Boy meets Girl under less than ideal circumstances: Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979) + John and Mary (1969)

March 8, 2017 | By

Today’s reviews form a set of relationship films with unconventional approaches, strong performances, and the kind of tales and tonal shifts which major studios today would poo-poo in favour of banal templates and titles named after songs that are sung by half the cast in one big, overblown, gratingly cutesy scene.

There are paint by number films about boy meets girl, boy loses, girl, boy gets get and all ends well; and films made in the late sixties through seventies in which boy meets girl in the midst of a separation, boy loses girl because of deeper issues, and then tries to get girl like a dope not realizing he’s making a mess of things before both parties attain respective states of emancipation.

That is Chilly Scenes of Winter, made and released in 1979 as Head Over Heels, and sold by studio UA as a cutesy romantic comedy which it’s not. It’s re-release 3 years later gave the noteworthy film a second chance, and although unconventional in structure and tone – you either ease into it after the first 10 minutes and accept their fast hookup or walk away irritated – it boasts solid direction and script by Joan Micklin Silver, as based on Ann Beattie’s first novel, and solid production by one of three key figures, Amy Robinson, who would later co-produce Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1983).

Stars John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt are first-rate in roles that could easily have been misinterpreted as familiar clichés, adversely affecting the film’s time-jumps and character states, and it’s easy to see why Chilly has endured as a low-level cult film that’s getting its due on Blu via Twilight Time.

The second film of note is a personal favourite, John and Mary (1969), which I ported over from the old database in the hope it (and its unreleased full score) might get a rebirth on Blu, too.

The premise of John Mortimer’s script (based on Mervyn Jones’ novel) is simple: two people meet in a bar, are charmed during the moment, spend the night together, and decide to spend some non-whoopee time together  to see if there’s something worth pursuing. The film more or less builds towards a Will-they-or-won’t-they-become-a-couple, and although dated, J&M has some worthy ingredients, including the cast, direction by Peter Yates (The Deep, Breaking Away, Suspect), and one of Quincy Jones’ most beautiful & haunting main themes.

Fox released the film in DVD back in 2007 and the soundtrack album never went farther than an LP release (of which the related review has also been ported over), but it’s no less deserving of some kind of Special Edition. I haven’t revisited the film in 10 years, and would prefer to wait until it gets its due on Blu… maybe sometime in 2017?



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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