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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The main character Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas) attains the American dream and is torn asunder by a mid-life crisis which he drags everyone he knows into...He seeks refuge by way of his mistress Gwen (Faye Dunaway)....attempting to remember a relationship with a woman being that of love and mutual respect....As their relationship lingers, it gravitates into anonymous sordid sexual encounter, no matter how hard both of them try to change this...The fact that they are between a rock and a hard place only intensifies their apprehensions and their fragile paranoia...His wife Florence Anderson (Deborah Kerr) realizes that their marriage is not going in the right direction, but she categorizes everything as being irrational whether it is or it is not..She is perceived by all as being the perfect housewife, but Eddie knows better and she resents him for this.....She cannot give of herself emotionally because her perception of marriage is one whereby the husband and wife share bank accounts but not their primal fears!!! In an attempt to make some sense of his life, Eddie tries to get closer to his father...His father is embittered and disgruntled with the monumental disappointments in his life, and he spends his final days trying to plea his son Eddie to offer him excuses...Eddie does not do this, and finally, Eddie's father passes away with Eddie knowing no more about him than he ever did...All he could feel for his father is recrimination and pity.....This compelling film points out an aspect of human behavior that most films fail to do....that is the human element of non-change....All of the characters in this movie are stalemated by despondence and arctic desolation....The acting the director ELIA KAZAN/ON THE WATERFRONT, AND THE PROLIFIC AND BITTERLY CANDID STORYLINE ALL A PERFECT 10...THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN!!
Deborah Kerr reportedly stopped doing movies after 1969 (even though she took film roles much later in life) because she no longer felt comfortable with the direction that the movie industry was going. After seeing "The Arrangement", I no longer question her sensitivity to the turbulent themes, language, and cinematography that was coming of age in the late 60's. On the surface, the film epitomizes many of the psychedelic themes of the era, from rampant flash-backs to cartoonized exclamations, such as "Bam!" and "Kerbloom!" splashing across the screen in bright neon colors. Beneath this, however, is the intensely challenging story of a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he detests the person that he has become. Kirk Douglas's Eddie Anderson will send chills up your spine as you watch him evolve from a successful advertising executive with the perfect house, the perfect job, and the perfect arrangement of both a wife and several mistresses, into a tormented, weakened man who despises himself enough to attempt suicide but believes in life enough not to carry through completely. His metamorphosis belies the chaotic style of the film; even though the erratic cinematography attempts to reflect his inner turmoil, the sense of peace that settles onto his face as the film progresses reveals that the reality of Eddie's mind is less insane than the reality of the world outside. He begins to see beyond the pretentions and fears that engulf the world around him and that had once turned him into a heartless executive,willing to convince consumers that cigarettes are good for them rather than lose a multi-million dollar client. Everyone around him, with the exception of Faye Dunaway, worships the "almighty dollar," and Eddie's release from this self-made prison allows him to make peace with himself, even as he makes enemies all around himself. Faye Dunaway is stunning and provocative as the insolent "office slut" who restores Eddie's faith in himself, ironically, by pointing out his flaws. In fact, she delivers what is possibly the most believable performance in the entire film, because her character, the strong, opinionated woman who accepts no sympathy for her decisions and weaknesses, has survived this tumultuous period much better than the character of say, the 60's housewife who desires nothing more than a maid, a swimming pool, and a wealthy husband. Deborah Kerr fills the role of Eddie's uncomprehending wife to perfection, even though anyone who has seen her in more flattering roles, as in her performance as Karen Holmes in "From Here to Eternity", won't be able to watch her portrayal of Florence Anderson without crying inwardly for the lost beauty of her earlier roles. Kerr is certainly ravishing in this film, despite the fruity-peach lipstick and the fluffy-headed hairstyle inflicted on her by the makeup department, but the uncertainty and bitterness that she plays to perfection in "The Arrangement" contrast sharply with the delicate mixture of sincerity and self-confidence that she exhibits in most of her early work. If you have not yet seen this film, make sure to read the book first. Elia Kazan's unique and personal style will illuminate the his meaning much more than any stylized cinematography could hope to. After reading the book, however, make sure to see the film, if only to admire the fine performances of the actors and to identify with the characters on a more immediate level. And, of course, just to watch the ever beautiful Deborah Kerr work her magic...
