They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

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dad1153
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Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#51 Post by dad1153 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:21 pm

Saw this in a 35mm screening at Anthology Film Archives in NY last year. Bogdanovich tries to do for 30's musicals what his "What's Up, Doc?" did with screwball comedies from the same era, minus the wit and humor that Buck Henry and David Newman brought to that movie's screenplay. It's not a half-bad attempt at using then-modern tools and techniques (i.e. live recording the sound from the musical numbers' performances) to give an old movie format a contemporary/loving/winking/new spin. You can't go wrong with Cole Porter tunes in your soundtrack (classics like 'Let's Misbehave' and more obscure tunes) along with production values comparable to those of the movies "At Long Last Love" is paying homage to. Hearing and seeing Cybill Shepherd and Burt Reynolds flub their musical numbers' lyrics is actually endearing to their shallow-but-well played characters. The uber-talented and game supporting cast (Madeline Khan, Duilio Del Prete and particularly John Hillerman in almost-full Higgins mode) constantly steals the movie from under the leads, which has more to say about the latter than the former. Shame the deathly-dull third act derails the whole thing and it struggles to barely-recover (the ballroom dancing number) before it all ends abruptly. A curiosity piece that marked the beginning of the end of Bogdanovich as a Hollywood A-lister, "At Long Last Love" is pretty and harmless. It'd make a great double-bill with Coppola's "One From The Heart" as misguided attempts by then-established filmmakers to pay homage to a cinematic musical legacy most people (then and now) don't give two shits about.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#52 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:53 pm

Just so everyone's clear, THEY ALL LAUGHED (1981) and AT LONG LAST LOVE (1975) are two separate films.

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Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#53 Post by dad1153 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:59 pm

Oops, my bad! I totally got them confused, and I do have "TAL" on shrink-wrapped DVD in my kevyip library (not pile, library!). Sorry!

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#54 Post by Emak-Bakia » Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:51 pm

I can finally understand domino’s obsession with this film. There are just so many things to love about it that it just begs to be watched again and again. I’ll attempt to record some of my thoughts in the form of a list, since this film’s a new discovery for me and I’m still processing it (I watched it once last year, and sensed that it could be great but didn’t “get it” until revisiting it last week for the 80s project.)

-I adore how almost all details about relationships among the characters are communicated visually. This is largely a silent film in that there are long passages without any dialogue, but instead filled with characters “speaking” with their faces and their hands. Whether it’s the sensuous exchange of glances between Patti Hansen and Ben Gazzara or the laugh out loud physical comedy of John Ritter, there just seem to be countless subtle details to this film. One of the many beautiful moments is when Gazzara is in bed with Hepburn and, noticing a split second melancholy facial expression, says, “Where’d you go just then?” “Everywhere,” she replies. This is the type of film that rewards paying close attention to the tiniest of details. I’ve seen it four times total, and there are still new things to be noticed each time. This is a film made by an obsessive movie watcher for obsessive movie watchers.

-I don’t mean to discount the quality of the dialogue, because it’s equally brilliant in its own way. Blaine Novak’s words sound like music, and practically every one of his lines is quotable. (“The shades come off at midnight” and “He smoked da whole joint!” are two that immediately come to mind.) And Ritter’s vocal performance is equal to his physical performance. I still laugh out loud at his interaction with the waiter near the start of the film.

-I saw at least one person elsewhere on this forum compare the film to Rivette. I can understand that for the intangible air of mystery that permeates the whole film. This is the type of work that I can get great pleasure out of breaking it down shot-by-shot. And yet, there will always be tiny little mysteries that, I suspect, will keep me coming back even after I’ve memorized every shot of the film. The story itself follows three private detectives on two different cases of husbands surveying their wives. Once the viewer gets a firm grasp on the film’s mode of visual storytelling, the details of the cases are not hard to understand.

What is hard to pin down, though, are things like the details of Gazzara’s relationships prior to the start of the film. Does he already know Hansen and/or Hepburn or are the two women only pretending not to know Gazzara? He instantly converses with both with a rhythm that suggests they’re old friends. All of the words exchanged between the three suggest that they have not met prior to the start of the film, but these words seem hollow, as if part of a game to which the audience isn’t privy. With Hepburn, Gazzara’s attraction transcends words. Before Hepburn steps a foot off the helicopter at the start of the film, before Gazzara even catches a glimpse of her face, he’s drawn to her.

