Thursday, October 09, 2014

A New Leaf

1970, US, directed by Elaine May

I couldn't quite decide whether it was my sense of humour or an unfamiliarity with Elaine May's work, but it took me a while to get into her gently scathing satire, with its two richly-drawn central characters, played by May herself and Walter Matthau. The latter is highly enjoyable in a buttoned-down mode, but the real revelation to me was May's apparently substantial influence on Wes Anderson. I think it says a great deal about the relative oblivion into which May has fallen that this connection isn't made rather more often. I remember David Ehrenstein commenting somewhere that in a sense Anderson's great obsession is the preservation of good manners in all situations, and Matthau's character in particular could very easily slot into a Wes film. Visually, I was on the fence, though: the film certainly seems quite typical of its time period, with striking -- even grotesque -- closeups, although sometimes this has terrific comic effect, particularly in the shot where Matthau reacts with great alarm to the possibility of an ample bosom being unveiled in his direction.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States