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|Index||37 reviews in total|
There is something deeply touching and oddly disarming about this
wonderful film, but as the above poster comments, the film does not
quite fulfill its remit.
I have watched this film on a number of occasions because of its sombre dream-like quality - the juxtaposition of slap-in-the-face reality and those almost womb-like immersions into Buddwing's memories.
The score is brilliant, the lighting dramatic and memorable.
The cast - brilliant, but it pains me to say this as a massive, massive fan of James Garner - he shows his limitations as an actor in this one.
Note the self-naming scene. "Bud.....wing.... I..have a name" too dozy, and that crying scene after he faced off with the madman who claimed he was god. Poor Jimmy looked like he'd be pepper-spayed.
However, because of Garner's form, I like this film even more. Garner's character should be vulnerable, extremely so, because of his predicament. To see Garner himself vulnerable and out of his league in the role works almost better than great acting would. And what was that look on his faced when Grace-2 asked him if was "one of those AC/DC types" ??
There's still something magical about Garner's presence. He's a winner.
The film comes across as a stage play adapted for film - a piece of beat poetry acted out by conservatives. Strange, half realized, surreal, and finally a flawed gem.
Other commentators are probably right to say that the plot is totally
unlikely, poorly acted and perhaps badly directed. I am no film critic
do not judge the film from a critical point of view.
Yes, I was aware, while watching the film on TV, that it was completely unlikely, that people just don't act in such a way. Yet I found it compelling, enjoyable, enthralling, haunting. I just had to watch it to the end, and this doesn't happen to me very often these days.
I see the film as an allegory of a man who has lost sight of himself after a personal traumatic drama and is in search of himself through various unlikely encounters, mostly intriguing women. I enjoyed the film as I would enjoy a haunting melody. I guess I see in it an allegory for my own condition.
Great jazz score. Memorable dialogue. Fascinating characters. Even small parts are interesting. Vulnerable male lead (unlike cardboard cutouts). Ladies with personality. Wonderful performances even by bit players. Gorgeous black and white photography. New York streets. Camera that isn't afraid to dare. Pure gold performance by Pleshette as an ever-aspiring thespian. This movie IS a jazz score. It is about life, midlife and city life. It's suspenseful, but the suspense isn't its central element. Mood is. This movie is perfect from every angle, in every department. Not much more can be expected from images on a screen. A movie with an attitude that presents life as style. Voila.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This psychological mystery gets off to an intriguing start -- and sinks fast. James Garner wakes up on a bench in Central Park without a clue as to who he is. (When he stares at his image in a mirrored door in the Plaza Hotel, a stranger stares back.) Adopting the name "Sam Buddwing," Garner sets out to try to find out his identity. But instead of doing anything sensible like going to the police or a hospital (in which case the movie would end in something like 10 minutes), he goes about it the hard way, wandering around Manhattan. In the process, Garner encounters a wide assortment of characters, including three different women (Katharine Ross, Suzanne Pleshette, Jean Simmons) who remind him in various ways of someone named "Grace." Each of the three women prompts a flashback in Garner's confused mind; the film employs the interesting device of having each woman take her turn at playing the elusive Grace, but for some reason Garner still can 't remember who he is. This movie also tells you that New Yorkers are a bunch of hearty extroverts who will give you their life's story or their personal philosophy at the drop of a hat; by the time Garner gets close to figuring out his identity during a high-stakes dice game (don't ask), the film has turned into pure camp. On that level, it might still be enjoyable.
Maybe because I've woke up on my share of park benches--this film hits home. James Garner is perfectly cast as the lost and befuddled gent who cannot recall his name or identity. Some may feel perplexed by his choice of name: Buddwing, taken from an air plane and beer truck. This makes perfect sense to me insofar as he spent the previous evening in a bar drinking and has suffered a shock of some kind. The movie begins with the camera as Buddwing's eyes and moves and walks off into the urban landscape. The technique is groundbreaking and striking. I like how Garner checks his pockets and hands looking for some clues to his name and identity. But when he finds only a Metro-North train schedule, a scrap of paper with a phone number and two pills, the mystery deepens. Acting honors go to Suzanne Pleshette, Jean Simmons and Angela Lansbury. Billy Halop, the original leader of the Dead End Kids, shows up as cab driver #2. He would later gain fame as another cabby, "Munson," on All in the family. TCM shows this movie with a "making of" documentary proceeding it. Someone must have felt they were creating something special. And they did.
