs were shot at and killed. Speaking to the people there, Zara who was then fourteen-years-old spoke to victims of and witnesses to that incident and she learned how terrible discrimination againstbdifferent religions can be. More importantly, she learned about her religion and herself and so did we as we watched.

Let me share here a few things that I learned. Sikhism came into being some 500 years ago and there are some twenty-five million Sikhs all over the world. The religion is centered on oneness and Sikhs believe that the Divine or God or the Supreme Deity is present in all humans and therefore everyone is equal. The Sikhs have no clergy and leadership is open to all people. One of the main concepts is that of loving self. In finding love within leads us to practicing that love. Serving society is a major aspect of Sikhism that has three core beliefs—truthful living, service to humanity and devotion to God. Almost 100% of those wearing turbans are Sikhs but that turban, unfortunately, became a “contentious identity symbol often met with hate and discrimination” after 9/11 and it still “remains a sacred and integral part of Sikh identity”. Now here is a fun fact, the largest peach, pistachio, raisin and okra farms are owned by American Sikhs in California.

“Pussy” by Howard Jacobson— Taking Revenge in Print

Jacobson, Howard. “Pussy: A Novel”, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Random House UK, 2017.

Taking Revenge in Print

Amos Lassen

“Pussy” is the story of Prince Fracassus, the presumptive heir to the Duchy of Origen. Origen is famous famed for its golden-gated skyscrapers and casinos. Now Pussy spends his youth watching reality shows on TV, imagining himself to be the Roman Emperor Nero, and fantasizing about hookers and is idle, boastful, thin-skinned and egotistic. He has no manners, no curiosity, no knowledge, no idea and no words in which to express them. Yet, he and others think that he can make his country great again. (You see where this is going).

Howard Jacobson is an excellent comic writer who feels that the Trump presidency needs a bit of satire and he has written one that is raw and savage. It is short and hits all the right places but it might be just a bit too intellectual for the man who it is about to understand. This book is to Donald Trump what “1984” was to Josef Stalin. Jacobson does grant safety to any of his characters and there are those who are more disgusting that others. In the first part of the book, Jacobson writes about what he sees in language that all can understand and laugh with. This includes American presidential trends, the government’s left and right, social class and wealth and progressive and regressive politics. He shows how these can foster and electorate that believes in the idea of either it is my way or it just isn’t.

He sees the present president as one who does not allow dialogue or thought; a government that is all about polarization, both politically and culturally. These are reflection of politics in the West over the last few years.

Jacobson uses names of places and individuals with meanings thus making the satire even more bitter. Trump is Prince Fracassus, Sojjourner is the hat-check-girl-turned-political-rival and Vozzek Spravchik is Putin. There is no sense of time here so the reader gets the chance to set the novel in whatever time period he wants as long as the characters fit. The only restriction I found on this is that Twitter is the mass-messaging platform of choice. We become very aware of the dichotomies of our times. Yes, there is “A hunger for change at the same time that there is a dread of change. There is mutual distrust that puts citizen against citizen and a belief in the free market of goods and ideas that conceal a reluctance to trade freely.

“Testimony” by Scott Turow— Investigating a Disappearance

Turow, Scott. “Testimony”, Grand Central Publishing, 2017.

Investigating a Disappearance

Amos Lassen

When he turned fifty, former prosecutor Bill ten Boom walked out on everything he thought was important to him including his law career, his wife, Kindle County, even his country. Yet, when he is tapped by the International Criminal Court–an organization charged with prosecuting crimes against humanity–he feels drawn to what will become the most elusive case of his career.

About ten years earlier, during the chaos following the Bosnian war, an entire Roma refugee camp vanished. Now for the first time, a witness has come forward: Ferko Rincic who claims that armed men marched the camp’s Gypsy residents to a cave in the middle of the night, threw a hand grenade set off an avalanche into the cave and buried 400 people alive. Ferko was the only survivor.

