A young woman named Noah lives alone in New York. She is a disturbed flower child, who retreats into her past, yearning for lost innocence. She recalls her childhood, searching for a safe place. As a child she met a magician in Central Park who presented her with magical objects a levitating silver ball, a star ring, and a Noahs ark. She is romantically involved with two totally different men. Fred is practical but dull. Mitch is dynamic and sexy, her ideal fantasy partner. Neither man is able to totally fulfill her needs.
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Henry Jaglom is a director I've heard about before, but had never seenone of his films. He makes a film every couple of years, they play inlike three cities in America, and no one seems to like them. A SafePlace was his first film, adapted from his own play, which he wrote in1964. Tuesday Weld plays an insufferable hippie chick who doesn't wantto grow up. Phil Proctor is a square who wants desperately to bone her,so he puts up with her nonsense (he knows that she's half crazy, butthat's why he wants to be there). Eventually, a much more exciting JackNicholson shows up and steals her away. Orson Welles plays a magicianwho occasionally enchants Weld with his magic. Gwen Welles (whom youmight remember from Altman's films California Split and Nashville), inher film debut, also appears and rambles on about her dreams of beingsexually assaulted. The film is pretty, and that prettiness is verymuch augmented by Tuesday Weld's enchanting beauty. But, honestly,there's not much going on here. It's very repetitive (there are somenice, old songs on the soundtrack, but each of them plays all the waythrough like three times), and, well, boring.
Only in the post-"Easy Rider" early 1970s could a film like this be madebya majorHollywood studio. Totally devoid of anything resembling a plot, "A SafePlace" willprobably seem incomprehensible to most. But if you already have anappreciation forthe 1950s-1960s works of Fellini, Antonioni or Godard, come on in. You'llfeel right athome in this "Safe Place."Henry Jaglom was the unsung hero amongst the circle of friends thatbroughtus "Head,""Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces," and several other lesser-known classicsofthe era.Jaglom is more responsible for the success of "Easy Rider" than DennisHopper, as hetook Hopper's three-hour cut--a mishmash of flashbacks, flash-forwards andart-damaged nonsense--and shaped it into the legendary film it is today. Hiscloserelationship with Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider,andothers gavehim a chance to write and direct his own movie for ColumbiaPictures.Jaglom in turn delivered this dream narrative starring Tuesday Weld as ayoung womanwho copes by retreating into isolationism and fantasy. Orson Welles popsuphere andthere as a magician who represents a physical emodiment of her retreatfromthe world.Or does he only exist in her head?It's best not to ask questions like that. Free your mind, sit back, andtake in the feelingand mood. Where Hopper failed with his cut of "Easy Rider" and "The LastMovie",Jaglom effortlessly succeeds with such lofty and artsy ambitions. "A SafePlace" coastsby like a gentle dream in an afternoon nap--full of beautiful, detachedimagery, illogicalbut comforting."A Safe Place" is a beautiful relic of a brief time in American cinema.Even Jaglom--always on the fringe of mainstream cinema--would never make anything likethis again,as he later developed the documentary/verite style which has become histrademark.
So, let me get this straight - if I have a taste for Fellini, Antonioniand Godard I'll feel right at home with A Safe Place? Um, no. I loveFellini, right up through 8 1/2. I've enjoyed much of Antonioni. Godard- a mixed bag for me, but I like Breathless and Alphaville fine, andBand Of Outsiders, too. Mr. Jaglom is not in their company, at leastfor me, and A Safe Place is a pretentious mess from start to finish. Noone loves Tuesday Weld more than I, and she's fine. Jack Nicholson, whocame in for a day and improvised everything is embarrassing. GwenWelles gives new meaning to self-indulgent, but then again she has themost self-indulgent filmmaker imaginable "directing" her. I have never met a Henry Jaglom film I liked - ever. And his "thing"that if you don't respond to his films then you don't understand womenis, well, fatuous. I'm glad he considers himself such an enlightenedand sensitive man, but I'm not buying nor are many of my women friends.It is the type of cinema that makes me want to throw up and not becauseI don't like experimental or interesting films, because I have and Ido. As I sat there with drool running out of my mouth because I'd justinvested what I thought was almost ninety minutes of my time, I pausedthe film to find out I was only at the forty-minute mark.However, one has to commend any filmmaker who keeps on doing it - hedoes it with his own funds (good to be wealthy) and as long as he keepshaving girlfriends he'll keep making films because his entire oeuvre isbased on his love life.
---and this brilliant little gem is proof thereof. Drawing almostequally from the French New Wave as he did Ambrose Bierce's ANOCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE, Jaglom's "safe place" for TuesdayWeld's character is her own imagination, where her eccentricities canbloom in complete innocence without being impinged upon by the "realworld." A gorgeous salad of fragments that collect themselves into aunit of an ethereal base, A SAFE PLACE is the kind of film you wouldimagine the artists whose drawings graced the pages of the "undergroundpress" art papers (the San Francisco Oracle, for example) would try tomake out of their visions. There are also nice parts for the actorsWelles -- Orson, happy to perform as a magician in an all-too-rarechance, and Gwen, who is touching and magnetic in her first film role.Both Welleses left us before their time, and A SAFE PLACE provides abeautiful and unique glimpse of each.