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This slight film is mostly going to be of interest to de Palma or
Robert de Niro fans, but not many others. Shot in black and white, the
tale of a man who plans to get married and has second thoughts, is
peppered with more radical cinematography than the plot deserves: the
speeded up walking and 'zany'/'madcap' car driving.
But the idea of a threesome of men talking through jump-cuts ended up being used to much better effect in de Palma's Greetings, which also starred a young de Niro again.
Also the film's strength or weakness - depending on your mood - is that much of it clearly was shot on film stock that had no sound, so the genius is that much of the film is 'silent' ie it only has accompanying music. This adds to the scenes when dialogue does kick into the film. Unfortunately, the insignificance of the improvised conversations hardly make you want to wait for the next such discourse.
Worth watching once, but don't spend too much on the ticket!
This film is very slow paced and dated. I got this as I am a huge fan of Brian De Palma and must, simply must see everything he does and did. This film however is not very good. I would like to pawn it off on the fact that De Palma did not direct the whole thing and was just one third of the team but that would be a lazy cop out. This movie is slow because he and the others are new and inexperienced at film making. This was one of his first movies if not the first and you can tell he is a virgin as far as film-making goes. This movie does a few high points. Their is the typical fast forward motion that most De Palma films have in this but I think it was more to save film in this than to be artistic, but it was out of this that the fast forward shots for Carrie, Hi, Mom, and Greetings were born. Their is also a highly funny portion in this movie with an Arab ex boyfriend of the bride who comes to visit. I love this part of the movie the groom is trying to pass the bride off to the Arab so he can free himself from the shackles that will be marriage, but the Arab does not bite and gets the heck out. This movie is also good because it has early performances by Robert De Niro and William Finnley. They are great as the grooms guest and I love that they are in this. Watch this movie for De Palma's growth as a filmmaker but stay away if you are just an average movie goer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Wedding Party (1966, but unreleased until 1969); Directed by: Brian
De Palma, Wilford Leach & Cynthia Munroe; Starring e.a.: William
Finley, Robert De Niro & Jill Clayburgh.
This film has two things which made me want to see it: it being Brian De Palma's first feature film and it being Robert De Niro's first feature film performance. The film offers quite a nice little story though. Charlie (Charles Pfluger) is getting married to Josephine (Jill Clayburgh) and visits his to-be in-laws, the Fish family, for the wedding rehearsal. He starts doubting his decision of marriage though, and his friends Alistair (Finley) and Cecil (De Niro) try to persuade him to go through with it.
The black and white film is speeded up in many scenes, to give it a fun and comic feel, as the old silent comedies did. In many scenes the film even becomes like a silent film, since most of the outside scenes were filmed on stock without sound. Voiceovers give you background talk in these instances, which is mostly inconsequential to the actual storyline. The speeded up film is complemented with jump cuts of people talking to each other, like when Alistair and Cecil try to convince Charlie that the institution of marriage is a bad thing, because it takes your freedom away. In this scene it works quite well, but it's used quite frequently and not always to best use. This style gives the film its fun and light atmosphere, but it's also used too many times and it thus becomes repetitive and you loose interest halfway through scenes. Most apparent of this is the scene where the groom runs away from the wedding and Alistair and Cecil try to catch him and bring him back. It goes on for too long and somewhere halfway through the scene, it no longer holds your full attention. This style is recognizable De Palma though, since he also uses it in "Greetings" and "Hi, Mom!". However, in these films it's used in a better way. There's a really nice scene where it does work beautifully though. At the banquet the evening before the wedding, there are numerous toasts to the bride and groom and with each toast the guests drink a glass of alcohol and thus many glasses are emptied, with the guests getting tipsy. With jump cuts this is shown really nice and it becomes quite funny. If this were edited in a more conventional way it wouldn't have worked half as good.
On to the acting. To be honest: it's nothing special. Charlie, our main character, isn't portrayed well by Charles Pfluger (who, according to this site, hasn't acted in another film) and he sometimes becomes somewhat unlikable, which isn't right for the story. Robert De Niro and William Finley were nice as the friends of the groom, but their performances were nothing special. Since it are early performances they are fun to watch though. The rest of the cast isn't special either, but then again, the material isn't really suited for a grand acting performance, it calls for some oddball comedy and that's delivered by the actors.