The Evan Hunter novel Buddwing is a hauntingly original, if unrealistic
story. The author's idea was to take the mid-life identity crisis to the
extreme...literal amnesia. Its 1964 release prompted MGM to pick it up for
a 1965 film, possibly thinking they'd have another Blackboard Jungle on
their hands. Well not quite. Not to say the great talent of the '60s isn't
there: Director Delbert Mann (who did Marty and Fitzwilly), Katharine Ross
(The Graduate, Butch Cassidy), Angela Landsbury (Manchurian Candidate), Jean
Simmons, and James Garner all do their best in one of the less believable of
the 7,000,000 tales of NYC. One obvious fault lies in the dialogue (mostly
taken directly from the book) as numerous run-ins between Garner (Buddwing)
and the other characters result in conversations that simply don't ring
Another fault is the director seems to intentionally give this the
avant-garde treatment, though he's obviously ill-equipped for it. The
disjointed confusing scenes would be impossible to follow had one not read
Especially the scenes with Katharine Ross--he thinks she's someone named Grace, they talk (not making any sense) and then it cuts to a flashback where she IS Grace...GOD I feel sorry for someone trying to figure this out who hasn't read the book. And of course the book's sex scenes are not to be found here. Then Ross is gone--poof--maybe she told MGM to shove the script up their as--side their other failures.
The only interesting aspect to the film is that it's set in Manhattan in the '60s, and it was the last "major" film shot in black and white. Finally the film fails because the director and screenwriter Wasserman simply didn't put any real effort into making this a film of substance...it ends up as a bunch of poorly editted "scenes". As another reviewer said this could be a great remake...if they rewrite the whole thing, have good direction, etc. Anyway, read the book and then watch the film for laughs.
A quirky, moody, sleight of reality. As this movie progresses it
becomes more an altered chronology of remembered events rather than a
series of hallucinations. The city of New York is more than a
geographical location, it is an artistic "set". The use of black and
white rather than color gives this particular "set" a role in
establishing the mood and tone. ALL the shots are for dramatic effect,
not a wasted inch. High contrast but in a muted way. A perfect example
is the black iron walkway leading to the bridge against a NY skyline
and Suzanne Pleshette in a white coat and boots (ala '60"s). This
composition has great dark lines and light forms but almost in an early
Then, I also must comment on Jean Simmons like I've hardly ever seen her. She was so coquettish, lush, lively and degenerate at the same time that I thought I was seeing Vivien Leigh as a young flapper. I was quite mesmerized trying to reconcile this Jean Simmons with "Young Bess". I thought she was the spark of the whole movie.
The cutting and arranging of the sequences lent themselves to dramatically unfolding the story in non-chronological order. This is what made me think of "Memento".
Like "Memento"'s Guy Pearce, James Garner mostly stumbles through "Mr. Buddwing" fairly stupefied. This behavior seems about right to me if someone were truly experiencing this altered reality.
I recommend this movie for a dark, hushed evening, especially if you have friends willing to "suspend dis-belief" and careen around New York and James Garner's head.
The 60's were skinny ties and lapels, three-martini lunches, Chrysler convertible pavement yachts and Brylcreem, if you were lucky. If you were somehow less satisfied, it was protest or dogged acceptance that the game had been fixed long before you appeared on the scene, or more politely, you simply hadn't been invited to the party. James Garner (Rockford, Support Your Local Sheriff, They Only Kill Their Masters, etc) portrays a once successful but displaced everyman who has to wallow in the mire to face long-buried demons. A string of attractive women appear and vanish, like identifying a catchy tune by its chorus, each providing shards of who Buddwing is and why he tried to run. A barely recognizable New York is Supporting Actor, and the visual style leaves one feeling an effect similar to liberal dosages of NyQuil. It will strike you, however briefly.
I saw this movie on TNT after being intrigued by the lackluster
comments from reviewers. I typically like James Garner movies. After
seeing the movie, I saw it as a religious allegory. James Garner plays
Everyman who was searching to answer the question "Who am I?" During
the movie, I realized that he asks that question rather than the
question "What is my name?" He is asking an ontological question.
Furthermore, there are two scenes where he refers to the deity. In the first scene, where he is youthfully impetuous, he refers to "all the gods of the earth and cosmos" or something. In the latter reference to deity, he soberly and humbly refers to "God." This reference occurs after an intervening scene of a flashback where he tells his young wife that he loves perfection that he finds in music. He then hears Bach's Requiem Mass; they enter a church and stand before an altar. This is an example of how knowledge of nature can lead to God. As the flashbacks bring back more of his life, Garner matures as finally realizes his current, wretched condition.
The final scene is quite touching. He finds life through grace. Of course, Grace is his wife's name but the scene allegorically refers to the "saving grace." The movie is not a typical amnesia movie. It is disjointed and the dialog stilted, but, like a classical painting, many scenes have meaning when viewed from a religious viewpoint. Perhaps seeing this viewpoint requires knowledge of Christian doctrine. I would've ordered it on DVD, but it doesn't seem to be available.
Amnesiac James Garner tries to sort out his apparently complicated past. This adaptation of Evan Hunter's book "Buddwing" (and retitled "Woman Without a Face" for its overseas release) looks terrific but is a distressingly unsatisfying soaper. Photographed by the great Ellsworth Fredericks in crystalline black-and-white on autumnal New York City locations, the movie is saddled with an annoying plot which never comes together. Full of top talent, but only Suzanne Pleshette gives off some heat as a savvy actress. The film attempts to be modern and risqué, but the writing is so ham-handed and the direction so self-consciously arty that the final result just seems alienating and unabsorbing. *1/2 from ****
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