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Coming Apart (1969)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  14 July 2004 (France)
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 323 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 20 critic

Psychiatrist installs a concealed movie camera in his apartment to record the screwed-up lives of the women who visit him.

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Director: Milton Moses Ginsberg
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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Joe
...
Joann
Robert Blankshine ...
Sarabell
Darlene Cotton ...
Sue
...
Karen
Julie Garfield ...
Julie
Lois Markle ...
Elaine
Megan McCormick ...
Joy
Nancy MacKay ...
Amy
Michael McGuire ...
Ted
Kevin O'Connor ...
Armand
Jane Marla Robbins ...
Lois
Lynn Swan ...
Anita
Joanna Vischer ...
Marilyn
...
Monica
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Storyline

Joe is a psychiatrist who puts a hidden camera behind his couch, facing a wall sized mirror in order to document a number of women who come and go. Obsessed with a former lover, Joe intends to perform and record an "experiment in contemporary sexual aberration." In the process, Joe documents his own mental breakdown as well as a number of sexually volatile encounters with the women who come to see him. Written by alfiehitchie

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Drama

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Release Date:

14 July 2004 (France)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Joe: ...You're all tripped out. Speed freaks. You're screwy, Baby! Ever see the inside of a 24-hour cold capsule? That's what your chromosomes probably look like. If I knocked you up, you'd probably have a giraffe.
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Connections

References Odd Obsession (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

Impossible to look away
13 August 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The conceit of 'Coming Apart' is that the film is footage from a hidden camera placed by a married psychiatrist in his Manhattan flat-away-from-home to document sexual encounters with various women, as a way (perhaps) of rebutting against the mistress who broke his heart and not incidentally lives in the same building.

Rip Torn is the psychiatrist, Joe Glassman, Viveca Lindfors is the mistress, Monica, and Sally Kirkland is a young former patient, Joanne, slowly coming unhinged and projecting her failures onto Joe.

In its voyeurism and genuinely objective cinema vérité style (the camera never moves, unless Joe is positioning it for another encounter), it resembles some of the films of Andy Warhol, but this is more resonant because Warhol's films depicted a counterculture, while this one depicts something closer to normal. 'Coming Apart' is absolutely gripping and fascinating to watch in a way that most ordinary films, edited and filmed with a point-of-view, are not. The camera just sits there, the scenes unfold, and I entered a sort of hypnotic state. The movie makes a clear illustration of the function of cinema as voyeurism, and also a convincing argument for voyeurism as the purest form of truth on film. The filmmaker, Milton Moses Ginsberg, has made a movie predicated as much on film theory as on personal experiences. In the latter respect, it is uninhibitedly candid, and often very painful. The actors give performances that are naked and free of affect, and this is particularly true of Sally Kirkland, who is barer here than any of Lars von Trier's heroines, and it's a brave performance.

Because the dramatic elements are so intense and effective, this is not merely an exercise or an experiment, because it transcends its form. The symbolism is a bit heavy-handed at times, but it isn't unsuccessful. Joe is the ultimate self-reflective individual, looking inward, looking at himself, filming himself, somehow vacant and lacking a distinguishable personality, with a large mirror behind the couch on which he sits (a courtesy to the viewer, as well) -- how could his surname be anything other than "Glassman"? That he is a psychiatrist adds another layer of provocation. A vicious cycle is depicted. Joe's instability makes it impossible for him to responsibly treat his patients, and the instability of his patients makes sexual intimacy with them dangerous to his own already fragile psychological state.

The movie is not perfect, and it gradually introduces jump cuts (accompanied by a thundering snapping sound) and presents the final scene in slow-motion. While these things are dramatically effective, they are inconsistent with the parameters established by the movie's conceptual conceit and therefore constitute a severe flaw -- being, the introduction of a point-of-view, of a director's manipulation of the material. While it can't be overlooked, it can be excused, I think, in the face of this extraordinary film's many other merits.

'Coming Apart' was not well-received, yet I think it would have been were it a European film. There are things that European filmmakers can get away with but American filmmakers cannot, and 'Coming Apart' is daring, penetrating, and probably, in its way, ahead of its time. Sadly, it was buried for over 25 years and Milton Moses Ginsberg had to settle for a career as an editor. This is unfortunate, as I'd love to see the filmmaking career he might have had.


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