Monday, November 07, 2011

ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE (1969, Douglas Hickox, UK, 94 min, A+)

What I think is interesting in ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE includes:

1.All the main characters are "unlikeable". It is not easy for an ordinary viewer to identify himself/herself with any of the four characters. I identify myself a little bit with Ed (Harry Andrews), because this character is a lusty middle-aged gay, though I can't identify myself totally with this character, because this character is much richer than me.

Normally I identify myself with a lonely middle-aged female character, especially with the heroines of the films MOURIR D'AIMER (2009, Josée Dayan), SHIRLEY VALENTINE (1989, Lewis Gilbert), SWANN (1996, Anna Benson Gyles), THE LOVE LETTER (1999, Peter Chan), and AN AUTUMN TALE (1998, Eric Rohmer), but I can't identify myself with Kath (Beryl Reid) in ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE, though I would do the same thing that she does in the opening scene--inviting a handsome stranger to stay at her house. I think the main reason why I can't identify myself with this character is because the film doesn't look at this character with "sympathetic eyes", but look at this character in a little bit sarcastic or contemptuous eyes.

I like it very much that Kath, the heroine of this film, is a fat, middle-aged woman, but the heroine of this film is closer to the monstrous Diane Ladd in WILD AT HEART (1990, David Lynch) than to the heroine of MOURIR D'AIMER, whose yearning for a younger lover can easily break my heart. I mean ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE seems to make the viewers "fear" the sexual advance of Kath, instead of "cheering for" Kath.

I can't identify myself with the hero (Peter McEnery) of this film at all. The hero, or anti-hero, of this film reminds me a little bit of Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) in PRICK UP YOUR EARS (1987, Stephen Frears) and Stuart Jones (Aidan Gillen) in QUEER AS FOLK (1999-2000). These characters are confident, sexy guys who like to manipulate other people. ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE is based on a play written by Joe Orton, and I think Orton might have transferred some of his own characteristics to Mr. Sloane.

2.The film is loveless. There is lust in this film, but there seems to be no real love. Thus, the film is even bleaker than the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who also dealt with the gay relationship and the relationship between an old woman and a young man in his films. I guess Fassbinder didn't believe too much in the power of love, but some of his characters might believe in it. On the contrary, the characters in ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE give me the feelings that they are unable to love.

3.The black comedic tone of this film reminds me of the wonderful black comedies of Danny DeVito, especially DUPLEX (2003) and THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN (1987), but ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE goes farther than DeVito's films because there's no character whom you can identify with or root for in ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE, while you can a little bit cheer for Billy Crystal in THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN or Ben Stiller in DUPLEX.

4.The ending of ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE surprises me a little bit.

5.Its story reminds me of two groups of films that I like very much:

5.1 Films about a handsome stranger who seduces members of a family

5.1.1 TEOREMA (1968, Pier Paolo Pasolini), but I prefer TEOREMA to ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE, because I like the supernatural part of TEOREMA very much.

5.1.2 DRY CLEANING (1997, Anne Fontaine)

5.1.3 BROKEN DOWN FAMILY (2010, Claude d'Anna, A+/A). This film is like a PG version of other films in the same group. This film deals with a middle-class family who lets a male friend who is an ex-prisoner stays at their house. The ex-prisoner attracts the wife, the daughter, and a friend of the daughter, but not the husband, unfortunately.

5.2 Films about a woman who picks up a young guy from the street and invites him to stay at her house

5.2.1 MON HOMME (Bertrand Blier)

5.2.2 THE NOISE IN MY HEAD (2008, Vincent Pluss)

5.2.3 CAN'T SAY NO (2009, Iliana Lolitch)

5.2.4 JOY HOUSE (1964, René Clément)

I still haven't seen THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (1969, Robert Altman), which I think belongs to this group, too.

6.My most favorite scene is the one in which Mr. Sloane is lying half-naked in bed, talking about sports, and trying to seduces Ed by touching himself. You can watch this scene here:

7.The use of beautiful songs to summarize the story. This kind of technique reminds me of the film THEY ALL LIE (2009, Matías Piñeiro, Argentina). The use of beautiful songs in a black-comedic context also reminds me of the songs of the band THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH. You can listen to the song at minute 4:30 in this clip:

In conclusion, ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE is a really entertaining black comedy. I like the presentation of sexuality in this film very much. Somehow I think of this film as a "distant" cousin of Fassbinder's films, though it lacks Fassbinder's sharp observation on society.

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