Thursday, March 24, 2011
THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK
THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (1969). Director: Robert Altman.
Frances Austin (Sandy Dennis), a well-off spinster, spots an attractive, much younger man (Michael Burns) sitting across from her home on a bench in the pouring rain, feels sorry for him, and asks him inside to get dry and warm -- and not only provides food for him but new clothing and his own bedroom as well. The young man says not a single word, but he's keeping secrets from Frances. As the film proceeds you wonder just how far Frances -- and the young man -- will go in their games with each other. I confess I've never been a great admirer of Altman's, but this is one of his films that I enjoy; while it's certainly not for every taste it's suspenseful and absorbing -- if imperfect. Both Dennis and Burns are excellent, never giving away what their characters might ultimately be up to. [Burns, who was 22 at the time of filming, was baby-faced enough to be convincing as an older teenager. He also appeared in The Mad Room, but most of his credits were on television. Now 64, Burns retired from acting in 1977 to become a college professor.] Also in the cast is Luana Anders from Dementia 13 and The Pit and the Pendulum, who plays a saucy prostitute with her customary vigor. Susanne Benton plays the young man's sister; John Garfield, Jr. plays her boyfriend; and Linda Sorensen is another prostitute -- all are on target. The film is interesting enough as it is that it doesn't really need to head in the lurid, violent direction that it does, but before it sort of loses its grip it's quite entertaining.
Verdict: Flawed but unusual with interesting story and performances. ***.