Not classic Kazan, for sure, but not a total failure either. Was lucky enough to see the film in Paris a few years ago on the big screen. Was struck by Kazan's attempt to break free from the well made play structure he'd so successfully mined in the past. The linear story, though, won out, making the film uneven and stylistically self conscience. But even so, what a marvelous failure. Kirk Douglas, in Kazan's opinion may not have filled Brando's shoes, but, my god, he tried. Dramatically speaking, the film is exploring a state of mind; the character played my Douglas remains, for the most part, in a very static position throughout. Douglas never allows the stain of self pity to disfigure his action. Sitting still, thinking, we see in Douglas a man pulsating with anger, remorse, and the need to act. It's a valiant and satisfying performance even though, like the film itself, we're more aware of what it's reaching for than what it actually holds. The performance, though, that really struck me as being brave and bold is the one given by Deborah Kerr. She's the wife, and she has a lengthy scene late in the film where she and Douglas stray into the intimate area of their married life. Sexually frank and mature, the scene alone is worth the entire film. These two characters discuss intimacy, and then act on it, in a way I've never seen in a film. Kerr was one of the most adventurous actresses of her day; a truly great talent. She gives Kazan the raw, unguarded kind of performance one usually associates with Liv Ullman in her Bergman films.
In recent years I have come to reevaluate most of Elia Kazan´s films. "A
Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) looks more and more the stagebound it is and
belongs rather to its actors than to its director. "On the Waterfront"
of all is an elaborated excuse for informing (something Kazan had done some
years earlier in front of the HUAC). "America, America" (1963) is the sort
of tale immigrants who have made it tend to tell at family gatherings over
and over again. On the other hand "Panic in the Streets" (1950) now emerges
as a powerful thriller about paranoia. "The Visitors" (1972) - more or less
a home movie - is a painfully depiction of America´s guilt with regard to
the Vietnam War and as such much ahead of its time (most certainly much
ahead of Brian De Palma´s "Casualties of War" (1988), that tells are rather
similar story). The most astonishing film being "The Arrangement" (1969), a
film that has been dismissed that often as a downright bomb that this
verdict was taken for granted for a very long time. Well, it´s high time
"The Arrangement" deals with an advertising executive´s alienation from his job, his family, his world and even from himself. This Eddie Anderson is one of Kirk Douglas´s most touching and least mannered performances. He manages to keep the audience interested in a guy who is lost in almost every sense of the word. A gripping psychodrama, a film for adults and therefore out of place even at a time when traditional Hollywood was blown away by America´s very own New Wave. "The Arrangement" may at times annoy you, but it won´t insult your intelligence for even that long as a second. Cudos to the director, Kirk Douglas and both Richard Boone and Deborah Kerr who gave two performances to crown their already sterling careers. Faye Dunaway, by the way, has never before and never since been that erotic on screen.
Just resaw this movie after 36 years. All I could remember from the
first time I saw this film at age 11 was the car crash. Anyhow,
outstanding acting by all involved. However, the movie is stolen by the
powerful and emotional performance of Faye Dunaway. Miss Dunaway is
stunning, both physically and emotionally. She grits her teeth and
gives one of her most intense and raw performances. The film however,
has a sad and depressing flip to it; the American Dream turned into a
nightmare. Made in the last 1960s, to most young viewers this Elia
Kazan masterpiece probably seems a weird and strange ride. However, for
children of the 60s, this movie captures the "Nature of the Beast"
which was 1969.
The Arrangement is outstanding.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Arrangement (1969)
You might say this movie is about a very successful man coming to realize his success means nothing in the big picture and all he wants is time to be himself, to enjoy life simply.
Or you might say this is a movie about a man cheating on his wife with a younger woman and all the fallout that goes with that.
Or you might say this is a psychoanalytical dive inward to a man realizing he was ruined by his parents and trapped by his wife, and he descent into introspection makes him go almost mad, and then mad. And he likes it that way.
You might even say this is an exercise in narrative storytelling, with a virtuosic layering and intercutting of all these elements into a single highly complex tale.