What was a bit surprising to me is that the subject matter, about having doubts about getting married, was portrayed quite well. While it's primarily a comedy, the dramatic element about it is still felt. Now don't expect a drama, since the film truly is a comedy, but the subject is treated with honesty and thus you can feel for the groom's doubts. As a whole though, the film is a bit of a mess. Many comedic moments fail to be really funny and the style is a bit overused, making the film feel somewhat overlong. But De Palma perfected this style in his later efforts and there it did work really well. In all honesty it can't be called a good film, but the film does make you feel good afterwards and has got a heart (something missing in many films). So, I recommend it to everyone who's interested in how De Palma started out and in early De Niro, or anyone with an open mind who wants to have a fun hour and a half. Don't watch it if you like your films more straightforward and more conventional, since the film is an oddity and quite unique.
I rate it 5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Brian De Palma's early films tend to deal with a very clear set of
themes: homosocialised male power, voyeurism, sex and various gender
conflicts, whereby all gender is a performance and white male
heterosexuality needs to be rigorously, determinedly, infinitely
reenacted to be maintained with any coherence, often by repeatedly
destroying that which it defines itself against (homosexuality,
femininity, the Other etc). Meanwhile, personal and social voyeurism
(pornography, fantasies, government surveillance, an obsession with
gazes, dreams, desires and watching) overlap, and his characters can
often be found making their own movies, appearing on screens, doing
their own prying, or displaying themselves as spectacle.
As an example of De Palma's early obsessions with gender construction, consider one of his later sex thrillers, "Dressed to Kill", where Michael Caine plays Robert Elliot, a trans-gender who epitomises a post 60s trend amongst transsexuals - and certain strains of feminism - to subscribe to pseudo-Freudian essentialization and a medicalization of gender and sexuality (medical understandings of the gay/transsexual rely on a collapsing of sex and gender). Here, Elliot's male body is literally possessed by Bobbi, a feminine personality which desires a sex reassignment operation so that Elliot may become a "woman" with "the right body". In other words, transsexuals are victims of a society which equates the genitalia with gender behaviour and confuses the organ with the signifier; ridding themselves of the organ they can thus supposedly be rid of the signifier which divides them. The film then enters "Scarface" territory. The transsexual, like the "normal" subject, searches for illusory wholeness which he/she believes will be attained by altering the body in order to possess "it", the "it" which in American society is invested with the meaning of the subject's whole being. Unsurprisingly, in real life, transsexuals more frequently wish to be "girls" rather than "women"; an attempt to ward of confusion and establish a pre-social self. The incapability of achieving discursive mastery is itself a common De Palma theme, the subject continually floundering in the dark to sustain his identity. For De Palma, traditional male subjectivity is predicated on the notion of male wholeness and feminine lack, whilst "Woman" serves as the Other for the male subject, a place where he projects and disavows his castration. As inadequacy continually feminizes the male subject, the cycle must be continually repeated.
De Palma's little-seen early films, "Greetings" and "The Wedding Party", deal with similar material. "Greetings" revolves around a group of men who seek to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam war, and "Wedding" revolves around a group of men who seek to avoid being sucked into marriage. Both deal with men struggling to define and uphold masculinity, both star Robert De Niro ("Wedding" was his debut, "Greetings" was the first film to be given an X rating), both are shapeless, dialogue heavy, satirical, Godard inspired, experimental and revolve around various US counterculture movements
"Wedding" centres on Charles, a young man who is days away from getting married. He discusses his anxieties with his buddies and spends much time weighing the benefits of a bachelor's life against that of married men. In the end like most of these post-feminism marriage movies from the 60s Charlie opts for marriage and stability. But the film itself jostles between viewing both marriage and bachelorhood as a means of affirming traditional hegemonic masculinity; marry a woman and you're not gay, bed many women outside of marriage and you're a "real man". Women (see "Casualties of War") function purely as the site of exchange between men, and exist solely to be conquered and bolster manhood.
