Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Someone to Love (Henry Jaglom, 1987)


Henry Jaglom’s Someone to Love casts the director as Danny, a version of himself, prompted by his and his brother’s relationship problems (the brother is played by Jaglom’s real-life brother) to hold a Valentine Day’s event in an old theatre scheduled for demolition, to meet people and connect while also getting a movie out of it. Much of the raw material gathered from this (by Henry and Danny alike) is pretty mundane: lots of not particularly novel or informative perspectives on hopes and dreams, occasional advances by participants on each other, none of it apparently getting anywhere. As in all his films since his debut, A Safe Place, Jaglom emphasizes cinematic artificiality, foregrounding juxtaposition and editing, often creating back-and-forth interactions out of shots that plainly seem to have been obtained at different times. This reaches an apex in the film’s use of Orson Welles (in his last role); his appearances are sprinkled throughout the film, and he has extended conversations with Danny and with a group of women, but is only ever seen alone in the frame, sitting in the same seat, filmed from the same angle; the sense of a created world supports the central tease, regarding the ambiguity where the line between reality and artifice lies. Some characters express reservations to Danny’s project on ethical grounds, or just on grounds of basic taste, but Jaglom seems more occupied by the tangibility of the filmmaking process than by any particular narrative or thematic object, bringing the notional plot strands to only the thinnest of closures; in the end it feels like he’s mainly interested in using up his spare footage of Welles. Still, it’s all more interesting than it might be, not least because it contains the most notable film appearance by the great late Dave Frishberg, also playing a close version of himself and singing his “Listen Here,” in addition to a couple of covers.

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