Going Shopping (2005)

I am working my way through the Henry Jaglom collection of films--many are written with his actress wife, Victoria Foyt. This is one of their collaborations about modern women and the men who love them. Jaglom's directing style is improvisational with many of the same actors turning up again and again in these explorations of the life of feeling, dream, love, meaning, fear, and alienation.

This movie centers on Holly Gilmore (Victoria Foyt), a designer of upscale women's dresses and owner of Holly G, a popular shop/cafe hub in Beverly Hills. She appears to be quite successful in her lovely clothing and stylish life until she learns that her boyfriend/manager failed to pay the rent for several months. Holly must raise $40,000 over one weekend to avoid losing the shop. She and her staff pull together to sell off all her stock during a Mother's Day sale. The film is full of interactions with her staff and shoppers--woven with intimate testimonial interviews with several of these women speaking about the emotional psychology of shopping.

Holly's mother, Winnie (Lee Grant) has a no-good boyfriend and a dark secret. Holly's teenage daughter, Coco, adds a third generation to the family trio as each struggle with challenges of their place in life. Holly discovers a new friend when she helps Miles (Rob Morrow) pick out a gift for his girlfriend. Holly's life is all about appearance. Miles is a guy wearing a Free Tibet t-shirt and admits to being a little lost in his life...a designer of ottomans and compulsive shopper with a girlfriend who he can never please.

Watching each character attempt to resolve their issues is a pleasure.


Festival at Cannes (2001)

This Henry Jaglom film happens in Cannes during the annual film festival. Alice is a middle age actress (Greta Scacchi) who is transitioning to writer/director. She is at the festival with her two co-writers, working on their story about a sixtyish Gena Rowlands-type character who is trying to get her own life back after taking care of a family most of her adult years.

Blue (Jenny Gabrielle) is there for the debut of Fire, her well-received first starring film role. She is stunned and awkward with the sudden attention and label as the new "It" girl. The town is swarming with wheeling and dealing--money guys and other sweet-talkers preying upon the hopeful artists in their bid to become a manager or producer.

Ron Silver (now deceased) is wonderful as Rick, the smooth producer in shades and black clothing. He negotiates in a most effortless manner. His mission at the festival is to coax an aging film legend, Millie (Anouk Aimee), into taking a small role in a project that Tom Hanks agrees to do only if Millie is cast. Millie feels the role is humiliating--she is aiming for a more defining role to bring back her career. Alice also wants Millie for her for her small film.

Viktor is Millie's ex who is a director of cult art films who is tired of the whole game. He sums up his feelings......"Sometimes I think it is enough to dream the movies--it's just too much work." His young actress girlfriend dumps him for somebody who appears more promising. Now he wants Millie back.

The display of ego-stroking and power plays are carefully orchestrated. Vulnerabilities are uncovered. Alice and Rick get together, but it is never clear if true romance is blossoming or if Rick is manipulating Alice to get the deal he needs. It's like being a fly on the wall at a really good party. Jaglom's films have the romance and air of a 1930s movie with music from Charles Trenet, Fred Astair, Edith Piaf, Mel Torme. This one captures the ordinariness of glamour. People are surrounded by wealth, appearances, and beauty on the Mediterranean and still they are struggling with loneliness, relationship, identity--trying to find a bit of happiness.


Deja Vu (1997)

I first watched this film about ten years ago and every so often I must watch it again. This is a "Romance" that raises questions about destiny, fate and synchronicity. Henry Jaglom directed and co-wrote the story with Victoria Foyt, who also stars as Dana, an L.A. shopkeeper on vacation in Europe. The movie opens in Jerulsalem, where Dana is buying clothing to ship back to sell in her store. An attractive forty-something woman with poise and style, she plans to meet fiancee, Alex (Michael Brandon), at the home of friends in London.

While relaxing at a countryside cafe, she has a curious encounter with a friendly older woman who tells her a story about a lovely ruby pin given to her by the love of her life many years ago. When the woman leaves Dana with the pin and never returns from the powder room, she delays meeting Alex to attempt to find the woman in Tel Aviv and Paris. Sidetracked on the train to London, she gets off at Dover, the site of the well-known World War II song about the white cliffs. References to the location and song crop up again and again throughout the film, adding to the 1940s romantic flavor of the story.

At the white cliffs she meets an oddly familiar painter named Sean (Stephen Dillane). He mentions "saudade," the Portugese word that describes the love that remains after someone is gone...a nostalgia for a time or place or thing that may never have been or may never be. They visit a cafe for hot chocolate and once again she delays her arrival at the home of Claire and John in London, where Alex awaits her. An eclectic group join together for food, drink, and introspective conversation. We learn that Alex and Dana have purchased an old mansion that once belonged to a Hollywood legend to convert it to a hotel/spa. Skelly (Vanessa Redgrave), John's free-spirited, sixty-something, bohemian sister is full of stories and charm.

Complex relationships unravel and unexpected forces cause Dana to doubt her life choices. Skelly is orchestrating a way to move her elderly mother to live with Claire and John in order to maintain her self-involved livestyle, free from the burden of caring for Mother. Practiced in the art of an unencumbered life, she offers Dana wonderful pearls of wisdom in her moment of confusion.

"The world conspires to prevent us from taking what we have found."

"Illusion is a scent of something real coming close."

The trip is cut short when Dana's father back home is hospitalized. He reveals a long-hidden secret on her wedding day. This is a fun and thought-provoking romantic tale that explores the more troubling aspects of following the heart.


Who Is Henry Jaglom (1997)

This documentary by Alex Rubin and Jeremy Workman investigates the eccentric film maker, Henry Jaglom. After appearing in the Gidget television series and in several B movies, including Psyche Out/The Trip, a 1960s classic.