Kirk Douglas is the lynchpin to all of this, and The Arrangement, a masterpiece if there ever was one, is the merging of art-house cinema with mainstream Hollywood. Except that there was no real art-house movie scene in 1969. This film pushes the boundaries as hard as they could be and still survive at all as a mainstream release. Director Elia Kazan is certainly one of the greats of the era (Scorsese agrees here) and he went out on a limb with editor Stefan Arnsten to make something utterly unique. There are foreshadowings of Woody Allen (though without humor) and Six Feet Under (in the kind of surrealism created by editing and the changing presence of people in a single scene).
The plot is also intensely personal. Kazan, born in Istanbul and brought to American when he was four, was the son of Greek immigrants and his father was actually a rug merchant. And Kazan was apparently having an affair at the time of the shooting (he remarried in 1969 and later had a child). The screenplay is Kazan's and it's based a 1967 novel, also by Kazan.
So if this is a deeply felt movie about a man having a mid-life crisis, it's understandable. Is it overwrought and self-indulgent? It has that potential for viewers who don't connect with the style or the characters, but for me it was too honest and well made to brush off. I got sucked in and was mesmerized by the swirling, teetering effects that never let you get confused or out of control.
Panned and patronized at the time of it's initial release, Elia Kazan's adaptation of his best selling book THE ARRANGEMENT plays much better now than it did in 1969. Made after a 6 year hiatus from film-making at a time when movies were enjoying unheard of freedom due to the demise of the production code, THE ARRANGEMENT clearly shows that Kazan was still a director to be reckoned with. The basic premise was nothing new. A highly successful businessman (Kirk Douglas) suffers a mid-life crisis and attempts suicide. How he and the other characters deal with the aftermath make up the rest of the story. Kazan has always been an actor's director and the film provides a showcase for the young Faye Dunaway as Douglas' mistress who gets him to reexamine his life but wants out to be with someone else. Deborah Kerr in her last major film appearance is superb in the difficult role of the wife who tries to understand what Douglas is going through but doesn't want to give up the rich lifestyle she's become accustomed to. Strong support is given by Hume Cronyn as the family solicitor who has plans of his own and from Richard Boone in a rare non-Western role as Douglas' ailing father. His slide into dementia is both heartbreaking and terrifying. Marlon Brando had originally agreed to play the lead but bowed out allowing Kirk Douglas who really wanted to work with Kazan to step in. While not stage trained like the other principals, he acquits himself well in an emotionally as opposed to a physically demanding role. The combination of raw emotions, alternating points-of-view including black humor, and touches of surrealism was ambitious then and still is today (think American BEAUTY). The movie is not without its flaws. It runs too long and is occasionally sloppy in everything from editing to make-up but the powerful writing and intense performances make THE ARRANGEMENT provocative film-making nearly 40 years later. Called everything from a harrowing emotional ride to a self-indulgent mess, it is ultimately for the home viewer to decide (my rating indicates where I stand). Kazan will always be a controversial figure because of his HUAC testimony in the 1950's but his greatness as a director cannot be denied and remains captured on film for all to see.
Adapted by Kazan from his own novel, this ambitious if little-seen (at
least in my neck of the woods) character drama emerges as an absorbing
and highly personal adult piece, but one which is also pretty
heavy-going and somewhat uneven in quality. Still, the director elicits
excellent performances from his entire cast (with the star trio baring
more than their souls in front of the cameras); Kirk Douglas is
particularly impressive in one of his most interesting roles (certainly
at this stage of his career, here playing the son of Richard Boone who,
in real-life, is actually a year younger than Douglas!)...though Kazan,
in his autobiography, seemed unhappy with having to make do with him
over his first choice, Marlon Brando. It's strange that he hadn't
thought of Douglas immediately to personify his alter ego on screen,
since both had been immigrants and the actor would therefore have an
instant connection with the character; actually, I feel that Brando's
brooding intensity - as opposed to Douglas' dynamic hysterics - would
have worn the film down even more than it already is...and, in any
case, Marlon got to do his "mid-life crisis act" three years later in
LAST TANGO IN Paris (1972)!
