Saturday, August 20, 2016
THE WILD PARTY (1975)
Directed By: James Ivory
Music & Screenplay Written By: Walter Marks
Based On The Narrative Poem By: Joseph Moncure March
Cinematography By: Walter Lassally
Editor: Kent McKinney
Cast: James Coco, Raquel Welch, David Dukes, Perry King, Royal Dano, Tiffany Bolling, Martin Kove, Annette Ferra, Jennifer Lee, Eddie Laurence
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this
An aging silent movie comic star tries for a comeback by staging a wild party that turns into a sexual free-for-all. The comic ends up killing his mistress and her latest boyfriend.
I went into the film blind only knowing the log line and going by the cast and the poster. Unfortunately the film didn't work out the way I was hoping for, instead of making the film or even the period vibrant. The film more went for painting a portrait of the reality of life back then without any of the excitement. Even once the party starts there is action but still an extreme lack of fun. Though for a few minutes there is some scandal.
Don't be fooled by the title. There is a party in the film, but don't get your hopes up in the level of it's wildness. While it seems at the time it is set in. That was pretty much a debaucharous party. I wonder while watching it if even when the film was made was it really that controversial. While what is shown briefly wasn't necessarily common in most films. This was when cinema was more experimental in what made it on the big screen and what was happening in life.
I tend to usually like films like this involving old Hollywood scandals and gossip or lore like DAY OF THE LOCUST, NICKELODEON, THE CAT'S MEOW, SILENT MOVIE, THE WORLD’S GREATEST LOVER, CHAPLIN, and HAIL CAESER
So of course I wanted to like this film. Though it never catches quite the right tone. It tries at times to be sensual, but ends up ultimately somber The film seems more interested in capturing the time period look and manners more than telling a particular story. Which seems to come third in importance of the film.
The first, final and only ever produced cinema movie screenplay of lyricist Walter Marks.
According to the Merchant Ivory Productions official website, "time also has a framing role in The Wild Party, shot soon after Autobiography of a Princess. It has a curious history, having been inspired by a blank-verse narrative poem of 1926 by Joseph Moncure March about a disastrous Greenwich Village party given by a vaudeville comic in his walk-up apartment. The lyricist Walter Marks saw in it the idea for a musical film, with the setting changed to Hollywood at the end of the silent-movie era. Shortly after the project was brought to Edgar Lansbury and Joseph Beruh, producers of 'Godspell' and other Broadway musicals, Walter Marks brother Peter discussed it with director Ivory and mentioned that a director was needed. It was in this way that Ivory, as director, and Merchant, as co-producer with Lansbury and Beruh, were brought in. An important change was made in the script on which Ivory and Marks collaborated: the musical became a drama with music".
The film is ultimately a tragedy. That has a sense of dread throughout. Painting a downcast horrible picture of the characters very few of whom are likeable at all. Though surprisingly for a film that feels like a tell all or full of gossip. The film comes across as very dull. Despite the poster that makes he film look more fun and comedic.
I guess I was expecting something more on par with the films DAY OF THE LOCUST or NICKELODEON.
Now this film was originally supposed to be a musical that was how it was originally envisioned before it was decided to become more of a drama. That has music and musical sequences in it. Think the James L. Brooks movie I'LL DO ANYTHING and just like that movie it is perfectly fine without the musical aspect, but might be more successful with them. As here the music is presented later In The film as far as musical performance with choreography. Though earlier in the film the songs and one poem in particular seem to inform the scenes. As well as the relationships and characters more than The actual script and direction. Though the poem seems to add in more gossip into it's artistry as the film seems to make the audience get into trying to guess who the characters are supposed to prepares to in real life from what we know of classic stars.
Maybe should have known it might feel thin in material. Even though it is loosely based on The Fatty Arbuckle scandal of the 1930's. Even though the film rearranges the scandal and the film is more based on the poem THE WILD PARTY by Joseph Moncure March as far as source material. The film does include a tragic ending that could end a career. As the film tries to center an abusive love story in the middle of it all.
It is hard to feel any sympathy for most of the characters in the film as the lead played by James coco might be at the end of his rope career wise. Hoping that his latest silent movie is going to be his comeback. Even though it is bloated. He has so many demons within him and a violent temper that he takes it out mostly on his girlfriend played by Raquel Welch. Also some of the people around him. Except for those who tend to take care of him like his maid and bodyguard/chauffeur and drinking buddy.
Even if like in the film DEATH BECOMES HER though less comedically here every time we are pointed it lead to feel sorry for him he messed it all up. I wanted to watch this film also as I am always fascinated by the actor James Coco. As usual he gives this movie his all. As he seems to be a Hollywood leading man and actor who could have only come from the seventies. Maybe it's as I resemble him. Him And Sally Hawkins at times.
Raquel Welch is also on this film and I will admit this is one of the few films I have seen her in so far. That isn't her playing herself or more in a cameo. Here she plays a legitimate role and does it subtle and well. Of course she is a bombshell here and looks so desirable. Here she even gets a musical sequence all to herself and she is impressive. She had an early musical performance of sorts that serves more like a music portrait as the camera fixates and examine her moving across the room getting ready for the day but also trying to seduce and turn on her boyfriend In the morning. It's not exactly a performance in that sequence. We just watch her make her way.
The film seems more like it wants to resemble a still life if the time period. Which should come as no surprise with James Ivory directing. As this is a Merchant Ivory production which I didn't know going in. Leaving the film to look beautiful in costume design and art direction. As well as good performances, but the film lacks any energy or life. It is drained of any humor and any signs of fun or privilege of the time. Leaving it to feel stuffy and boring and with the material on hand it should be the exact opposite.
The film feels misdirected as there are so many times that the film could have strongly been inspired by the period and have had sequences and gone to places that involved physical Comedy, comedy, musical sequences and drama. Even when the film is comedic it isn't funny. It's a shame as the films seems fill with material and possibilities.
For Instance once the beau chart starts we get a few hints as to what is going down. Which seems to start as soon as one of the characters relatives comes from the Midwest to get a chance to be a star and slowly at first it seems coco's character feels sorry for her and wants to protect her and take care of her. Then he drinker he gets she innocently tries to seduce him and as he actually contemplates it he is attacked for it. Though while this is going on the film all of a sudden begins to show all these sex scenes going on around. The house with characters we have met. Almost an orgy that feels like it was only included to give the film a release. A visual representation of what we have been hearing about and give the audience what they want to a degree. Though still not the climax. So to speak. It feels out of place but open minded. As, of course the main stars never are filmed in this way.
The film was made in 1975 and released that year with a producer's cut that more or less tried to make the film audience friendly. As it bombed it was quickly Pulled from theaters until five years later when James ivory's cut was finally released and wasn't successful either and this is apparently the cut that is widely released now. I would be interested in seeing the producers cut to see the difference. As you can see how I felt about this one. Which I take it is the more artistic cut.