Petulia

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Lino
"Without obsession, life is nothing"
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 6:18 am
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#26 Post by Lino » Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:34 pm

Finished watching this about an hour ago. Beautiful, beautiful film. And I even had the good fortune of not being interrupted which is a rare thing these days, what with all this cell phone business and the sort of life we all lead now. Sign of the times, indeed.

And it's exactly with this frame of mind that one should watch Petulia. Relationships have evolved from generation to generation and it's little wonder that Dick Lester chose to open the festivities, so to speak, with a big party and a big band playing in it (surprised to see Janis Joplin sing in this movie -- I had no idea she was in it). The times they were a-changing and so were people. "Pepsi Generation" indeed, as the George C. Scott character puts it. They wanted it fast and they wanted it now! That hasn't changed much, has it?

And it's precisely to the brilliance of the script that we will always enjoy this haunting movie no matter which decade, century, country or planet we will live in: some things never change and the need for love and emotional involvement will always be a human priority. It's that universal.

Some posts above, I recommended Michael another Roeg project that I think he would also enjoy watching since he loved the kinetic editing style of this one so much -- Bad Timing. Well, having now watched Petulia, I never thought that both films would resemble each other so much. Clearly, Roeg held this earlier movie close to his heart for many years because he returned to roughly the same subject matter more than a decade later. There's even a line that Julie Christie says to Scott that goes something like, Why did he let her get away, to which he answers, Bad timing.

This brings me right back to the interview on the CC disc of that later Roeg film where he explains the title of the movie. He goes on to say that he has noticed through the years that almost everything in life is a question of Timing. Of being in the right place at the right/wrong time or being at the wrong place at the wrong/right time. Even love is a question of Timing. And we all can attest to that, can't we? For the better or worse. Of course, this sort of theory expands itself into a greater one, that we are all part of a greater scheme of things in which (false) serendipity and (unexistent) coincidence play a big part in the way we look at life in general. And we go through life not really knowing if we are part of an already written symphony or an improvised rhapsody, if you pardon me being poetic for a while. If you ask me, it's a bit of both but that's a different story and discussion altogether.

Petulia presents itself then as a tale about two love-hungry, thrillseeking human beings crash-coursing into each other with no safety nets to catch them when their inevitable fall is upon them. Brilliantly played by Christie that shapes a character that goes from completely unsympathetic and even obnoxious at times to someone that you really care for and want to take care of. Feminine fragility at her best. And let's not forget Scott's flawless Lothario, always in search of affection but never being able to commit himself to anyone. Plenty of them still out there, apparently.

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rohmerin
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2006 10:36 am
Location: Spain

Re: Petulia

#27 Post by rohmerin » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:40 pm

I saw it for 1st time last night and I'm still in shock. What an extraordinary hidden gem ! With a lot of violence (on and off screen). Amazing C.Scott acting. Stunning city, swinging Frisco. Christie's beauty is impressive, like always.
I was specially surprised by all about the relation with ex - wife. The biscuits scene is disturbing, when He trows to her back the biscuits. This film is modern in the sense of unhappiness, bitterness. More than a 70'sm pesimist film, it looks like nowadays.

I didn't see any Resnais influence. Well, the rythm and look is very Nouvelle Vague, but Two for the road or Point Blank are too, but I saw a lot of Antonioni's touch.

I almost crie when Petulia says to Chamberlain on the boat: I saw you for the fisrt time and you looked me like one of those plastic goods that Americans can make, and I said to myself, I want one.

Joseph Cotten is brilliant too.

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Dylan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:28 pm

Re: Petulia

#28 Post by Dylan » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:04 pm

I saw this in January (via the old Warner DVD, which looks very good actually) and liked it, too. Beautiful Nicholas Roeg photography and John Barry score, and to me the editing anticipates Easy Rider, where we'll have frames from later scenes (including the ending) placed in the chaos of images in a given moment. George C. Scott has never been better.

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britcom68
Joined: Sat May 26, 2012 7:53 am

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#29 Post by britcom68 » Sun May 27, 2012 1:53 pm

Lino wrote: Brilliantly played by Christie that shapes a character that goes from completely unsympathetic and even obnoxious at times to someone that you really care for and want to take care of. Feminine fragility at her best.
Petulia seems to mark the beginning of Julie Christie's staring in roles that seem to be reinterpretations of work from the early 1940s with Joan Fontaine's Hitchcock performances and Ingrid Bergman's performances in Gaslight, Spellbound and Notorious.
What makes Julie Christie’s successive performances in Petulia, Fahrenheit 451 and Don’t Look Now (and to a lesser extent in Shampoo) work better than her previous performances is watching her self-awareness of her limitations and responding to others. Christie's earlier performances in Darling and Billy Liar both have strong moments, but (is it because Schlesinger directed both performances?) there is a flighty edge at times to Christie that seems to make those characters appear too immature to fully sympathize with.

Christie, in Petulia, grows and gains our sympathy through her interactions even though she may still be seen as “feminine fragility” by others around her, similar to Fontaine’s performance in Rebecca. In Fahrenheit 451, Christie gets to play two types of women who exist to react to the same man in different ways, as fragile femmes at first but then asserting their self-awareness of their positions with Montag: as the girl, she reacts to Montag in ways to shape him for the better while ironically making his status precarious for both (very Hitchcock heroine); and then as the wife, channeling Bergman, to betray Montag because his continuing reliance on reading books will destroy her stable identity of belonging to the “family.” In Don’t Look Now, Christie again is seen as “fragile femininity” at first and then, in the DuMaurier touch, comes alive and assertive only after putting herself in the hands of the two sisters. Even in Shampoo Christie gets this same opportunity to shape what femininity means for her character and surroundings: unlike the similar manifestation in Darling, in Shampoo her character get to see more than one man in her life without having to be seen only as a whore or having to hide who she really is to her lovers in order to keep them interested.

Overall, I believe Petulia is the more rewarding experience to watch of these performances, if only because Don’t Look Now changes its focus from her to Sutherland by the last act, ignoring the possibility of showing what she would be like completely under the spell of the psychic Sussex sisters.

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