(director/writer: Kathleen Collins; cinematographer: Ronald K. Gray; editors: Ronald K. Gray/Kathleen Collins; music: Michael Minard; cast: Seret Scott (Sara Rogers), Maritza Rivera (Celia), Bill Gunn (Victor), Duane Jones (Duke), Billie Allen (Secret’s mom), Gary Bolling (George), Norberto Kerner (Carlos), Michelle Mais (Nelly Bly), Clarence Branch Jr. (Man on Radio); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kathleen Collins/Ronald K. Gray; Milestone/Oscilloscope; 1982)
“The ambitious avant-garde psychological drama covers a lot of territory.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A dashing menage a trois drama/comedy, that’s superbly directed and written by playwright, professor and indie filmmaker, the African-American Kathleen Collins. One of the first black woman filmmakers, died of cancer at age 46, in 1988, after her debut feature and regrettably never made another film. The ambitious avant-garde psychological drama covers a lot of territory, from philosophy to Bergman-like psychology over marriage. It zooms in on the summer vacation experience, in an unnamed small-town in upstate NY, with a Puerto Rican section, of a serious-minded but passionless NYC black philosophy teacher Sara (Secret Scott) and her arrogant free-spirited middle-aged abstract artist turned portrait painter husband Victor (Bill Gunn).
Sara is doing an intellectual research paper on “ecstasy” as a religious experience, while portrait painter Victor is looking for ecstasy in more earthly ways. When Victor uses an attractive local Puerto Rican, Celia (Maritza Rivera ), as his model, the jealous Sara returns to the city and gets involved in a passionate dance movie put on by her college’s drama teacher (Gary Bolling). The unemployed actor Duke (Duane Jones), the director’s nephew, is her courtly dance partner and love interest.
From this experience Sara re-evaluates her life and begins to see that she takes herself too seriously. Finally going through an emotional breakdown, she understands that her marriage and life have deep cracks in it and things were not as serene as she pretended.
The performances by Seret Scott, Bill Gunn and Duane Jones are all excellent. Too bad the film was never theatrically released. Now released by Milestone as a DVD and for theaters, after they remastered the found negative, we see what we were missing.
REVIEWED ON 3/31/2016 GRADE: A-