Procol Harum

the Pale

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Separation (and Procol Harum)

Vincent Canby in 'New York Times', 26 March 1968

Separation, screenplay by Jane Arden, based on her original story; produced and directed by Jack Bond; released by Continental Distributing. With Jane Arden, David de Keyser, Ann Lynn, Iain Quarrier, Fay Brook and Terrence de Marney. At the 34th Street East Theater, east of Third Avenue. Running time: 90 minutes: Available on DVD: click here

Fragments of Life

According to a program note for Separation, a drama that opened yesterday at the 34th Street East Theater, the film 'is desperately serious and deeply involved ... This woman, every woman, lays herself open to the audience who must make what they will of the fragments of her life. that make up her death.'

This program note, provided to reviewers along with the standard cast-and-credit sheet, sounds its own note of serious desperation.

It's almost as if Jack Bond, the director, and Jane Arden, who wrote the story and stars in the film, were afraid that without these instructions the uninformed movie-goer would mistake their surreal fantasy for something that looks suspiciously like a soap opera about – of a all things – the menopause.

Although Separation has been stunningly photographed and rather stylishly splintered in time between past and present, between fantasy and reality, it is, essentially, the humdrum study of a woman approaching middle age, newly separated from her husband, uncertain and lonely despite the attentions and a handsome young lover, and wondering, oh-God-what-does-it-all-mean?

Curiously, the very thing that at first seems to be the film's principal virtue – its intense subjectivity – eventually drowns it in a large body of glue which in surreal critical terms, is known as the Sea of Pretension. The heroine's fantasy images don't really tell us as much about her inner life as they do about the movies that Miss Arden and Mr Bond (whose first film this is) have apparently seen and admired.

High on the list would seem to be Fellini's 81/2,with its striking use of bizarre symbols, gnarled and beautiful faces, and white-on-white photographic tones. There are also intimations of Persona, with that film's ambiguity of personality; of Blow-Up (even, I suspect, the use of the same park), and of A Man and a Woman in the free (and often very lovely) juxtaposition of full color scenes with monochromatic ones.

In the tradition of
Now from England
Separation (color)
A New Dimension of Love

The Walter Reade organization presents Separation with Jane Arden, David de Keyser, Ann Lynn, Iain Quarrier; story by Jane Arden. Music by Procol Harum and Stanley Myers. Produced and Directed by Jack Bond. Continental. American Premiere today 34th Street East near 2nd Ave. A Walter Reade Theatre

In Separation, however, all these things seem simply tricks, designed to add weight and importance to the existential dilemma of a woman whose pores we can see but whose profile is obscure. When, about halfway through the film, the camera pulls back to allow us to watch, as a disinterested, third party, a lunch that the heroine and her husband share in an Italian restaurant, we suddenly are aware of what we've been missing.

Their conversation is edgy and funny and sad in the way conversation between two former lovers so often is. With a lot of wine under his belt he starts pontificating on Russia and freedom and she breaks in with some irritation to point out: 'Darling we were talking about female sexuality.' They argue about the respective roles in any male – female relationship. The man, he suggests, must remain 'self-contained'. Or rather, she comments ruefully, 'semi-detached'.

In this brief scene, the anonymous everywoman becomes quite specific and appealing, only to disappear again in a kaleidoscope of flashy and, ultimately, self defeating cinematic techniques. For all her weariness in an affluent London world without any causes left to fight, there seems to be nothing so wrong with this woman that a little Erich Fromm might not cure.

In addition to Miss Arden the cast includes David de Keyser as her husband (sometimes as her fantasy psychiatrist) and Iain Quarrier as her lover. It is the nature of this sort of film that they more often appear to be automaton, bent to the will of the director, than performers. The Procol Harum and Stanley Meyers [sic] wrote the attractive mod-rock score.

Many thanks to John Overall for finding and submitting text and picture

Read a 2009 review of the film here

More about Separation | Order it from Amazon by clicking this link

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