Allan King – A Married Couple (1969)

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Unnerving in an altogether different way, A Married Couple, from 1969, ventures into the world of adult showmanship through the conflicted relationship between Billy and Antoinette Edwards. King is given full access to their marriage, and his cameras watch as the suburban façade of happiness and understanding quickly crumbles away to reveal a tense power struggle for control within the modern middle-class household. Simple conversations become scenes of endless bickering, and assumptions about duty, responsibility, and loyalty turn into verbal daggers of resentment, clouding the colorful 1960s interiors with presumptuous hot air. King also finds the comical within the tragic, best on display when Billy walks out in a red Speedo and wool vest, a peacock flexing his feathers for a woman who no longer cares. The final quiet conversation between husband and wife takes a turn toward the absurd, but considering the jockeying that’s proceeded, this final compromise of love makes perfect sense. It’s hard to imagine a fiction film being able to capture this type of potent human dichotomy linking gradual suffering and survival. Continue reading

Allan King – Warrendale (1967)

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King’s feature debut, Warrendale, about a collection of volatile children from the titular Toronto-based rehabilitation center, has been compared to the works of Pennebaker, Maysles, and Rouch within the cinema vérité and Direct Cinema movements. But King’s approach to capturing the children’s emotional ebbs and flows as they experience anger, guilt, and finally tragedy, seems arguably more human, hypnotically attuned to the delicate sensitivities of people’s movements and sounds. As the adult caregivers attempt to build trust with these damaged children, King focuses on the intimate moments of counseling, reassurance, and discourse structuring the narrative. That these sequences often devolve into hysterical fits and seizures makes the film all the more forceful, showing the dark undercarriage of childhood trauma without any buffer or safety net. The film’s striking emotional centerpiece, a family-style meeting between counselors and children about the sudden death of the house cook, is a breathtaking display of collective heartbreak and rejuvenation that creates a frenzy of repressed rage. In a single moment, King’s camera becomes engulfed in an emotional war zone, pinned down but never overwhelmed by honest, raw expression, always able to capture the small moments on the fringes of the frame. Continue reading