Offering a scandalous twist on the already-lurid genre of cross-generational love stories, Glass Houses imagines a scenario wherein a middle-aged patriarch’s infidelity arouses the sexual curiosity of his 19-year-old daughter. Although Glass Houses doesn’t follow this premise to its logical conclusion, the clear implication is that something highly inappropriate may soon happen. This naturally raises the question of why the filmmakers felt compelled to tell this story. Did they mean to suggest that a man who sleeps with a woman young enough to be his daughter may also be tempted to sleep with his actual daughter? And since the adulterer’s wife eventually takes a lover of her own, do the filmmakers mean to say that a man who starts down the road of violating sexual propriety should not be surprised when others in his household do the same? Glass Houses is too shallow to provide satisfying answers to these questions, but it’s not accurate to describe the picture as mere sensationalistic provocation. Some measure of thought went into the film, as did some measure of cinematic craftsmanship.
Victor (Bernard Barrow) runs a board-game company with his business partner, Ted (Phillip Pine). Victor is married to Adele (Ann Summers), and their daughter is Kim (Deirdre Lenihan). Victor’s mistress is a beautiful young model named Jean (Jennifer O’Neill). Kim is hip to Victor’s dalliances, but she doesn’t know the specifics until one fateful weekend. At Jean’s behest, Victor accompanies her to the “Institute of Encounter Awareness,” which is just as hippy-dippy as it sounds. While there, Victor stumbles across his business partner, Ted, who brought his own much-younger lover to the Institute. She is Kim, Victor’s daughter. (Side note: A lengthy sex scene with Ted and Kim is both the movie’s most perceptive vignette and its most unpleasant.) Although neither Kim nor Jean freak out upon discovering the seedy connections between characters, squaresville Victor has trouble processing everything.
Not much else happens in Glass Houses, excepting Adele’s unglamorous tryst with a lecherous author, so most of the drama hangs on shots of Barrow and/or Pine looking perplexed about modern attitudes toward sex. (Adultery? Fine! Progressive morality? Hey, just a minute!) Directed and co-written by prolific TV director Alexander Singer, Glass Houses reflects the hypocricy of its male characters, inasmuch as the camera often lingers on young female flesh. That being said, Singer and his collaborators seem legitimately concerned with examining societal changes, even if they fall short of providing fresh insights. The same is true of the picture’s artistic elements, because the tricky cross-cutting used in certain scenes feels awfully familiar given how prevalent that style was in social dramas of the late ’60s.
Glass Houses: FUNKY