Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Georgia, Georgia (1973)

          The celebrated writer Maya Angelou only penned two original screen stories in her lifetime, the script for this obscure theatrical feature and the teleplay for a 1982 TV movie called Sister, Sister. (Make what you will of the similar titles.) Georgia, Georgia is thoroughly discombobulated. In some scenes it’s an interracial romantic melodrama bordering on camp, complete with a subplot about a queeny manager romancing a hotel clerk who looks like a Swedish version of Dracula. In other scenes, Georgia, Georgia is a dead-serious meditation on issues related to the Vietnam War. And every so often, the picture leaves reality behind for impressionistic passages linking pretentious images with odd sonic counterpoints. Notwithstanding the presence of the same actors and characters from beginning to end, Georgia, Georgia seems like a collection of clips from several different movies.
          Georgia Martin (Diana Sands) is an American pop singer traveling through Sweden with her manager, Herbert (Roger Furman), and her caretaker, Mrs. Anderson (Minnie Gentry). News of Georgia’s arrival sparks interest among a community of American deserters, all of whom are black, because they hope to involve her in their cause, with the ultimate goal of persuading the Swedish government to grant political asylum. Meanwhile, Georgia participates in a photo shoot with Michael Winters (Dirk Benedict), an American living in Sweden. He’s white, so when Georgia begins to demonstrate romantic attraction to Michael, Mrs. Anderson becomes concerned. No interracial hanky-panky on her watch.
          It’s possible that some gifted director could have guided Angelou through revisions and thereby pulled the disparate elements of Georgia, Georgia together. Stig Björkman wasn’t the guy for the job. (In his defense, Björkman rarely makes films in English—which, of course, raises the question of why he was hired in the first place.) For long stretches, Georgia, Georgia is painfully dull because the character motivations are nonsensical and the onscreen actions are repetitive. Furthermore, many supporting actors give amateurish performances—and to note that Benedict is not in the same league as Sands is to greatly understate the situation. Then there’s the dialogue. Periodically, Angelou gets incisive, as when Mrs. Anderson says that Georgia “kinda kicked the habit” of embracing blackness. Yet for every line that works, a dozen don’t. For instance, Georgia exclaims, “I’m not gonna do anything but stay black and die!” That’s a good line for a character who hasn’t already been established as denying her African-American identity.
          It gets worse. During a love scene, Michael says to Georgia: “You taste like mystery.”
          At its most ridiculous, Georgia, Georgia gives both leading characters Bergman-esque contemplation scenes. In Georgia’s vignette, she wears a cape and walks by a lake at dusk while Sands recites poetry on the soundtrack. In Michael’s vignette, he stares into the mirror while raunchy burlesque music plays. However, these scenes aren’t nearly as bizarre as the ending, which won’t be spoiled here. Suffice to say that the finale elevates Georgia, Georgia from muddled to outrageous. For seekers into the cinematic unknown, this picture’s out-0f-nowhere ending makes the whole viewing experience worthwhile. Georgia, Georgia might be a mess, but when it matters, the movie isn’t timid.

Georgia, Georgia: FREAKY

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