Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gloria 1980

A grim gritty New York fable set in the city before it became a shopping mall. This very untypical John Cassavetes film is just about his most accessible movie, simple; dramatic with flourishes of humor and suspense, hell it almost doesn’t seem like a Cassavetes film. The movie tells the entertaining story of an ex gangster’s moll who is at the right place but the wrong time and like the Pharaoh’s daughter saves a child from certain death. The moll is given depth and beauty by one of our greatest actresses Gena Rowlands who plays an urban know it all tough girl tootsie who uses a gun like a pro, because as it turns out she is a pro. The scene of Rowlands in her high heels with legs spread and firmly planted on the sidewalk wearing an expensive but somewhat trashy Emanuel Ungaro outfit (a great costume touch) as she shoots up a car of hoods is one of the lasting and memorable scenes in all of 80’s cinema. Improbable yes but its so shocking and unexpected that it pretty much puts a smile on our jaw dropping faces. This is a dangerous almost picaresque film as the two leads one a young boy of 6 and Gloria try to stay one step ahead of the dangers that wait for them it seems at very corner and bus stop. There are aborted bus and train rides, overnight stays in flea bag hotels, lunches never finished in train station diners, and lots of cab rides. This boy Phil played by John Adames is not an actor and for some dumb reason he was attacked for his “bad acting” by some critics and they should know better. He’s a charmer and his non acting skills brings a reality and an awkwardness that works very well and some of his moments in the film where he is vulnerable and trusting are simply heartbreaking. Gloria and Phil have their ups and downs during their dark nights of the soul, but with the Hollywood ending attached, (any other ending would be unbearable and simply unacceptable) things as someone once said “are looking up.” No doubt Luc Besson was very impressed and influenced by this film when he made “Leon: The Professional” some 14 year later. With no frills cinematography by Fred Schuler and a pumped up score by Bill Conti. One of the ten best films of 1980


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