Each time I’ve watched this film, I’ve had the inexplicable feeling that this is not the first time Gazzara and Hepburn have been in this situation with each other. The film starts with Hepburn’s helicopter landing in New York and ends with her boarding a helicopter and bound for London (or was it Paris?) For me, there’s a sense that the film presents but one occurrence of a never-ending story of doomed lovers. I could be reading too much into it, but tiny touches like the setting for Gazzara and Hepburn’s first meeting seem to provide evidence of this infinite extension of their romance beyond the film’s running time (and even beyond the film’s universe, since Gazzara and Hepburn had a relationship in real life.) The moment they first exchange words in the film, they are in the jigsaw puzzle section of a toy story, surrounded by boxes with beautiful color photographs of sunflowers, sail boats and a classic autumn scene. The seasonal subject matter of these puzzles suggests the cyclical nature of their romance.

-Speaking of the environments, Bogdanovich chooses some of the liveliest locations to place his characters: a roller skating rink, the Rizzoli bookstore, a toy store, and, of course, the living, breathing streets of New York . What’s more amazing is the way Bogdanovich and cinematographer Robby Müller manage to integrate the natural background movement of these environments into certain shots. Domino has mentioned that the roller skating rink is his favorite scene, and it’s not hard to see why. Just one of the many incredible details in the scene is the way the skaters move around Ritter and Stratten’s heads as he reads her palm. It creates a dizzying effect and perfectly matches Ritter’s head-over-heals, love-at-first-sight emotional state.

Even in what is, on paper, a humdrum office setting, Bogdanovich infuses the detective agency headquarters with a vibrancy through the perfect rule of thirds framing of the windows in George Morfogen’s office. The hum of traffic can always be seen outside the windows, a constant reminder of the life going on outside the workplace walls.

-Musically, They All Laughed exists somewhere in the strange nexus of jazz, country, and Sinatra. They might not seem like a good fit, but this film is filled with so many perfect pairings of sound and vision. The use of Sinatra’s “You and Me” in the rollerskating scene is one of the most transcendent, poignant moments I can think of in cinema. Sorry for the hyperbole, but I haven’t been able to get this scene out of my head the past week. And Christie Miller’s country songs are great. They also provide yet another detail to focus on with repeat viewings, as the lyrics often tell more about the character’s relationships than any of the dialogue.

-The faces! I know I already mentioned this in my first point, but I want to return again to just how glorious it is, the way the film drifts between points of view. Nearly every character has a first person POV shot at some point in the film. Domino wrote in the “All-Time List” thread: “What Bogdanovich does is replicate the eternal struggle of the film audience, always watching and never participating.”

For me, one of the greatest thrills about watching this film multiple times in a short period is focusing on the way the camera’s perspective changes from moment to moment: which characters Bogdanovich will put us inside of and at what point in time he choices to, how this affects the battle of the sexes element (in a typical Hollywood romantic-comedy, I usually hate this element), and how it, psychologically, affects the viewer’s reaction to the film. I feel like I need a total shot-by-shot analysis before I can write about this in much greater detail.

This film is the first I’ve been aware of with such a freewheeling use of POVs. I’m sure there are others, but it’s just not something I’ve really paid attention to previously, I suppose. If anyone’s got recommendations for similarly creative uses of points of view, send them my way.

Okay, that’s all for now. Sorry for the disorganized and possibly half-baked nature of this post. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about this film in a year, but, when I’m really excited about something, I think it’s always a good thing to attempt to capture the white hot intensity of that feeling.

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#55 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:46 pm

What a wonderful appreciation of a wonderful film!

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#56 Post by Emak-Bakia » Wed Jul 16, 2014 5:13 pm

Thanks for the compliment. Also, thanks for pushing this film so persistently. I might not have seen it for a long time otherwise.

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#57 Post by dad1153 » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:27 pm

The DVD of "TAL" has been shrink-wrapped in my kevyip pile for years now. Meanwhile the HD-DVD of "Galaxina" has spun multiple times since on my Toshiba laptop. What the fuck is wrong with me? ;)

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#58 Post by dad1153 » Sun Sep 14, 2014 4:00 pm

So, I finally watched "They All Laughed" last night (actually this morning at 2:00 AM). It's curious. I didn't really like the movie but I didn't hate it either, and I'm actually fascinated by its mixture of tones, ideas, performances and some of the most amazing you-are-there photography of NYC I've seen. Total aside: last Thursday I watched a 35mm theatrical screening of "King Kong '76" in Brooklyn to celebrate the Twin Towers on film (I know). This was preceded by a 20 min. montage of scenes from movies in which the WTC appeared, and they showed a few clips from "They All Laughed" (which I didn't recognize until I saw the movie this weekend) where the towers are visible. Heck, I actually walk every day through the same midtown streets and Times Square locations depicted in the movie (saves $$$ and keeps me fit, lost 38 pounds since April walking to/from work) and Bogdanovich just nails that French New Wave-like vibe of people standing around looking at actors work that I find more engaging cinematically than crowds of extras pretending to go about their business. Haven't listened to the commentary track yet, but the conversation with Wes Anderson on the DVD is both insightful and, frankly, more enjoyable than the movie itself (entertainment value only). I didn't feel the specter of Stratten's death hanging over "They All Laughed" as much as I did in "Galaxina," maybe because she is part of an ensemble in the former while the center of attention in the latter.

