Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970) Poster

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wmneish11 March 2002
PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD is about a famous fashion model who's burnt out on the business and moved to a cottage by the sea to reflect on her splintered life. Years of being treated as an object by photographers, stylists, agents, etc., has left her with a serious identity complex and an addiction to pills...although flashbacks show that she was somewhat unhinged to begin with. The film isn't really that good; as critic Pauline Kael noted when the film came out, "I have a constitutional aversion to movies about women whose souls have been lost, stolen or destroyed, especially when it isn't made clear -- and it never is -- whether the heroine had a soul in the first place." But what IS very special about the movie is simply the way that Dunaway LOOKS. Rigged out in precise red lipstick, false eyelashes and liquid eyeliner, she's meticulously photographed by director Jerry Schatzberg, a former lover and onetime fashion photographer. The story is inspired by the true life life of Anne Saint Marie, a fashion model who later came unglued. Schatzberg taped conversations with Anne Saint Marie and used her comments as a framing device for the story. Not a great film, but an interesting one nevertheless.
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One of the most underrated films of the 1970's
cinefilia16 June 2004
For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone doesn't put this film out on DVD or video. Puzzle of a Downfall Child is a hauntingly spare film about the breakdown of beauty. Although less well known than The Panic in Needle Park, it is Jerry Schatzberg's masterpiece. His use of non-linear storytelling coupled with some incredibly dreamy flashback sequences made me feel as if, like heroine Lou Sands, I too was coming slightly undone. For Faye Dunaway fans (and really who isn't a fan of Faye's?), this film showcases not only her incredible beauty--the eyelashes are to die for--but also her talents as an actress. She is more believable as an actress portraying a model than any model portraying an actress could ever hope to be. If it should ever make its way to an art-house near you, you will do yourself a disservice if you miss it. After I left the theater, I kept thinking of that trite adage about how they don't make them like they used to.
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i adore Faye
peawok19 April 2008
it saddens me to know that not many people will be able to witness the talent and beauty Faye brings to this tortured character!!! When was this released? 1970, when she was at her height, I am not from this time period, so I was wondering if anyone remembered what the critical reception of the film was? Why wasn't it a success? I was moved incredibly. and there must be some way to buy the movie without just watching it on you tube!!! Stunning Faye. i made so many screen shots!!!

This movie is for anyone that is interested in photography. The still shots themselves are amazing; the cinematography is incredible too. It is simple but raw etc. Faye is just so beautiful in this film and her story of madness is brilliant.
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Great Dunaway Performance
ikuryakin11 December 2002
Faye Dunaway has always been my favorite actress and this movie provides a great showcase for her talents. She plays a very neurotic model who cannot even trust her own memories. The movie is done in a non-narrative style that was fairly common in the 1970s, with events shown out of order, and that device is used very effectively to portray the protagonist's instability. This is one of the overlooked movies from a period that produced many great and challenging films; I don't believe it's ever even been on video.
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Elegant, surprising little gem.
doorbomb6226 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Appropriately nuanced film set the standards for many films to follow in style and narrative as fashion photographer (Primus) documents the life of his former client, and one time affair (Dunaway), chronicling her turbulent career as a model. Story is subtle and endearing as it beholds elements of humor and eccentricity throughout, all the while the sharp and talented cast bring to life a myriad of colorful characters along the way.

Jarring and fractured flashbacks expose the hard truth young model Lou Andreas Sand encounters during life in the fast lane of show business. Dunaway is at her most finest here, proving a most vulnerable recipient of players, gamblers, and sharks all around. She is an internal vortex constricted only by the outward manner of control and clarity she has come to grasp. Viveca Lindfors and Roy Scheider offer an equal measure of force and poise in their quirky offbeat roles of employers and players amid the passionate industry. Newcomer Barry Primus ushers in redemption for our tragic beauty.

The most amazing aspect of the film is the fact that Universal Pictures took on this project as what many would see as a mainstream release back in 1970s cinema. Director Schatzberg encompasses a wondrous amount of style and narrative which, as mentioned, leaves us in a whirlwind of themes and arcs, almost lost in the daze, yet never incomprehensible to the story and it's direction.

