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Elia kazan film The Arrangement.

by Guest6220  |  earlier

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Dear Sir, I particularly enjoy Elia Kazan film The Arrangement. What was the general reception of the film by critics, when it was first played? Do you have any information about this? Can someone tell me that?

 Tags: Arrangement, elia, film, kazan

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  1. Guest23284964

    I think the best way to answer your question is to show a couple of reputable critics' reviews of the day:

    By VINCENT CANBY - New York Times, November 1969

    THE Arrangement is Elia Kazan's most romantic movie. It may also be his worst, in cinematic terms, and his most successful, at the box office. There is no other way to characterize the sort of sincerely intended kitsch in which Faye Dunaway, looking so cool and elegant that the sight of her almost pinches the optic nerves, can be seriously described as the office tramp. Or in which a puffy, matronly Deborah Kerr can proclaim herself prettier than Miss Dunaway (neither one of them is pretty), or in which Kirk Douglas, when he tries to commit suicide, employs such symbols of rare status as a Triumph TR 4 and a privately owned Cessna.

    The Arrangement reeks with slightly absurd movie chic but, unlike Douglas Sirk's “Written on the Wind” or Vincente Minnelli's Two Weeks in Another Town, it's not only not much fun, but it's a mess of borrowed styles. What's worse is that it may be largely incomprehensible, on a simple narrative level, unless one has read Kazan's best-selling, 543-page short story that the director has more or less synopsized in his movie.

    Technically, I suppose, the published version of "The Arrangement" is a novel (reportedly, a semi-autobiographical one). However, it reads like a short story that has been inflated by pointless plot digressions and by fat paragraphs of banal dialogue, recorded with the sort of fidelity that might better be given radio signals from Venus. In an attempt to include as much of the original material as possible in a slightly more than two-hour movie, Kazan opens his film about one-third of the way into the novel and closes it about one-third of the way from the end, flashing forwards and backwards within the film to cover the material deleted.

    Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas), né Evangelos Topouzoglu, a second generation Greek-American, is a West Coast advertising wizard ("Zephyr? The Clean Cigarette!"). He has an intelligent wife (Deborah Kerr), a fine house, three cars, push-buttons for everything (TV sets, garage doors, wristwatch alarms, lawn sprinklers), and a magnificent physical animal for a mistress (Faye Dunaway) who, unfortunately for Eddie, makes him realize he is not happy.

    One day, quite consciously, Eddie drives his Triumph TR 4 into the side of a trailer truck. From that moment on, Eddie tries to reorganize a life that has become a series of "arrangements" ? Compromises, adaptations and adjustments that have destroyed his self-respect, the effort takes the form first of a catatonic withdrawal, succeeded by a hysterical binge. He abandons his wife, pursues his mistress to New York and confronts his old Greek father, who, like Eddie, also is dying, though only physically.

    While all of this is fitfully interesting as melodrama, it does have some genuine fascination as Kazan's Panavision-Technicolor fantasy about himself. Kazan, who has made some very good films (A Streetcar Named Desire, "On the Waterfront"), has turned his own life into slick, second-rate movie-fiction, It is glossily photographed, scored to the point of madness with Greek bouzouki music and enacted by performers who elicit automatic responses from audiences who know them as movie stars. It might have been interesting, for instance, if someone on the order of a young Sam Jaffe had played the Douglas role.

    Having provided himself with a confused script, Kazan, the director, has had something of an artistic breakdown. The film is full of scenes of rather grossly depicted, middle-aged sensuality (Miss Kerr, the unsatisfied wife, fondling her own breast, then caressing a phallic, balcony stay) and nudity (mostly from the rear? the camera seems always to catch the characters on the point of departure).

    In flashbacks, Kazan uses stage devices of the 1950's. Douglas participates as an adult in reenactments of scenes from his youth. At another point Kazan lets him fantasize the beating up of a rival by picturing the words 'Pow!" "Zap!" 'Zowie!", as if "The Arrangement" had suddenly turned into "Batman." Kazan even puts his curious signature on the film by allowing one of Douglas's old Greek uncles (a character who has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie) to recall his arrival in this country in what is actually an out take from an earlier Kazan film, "America, America."

    Unlike Francois Truffaut, who transformed his own experiences into disciplined, poetic film visions ("The 400 Blows," "Love at 20," "Stolen Kisses"), Kazan seems to have turned his search for identity into a callous soap opera, unworthy of a man of Kazan's true talent.

    By ROGER EBERT - December 24, 1969

    Elia Kazan's "The Arrangement" is one of those long, ponderous, star-filled "serious" films that were popular in the 1950s, before we began to value style more highly than the director's good intentions. It isn't successful, particularly not on Kazan's terms (he sees it, doubtless, as a bitter sermon on the consequences of selling out). But it does draw nourishment from the remarkable performances of Kirk Douglas and Faye Dunaway.

    They're the best things in the film, achieving effects even when Kazan's script is at its most uncomfortable. And it is an uncomfortable, awkward script, laboring the obvious and ignoring the rest. Kazan considers the tragedy of a talented man (Douglas) who sells his soul to an advertising agency and then nearly kills himself trying to buy it back. His crisis comes when his mistress (Dunaway) denounces him and his "value system" and causes him to re-examine his empty life and empty wife (Deborah Kerr).

    This is, indeed, exactly the story you might have expected in a 1950s movie; but it's not the story so much as Kazan's tone that goes wrong. He gives Douglas endless scenes of anguished self-analysis, hysterics, blame, guilt, disintegration. By the time he's analyzed the cause of his crisis (it's his mother's fault, naturally), we feel we've been through it ourselves a time or two. This is particularly the case since Kazan skips around in time so much; just when we think we're getting somewhere, he slips in a flashback and we're back where we started.

    Kirk Douglas and Faye Dunaway, however, move through this confusion with so much self-confidence that we become involved with their characters, and the movie almost works. Douglas has been around so long and made so many movies (this is his 49th) that we almost forget to judge him freshly; and yet this isn't a "Kirk Douglas performance" but a piece of acting, finely wrought out of the materials Kazan supplied him with, and sustained despite the handicaps Kazan was equally generous with.

    Douglas' best scenes are with Miss Dunaway, whose acting is not only the equal of in "Bonnie and Clyde" but is, indeed, the only good acting she has done since. The reason they're good together, I think, is because there's so much intelligence at work on the screen. When Douglas, an intelligent actor, plays opposite Deborah Kerr, we don't feel there's anyone there; Miss Kerr keeps even her emptiness in reserve. But Faye Dunaway interacts well and sensitively with Douglas, and the scenes involving their affair form a separate story (almost apart from the confusion of the main event) that is absorbing and real.

    Even Douglas is not quite able to pull off several scenes of hysterics and wall climbing, however; Kazan seems reluctant to direct personal confrontations at anything beneath a dull roar. The movie finally pounds at our moral sense so much that our moral sense wearies and becomes defensive, and we are finally just grateful for Faye Dunaway's beauty, and the way she doesn't raise her voice.

    A little piece of trivia: In his autobiography, Elia Kazan says he wanted Marlon Brando to play the protagonist of his film, Eddie Anderson. Kazan was dissatisfied with Kirk Douglas' performance in the role and wished Brando had taken the role, as Brando would have been able to suggest depths of feeling that Douglas could not.
     

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