New Yorkers Ouisa and Flan Kittredge are upper class private art dealers, pretentious but compassionate. Their prized possession is a double sided Kandinsky, one side that represents control, the other side chaos. They relay a story to their friends and acquaintances that over time becomes legendary. It is their encounter with a young black man who they had never met or heard of but who comes stumbling upon their front door one evening as they are courting an important investor, Geoffrey Miller, who could make them wealthy beyond what they could have dreamed. That black man is Paul Poitier, who has just arrived in the city, was just mugged outside their building and is sporting a minor knife wound to the abdomen. He is a friend of the Kittredge's children, who are attending Harvard, but more importantly is the son of actor/director Sidney Poitier. Tomorrow, Paul is meeting up with his father who is in town directing a movie of "Cats". Beyond the attraction of talking Paul into getting... Written by
Ouisa Kittredge (Stockard Channing) is based on Inger McCabe Elliott, a New York City socialite, and friend of Screenwriter John Guare. Elliott encountered David Hampton in 1983, and told Guare about the story. See more »
Paul's position when talking about the huskey statue changes between shots. See more »
Is anything gone?
How can I look, I'm shaking!
I want to know if anything's gone!
We could have been killed! Oh, my God! The Kandinsky!
It's gone, oh my God! Call the police!
Oh, no, there it is. Oh! The silver Victorian inkwell!
[...] See more »
Puzzling offhanded moody film. I was struck by what seemed the underlying assertion: the deep if unconscious longing of the divided social classes in the country -- the wealthy and the disenfranchised -- for each other. The deep longing to heal the rift of "separation" that the whole class system perpetuates through how people behave, who they associate with, who is considered desirable.
The rich couple and especially Stockard Channing's character of Louisa is caught up in an affluent world of witty pretentious empty existence -- one they are exceedingly skilled at, and are able to milk to good profit. When they meet Paul (Will Smith's character), they are drawn to his directness, his charm -- he is skilled at being relaxed and conversant in their cultured world, yet he lacks the pretense of the elder members or the (satirically exaggerated) spoiled disaffection of the younger members, their children. They both relish telling the story and their friends seem undyingly riveted by it -- and Loisa especially tastes of a richness, a directness, a spark to life that she does not have.
Will Smith's character of Paul also longs for a life he does not have, their Upper East Side life. For the wealth, certainly, but also for the very real values of education, ideas, and that spark of art that is separate from the worldly commercial side of art's buying and selling. The slap that Louisa joyously gives to the hand of God in the Sistine Chapel.
Both sides are profoundly hurt by the rift, the gulf, that exists almost never to be crossed between Paul's ghetto and the Kittridges' beautiful penthouse. There may be a "mere" six degrees of separation between them but as Louisa meditates, how to broach them? How to find the people that came connect you?
(In "Six Degrees" it is interesting and telling that it is the gay member of the set that serves as the crossover person, the means by which Paul can make his more profound crossover. Somehow, those who are owning-class gay stand with a foot in both worlds they have a large degree of entree into the worldly affluent classes, yet they are also outcasts.)
As a comment outside the movie, it's my opinion that the class system is kept inexorably in place so that the wealthy might never have human relationships as equals with those whose labor they exploit, so as to avoid the pangs of conscience about benefiting unjustly from their labor. (One of Gandhi's seven root causes of injustice is: Wealth Without Work. In a just world, every person reaps the product of her or his own work; while to be wealthy, one generally must have people working for you from whom you derive some percentage profit of their work.)
But while this may sound radical, my further belief is that not only does this system hurt the poor, it also hurts the wealthy in profound ways. They get the wonderful apartments and private access to the Kandinsky, but their lives are empty and they don't see a way out, they must keep going to the obligatory mannered dinner parties at the price of a life that feels rich and alive with imagination.
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