Thursday, June 19, 2008

Love with the Proper Stranger

Love with the Proper Stranger; Drama, USA, 1963; D: Robert Mulligan, S: Natalie Wood, Steve McQueen, Herschel Bernardi, Anne Hegira, Edie Adams

New York. Musician Rocky gets confronted in the middle of a crowd with a young saleslady, Angie Rossini, who tells him she became pregnant after their affair. Even though he hardly remembers her, he decides to help her make an abortion. Angie doesn't want a child among other things because she still lives with her Catholic parents and two brothers. Rocky brings 450 $ but in the last minute Angie changes her mind and rejects the shabby abortion doctors in an apartment. Rocky half heartedly agrees to marry her, but she rejects him. In the end, he wins her over by playing a banjo on the street and they kiss.

With the tricky abortion drama "Love with the Proper Stranger" Natalie Wood, one of the most talented actresses of her generation, was rewarded with her third and last nomination for an Oscar as best actress and also for a Golden Globe, but sadly didn't win it. "Stranger" isn't just an empty set piece that only feeds of the (then) provocative theme about abortion since it has it's fair share of brilliant moments, but suffers a lot from some heavy melodrama in the form of annoying shouting and Steve McQueen's miscast role. It's also sad that the two protagonists who had an affair - Angie and Rocky - are too cold towards each other for a majority of the film - one of the rare exceptions of tenderness is the scene where the insecure Angie is about to undergo abortion while the expert, a lady with gloves, coldly tells her to take her clothes off, but then Rocky's heart breaks apart and he hugs Angie, telling her he won't let them touch her - whereas the movie also never shows the affair itself, just the consequence. Maybe it isn't important for the story to present how the two of them met, but that way it looses a vital layer for their understanding. Still, the movie has enough of big great moments - like the sequence where the frustrated Angie packs her suitcase and leaves the apartment of her parents, but then just a few seconds later returns and stands behind a curtain with a sad face - and even small great moments - probably the sweetest one is the one where Angie is relaxed and one of her feet took her shoe off, but then quickly put in back on when Rocky came into her store.


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