Boom’s task is to examine Ferko’s claims and to determine who might have massacred the Roma. His investigation takes him from the International Criminal Court’s base in Holland to the cities and villages of Bosnia and secret meetings in Washington, DC. Soon Boom is sorting through a host of suspects including Serb paramilitaries, organized crime gangs and the US government itself. At the same time he is maneuvering among the alliances and treacheries of those connected to the case. These are Layton Merriwell, a disgraced US major general who is desperate to salvage his reputation; Sergeant Major Atilla Doby, an important operator in American military operations near the camp at the time of the Roma’s disappearance; Laza Kajevic, the evil former leader of the Bosnian Serbs; Esma Czarni, Ferko’s sexy barrister. The entire case rests on Ferko who may know more than he’s telling. We learn that Boom’s Dutch-born parents are Jewish and they hid their true identity from him since escaping the Holocaust. This knowledge disrupts his life.

Having read Turow’s other books, I was disappointed with “Testimony. While the plot is interesting, it became bogged down in details and pages about morality. The characters are interesting but I wanted to know more about them; some of the characters, however, were a bit too strange to be believable. This is a much more complex book than his previous novels.

Boom’s investigation is complicated when he becomes involved in a torrid affair with Esma, the woman who brought the case to the court, an advocate for the Roma. She is beautiful and charming but, as we learn, thoroughly untrustworthy.

Turow’s description of the Bosnian poverty-stricken villages and his retelling of the history of the land and of Roma culture is beautiful and moving. However, some of what we read that happened didn’t seem realistic, and the ending seemed forced.

 

“The City Always Wins: A Novel” by Omar Robert Hamilton— Capturing the Egyptian Revolution

Hamilton, Omar Robert. “The City Always Wins: A Novel”, MCD, 2017.

Capturing the Egyptian Revolution

Amos Lassen

“The City Always Wins” is a novel that is deeply part of the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square, Cairo. Mariam and Khalil move through Cairo’s surging streets and its political underground as their city is in open revolt as the world watches as Egypt begins to move toward an unknown future. Egyptians and specifically Mariam and Khalil believe that they are fighting a new kind of revolution and that they are players in it.

We read of the communal highs of night battles against the police and of the solitary lows of post-revolutionary exile. But this is a novel not just about Egypt’s revolution, but also about a global generation that tried to change the world. The revolution failed but it brought new spirit to the people as the young revolutionaries found bravery and a sense of utopianism, naïve at it was. Omar Robert Hamilton brings us a psychological portrait of a generation―a generation that had great hopes as well as a look at a revolution that was betrayed. We are taken inside a popular movement, a movement that preoccupied television news and we read vivid accounts of what went on. Here was an internet-fueled uprising taking place alongside the reality of bodies filled with bullets yet the revolutionaries never lost sight of the love that powered Egypt’s revolutionary moment. Omar Robert Hamilton crosses borders to give us a movement of hope and heartbreak. We are left with questions and this is what good literature does. I am still thinking about the read and I finished the book some two weeks ago. We are well reminded that politics are both a game of life and death, violence and a lack of equality, chaos and torment, grief and loss.

Through the eyes of Mariam and Khalil, we see the realities of “class friction, war, torture, and dictatorships.” The protesters made their grievances known. They have had to deal with police brutality, fraud, corruption, and lack of free elections and freedom of speech. As a result, they organize strikes, demonstrations, and riots and take part in online activism. Then when President Mubarak is overthrown by the military and another is elected president, nothing seems to have changed. There are more protests, arrests, torture and death. The violence increases and the more the activists want to get the word out, the more they leave themselves open to attacks and being killed.

 

Miriam, Khalil and their group of friends produce podcasts, conduct interviews, organize protests, help families of the injured, dead and arrested. Their aim is to get justice for the atrocities that have been committed to the Egyptian people and we get a different perspective of the revolution (how things are discussed and planned, how the aftermath will be handled, expectations and how to keep the pressure up for justice so that truth to be seen). Looking at the ways things still are in Egypt, we understand that the book is, in effect, a witness to what happened there. The emphasis is on the

“relationship between revolution and democracy; chaos and governance; generational and class friction; change and order”. Writer Hamilton examines the push to maintain hope and to bring about voices that can be counted as well as the f fear and intimidation to silence and oppression for security’s sake. It is all about moving forward for progress and justice as the political landscape is shifting bringing about anger, energy and emotion. While this book is specifically about Egypt, we understand that “the ideas and ideals of revolution or change” are universal and relevant to many current debates and situations across the world today.