I've seen Renoir, Rivette and Truffaut mentioned in this thread about influences on Bogdanovich when making "They All Laughed," but there's one I haven't seen that's the first that sprung to mind: Woody Allen. From the star/name ensemble to the locations shown (NYC landmarks but not tourist traps), the faux sophisticate air of the situations and the soundtrack, which reflects both Allen's and Bogdanovich's eclectic personalities (Benny Goodman mixed with Brazil's Roberto Carlos? Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash? Come on!), this almost seems like a Woody Allen he might have written/produced and let someone else direct had he ever gone that route. And there are genuine chemistry moments between some of the actors/characters (cold between Ben Gazzara and Audrey Hepburn, scolding-hot between Gazzara and Patti Hensen, middling-but-palpable between Dorothy Stratten and John Ritter, etc.), an interchangeable description since Capt. Ascot wrote the characters for the specific actors as to make the distinction between the two almost irrelevant. Speaking of chemistry, is Ben Gazzara the man or what? Even in a couple of ridiculous situations when he's running around or whether he's playing straight man or doing shtick with a straight face, Russo is the glue holding "They All Laughed" together. I passed on seeing "Saint Jack" in a 35mm screening a few years back, and watching this a few hours ago makes me realize I missed a chance to have Ben blow my mind years ago like he just did here. Shit, even Audrey Hepburn sleepwalking though her top-billed role seems kind-of cute if you see it through Russo's eyes, which Gazzara's performance allowed me to do with ease.

My main problem with the romantic comedy part of "They All Laughed" is that I just didn't find it funny except whenever Colleen Camp or Blaine Novak were on-screen. Novak's wordplay alone (his shaggy appearance is cherry atop the cake) is a never-ending source of priceless amusement, and his was the only credit sequence that actually made me laugh. Colleen annoyed me sometimes, but she plays the closest the movie comes to a character that's totally in tune with its madcap vibe Bogdanovich is going for. The scenes where she's pointing/interacting and singing without missing a bit (which Bogdanovich shot with multiple cameras) were amazing, and I fucking hate country music. BTW, Bogdanovich as the country music DJ on Sam's cab? Priceless, I actually laughed out loud. The rest of the cast is lame whenever they try to get laughs. Ritter is just doing Insp. Clouseau-mixed-with-Jack-Tripper shtick (Bogdanovich clearly wishes he was in a "Pink Panther"-caliber comedy) and it mostly falls flat. Everyone else is on a different, more subdued wavelength that barely yields a chuckle except for the one scene at the Odyssey Detective Agency, when having most of the band together in one location (particularly the supporting players, who easily outshine the stars in this flick) yields a gem of a comedic madcap symphony.

Overall I'm glad I saw "The All Laughed" and look forward to revisiting it with PG's thoughts. I can't help to think that if I weren't a member of this forum where I know I can talk about these things I wouldn't have bothered to see it. As pure entertainment the flick to me lacks the entertainment, drive or reason to exist other than Bogdanovich could make it, and it so happens that I'm the type of guy (as many others are here) that takes blind stabs at films he knows he probably won't like on the chance I could find a diamond in the rough. This ain't no diamond, but it's no calcified 80's remain either (far from it, it's alive with an energy I find myself intrigued and fascinated by).

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#59 Post by barryconvex » Sat Sep 27, 2014 1:33 am

three great scenes:

1) "can you feel my finger?"
2) the roller skating scene
3) the first scene at the detective agency ("Charles did you shave this morning?")

and no bad scenes=
great movie

i might also add no bad performances either. Ritter really was a master of physical comedy. and I had never seen Stratten act before ( i had my doubts going in) but it's obvious from her work here that she was a natural. She won me over almost instantly. I'm always late to the party with these comments so i can't really add anything new except to say that even on the most superficial of levels this movie is irresistible -It's springtime in NYC, the director is head over heels in love and it radiates throughout every frame of the movie. it's good to be in love, right? Well...let's all fall in love and get married and be happy!! Bogdanovich had me believing it really is that simple. a totally infectious film...thank you to Domino for the recommendation.

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Re: They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

#60 Post by Dylan » Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:03 pm

Bill Teck's feature-length documentary One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & The Lost American Film, about the making of They All Laughed, is now available to stream on Netflix. Has anybody seen it?

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