Pitch black comedy about a young nihilistic New Yorker coping with pervasive urban violence, obscene phone calls, rusty water pipes, electrical blackouts, paranoia and ethnic-racial conflict during a typical summer of the 1970s.
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An idealistic girl, Patsy Newquist, saves a young photographer, Alfred Chamberlain, from a gang of hooligans. She falls for him, but he turns out to be a nihilist consumed with apathy. They hook up anyway, and she brings him home to meet her parents. All this happens against the background of random shootings that had just begun in NYC at the time the play the movie is based on was written. Her family had already lost a son, so they accept him. However, when the girl tries to change him and get him to find meaning in life, things go horribly wrong in a cruel twist of fate.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"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.
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