This is going to sound mean, and I’m trying to be nice, but the titular Georgy Girl (Lynn Redgrave) looks like what would happen if Kim Novak was loud and had an awkward phase – really 1960’s you call this overweight? But I like this awkward phase because she still has this full liveliness, running around to or being chased around London by the equally crazy people in her life, like her godfather Mr. Leamington (also Academy Award-nominated James Mason), roommate Meredith (Charlotte Rampling) and the latter’s boyfriend, Jos (Alan Bates). Without context it’s a good thing if you’re being chased around the most happening city in the world by a younger Alan Bates – I’ve had a crush on this bushy-haired man since seeing Far from the Madding Crowd. But I changed my mind because his character is a underemployed flake and married his pregnant girlfriend. And that Georgy is contractually Mr. Leamington’s mostly platonic mistress and the latter, despite the creepiness, makes for a great situation that she shouldn’t abuse.
The movie shows the seeds of the Sexual Revolution through these relationships and uncertainties, characters lusting on each other strangely enough because of cabin fever like Georgy and Jos do. Georgy lands her place with Leamington because of a parody of a cabaret number, becoming a part of the mini-trend of leading women who are also awkward and make fun of female sexuality because their faces, body types or age don’t fit beauty standard. She’s an archetype, the supporting character in her own life, altruistically wrestling their problems and making her friends help her other friends. But she turns from having to watching people make love to this still-unfashionable woman being courted by two different men, getting accepted into the fold and her man being her best revenge. The Revolution also manifests itself through Georgy’s foil and object of jealousy, Meredith. This movie is very frank about this generation’s good and bad sides, poking fun at marriage with a scene showing Meredith and Jos’ civil wedding, Georgy trying her best to keep with other couples’ tradition and throwing rice at two people who don’t belong together. This honest is especially shown when Meredith proudly tells Jos about aborting the fetuses he’s sired – she asks Jos why he should have a say on keeping it or aborting, which is a valid argument although we don’t like the character making it. Despite her first optimism towards being a mum, she eventually screams about Georgy ‘babying’ up her flat and eventually shocking her ward mates and their visitors by playing one of movies’ worst mothers, calling “it” “that hideous thing,” shunning her child into Georgy’s care.
This movie is director Silvio Narizzano‘s one hit wonder but I’ll include it with Repulsion and John Schleisinger’s Darling and yes, I’m using the comparison on a superficial level – because all three are in black and white. There are diverse approaches and tones among these movies and directors but what I like about this movie is its energy. The other two who have mature-looking actors, the younger members of the cast are baby-faced people who can make babies despite their immaturity. Even Mason’s higher voice is like that of a child’s, making his rapport with Redgrave easier. Rampling, despite her sculpted features and bitch virtuosity, still has this smoothness to her and thus we can easily perceive her as one of the three youngsters whose generation probably conceived the ‘trying to figure it all out’ thing that hordes of future twentysomethings will stumble into. They’re into awkward phase between education and ‘real,’ financially stable adulthood. They still want to play like kids do – the movie having that tone of playtime, really – but are ushered into marriage and baby rearing and all that. All three movies, in dealing with young urbanites, also cross shaky class lines. But unlike Repulsion and Darling‘s snazzily dressed, partying working class, Georgy Girl‘s characters are part of the grubby quasi-intelligent class. It’s not necessarily clear whether they are moving up or down, their adulthood marked by their independence from both parents and the class system. It’s also not easy to dismiss Jos as an idiot despite of his actions because of his vigour, he just seems like a slacker with too much squandered potential. Meredith, a great beauty, is surrounded by classical music through her work as a violinist and the one with the most constant brushes with high culture and is the highest paid. Georgy has connections through Leamington but she’s still the kind of girl who, on a violently rainy day, needs to be checked up by a child welfare inspector. And all three have to, for most of the movie, go home to the same shitty, overcrowded apartment or ‘flat,’ and that I like the complexities among these kids’ class statuses.
Georgy Girl is part of a double bill for the late night program for TV Ontario’s Saturday Night at the Movies. I know that what I say in the previous paragraphs and the terrible behaviour in which supporting cast uses to react to their situations, this movie is light thanks to Redgrave’s tone setting performance, earning that Academy Award nomination. And despite her perma-jovialness, she contrasts it because her face carries the same gravitas for which her sister is known. The movie rewards this constantly joyful character with happiness. I’ll write about the movie featured in the second half of that bill, another movie released in 1966 but with much better critical/awards reception, when I feel like it.
I know this Slavic girl in college whom I like making fun of behind her back. I don’t know if it’s more insulting that everyone thought she was stupid or that I didn’t see her as stupid but instead, a person with a tragically clinical view of academia. We had a conversation on the bus once about David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, a movie that just came out at the TIFF 2007 and the first movie from that crop to be released in theatres. She said the rapes made her uncomfortable, for reasons more basic than what I can deduce from other things I know about her. Once in a while she reveals a point of vulnerability and closes back up again, in a way telling me either that I’ll never find out her secret or that she doesn’t have a wound in the first place.
Roger Ebert and Carina Chocano separately compared this movie to The Godfather, and they’re right in that both movies are about the second generation of gangsters and not the first, a typical focus point in post-classical gangster films. It’s been said about The Godfather that it’s about the sons or the daughters paying for their father’s sins, despite of how much the parents try to shield them, or how much the children try to legitimize themselves, and no matter how much the latter presents themselves as products of nurture, or society, instead of nature, of family. In Eastern Promises, however, the children ‘stray from the path I’ve set out for [them],’ as the patriarch Semyon says in dismay. The half-English Anna Ivanova (Naomi Watts) will not adopt her Uncle Stefan’s negrophobic, anti-miscegenation viewpoints. Semyon’s son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel) is a hotheaded SPOILER, closeted homosexual, doing away with those who whisper that truth. Kirill’s driver/undertaker Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) is a clawing his way to the top of the Russian mafia. The movie never lets us conclusively know how their different rebellions will help or hinder their characters, especially with Nikolai and his double life.
Speaking of double lives, the homoeroticism in the film, as shown specifically through Nikolai makes me think that Kirill couldn’t help it. Cronenberg depicts the gangster lifestyle itself as homoerotic. Kirill orders Nikolai to have sex with one of the prostitutes to prove his heterosexuality. The elders examine Nikolai and his symbolic tattoos, standing in front of them wearing only his underwear. The bathhouse death match. Kirill and Nikolai’s faces so close to each other, reminiscent of Viggo’s closeness to William Hurt in Cronenberg’s earlier work A History of Violence. I wonder if Nikolai is bisexual, or using himself to get to Kirill’s confidence, or if it’s compassion bursting through the hard surface he has to keep up for his job. It’s a fragmented interpretation of the character that doesn’t answer all the questions, and that actually makes him a more memorable character.
Yes, the movie had rapes and babies and a death match at the bathhouse, but there’s something anticlimactic about the movie, especially in the film’s denouement. And most of this is gonna sound like I’m shitting on Kirill/Vincent Cassel here. As a character who’s behind Semyon’s shadow, he’d be resentful and would hesitate in acting out his father’s orders. What does it say about me if I’m unconvinced that Kirill wouldn’t readily do to the baby Christine what Semyon has told him to do, or that I expected Christine to have a harder time than she did? Or that the sexual tension between Nikolai and Anna should have been left alone where it was before the last scenes? Or that I expected absolute evil from Nikolai?