sun 26/05/2019

DVD: That Cold Day in the Park | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: That Cold Day in the Park

DVD: That Cold Day in the Park

Robert Altman period weirdness sizzles with suppressed violence and sexuality

Frances (Sandy Dennis) tormented by repressed sexual desire

In 1969, just before he made M*A*S*H, the innovative film that launched him in the world, Robert Altman had made his first proper feature. That Cold Day in the Park was a piece of period weirdness, all but forgotten in the shadow of his iconic Korean War black comedy "debut".

An uptight upper-class Vancouver spinster rescues an apparently mute homeless teenager she finds drenched with rain on a bench in the park. She becomes fascinated by the boy, as years of repressed desire give way to an obsessive passion that comes out all wrong – tainted with shades of perverse fantasies she can hardly articulate. Sandy Dennis, with those sensual lips and toothy smile, is perfect in the role: her portrayal of a subtly disturbed sexuality throbs with held-back eroticism.

With evocative cinematography from Lászlo Kovács, Altman is busy trying out a number of cinematic styles, from Hitchcockian suspense, slow camera movements and melodrama through to attempts at the overlapping dialogue and spontaneous feel that characterised the main body of this work. That he cannot commit to his personal style – which owed a lot to Cassavetes – lets him down. The film is neverthless fascinating as a way of seeing how one of the great American auteurs of his generation first experimented with a film language he made his own.

The slightly perverse and understated eroticism that suffuses the film, as well as the pervasive themes of imprisonment, latent violence and sexual transgression, are characteristic of a number of films of the period: Wyler’s The Collector, Pasolini’s Teorema, Losey’s The Servant, stories that play with the excitement generated by the collision of bourgeois certainties and the risk inherent in sexual liberation. The tension between these opposites is unfortunately reflected in the uneasy stylistic inconsistency of Altman’s intriguing first feature film.


Sandy Dennis, with those sensual lips and toothy smile, is perfect in the role


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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