Friday, January 01, 2010

Rachel, Rachel

Paul Newman: Rachel, Rachel (US 1968) starring Joanne Woodward (Rachel Cameron).

Rachel, Rachel – haluan rakastaa / Rachel, Rachel – jag vill älska.
    US © 1968 Kayos Productions.
    P+D: Paul Newman. SC: Stewart Stern – based on the novel A Jest of God (CA 1966) by Margaret Laurence. DP: Gayne Rescher – Technicolor – 1,85:1. AD: Robert Gundlach. COST: Domingo A. Rodriguez. Make-up: Robert Phillipe. Hair: Colleen Callaghan. M: Jerome Morosss. S: Alan Heim. ED: Dede Allen. LOC: Bethel, Connecticut.
    CAST: Joanne Woodward (Rachel Cameron), James Olson (Nick Kazlik), Kate Harrington (mother Cameron), Estelle Parsons (Calla Mackie), Donald Moffat (Niall Cameron), Terry Kiser (preacher), Frank Corsaro (Hector Jonas).
    101 min.
    Released by Warner Bros. with Finnish / Swedish subtitles.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion (Paul Newman in memoriam), Helsinki, 1 Jan 2010.

A heavily used vintage print, complete, with colour (real Technicolor?) intact.

The story of an adult woman's awakening, growing up. Ein Bildungsroman.

I saw for the first time Paul Newman's first film as a director; he directed six. Rachel, Rachel is completely different from the mainstream films in which Newman starred. It is un-melodramatic, intimate, psychological, sensitive, non-commercial. Constantly through the film there are childhood memories, dreams, and visions.

In a little country town the 35-year-old Rachel is a teacher at an elementary school. Although a teacher, she is also herself still partially stuck in the world of childhood.

During the summer vacation, her colleague Calla invites Rachel to a revival house, a tabernacle, where the preacher teaches that we are all alone, cut off, and we all need love. Against her will, the shocked Rachel is invited to the circle of believers who hold hands, hug each other, and declare that they need love.

The next shock is Calla's quick revelation of her lesbian affection. This is directly but discreetly handled. The women soon arrive at reconciliation after Rachel's rejection.

The third shock comes in the form of a direct pick-up invitation of a male teacher colleague from the city, Nick, who has come to spend a part of his holiday in the country. Nick and Rachel are childhood friends, and they have not seen each other in a very long time. Nick invites Rachel to the movies, to a bar, and to a night of lovemaking.

Rachel turns out to be a virgin. Nick treats her with respect, although she is clumsy during the first night of love-making. "It's never so good the first time". The next time is beautiful. But Nick leaves the town without saying good-bye.

Rachel thinks she is pregnant and goes to the doctor's, but instead she has a harmless cyst. This is the definitive shock, as Rachel had already decided to keep the baby.

In the conclusion Rachel decides to move to Oregon. Her mother is devastated but joins her. During the closing credits we see Rachel with a little child on a seashore.

Memorable in the film:
1. Joanne Woodward's performance as the grown-up woman who experiences a complete change in her life.
2. Estelle Parsons as Calla. Lesbianism is treated sincerely. Rachel congratulates Calla for "pushing things out of their cages". Rachel's final words to Calla: "I hope you'll find what you want".
3. The revival house sequence is powerful. The tremendous force of religion is evident.
4. Rachel's initiation to love-making is beautifully depicted in two very different sequences.
5. As a teacher, Rachel has been taking care of "temporary children"... "but so are everyone's".
6. The music by Jerome Moross is sensitive in the same way as Elmer Bernstein's for To Kill a Mockingbird.
7. The editing by Dede Allen.

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