Movie of the Day : SOMETHING WILD (1961) Criterion Blu-ray — not on Streaming!

Click The Image Above to Purchase your copy today. Any purchases through the above link earn this Blog much appreciated pennies.

 

Something Wild (1961 — not the two decade later Melanie Griffith comedy vehicle)- Is a Criterion film I have heard virtually no one mention or talk about, Which is odd given it stars Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker (one of my favorite actors) , and sporting some of the legendary Saul Bass’ best and most effective title credits.

Indeed the title sequence alone sells me on the film, and I’m worried once its over the film will not live up to the succinct but powerful storytelling in that credit sequence, as it tells wordlessly the fast paced, regimented, almost automaton like, lacking real connection, breakneck race on a rat wheel… that industrialized life has been broken down to.

It infers, the title sequence, of the individual being lost in the unending grinding of the wheels of industry and progress and the masses.

So I’m worried the film will falter from the title sequence.

Thankfully it doesn’t.

The opening sequence is as effective, and giving the time period, as groundbreaking and striking and shocking a bit of film-making as you can think of.

So to wrap up the non-spoiler section, I highly recommend seeing this film. Carroll Baker gives a raw, game changing performance, in a convoluted, messy, masterfully directed tale.

Special Features are limited but are excellent.

A rich, vibrant, informative, moving 2016 interview with Director Jack Garfein conducted by film critic Kimberly Morgan.

“I programmed it in 2010 on Turner Classic Movies, and never have I received so much email from viewers. And then we showed it in Telluride, and I spoke to you at Telluride and the  audiences there were really taken aback, really, in fact, shocked by the film in many ways.” Kim Morgan

‘So was I, you remember?” Jack Garfein

“Yes, I do remember.” Kim Morgan

“I was sitting next to you, and almost had a breakdown. Because, I suddenly… I looked at that film… I made that film, but any kind of real creation is a subconscious process. The artist himself doesn’t quite understand. I didn’t realize that this film… is me. This character of the girl… is me.

When I arrived here in Manhattan I feel the same pain, the complete isolation, in the sense I tried to connect but it was very difficult to connect. I had to keep everything in myself and go on. When I was liberated in Bergen-Belsen I weighed 48 lbs, I couldn’t walk. I was 14 years old.”

A riveting, must watch interview, about a Director I was unfamiliar with, and unfortunately he would not do another film after SOMEWHERE WILD failed to make an impact at the theater.

The loss is cinema’s.

And then a wonderful, deeply entertaining and humorous 2016 audio interview with star, the effervescent and lovely Carroll Baker. I am now on the lookout for all her films.

 

And lastly a video interview with Historian Foster Hirsch who breaks down the history of the Actor’;s Studio and Roots of Method Acting.

Watch the Blu-ray then come back and read the rest of this review.

You’re back… good.

Minor spoilers follow.

It’s a film about assault, about a rape. And you have to understand the time period this film was made against, for the protagonist behavior to be… properly framed. In an age where rape was something that happened to other people, not good girls from a good upbringing, was not talked about in polite company, much less admitted to or shared or confronted or reported, SOMETHING WILD tackles the assault in a frank, and in your face way, that no film before and very few since, have really captured.

Again, wordlessly, like the title sequence, in Baker’s performance, we see someone having been robbed of their own sense of their body… as their own; portrayed in the way she lays down and is afraid to even touch herself.

It is a striking bit of direction and an even more striking performance, of a woman in a world where there was no concept of ptsd, or believed avenue for redress for such a violation, that this was something to be hidden and buried, and you see the effects of this unrelenting trauma, like a fissure running through her, breaking everything apart.

The subway scene, again a master class in direction, and performance, as it imbues in the viewer a sense of that press of human bodies, the rising panic, the nausea. It is really powerful film-making. And then at about the hour mark or so, it deviates from where I thought the film was going (I do not read descriptions when blind buying a movie, just so I can walk into surprises like this film had for me), and becomes something different.

Something unexpected,

Something strange.

And something that just keeps getting stranger. It’s a deeply morally problematic film, especially viewed from a modern lens, I can see this film being… taken to task for its choices. They are not admirable or sensible choices, and arguably that is the point. Trauma breeds trauma, and damaged people make imperfect choices.

It’s a deeply troubling film, but I have to say, while I watched the latter half of the film slack jawed and disbelieving, not agreeing with any of the choices made, I found it a captivating, daring, incredibly strange, movingly performed and strikingly filmed movie about broken people caught in regimented, grinding wheels from within and from without.

I can understand, particularly if you are a victim of trauma, not jibing with this film. It does not give us the resolution we want, all of the people in this film have feet of clay, but maybe that is why I do, appreciate it. It shows us people in the way we seldom see them, or ourselves, as victims of our unfaced traumas.

It is a horror film of a sort. But it is the horror of real life.

A deeply interesting film, that I am very glad I have viewed.

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