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I just watched this film because my dad recommended it as a movie he
remember as being funny mabey. I was skeptical at the beginning, I thought to myself a dated film with an absurd summery on the back. The only reason I sat and watched it was the list of actors, Sutherland and Gould. I was immediately enthralled. I have been a fan of Terry Gilliam films for a long time and to see a film that can achieve his insanity and social messages with out the elaborate sets and costumes Gilliam uses is astounding. The acting is superb, there is no other word that can encapsulate these performances. Every character is riveting until the end. The monologues given are thought provoking to say the least. My original thought that this film was dated could not be farther from the truth, I was in fact surprised by the connections that can be drawn to our modern times. I am surprised that this film did not receive more praise. It is also disappointing that the other Alan Arkin films were given less than glowing reviews. The only question I have is: is it to late to have a cult following for this movie? Anyone else in?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sutherland's wedding monologue is so delightfully inspired, it should
be available SOMEWHERE on the internet via search engine, but since it
is not, I have quoted Jules Feiffer's brilliant writing below. Remember
this is supposed to be a marriage ceremony:
Rev. Dupas (Sutherland): You all know.. why we're here. There's often so much sham about this business of marriage. Everyone accepts it: ritual. That's why I was so heartened when Alfred asked me to perform this ceremony. He has certain beliefs, which I assume you all know; he is an atheist, which is perfectly all right, really it is; I happen not to be, but inasmuch as this ceremony connotes an abandonment of ritual in the search for truth, I agreed to perform it. First, let me state to you, Alfred, and to you, Patricia, that of the 200 marriages that I have performed, all but seven have failed. So the odds are not good. We don't like to admit it, especially at the wedding ceremony, but it's in the back of all our minds, isn't it: how long will it last. We all think that, don't we? We don't like to bring it out in the open, but we all think that. Well I say, why not bring it out in the open. Why does one decide to marry? Social pressure? Boredom? Loneliness? Sexual appeasement? Love? I won't put any of these reasons down, each in its own way is adequate, each is all right. Last year I married a musician who wanted to get married in order to stop masturbating. Please, don't be startled, I'm NOT putting him down. That marriage, did not work. But the man TRIED. He is now separated, still masturbating, but HE IS AT PEACE with himself because he tried society's way. So you see, it was not a mistake, it turned out all right. Now, just last month I married a novelist to a painter. Everyone at the wedding ceremony was under the influence of an hallucinogenic drug. The drug quickened our physical responses, slowed our mental responses, and the whole ceremony took two days to perform. NEVER have the words HAD SUCH MEANING. Now THAT marriage, should last. Still, if it does not, well, that'll be all right, for don't you see, any step that one takes is useful, is positive, has to be positive because it's a part of life, even the negation of the previously taken step is positive, that too is a part of life. And in this light, and only in this light, should marriage be viewed: as a small, single step. If it works, fine! If it fails, fine; look elsewhere for satisfaction. To more marriages, fine, as many as one wants, fine. To homosexuality? Fine! To drug addiction? I will not put it down, each of these is an answer for somebody. For Alfred, today's answer is Patricia. For Patricia, today's answer is Alfred. I will not put them down for that. So what I implore you both, Patricia, and Alfred, to dwell on, while I ask you these questions required by the state of New York to "legally bind you" -- sinister phrase, that -- is that not only are the legal questions I ask you, meaningless, but so too are the inner questions that you ask yourselves, meaningless. Failing one's partner, does not matter. Sexual disappointment, does not matter. Nothing can hurt, if you do not see it as being hurtful. Nothing can destroy, if you do not see it as destructive. It is all part of life, part of what we are. So now: Alfred. Do you take Patricia to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love -- whatever that means -- to honor, to keep her in sickness and health, in prosperity and adversity -- what nonsense! -- forsaking all others, -- what a shocking invasion of privacy! Rephrase that to more sensibly say, if you choose to have affairs, then you won't feel guilty about them. -as long as you both shall live, or as long as you're not tired of one another.. ?
Rev. Dupas: And Patsy, do you take Alfred to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love -- that harmful word again, could not one more wisely say, communicate? -to honor,-- I suppose by that it means you won't cut his balls off, but then, some men like that! -to obey,-- well, my first glance at you, told me you were not the type to obey. So I went to my thesaurus, and I came back with these alternatives: to show devotion, to be loyal, to show fealty, to answer the helm, to be pliant. -General enough, I think, and still leave plenty of room to dominate. -in sickness and health, and all the rest of that GOBBLEDYgook, so long as you both shall live.. ?
