High and Low: Two Films About Threesomes − 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' & 'Micki + Maude'

High and Low: 'Micki + Maude'

This week is about threesomes, in two movies that couldn’t be more different. Although both are the products of legendary filmmakers, one’s a restrained British drama while the other is a knockabout farce. (And if these movies put you in the mood for more ménage-a-cinema, check out 3,  Cloud Atlas co-director Tom Tykwer's 2011 film, a sexy and intelligent movie that got very little traction in this country.)

High and Low: 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday'HIGH: Sunday Bloody Sunday (The Criterion Collection; $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-Ray)

Who’s Responsible: Written by Penelope Gilliatt; directed by John Schlesinger; starring Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murray Head.

What’s It All About: Jewish physician Daniel (Finch) and divorcee Alex (Jackson) are both having a relationship with artist Bob (Head). Both Daniel and Alex are aware of the arrangement, and they put up with it because each does not want to lose the emotionally elusive Bob.

Why It’s Schmancy: Sunday Bloody Sunday made history for its then-shocking kiss between Finch and Head — made all the more revolutionary in 1971 for Schlesinger’s refusal to treat it any differently than a heterosexual smooch. But what has made the film endure is the core honesty of the characters. (In an interview on the DVD, Head says that Schlesinger had once shared a boyfriend with a woman and that the film was a way for him to disentangle the experience.) Brilliantly acted, sensitively written and beautifully shot, Sunday Bloody Sunday is, as author William J. Mann notes on the DVD, Schlesinger’s masterpiece.

Why You Should Own It: Once again, The Criterion Collection packages its releases brilliantly. In addition to the extras with Head and Mann, there are excerpts from a 1975 AFI lecture given by Schlesinger, interviews with production designer Luciana Arrighi, cinematographer Billy Williams and Schlesinger’s longtime partner Michael Childers. An accompanying booklet includes a new essay as well as Gilliatt’s introduction to the published screenplay. The picture and sound are both exquisite as well, particularly in hi-def.

High and Low: 'Micki + Maude'LOW: Micki + Maude (Part of a four-film collection from Mill Creek Entertainment; $9.98 DVD)

Who’s Responsible: Written by Jonathan Reynolds; directed by Blake Edwards; starring Dudley Moore, Ann Reinking, Amy Irving and Richard Mulligan.

What’s It All About: Rob Salinger (Moore) really, really, really wants to have a baby, but his wife Micki (Ann Reinking), an assistant DA, seemingly has no interest in having children. When he falls for Maude (Irving), and she becomes pregnant, he prepares to marry her and divorce Micki — until it turns out that Micki is also with child. Not willing to cross Maude’s pro-wrestler dad, Rob marries her anyway, leading to the harried two-timer spending days with one wife and nights with the other. Cue the inevitable delivery room sequence, with both spouses in adjoining suites and Rob trying his best to keep the charade going.

Why It’s Fun: The premise sounds like a turn-off, but Reynolds, Edwards and Moore manage to make Rob a sympathetic character: he really wants to be a father, and he really loves both of these women. So, through some miracle, this bigamist scoundrel comes off as a decent guy just trying to do the right thing. Few American filmmakers do door-slamming farce as well as the late, great Edwards, and the big hospital scene at the end ranks as a real comic gem. Micki + Maude isn’t often listed among the director’s greatest films, but it’s overdue for a reappraisal.

Why You Should Buy It (Again): The film comes packaged in a very mixed bag of romantic comedies, ranging from the great (Modern Romance) to the forgettable (There’s a Girl in My Soup, starring frequent Edwards collaborator Peter Sellers, and Hanky Panky). The real reason to own this film is that much of Micki + Maude’s comedy relies upon Edwards’ masterful use of the anamorphic screen, so this really isn’t a movie you want to watch on TV unless it’s letterboxed.

Alonso Duralde has written about film for The Wrap, Salon and MSNBC.com. He also co-hosts the Linoleum Knife podcast and regularly appears on What the Flick?! (The Young Turks Network).  He is a senior programmer for the Outfest Film Festival in Los Angeles and a pre-screener for the Sundance Film Festival. He also the author of two books: Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas (Limelight Editions) and 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men (Advocate Books).

Follow Alonso Duralde on Twitter.

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