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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Rosemary's Baby" - It Extends Backwards and Forwards!


We saw "Rosemary's Baby" at the Music Box Theater on Sunday. It's not really a "scary movie," at least not when you see it today, it's more of a "social satire," it's a supremely well-made movie, one of Roman Polanski's finest. It's about "selling out," a kind of quaint concept now that basically everyone is already sold.

You can "read the movie" as a self-contained document, or you can look at it as a pop culture crossroads, a map of our culture.  Here's what I mean...

The movie is about the Dakota. A big old building just off Central Park in New York. When it was filmed, (in 1968) it probably was just a cool old building to use. But of course today it's a famous building. Yoko Ono lives there. John Lennon was murdered in front of it.

The movie is about an actor selling his first-born son to the devil for a Hollywood career. But this character is played by John Cassavetes a stubbornly independent, avant garde filmmaker who never compromised with the Hollywood machine.

Mia Farrow plays his wife. Mia spent time with the Beatles in India, the Maharishi supposedly made a pass at her, and Lennon wrote "Sexy Sadie" as a result. He also learned finger-picking from Donovan on that trip and wrote "Dear Prudence," about Mia's sister.

Mia is so young and child-like in the film. She seems too young, too innocent to be a mother. She also is a dead-ringer for "Joan of Arc," and an early silent film about that Saint. Mia was also "sainted" by Woody Allen later in a movie called "Alice." And of course Mia ended up in a blood-feud with Woody Allen when he ended up in a relationship with Soon Yi, a girl Mia had adopted.

The movie came out in 1968. In 1969 Polanski's wife was murdered by the "Manson family," a weird, satanic-like cult that resembles the cooky satanic cult in the film. Sharon Tate, Polanski's wife was pregnant at the time of her murder. Polanski did "sell his soul" to the Hollywood machine for a few years. And he made some great movies, including "Chinatown." Later he fled Hollywood when it was discovered that he had had sex with an underage, child-like girl at Jack Nicholson's house.

The film is filled with all these amazing character actors. It's kind of a history of film with Ruth Gordon chewing up every scene she's in like the shark in "Jaws." Plus there's Ralph Bellamy, Elisha Cook and "Gladys" from that old Andy Griffith show. 

The movie seems like a document of Polanksi's fascination and horror with working in the belly of the beast of Hollywood. It's a tribute and an indictment.  It's a weird movie to see today. It extends backwards and forwards.

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