Reading this is like watching as the fate of an ancient nation and of our heroes and their relationship are tested. Omar Robert Hamilton shifts perspective mainly between Mariam and Khalil, but we also read of the emotions of the parents and loved ones of those who were murdered and missing, thus making this a very human book.

 

 

“FATHERS“— Adopting a Child

 

“FATHERS”

Adopting a Child

Amos Lassen

“Fathers” is about a gay who became the father of a boy. Problem began to arise when the boy began to ask about his mother. He was bullied at school because he has two fathers and no mother. Set in Thailand we meet good-looking couple Phoon and Yuke, urban professionals in their 30s, who seem to have it all—except for one thing: they’ve always dreamt of being parents. When they adopt the adorable young boy Butr, the pair become “Daddy” and “Papa,” and their family is complete until schoolyard bullying and interference from prejudiced parents brings unwelcome attention from child protective services. The film is a sensitive portrait of same-sex fatherhood and makes a sincere plea in support of rainbow families.

This is the story of a same-sex couple who is struggling to build a family in spite of societal prejudice and legal difficulties. Platphol Mingpornpichit directed this realistic look at the many social and legal problems the fathers face in their attempt to build a family. We see that Phoon and Yuke are confronted with their young son’s questions after he is teased in school for having “gay” fathers. The two fathers struggle to find their roles as fathers and stay true to themselves. “Love starts with two people, but family is more than just the two,” is the movie’s tagline.

“Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice” by Colum McCann— A How To Book That is So Much More

McCann, Colum. “Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice”, Random House, 2017.

A How To Book That is So Much More

Amos Lassen

I must be honest and state that until a couple of nights ago, I had never read Colum McCann. I happened to be at a discussion of a book in which he wrote an essay and as I listened to what he had to say, I noted that I really needed to read him and to see if he is as articulate in print as he was that night. Yes, he is that and so much more. Since I am not a “young writer” and have not been so for many years. I wondered what he had to say to those who are beginning writing careers.

McCann tells us to look outward rather than inward and to constantly push “the boundaries of experience, to see empathy and wonder in the stories we craft and hear”. We become very aware of the power of language, both by argument and by example and we can never forget that we can be hurt and bruised by a career in writing. There are, of course, rules for writing and they must be learned and there are times that we must break them. In the fifty-two essays that make up this book, we are challenged to bring truth through writing to the world.

Do not be misled by the title— I believe that the word “young” is not about age but about when one begins to write and a young writer is quite simply a new writer. McCann uses a lot of humor, as well as encouragement and hints at what it takes to be a great writer. McCann has something to say and he says it wonderfully and with passion.

 

“GOSPEL ACCORDING TO AL GREEN”— A Look at a Life

“Gospel According To Al Green”

A Look at a Life

Amos Lassen

Robert Mugge is a longtime fan of soul and pop singer Al Green and believes countered that Green’s rejection of soul music to become a Memphis-based preacher and gospel singer made him a richer potential subject for a new film.

It took thirteen months to secure Green’s approval, getting his okay only days before the planned Seventh Anniversary Celebration of Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle whose Sunday afternoon church service would feature not only Green’s usual church choir and musicians, but also a second choir from Ellington, South Carolina and most of Green’s touring musicians and backup singers. Mugge arranged to document that December 18, 1983 service with three 16mm cameras and a 24-track audio recording truck, making it the first (and reportedly still the only) Al Green church service to be on film.

Originally aired as a PBS documentary, the film consists of an interview with Green, some performance clips and a long clip of Green’s preaching to a Memphis congregation and attempts to chart Green’s rise in the music industry and subsequent return to the church.