"Greetings" opens with a moment of typical De Palma reflexivity, the American President doubly framed (on TV) as he addresses the nation. His country is portrayed as a giant male fraternity, a band of brothers who, because they've "never had it better", should go abroad, define themselves as men and fight in Vietnam. The film's heroes, a bunch of lowly figures who've "never had it good", then set out trying to avoid being drafted. One even attempts to turn himself gay so that he won't be conscripted. In both films we see an obsession with male performance and its attendant anxieties, and a heterosexuality that defines itself by employing homosexuality to define itself against. Masculinity is itself portrayed as a masquerade and normative heterosexual manhood as an impossible, and impossibly maintained, ideal. As the "homo-social" is inherently incoherent and points toward untenable aims, it has a preponderance toward dissolution and a tendency to assimilate everything.
Furthermore, as the homosexual identity haunts the presumably heterosexual male identity, so too is the Government haunted or shown to be under siege. As a result the Presidency deems all those who oppose the Vietnam War to be "effeminate" and "sexualy deviant" (the Vietnamese are also feminized, emasculated heathens). The Government's obsessions with surveillance, spying and enforcement then becomes a form of gender anxiety, the State pressured to sustain and achieve national manhood (which in turns inspires racism and death wishes). In any male-dominated society, there is therefore a link between male homosocial desire and the structures for maintaining and transmitting patriarchal power.
"Greetings" ends with our draft dodgers in Vietnam. In a sublimated version of filmed murder, our heroes "film with a camera" a Viet Cong woman in the jungle. They order her to undress and pose, a scene which is juxtaposed with shots of an American woman manipulated into being photographed, both women's sexual exploitation linked to war, carnage and camera, and all other forms of masculinist cruelty and male obsession. Such scenes anticipate De Palma's "Redacted" and "Casulaties of War"; "war" as the mauling of the Feminine by hyper masculinity. In "Full Metal Jacket" one goes philosophically further, all modern, future warfare redefined as a benign, "feminine", merciful, conciliatory gesture, simultaneously disavowed and sanctioned.
5/10 - "The Wedding Party" is anonymous De Palma.
This is a pleasant little film by De Palma, and is a light hearted comedy. It has a traditional comedic feel to it with it being in black and white and it's use of speeded up footage. It does however get a little tiedious at points but is an appealing quaint little comedy about eccentric family and friends. The young De Niro in the film gives a fairly empty performance, but works well in the double act with his other zany friend. The improvised dialouge adds a more realistic/un-predictable feel to the film and it's worth seeing for it's light-hearted entertainment and humour.
I chose to watch the DVD because Robert De Niro was included in the
cast. It turned out that he was a member of the supporting cast in a
role of no great importance. It was however of historical interest to
see him in one of his earliest roles.
Charles Pfluger played the role of Charlie a frustrated young man uncertain if he should fulfil his wedding commitments. Many a man has had an attack of the jitters just before marriage so he will have many sympathizers. The film is broken up into chapters each covering the events that lead up to the marriage ceremony. In the lead role Charles Pfluger outshone all the actors The film is a farcical comedy that uses accelerated motion to get laughs. The nonsensical behaviour of men overloading a car with luggage and falling out of the car as they do so was shear clowning and not particularly funny or clever. Speeding off and then returning to pick up luggage which had fallen off was pathetic.
I don't know what they were doing in the cutting room. There were some abrupt changes which suggested some of the frames had been omitted.
One thing is certain . The music dominated the film. It was deafening at times and drowned out the dialogue. This may have been intentional especially in the dinner scenes and party scenes in which everyone talks at once and nobody listens or replies. This is typical of all parties where drinks flow freely.
Many of the actors tried hard to become amusing characters by assuming annoying voices that were very false and did not ring true.
On the whole a disappointing comedy.
Being the first feature film with Robert De Niro (although not released for years later), this is worth the watch. De Niro's role isn't huge, yet amusing as one of two friends who first try to prevent another friends marriage only to later chase him down to force him into it. Any die hard De Niro fan will get a kick out of an early performance by arguably the best actor today.
Wedding Party, The (1969)
1/2 (out of 4)
Incredibly bad comedy was the second feature for director Brian DePalma. A groom (Charles Pfulger) shows up at his wedding party only to discover there's more to marriage than he thought. This film doesn't work on any level and the worse part is that I only laughed once throughout the 90 minute running time. Not even the young and chubby Robert DeNiro (spelled DeNero in the credits) can help this thing. The film uses faster frames per minute than normal, which I'm guessing is an attempt at silent slapstick but this doesn't work either.
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