20 December 2011

The Sterile Cuckoo - "Sometimes you have to get away from the noise, you know?"

Japanese One Sheet




I saw The Sterile Cuckoo in Lincolnton, NC with my mother and sisters when I was 12 years old. I don't think my mother knew what she was getting into, but it's a film I wouldn't hesitate to show any 12 year old -- Hell, a ten year old for that matter. Never released on DVD, it'll pop up on TCM every now and then, but a high quality, uncut version was recently added to You Tube in nine parts.

Producer - Director Alan J Pakula (Klute, Sophie's Choice, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Love With a Proper Stranger) captured the '60s I remember as a kid. Not just the look but the feeling. Those days of care free bliss interrupted by seconds of teeth gnashing anxiety. I suspect screenwriter Alvin Sargent had much to do with that.

You know you're in for something different when Liza Minnelli as Pookie Adams tells Jerry Payne (Wendell Burton), "Some people guzzle God like He was a keg of beer." Tim McIntire as Jerry's roomie, Charlie, nails overweight beer drinking and ersatz sexual success that, despite 10 minutes of total screen time, is one of the most amazing performances ever. Ever! Or, maybe I have too much in common with Charlie.

No one is attacked. No one means any harm. But hurt is everywhere. If Christmas movies and forced cheerfulness of a happy holiday get you down...check this film out. It's as truthful as you can get this time of year...when you need to get away from the noise.

10 comments:

Oyster Guy said...

Thanks for the tip. Amazing director but I haven't seen this one. Oddly enough, my Mum took me to see one of his films when I was 9. All the President's Men. We were both Watergate buffs....

Main Line Sportsman said...

I have seen this many times...Minnelli's anguished phone call is fine acting...and the campus bar scene and frat party are entertaining....I found the off-season motel scene just depressing.

tintin said...

Oyster Guy- I made a $20 bet with my HS algebra teacher that Nixon would not finish his term. I won. The a-hole never paid confirming for a life time that math people cannot be relied upon.

Main Line- You don't like "Strip the tomato" I love that scene. And they check in under Mr & Mrs Burgener.

Anonymous said...

Love the book and the soundtrack. Only thing about the movie is that in the book, Pookie isn't quite the outsider the movie makes her out to be. But it's impressive what Pakula and Sargent managed to do in a movie that essentially has only two characters.

---Danny from Bellevue

Anonymous said...

Filmed at Hamilton College, in beee-youuutiful Clinton, NY!

RCH said...

Needless to say life at Hamilton is a lot different these days! But the campus looks very much the same. Jerry's dorm is the former alpha delta phi house, now general student housing. I spent three of my four years there and it was a beautiful spot on a fall day.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic film! I was in college when I saw that movie with a date who grew up near Clinton, NY. I've never seen the movie again but I've never forgotten it either.

Anonymous said...

@RCH (as did I, save a semester abroad) Class of '00...

Anonymous said...

I went to Hamilton College in the 80's, and if memory serves me correctly, this film was shown at the school during my freshman year -- possibly even during Orientation Week?? At any rate, it was a mixed bag - a bit thrilling to see the campus and surroundings on film, but also an emotional downer. It's probably not the best film to see as a fresh-faced freshman. Or maybe...? The soundtrack's "Come Saturday Morning" captures the melancholy tone perf
ectly. I think my favorite scene is when Pookie lies down in the graveyard... I believe I used to run by that small graveyard way above campus, out in the "real world."

Anonymous said...

I was 9 years old when I met Liza and wendal on Vernon center n.y. where I lived just. 9 houses from the park
I was so enthralled that I met Judy Garland's. Daughhter.o also met her hairdresser. Cheri and gave Liza a Kitty poster and a ring I was all dressed up on my green short and jacket set with polka dots. The next day she Gave me an album signed"to. Dear Michelle love always Liza " I kept that album until my 3o's then had to downsize. But the memories remain.