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Howard Da Silva
A bright satirical comedy about an innocent high school girl granted her wishes by a student prodigy. A broad satire of teenage culture in the sixties, its targets ranging from progressive education to beach movies.
Maria Wyeth, an ex-model and B-movie actress, strolls on the grounds of a mental hospital, recalling the traumatic events which led to her breakdown. She is married to an unfaithful, self-engrossed director, Carter Lane. Neglected by her husband, Maria is engaged in a series of one-night stands and becomes pregnant. Her husband divorces her, and she has an illegal abortion. Maria's only friend is B.Z., a homosexual movie producer. World weary, he tells Maria that he has discovered the meaning of life is nothing. He invites her to commit suicide with him.Written by
Full-screen version shows boom mic in the outdoor sequence where Maria is shooting an actual gun on the movie set; boom mic also visible when B.Z. talks with Maria in the motel room while she is looking at crime scene photographs with a magnifying glass. See more »
I was 18 when I saw Frank Perry's Play It As It Lays during its brief opening run. It affected me powerfully. Blew me out like very few films ever have, actually. Completely intoxicating. I stumbled out into the afternoon sunlight afterwards rapt and bewildered, stunned and delighted, thoroughly alive. But in the years since I've never once met a single person who's even seen it, and the whole experience has become dreamlike and lost, a memory I'm no longer sure of.
However I did pounce on Joan Didion's blistering short novel when I found it. What a fine book! No wonder the effect of the film was so profound, telling that cruel, utterly remorseless story. (And of course I fell in love, fanboy-style, with Tuesday Weld, or perhaps more truly with Maria Wyeth, the doomed and heart-breakingly aware character she inhabited.)
But rather than attempt to analyse a film that plunged me in way out of my depth when I saw it 34 years ago, I simply want to add my voice to those of earlier and more capable reviewers calling for its release on DVD. It's exactly the sort of madly brilliant one-off that cries out for Criterion treatment. Well, mutters grumpily for it anyway.
And I'd most certainly like to recommend that if you ever do get the chance to see it, make sure you do. It might have vanished, but it always was an exceptionally interesting film, one of the very great "small" ones. Perhaps the best film Robert Altman never made.
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