The interview with Green showcases Green’s infectious grin and ability to render a story with charm and wit. He holds onto his guitar through most of the interview and occasionally breaks into wonderfully illustrative bits of his hits, songs that he had long-since stopped playing by the time the film was shot. His memories and reminisces of his early career include information from his producer and collaborator, Willie Mitchell and now they seem so far away even though they are about the last few years before the film was made.

Mitchell gives concrete details but for Green, the incidents of his career seem like scenes from another life. He is detached from telling about what led to his decision to abandon his secular career in which a married woman Green was involved with threw a pot of hot grits at the singer and then shot herself in the head. Green claims to be unconvinced that this happened, despite police reports, press coverage and how this affected his career.

Green speaks of his secular with dismissal, and this attitude gives his decision to give it all up to seem casual and even mundane, even though it’s what the entire narrative hinges upon. Green’s description of what happened has little drama and seems like it was just the result of luck.

The performance footage, shot mostly at an Air Force officer’s ball in Washington, DC lacks intensity and something seems to be missing. The most interesting and compelling footage is a long clip of Reverend Green preaching at the church he purchased after his conversion. He moves back and forth between the biblical and the personal in a blend of speaking and ex tempore singing that becomes a congregation-backed spiritual that builds to a fever-pitch. In these closing moments of the film, Green finally comes across as a passionate performer.

The film was originally released in 1984, a few years after Green left pop music to sing gospel and minister in his own church. This is the 25th anniversary edition and it takes advantage of the publicity surrounding Green’s most recent return to secular music. I love that it contains energetic and soulful performances of his soul classics as well as Green’s gospel standards. Much of what we see is celebratory and enjoyable and some of it is electrifying. Not perfect, it is an absorbing document of a captivating performer.

“X, Y AND ZEE”— A Romantic Triangle

“X, Y and Zee”

A Romantic Triangle

Amos Lassen

“X, Y & Zee” is a loud, boozy celebration of the fact that Elizabeth Taylor, regardless of what she did, was a movie star and a woman who was one of the most beautiful in the world and of all time. “X, Y and Zee” is no masterpiece, but audiences enjoy it because it moves along at a nice, vulgar gait. It’s soft-core pornography in which Taylor plays a bitchy wife.

Zee (Taylor) is married to Robert (Michael Caine), an architect with a hunger for a nice, quiet, uncomplicated love affair with no strings attached. He thinks he’s found the ideal in Stella (Susannah York) and so he seduces her with a rather cold efficiency.

He doesn’t try to hide the affair from his wife, apparently because part of his fun is in flaunting a mistress. We sense he’s had affairs before, and that they play an important part in this uneasy marriage. They’re childless, and their marriage has settled down into a grim sadomasochistic battlefield. It seems that the couple has too much hatred invested in their marriage to break it up now. However, the young girl doesn’t realize this and gets caught in the middle of the game playing. She’s a shy, quiet girl who is not self-assertive. Toward the end of the movie she reveals some latent lesbian tendencies that provide Taylor with a final victory.

“X, Y & Zee” is a superior screenplay by novelist Edna O’Brien, but that doesn’t really matter because the focus of attention is always Elizabeth Taylor. We don’t get a sense of three actors relating with one another, but of two skilled actors supporting a star whose charisma is apparently ageless.

Elizabeth Taylor is Zee and she remains glamorous no matter what she does to herself, and is especially effective when she plays against glamour. She covers herself with loud jewelry, wears a lot of makeup, zips herself into a wardrobe that is distasteful. Stella possesses intelligence and sensitivity making it difficult to understand what she sees in Robert but it’s clear That Stella represents an opportunity for a little peace and quiet and a little less fashion eyestrain.

Zee wages a one-woman battle and full-on frontal assault against Robert and Stella (both hopelessly outmatched) as she resorts to everything to keep her man and assure that things remain as they are. There is a lot of self-referential humor and drama possible. Elizabeth Taylor’s Zee, balances on the brink self-parody camp. She makes knowing, self-aware jokes about her weight and turns critical barbs into self-directed comedy.