What is essentially an old-fashioned melodrama, particularly given the lack of young actors involved, it's brought up-to-date - and, one might say, to life - by a variety of cinematic tricks (which sometimes exasperate the spectator, as if Kazan had gone through one too many viewings of Richard Lester's strikingly similar PETULIA !): multiple flashbacks and fantasy sequences (Douglas has visions of mistress Faye Dunaway everywhere, and even has her morphing into wife Deborah Kerr during a love scene); we also get visualizations of his interior monologues in which the younger, successful Douglas straightens out his older, bitter self; and, at one point, there's even a fist-fight underscored by cartoon captions a' la the campy 1960s "Batman" TV series!! On the other hand, the film's production values - as is to be expected from a glossy studio product of its time - are tops.
Leonard Maltin strangely rates this one a BOMB in his "Movie Guide"; true, it may not be top-tier Kazan but it's nowhere near as bad as he seems to think it is. Curiously enough, I followed this viewing with the director's subsequent film, THE VISITORS (1972), also awarded the unenviable "bottom-of-the-barrel" accolade from the genial critic...though, in its case, it's a bit more understandable - as can be perceived from my own comments below!
Elia Kazan's 1969 midlife-crisis epic is an x-ray of American manhood gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Kirk Douglas, icon of tortured machismo, plays Eddie Anderson, son of a tyrannical Greek merchant (Richard Boone) turned Madison Avenue sell-out. He sleeps in childlike separate beds with his wife (Deborah Kerr), who looks and acts more like his mother. He's obsessed with the one woman (Faye Dunaway) who looks at his barbered, Lavoris'd self and sees the Man He Could've Been. The sixties satire of Organization Man is stock, the bombast beats thick and hard, and, as per usual, Kazan can't resist the Big Moments that are thoroughbred Hollywood hokum. But it's impossible to deny that this is as anguishedly personal as any of Kazan's movies--and the machete hacking through the brush that cleared the way for Cassavetes, Scorsese and Ferrara. With its mod, PETULIA-style sets, balletic editing and penchant for stylized tricks, it's also the most goofily cinematic of Kazan's pictures--a Sam Fuller whirligig turned into a slick, upscale thirty-second spot.
The personnel in The Arrangement reminds me of the LA Lakers basketball
team ( around the time this film was made) when they had Hall of Famers
Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor on the same squad. There
were great expectations for a team with three superstars but they never
jelled as a unit and were a dismal failure overall. Such is the case
with Elia Kazan's The Arrangement, a crashing, sloppy out of touch
melodrama of marital infidelity and despair.
It would be hard to surpass the ten year run that Elia Kazan had a as film director from 1947-57. Just about everything he directed turned to gold and those that didn't then (Boomerang, Panic in the Streets, Face in the Crowd) have that respect today. In the early 60s he was still producing quality work (Splendor in the Grass, America,America) when he turned to writing a best seller (The Arrangement) eventually bringing it to the screen in the late sixties. Kazan, an actor's director if their ever was one and who translated the words and feelings of John Steinbeck and Tennessee Williams to film so well seemed to be at a loss with his own work and his ability to coax well measured performances out of his cast. Kirk Douglas, Deborah Kerr and Faye Dunaway are uniformly shrill from start to finish moping from one scene to another, making it hard to believe they could feel tenderness for anything. The scenes between Douglas and his mistress (Dunaway) lack intimacy and warmth, their passion forced. With his wife (Kerr) there is total detachment and not even a hint of why they got together in the first place. Kerr for her part seems like she's still in rehearsal. Lacking both sincerity and push she is badly miscast. Richard Boone as Eddie's overbearing old man adds to the disaster with complete over the top bombast, making a lot of noise and saying nothing that brings incite to the role.
Having failed at what he does best (directing actors) Kazan goes on to embarrass himself further by employing some of the latest techniques (including Batman pop art) to be au courant in this heady era of American film but in his hands he fumbles. Even the highly regarded cinematographer, John Surtees flounders with sloppy camera movement and uninspired compositions. It's as if everyone attached to the making of the Arrangement suffered from talent amnesia. Kazan had certainly lost his touch and The Arrangement in one full swoop symbolized that decline. As a film director he had nothing left in the tank.
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