Jaglom began making his own independent films that are much like a garage sale of various personal items out on a lawn--some junk, some precious. His motto is "there is no such thing as too personal." He views movie making as a process of extracting and shaping what actors give him. He uses a stable of actors that become frequent visitors in his films. His brother, Michael Emil (Jaglom), is one such actor. Melissa Leo, who just won an Oscar for The Fighter, is another regular. Andre Gregory, from the 1970s film, My Dinner with Andre, is also included.

Jaglom's films are described as being somewhere between documentary and fiction. He was a great admirer and friend of Orson Welles. Welles comments "Henry and I are girlfriends." He uses Welles' face in his production company International Rainbow Pictures. He also gave his son, Simon, Orson as a middle name.

His films tend to feature women and he strikes me as a feminist, aware of women's issues. Still, some women find him to be a woman-hater. The film includes commentary from Candace Bergman, Dennis Hopper, and many of his core actors.

The creators of this documentary point out many of Jaglom's flaws and feature shots of him yelling and not being a nice guy. A Extra Feature included with the DVD called "Who Isn't Henry Jaglom?" This attempts to balance out this out. For anyone who becomes taken with his films, this documentary adds a lot to understanding why Jaglom does what he does.

He's an artist. Of course, some people will want to tear him apart...others will adore him.


Baby Fever (1994)

I believe this is the first Henry Jaglom film starring Victoria Foyt, his future wife and collaborator. The movie explores motherhood at a time when women had finally learned to be independent and there is much confusion surrounding how to do this differently from their mothers.

Gena (Foyt) questions her tendency to always have an escape plan with men and wonders why she is forever evolving. She is dating Gary, a co-worker who is nice man and a talented architect with romantic ideas about settling down in the right house. He is ready to take the next step together and tries to convince her that making a baby could be a really good idea. He uses a metalurgy metaphor about two substances being greater when combined. Still, Gena is not sure that he is "the one."

Meanwhile, she is visited by a former beau, Anthony Thomas (Eric Roberts), a handsome actor with financial problems. She is a finance professional so he arrives asking for help straightening out his problems. He also makes a play to reunite with her. She was once quite in love with him so this unexpected interaction sends her into unknown emotional territory.

Gena attends a baby shower where various women speak to the camera about their feelings about marriage and motherhood. Jaglom's women are typically confused--overwhelmed with mixed feelings that border on annoyingly whiney, but somehow, it's never enough to turn me away. Gena's friends call her "our queen spinster," but she secretly buys baby girl clothing and saves them in a box underneath her bed. Gena is torn between whether to settle or hold out for "Mr. Right."

There is a surprise ending that is kind of fun. This movie is an in-depth exploration of a topic rarely addressed in movies beyond cliche storylines.


Someone to Love (1988)

This is Henry Jaglom's attempt to get to the bottom of why so many people fail to find the kind of marital happiness and longevity as the previous generation. This was the late 1980s--he was still single. Danny (Jaglom) is a 40-something bachelor dating a woman who prefers to sleep the night alone so he always unhappy about walking out the door late at night. "Not everyone wants a white picket fence," she tells him.

His brother (Michael Emil Jaglom) is visiting L.A. to finalize a real estate deal to tear down an old theater to make a shopping plaza. He feels no shred of sadness about this, but Danny decides host a party at the old theater in hopes of connecting his brother with one of his single friends and shoot film at the theater on Valentine's Day.

Danny mailed invitations to all the singles her knew. They showed up not sure what was in store for them. His film features one-on-one interviews with a varied group of 30 and 40-somethings about why they have failed to sustain intimacy in their lives. He creates a believable series of in-depth question and answers that shed light on a generation of men and women who rejected the expectations of the previous generation while having no clear map for how to find their own meaningful lives.

Sally Kellerman appears as the big time actress who had left her husband. Danny's brother is quite taken with her. Other romantic interests evolve during this party that offers more that food and drink. Jaglom thoroughly explores the topic of why a generation was left unattached at mid-life at this moment of 1988...a unique moment in history.


Leaving (2009)

Catherina Corsini has made a lovely film set in the south of France. The plot is classic. Suzanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a beautiful forty-something housewife who is returning to work as a physiotherapist. Her life with children and husband, Samuel (Yvan Attal) is comfortable and uneventful until Ivan (Sergi Lopez) is hired to renovate a small building in the backyard into a proper consulting room for her practice.

An immediate attraction is sparked between Suzanne and Ivan. Suzanne realizes how unhappy she has been with Samuel. It does not take long for Samuel to notice the disruption in their life. When she attempts to flee, he wages a fight keep her at all costs. The son and daughter are caught in the middle and the lovers are conflicted until the drama is finally resolved. The story is nothing new, but the acting is believable and I did not want to stop watching it.

I've Loved You So Long (2008)

Philippe Claudel's French language film explores a woman's struggle to find her place in society after fifteen years in prison. The story opens as Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) greets her older sister, Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) at the prison to take her home. Near strangers now, Lea was a young child when Juliette mysteriously disappeared and her parents stopped talking about her.

When a social worker contacted her about offering Juliette a home upon release, Lea was eager to help. Now married with two young daughters, she generously invites Juliette to share her warm and cheerful home life, a choice her husband is not happy about. Juliette is quietly appreciative, but distant until she is coaxed to open up and tell the truth about that tragic event that changed her life. Once a doctor and mother, she is without an identity. She cooks, cleans, swims, learns to relate to her young nieces. The love of her new family allows her wounds to heal in order to to find work and build a new life.

Kristin Scott Thomas expresses so much by doing so little. This is a beautiful film about loss and second chances.