Saturday, December 22, 2007

The World of Henry Orient

The World of Henry Orient; Drama/ Comedy, USA, 1964; D: George Roy Hill, S: Merrie Spaeth, Tippy Walker, Peter Sellers, Angela Lansbury, Paula Prentiss, Tom Bosley, Phyllis Thaxter, Bibi Osterwald

New York. The 14-year old Marian attends an all girl school and meets the rebellious Valarie. The two girls become friends and have fun, accidentally stumbling upon the piano player Henry Orient just as he was kissing his mistress Stella, interrupting them. The next day, Valarie pretends to be sick as a joke and runs away from the angry mob, again stumbling into Henry. When Marian's mother invites Valarie to Henry's concert, she falls in love with him. The girls stalk him in his apartment, while he gets paranoid imagining they might be the spies of Stella's husband. When Valarie's mom discovers her diary of her love interest, she orders her to stop that. Valarie runs away from home and hides at Marian, but is disappointed when she finds out Henry has an affair with her mom. He leaves the city, the girls continue to be friends.

In "The World of Henry Orient" director George Roy Hill neatly transported Nora Johnson's novel into an energetic, simple, imaginative and fun film that was nominated for a Golden Palm in Cannes and with it's refreshingly realistic story about two teenage girls stalking a piano player he managed to influence a lot of coming-of-age films like "Ghost World". Peter Sellers is well cast as Henry, but the best roles were of course delivered by the charming Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker as the mischievous girls Marian and Valarie - especially great is the comical sequence before the start of the concert, where Marian accidentally looks down upon the floor, spots Val's legs and says: "Why didn't you tell me you shaved your legs?", while Erica, who is sitting next to them adds: "A little louder girls, some people in the balcony can't hear you!", but some of them even have a spark of magic, like the romantic moment after the concert where Marian spots Val lying on the floor, with Henry's record under her, flat out admitting in trans: "I'm in love with him!" Still, while the youthful spirit is captured neatly, the problem lies in the fact that Marian and Val never exchange a word with Henry, which is a real pity because it left a big hole in their character development - the only interaction between them is reduced to the girls stalking Henry and he reacting like a silly lunatic with paranoia. The theme of the story might be unrequited love, but it's still a pity they never meet. Besides that, the dated music seems as if came from a children's film and the stiff Panavision gives it a brand of a 60s movie, not managing to live it up.


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