The entire immaculate package is a precious little gem of a film that delivers much more than promised, and the fact that it stands even more firm 47 years after the fact, (and years of obscurity) is enough to show this film is only beginning to breathe life into audiences. And it's time is only beginning.
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Pretentious yet exemplary of its period
kwindrum16 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Obviously, this would never be financed by Universal Pictures today as it partakes in the usual artiness and experimentation typical of its period. Faye Dunaway-who has never looked better-plays an ex-fashion model ruminating over her career and tragedies. Her psychology is trite-likes older men, perhaps frigid or a nympho or something, rape victim and all this explains why her modeling and beauty render her unhappy. Rather slow, full of rack focus pulling, telephoto lensing, deliberate compositions (the director, Jerry Schatzberg, had been a fashion photographer. Ultimately pretentious but worth seeing once. Odd casting of a young Roy Scheider as some form of a rake (he never played that part again unless one counts All that Jazz).
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MeMyselfI13 January 2004
A landmark in independant american filmaking, Puzzle is the best film ever directed by Jerry Schatzberg. Faye dunaway is incredible. One of the best fims of the 70's.
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Faye Dunaway beyond the verge...
JasparLamarCrabb29 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Not exactly surreal but still nearly completely devoid of a real story-line. Faye Dunaway is a highly successful model who goes off the deep end, leading to a self-imposed isolation that she can't seem to get out of. In what is a genuinely phenomenal performance, Dunaway is emotionally stripped bare. In some ways, her acting here recalls Jane Fonda's work in KLUTE. There's a lot of angst beneath some very thin skin. The supporting cast includes Viveca Lindfors, Roy Scheider (as Dunaway's hot headed boyfriend) and Barry Primus, in his film debut. From a script by Carole Eastman with some really odd direction by Jerry Schatzberg. The movie bends time and jumps back and forth as Dunaway's past is revealed. It's bleak but never depressing.
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Not the masterpiece I was hoping for.
punishmentpark24 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'Puzzle of a downfall child' has some stunning scenes in it, and Faye Dunaway is a pleasure to watch, but somehow the story didn't get to me as much as I'd hoped for. The story here is more like a selection of incidents in the life of a model, who has serious 'man' issues.

Her longtime friend, who has also been her photographer and (very briefly) lover, is trying to help her dig through her past, in order to sort some things out. In the end, it seems she is still as confused and insecure as ever, asking him if she was any good in bed, that one time she had apparently forgotten all about.

The supposed urgency of it all eluded me a lot of the time. But I enjoyed the apt hand of director Jerry Schatzberg and the wonderful acting on Faye Dunaway's part quite a bit - not that the rest of the cast didn't do a good job, though.

Some bits reminded me of the series 'Mad men', by the way, if that may be a recommendation.

7 out of 10.
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Technical aspects far exceed the characters and performances...
moonspinner553 July 2016
Dud story about a fashion model falling apart is given such a handsome, chilly look, precise editing and lovely music passages that one is nearly tempted to call "Puzzle of a Downfall Child", at the very least, half a success. Still, Faye Dunaway isn't charismatic enough to carry the weight of a leaden character portrait, one wherein the heroine feels her soul fragmenting yet also questions whether she still possesses a soul to lose...or perhaps never had one to begin with (she is a lapsed Catholic, after all). Dunaway's model (with the self-made-up name of Lou Andreas Sand!) is flashing back on her career while an ex-paramour and colleague tape-records her shallow reminiscences of bitchy, badgering photographers and lovers. Her earliest memories (particularly her first modeling assignment posing with an unleashed falcon) are quite vivid, but there's no substance or self-effacing humor in Carol Eastman's screenplay (penned under the alias of Adrian Joyce). Director Jerry Schatzberg, who worked on the original story with Eastman, allows Dunaway too much room to wail and wither and carry on, and after awhile she's as isolated from us as she is from her work. Adam Holender's cinematography and Michael Small's music are each exquisite, and Evan Lottman's editing also deserves praise; however, these attributes are in the service of a barren melodrama so removed from reality that the episodes are practically devoid of anything interesting. It's almost as if that's the point. *1/2 from ****
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