Patsy: (confused, speechless.. finally stammers:) I do.
Rev. Dupas: Alfred and Patsy, I know now that whatever you do.. will be all right.
Rev. Dupas: To Patsy's father, Carroll Newquist -- I've never heard that name on a man before, but I'm sure it's all right -- I ask you sir, feel no guilt over the $250 check you gave me to mention the Deity in the ceremony. What you have done is all right. It's part of what you are, it's part of what we all are. And I beg you not to be overly perturbed, when I do not mention the Deity in the ceremony. Betrayal, too, is all right, it too is part of what we all are.
Rev. Dupas: And to Patsy's brother, Kenneth Newquist, with whom I had the pleasure of a private chat, I beg you feel no shame, homosexuality is all right, really it is.. it is perfectly all right..
Kenneth Newquist: (screaming) Sonovabitch!! Aarrggghh!! (assaults the minister.) (Marriage ceremony descends into a brawl.)
A black comedy in every sense of the word. It's too bad that Alan Arkin
doesn't direct more movies because he really scored with this one. It's a
movie that still seems so fresh today because of its storyline, even after
close to 30 years. It was pertinent back then and even more so today.
great to see appearances here by Arkin and Donald Sutherland, and it's one
of Elliott Gould's best roles.
Keep on the lookout for this in your late night t.v. schedule. It's really worth seeing again (and especially if you haven't seen it yet).
It doesn't get any darker than this, folks. Jules Feiffer shows off
penchant for absurdity and his mastery of the monologue (Lou
Donald Sutherland and director Alan Arkin each get one powerhouse
where it's basically all them with the other characters reacting).
cast is excellent and their handling of Feiffer's language is
Elliot Gould's performance is particularly effective, and
Gardenia as his father-in-law is hysterical.
I saw this film and then read the play it was based on, and both give off the same claustrophobic air of desperation while still being side-splittingly funny. It is definitely worth hunting down. In the words of Father Dupas, it is "all right."
When they were all in their heyday, Elliott Gould, Alan Arkin (who also
directed) and Donald Sutherland collaborated on the over-the-top black
comedy "Little Murders", in which Gould plays emotionally vacant New
York photographer Alfred Chamberlain, hooking up with vivacious young
Patsy Newquist (Marcia Rodd) in the midst of several hundred unsolved
homicides in the Big Apple. In the process of everything, the series of
events exposes the flaws in all the characters, especially Patsy's
parents (Vincent Gardenia and Elizabeth Wilson).
I think that my two favorite scenes are the appearances of Sutherland and Arkin. Sutherland plays a priest who seems to be a cross between Sutherland's characters from "MASH" and "Kelly's Heroes"; Arkin plays a detective who spouts out the craziest monologue explaining why there's a conspiracy behind the murders. Overall, this is very much a New York kind of movie. I should identify that there are several very long scenes during the movie, but it's certainly not a flick that you'll forget anytime soon. Impressive.
Jules Feiffer's paean to NYC paranoia written in the same tone as his comic strips. Completely over-the-top and hilarious. Alan Arkin's bit is priceless. This movie puts the "funk" back in dysfunctional. This is proto-"Seinfeld" stuff, folks. Climb into the darkest fantasy of every red-blooded Gothamite.
"Little Murders" is another of the obscure films I saw at base/post
theaters during my military days. It was certainly better than average
and many of the images (especially the wedding scene with Donald
Sutherland) have stayed with me through the years.
While I found it less funny during a recent viewing than I remembered, the message was still disturbing and contemporary. It is certainly satire and black comedy, but you often lose yourself in the story. It is a very individual film, different people will laugh at different times and at different things. During a theater viewing it seemed to isolate audience members from each other.
Jules Feiffer's screenplay is about Alfred (Elliot Gould), a NYC photographer and self- described "apathist", sort of an unengaged existentialist. He is completely disillusioned and has deadened himself to the cries, smells, sights and pains of violent city living; in a Big Apple even more adversarial than that of "The Out-Of-Towners".
Alfred can't feel much anymore but he takes an interest in Patsy (Marcia Rodd), a controlling interior decorator optimist, who wants to change him. Patsy has been able to stay upbeat and involved despite daily encounters with muggers, snipers, obscene callers, and a family that leaves a lot to be desired.
