I first became aware of this film when Winona Ryder mentioned it as one of
her all-time favorite films in an interview with Timothy Leary. I found
no video copy of the film was on the market and it was rarely screened. I
knew right away it would have to be a truly great film to be ignored for 40
years by the same American movie-going public who turned Kazan's
ridiculously overrated "On the Waterfront" into a multi Oscar winner, gave
George Stevens an Oscar for the awful "Giant," and made their greatest
director (Orson Welles), a commercial failure and an exile.
Well I finally saw this thing yesterday, in pristine form and on the huge screen of the Egyptian theatre in Hollywood, thanks to the American Cinamateque, and all my suspicions and predictions were comfirmed: it's not only a masterpiece but one of the most idiosyncratic American films ever made; better than any pre-East-of-Eden Kazan film and featuring an astounding performace from Carroll Baker, and a brilliantly bizzare and understated one from Ralph Meeker. The film's pace is slow and methodical, frustrating ALL audience expectations and conditioning in the best Antonioni style (you can clearly tell Garfein's seen "L'Avventura" and "La Notte" a few times), and revealing insights and truths that would be completely obzcured otherwise. Most of the film is fascinatingly shot on crowded New York streets in a semi-neo-realist style using long takes and with the modernist music of Aaron Copland providing an eerie counterpoint to the visual mood. The cinematography is by Eugen Shuftan, the same guy who shot Fritz Lang's famous silent film "Metropolis" and it's expressionistic to the max, providing further contrast and counterpoint, a 'poetic touch' to the realistic method acting employed in the film.
Some people might think that the entire film is absurd and no rape victim would refuse to say anything about her rape and then fall in love and marry a crazy mechanic who locks her in an apartment, but they forget one point: Meeker doesn't know (because he was drunk out of his mind) that he violated Baker's trust and when Baker mentions that she was the one who kicked him in the eye, he realizes his inpropriety, becomes patient, and leaves the door unlocked. Furthermore, the reason Meeker locks Baker in the room in the beginning is partly to prevent her from another 'blacked-out' suicide attempt, because he loves her and doesn't want to lose her. And the objection of 'rape victims who never report their rape are unrealistic' is ridiculous on its face; everyone knows from statistics that it is an unoforunate and all too common occurence, maybe even especially more so when the girl raped is beautiful enough to be said to be 'provoking' men. So the entire film is completely valid on its face and thoroughly realistc. But what makes it great are the little touches and details, the time taken to capture the nuances of acting and location that other films don't make the effort for. One can only hope that Jack Garfein (the director, who was married to Carroll Baker at the time) makes the further effort of getting MGM/UA or whoever owns the original negative of this film, to transfer it to a good DVD to give people a chance to rediscover one of the great American films some 40 years after its initial release to commerical failure: "Something Wild."
Mary Ann Robinson, a young woman living in The Bronx, New York, with her neurotic, overbearing mother and kindly but ineffectual stepfather, is raped while walking home one night. Keeping the attack to herself, Mary Ann runs away, seeking to lose herself in Manhattan by renting a seedy flat and taking a job in a dime store. Overwhelmed by people's hostility and her own despair, Mary Ann tries to jump off the Manhattan Bridge, only to be stopped by Mike, a garage mechanic who takes her back to his modest basement apartment nearby. At first appreciative of Mike's kindness, Mary Ann becomes terrified when he refuses to let her leave. Is Mike really Mary Ann's rescuer - or is he another rapist?
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January 19, 2017 at 04:21 PM