We have three hedonistic individuals who have both the wealth and autonomy to be truly free. But this is where the problem is. The ideas of marriage and morality become strangely fluid. No one can be accused of cheating because cheating first presumes the existence of rules. And from what little we learn about Zee and Robert’s past (Zee can’t have children and pets die on them with tragic regularity), we understand that game playing replaced rules for them years ago. Stella, unlike Zee, is a working woman, and Robert, a self-made man, is wealthy but proud of his humble beginnings. Stella is soft-spoken to Zee’s shrillness, She wears a Quran case amulet around her neck (an Islamic protective talisman which plays an important but subtle role in the film’s conclusion) suggesting a spirituality and connection to something outside of herself that is lacking in Zee. Add to this the fact that Stella also has two children with whom Robert immediately develops a rapport and we really understand and Zee sees Stella as no ordinary rival.

As directed by Brian G. Hutton, this is a crudely funny, visually flashy, magnificently photographed, and very noisy movie. Zee’s aesthetics (loud music, loud clothing, and shrieking whenever possible) become the film’s defining motif. There is a great deal of campy fun with Elizabeth Taylor as a diva who runs over everyone and everything. This makes it difficult for the dramatic sequences to hit their stride.

Taylor is excellent in this movie. As funny as she is in the first part (a broad performance not likely to win over detractors), she really shines and is quite moving in the second half. Susannah York’s character doesn’t make sense to me, but her performance is so natural and seems to come from a place of clear understanding on her part and she pulled me into her character. The scenes between Taylor and York are wonderful.

“THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN”— Taylor and Beatty

“The Only Game in Town”

Taylor and Beatty

Amos Lassen

Fran (Elizabeth Taylor) is an emotionally bruised Las Vegas showgirl whose father ran away from home when she was ten-years-old. Joe (Warren Beatty) plays piano and is a compulsive gambler. He shares Fran’s apartment where they make love and talk all the time. They are unable to admit that they love each other.

Taylor’s face is still one of the great scenic attractions of our time, but her performance here is less than she usually does. Beatty is not much better. George Stevens directed this romance in which time is of no importance. The screenplay was originally a one-set Broadway play about the relationship between two broken people. The film, however, is about the withering fortunes of its two loser lovers in Las Vegas, but it doesn’t take much effort to reimage it as Hollywood itself, with Taylor and Warren Beatty as the same high rollers that backed the production of movies like this one. Joe is a barroom pianist who takes requests from drunk, wrinkled old women so that he can save up enough money to get to New York. However, every time he gets near the necessary sum, he compulsively takes it to the craps tables and gambles it away. Fran discontentedly keeps both her nights and her days as empty as possible so that she will have nothing tying her down when her married and often absent lover, Lockwood (Charles Braswell), comes to finally sweep her off her feet, but the routine has been going on for five years now, and clearly the strain has taken a toll on her dancing skills. It doesn’t much to realize that both characters are self-destructive people who have pointedly settled in America’s capitol of dysfunction.

They meet and from then on, it’s a game of protracting their courtship, running away from feelings through sarcasm and outrage, and eating pizza. Then they decide to become roommates to show that they really don’t care about each other.

When Fran brings Joe home the first time, on a he doesn’t try to force her into bed and this confuses her. Joe, as I said, is an inveterate gambler, who keeps blowing his tip money at the crap tables, but he still wants to pursue a relationship with Fran. Fran on the other hand is hoping her married lover (who lives out of town) will ultimately divorce his wife and come take her away from her Las Vegas showgirl’s life. That’s about it, really, including what must have been a third act showdown when the married lover actually shows up and forces Fran to make a decision.

This was the last film of the legendary George Stevens, who had done so well with Taylor in “A Place in the Sun” and “Giant”. But 1970 was not the 1950s, and Liz was no longer an ingénue. The movie’s whole thesis is a reactionary response to the whole “free love” movement, insisting that commitment is the only way for the downtrodden to make something out of their lives. But Stevens, while perhaps well suited to this idea, doesn’t quite know what to do with his cast. Taylor was badly out of her league here and she was certainly not the right age to play opposite Warren Beatty. This turns out to be a melodrama with some flashes of brilliance (although dated). This is a claustrophobic piece, and few people want to be locked in a dowdy apartment with either of characters.