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This mosaic comedy-drama tells the story of a La Ronde-like circle of romantic adventures and failed affairs centered around a songwriter named Carroll Barber and his father Carl Barber. There is a trail of Carroll's past relationship spread throughout the city of Los Angeles. Barber is an aloof womanizer who cannot commit to any relationship, and is used to illustrate the loneliness of Los Angeles big-city life. Among the women in his life are Ann Goode, a lonely real estate agent, Karen Hood, a Valley housewife addicted to taxi rides, Linda Murray, a woman prone to vacuuming in the nude and Nona Bruce, the snapshot-taking mistress of a wealthy man. Written by
Styles of Affluent-Bright Jade in 1970s American Displayed in Welcome to L.A.
When Karen Hood (Geraldine Chaplin) tells Carroll Barber (Keith Carradine) "I love Greta Garbo," he responds with the slightly cryptic "Yeah, she's nice when you're by yourself."
Profound, but too offhand to be a predictable rejoinder. It's very striking, one of the most original of the film.
Especially do you get the flavour of the upper-middle-class world-weary young disappointed in Baskin's lyric:
"At first I loved your sweet complexion, your tawny cheeks and lip confections--they photographed you for your style.
your body held me for a while; you could disguise with such beguile
now lying her remembering it better than it used to be is loneliness, but it doesn't really matter now, I never really loved you much, I guess."
That's from the title song.
From "The Best Temptation of all" there is "there's so many bodies and scenes...so many faces and feelings...dreams...wet tasting dreams
when those silky infatuations come, enticin' me...invitin' me..excitin' me.."
The world of "bodies and pleasures" that was Michel Foucault's vision of the future of sexuality in the first volume of THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY was being lived out in L.A. in particular before he even wrote that it would come to this.
At a Malibu party where Carroll and his wealthy father Carl (marvelously played by Denver Pyle) confront each other, Carl's mistress Nona (Lauren Hutton) spends some stylized, posturing time with Carroll up the stairs overlooking the stylized party, the kind of party in stark white stylized modern LA houses where being comfortable must be impossible, and being controlled is an impossible necessity; and he says to her "Do you really care about that old man?" She says, knowing it won't do to say anything "less," "He sure seems to care a lot about me."
Earlier, before Carroll sees Susan (Viveca Lindfors) for the first time since his return, she says on the telephone "don't you want to see me?" and he says "I've seen you." As the older woman, somewhat desperately clinging to an unshared wish, she says "I've seen you too. I liked it."
To the love-and/or sex-starved real estate salesgirl Anne Goode (Sally Kellerman), Susan says, when she makes the arrangements for Carroll's apartment, "I pictured you plump and tiny with curly black hair--AGGRESSIVE. And here you are--soft and blonde and pretty." Anne, always trying to hard to please: "And here you are so beautiful."
Kellerman drives Carradine to his new Silverlake digs.
She says "this is Hollywood. I just love it. I don't know a thing about it, but I love it...(long pause)....does that sound like a line?...I didn't mean it to..I guess everything sounds like a line these days...Shameless, aren't I?...what are you thinking?....
"People deceive themselves here, don't you think? Yes. And that's how they fall in love. And then, when everything is over, it's the other person that gets deceived. Am I right? Yeah. Van Nuys Boulevard...(long pause)..I don't need to be loved by anyone...I don't mind waiting...it's how you wait that's important, anyway..I think.. but everyone gets deceived...don't they..."
These are the opening lines of the film, which Chaplin intones in a cab going through L.A., riding all over it as she does every day, all dressed up in fur and pearl earrings and hat all for herself's own formality in the anonymity of a taxi ride.
I knew a number of people like this in 1976 and 1977. They were over-sophisticated and living in the strange limbo between the volatile, but vital 60's and the beginning of the carnage and sterization that began to open its fully tarnished flower with the Reagan era and has escalated to the deafening roar we have only 24 years later.
Bars were full of people who weren't on cellphones all the time.
They weren't ever on cell phones--even the ones you can still see.
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