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Monday's Child (1967)

La chica del lunes (original title)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Arthur Kennedy ...
Peter Richardson
...
Carol Richardson
Deborah Reed ...
Alice Richardson
Graciela Borges ...
Nina
Roberto Parilla ...
Marlon
José de San Antón ...
Padre Florentin
Art Merril ...
Pastor Barriebo
Issa Sanchez ...
Maria Carita
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Camilo Carrau
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18 July 1967 (Argentina)  »

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Monday's Child  »

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User Reviews

Minor beauty from forgotten cinema giant
7 July 2015 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

Back when I was becoming a fanatical film buff, Leopoldo Torre Nilsson from Argentina was considered in most critics' Top Ten of filmmakers, his work making a big impression at Film Festivals and in art houses everywhere. This shot-in-English, made in the U.S. (San Juan, Puerto Rico to be exact) movie is not typical of his hothouse melodramas, but an excellent short-story work with a message. It even was nominated for the top prize at Cannes, but is completely forgotten.

Story is simple, yet cleverly constructed to make a universal point still relevant today, in the format of a Kraft Suspense Theater of its era (which could have easily cast the same two stars as appear here). Arthur Kennedy works for a construction company in Puerto Rico, where his wife Geraldine Page and uber- brat of a daughter Deborah Reed (more hideous than Patty McCormack in THE BAD SEED) are stir crazy.

Kennedy is working tangentially on a relief effort for victims displaced by horrible floods, and Page, who cannot control her spoiled daughter Alice, idly and callously throws Alice's beloved doll Annabelle into a box to be donated along with food and other supplies to the refugees on behalf of Kennedy's firm.

Alice goes nuts when she discovers her doll is missing and is so noisily and violently upset that the rest of the film concerns Kennedy's misadventures trying to retrieve it.

Within this simple framework based on a story by producer Andre du Rona, Torre Nilsson paints a vivid picture of the effects of Colonialism, in this case right here in the U.S., albeit our "territory" of Puerto Rico. The family's outing (ostensibly to find the doll) among the impoverished people and newly displaced refugees is presented as dramatically as some Third World confrontation between haves and have nots. Page and even more-so her offspring Alice are the Ugly Americans, while Kennedy, in a complex and nuanced performance truly embodies the contradictions of an earnest do-gooder, way too naive to make any positive impact and constantly misunderstood by everyone.

Page gives a tour de force performance, elevating a rather clichéd character to unexpected dimensions. At times she's a nymphomaniac, other times a bitter, sex-starved woman reminiscent of Rosalind Russell's tragic figure in PICNIC, but she's always a commanding presence in the frame, truly one of cinema's great character actresses. Reed as the pint-sized villain of the piece is clearly not an actress but very effectively used by the director to make his points. I thank IMDb for a fascinating photo of her attending some movie event with Ving Rhames (of all people) in 2000, when she would have been in her mid-40s and looks great. Not all that surprising, since "Monday's child is fair of face", as the saying goes.

As Kennedy searches for the doll, he's accompanied by a stock cinema prop, the native waif, a young boy comically named Marlon, and very sympathetically played b Roberto Perrilla. He's got the street smarts, is constantly trying to fix up Kennedy with local whores (assuming our hero is human, after all), and way ahead of him in coping with any situation that crops up. It turns out that the doll has found its way to a sympathetic, underprivileged local girl, so Kennedy leaves it with her, realizing she needs its companionship more than his spoiled child Alice.

But Torre Nilsson is not dealing in sentimentality, but in his usual brand of brutal facing of reality -an in-your-face type of filmmaker. Marlon brings the doll anyway and Alice gets her keepsake. Film ends with a shattering climax -the trio are driving home, away from the squalor and real world they've briefly visited, back to the cocoon of Colonialists every bit as protected as the British diplomats posted in British Raj in India before independence. (It also reminded me symbolically of the Green Zone we maintained in Iraq during that pointless recent war.)

Alice playing with her doll in the back seat gets bored, ties a string to it and tosses it out her window to drag along behind the car, soon abandoning the game and releasing the string to leave the toy lying in the middle of the highway. This is the kind of potent imagery I want in a movie -surely heavy-handed but delivering the needed impact.

Many of the truly great filmmakers of my youth (beyond the pantheon geniuses like Bergman and Fellini, still championed by current industry leaders like Woody Allen and Scorsese) of which I count Torre Nilsson alongside Satyajit Ray and the brilliant documentarist Bert Haanstra, have fallen by the wayside as at least two generations of film buffs have gravitated towards the flashy but empty stylists, whether they be mainstream or increasingly drawn from "disreputable" cinema of old (e.g., porn, exploitation, horror, etc.). Hardly ranking in the league of his best work, MONDAY'S CHILD can remind us of a time when even serious and accomplished filmmaking was the rule, not the exception.


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