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CASUAL RELATIONS(director/writer/editor/cinematographer: Mark Rappaport; cinematographer: Alan Raymond; cast: Mel Austin, Sis Smith, Paula Barra, Peter Campus; Runtime: 80;1973)
“As always, a Rappaport film is marked by the absurd way its characters are presented and by its low budget.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Rappaport’s debut film is a black comedy that has all the eccentricity exhibited in his later films, but without the polish he was able to develop for his more accomplished works. This film is an adequate entry into his oeuvre of independent films. As always, a Rappaport film is marked by the absurd way its characters are presented and by its low budget.

Homage is paid to such classic movies as Sunset Boulevard and Johnny Guitar, as these are viewed on TV by the neurotics featured in the film whose lives seem more unreal than what they are watching on the screen.

The theme that runs through all the vignettes is that all the characters featured are rife with fantasies, suffering from isolation to their surroundings and the inability to communicate with someone else. There were at least eight other little episodic dramas presented. One such episode is of the lady who wakes up in the morning, whose only aim in life is to watch films on TV for the whole day.

In one episode, a woman hallucinates that the figure of a hand she sees on the wall is real. A separated couple because of communication problems dine out in the Eatwell Restaurant and go for a drive afterwards without conversing, until she puts on the radio and is told that he can’t concentrate on his driving with the radio on. A woman is molested by a man with a knife, who can’t take no for an answer after he kisses her. But the scene is played back ala Rashomon, giving the man’s version which is different from hers. A gay man loves to watch newsreels of catastrophes, and meets another gay man in the theater to share his experience. A guy looks at the same photograph in a gallery every day and says that he feels the photograph is looking back at him. A woman tosses in her bed with beads of perspiration on her, as she can’t sleep because of a bad dream. A guy on a bad acid trip says he doesn’t want to die, that he’ll never take acid again if he doesn’t die. While typing a secretary remembers a dream she had the night before with men in it but the men in that dream, to her dismay, never touch her.

All these episodes feed into the off-the-wall fun the narrator has in describing the action taking place, which he narrates in a mock serious tone. The lives of these lonely New York City denizens can be viewed as strange but highly entertaining.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”