The film seems to be saying that harsh urban life cuts its people off from gentler human emotion. As an interior decorator Patsy's life is largely defined by her ability to control her possessions and the attitudes of those around her.
Patsy's father, mother and younger brother are living a painful parody of "family life," and Alfred's weirdness eventually allows him to fit right in. The dinner scene where he first meets her family is one of the funniest in film history.
The film illustrates that neither apathy nor constructive engagement are successful mechanisms for coping with the modern world. It seems to be saying that the only rational response to living in an insane environment is to vigorously participate in the insanity.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
High-pitched black comedy which descends into hysteria by the end and,
being overlong for its purpose, becomes something of an exhausting
experience. While the connotations to the urban/social malaises being
satirized are decidedly disturbing, the film is nonetheless anchored by
an excellent script (Jules Feiffer adapted his own play for the screen
– that same year, he would write CARNAL KNOWLEDGE which proved equally
frank and perceptive of human relationships) and performances.
Elliott Gould – one of the most representative actors of American cinema in the 1970s – is in typical unconventional hero mode (he had actually originated the role on the stage), while Marcia Rodd – who’s delightful – co-stars as his levelheaded girlfriend. Vincent Gardenia appears as Rodd’s human dynamo of a father, Lou Jacobi as a matrimonial Judge, Sutherland as a radical Minister and director Arkin himself as a seriously disturbed Detective. Given the latter’s acting background, it’s not surprising that he would choose to highlight just these aspects in his first feature-length stint behind the camera. The result, then, may be technically unfussy – though a happy exception is made with the inspired slow-motion depiction of Rodd’s shocking assassination. In view of the script’s prevalence for monologues, Arkin tends to favor long takes: especially effective are those delivered by Jacobi, Sutherland and Gould himself – when, immediately prior to the sniper incident, Rodd cajoles him into expressing why he “feels” the way he does i.e. apathetic (by his own admission) and which has reduced him to literally photograph excrement for a living!
The contributions of the flustered Gardenia (the head of an eccentric family whose houselights are forever dimming), Sutherland (in the first of two re-unions with Gould, his co-star from M.A.S.H.  – the wackiness of his appearance here reminded me of the actor’s bit as Jesus Christ in the anti-war drama JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN from the same year), Arkin (who, naturally, gives himself a brilliant paranoid speech – compounded by a stammer), Gould’s ultra-sophisticated parents (including John Randolph), and even an inveterate obscene telephone caller nicknamed ‘The Breather’ (with his sudden snapping to normality when informed of Rodd’s demise, thus giving himself away as a former beau of hers!) are extremely funny for those attuned to the film’s uniquely offbeat if melancholy mood. The surreal ending, then, sees Gould and Rodd’s family barricaded in their house and taking to indiscriminate sniping themselves! Incidentally, Fox’s DVD edition of this includes an Audio Commentary featuring Feiffer and Gould – which must be pretty interesting (for the record, I got hold of the film through ulterior sources).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is something else. Wanting to portray the numbness of the
American society, and apathy it fell into in the 60's, (remember the
Stones song "Mother's little helper"), this play by Jules Pfeiffer
shows the depth of urban dystopia where only a person without any sort
of emotions can survive, thus the entire population in order to survive
don't care if it's bullied, beaten, shot at, cheated in elections,
deprived of it's liberties and robbed in every sense. They just don't
react, and that's what Alfred Chamberlain (Eliott Gould) represents. On
the other side of the spectrum is Patsy Newquist (Marcia Rodd),
optimistic, cheery individual in the middle of the mayhem, that simply
has to be destroyed by it, only the numb survive. I think that this is
one of the best black comedies ever put on screen, and yes Donald
Sutherland and his monologue are a riot along with persistence the key
characters show in taking all the abysmal society throws at them (for
example neighboring snipers and constant power failures). Alan Arkin as
the Lt. Practice is the funniest epitome of this society.
People it's scary, but things like this, and in not so smaller scale are happening to societies around the world. Fantastic film!
Succinct yet long-winded, hilariously unsettling, this black black black comedy is delicious the first time around, coming at you like ray of light through a keyhole five rooms away. And it gets better with multiple viewings. Elliot Gould is a tousled, endearing anti-hero and Donald Sutherland gives perhaps the best screen performance EVER of an existentialist minister with a bad haircut and a fondness for the phrase `all right.' Sometimes, when my mind wanders over the film, I'll remember a scene, a line, and everything is suddenly all right. Thank GOD for this film. Now that I've found it I'll never have to watch another movie again.
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