Through a Dark Glassily: “Puzzle of a Downfall Child” (1970)


     Lou Andreas Sand, a high fashion model who over the course of her career descends into alcoholism, drug abuse and madness, is the subject of Jerry Schatzberg’s 1970 directorial debut “Puzzle of a Downfall Child” a film which puzzleofdownfallchildOS uses the influences of a non-linear narrative from the Postmodernist movements in 1960’s European cinema (it’s about time the few Gallic lads of the Nouvelle Vague cease to be credited with the entirety of the rapid evolution of visual grammar, where few of the credited aesthetic innovations actually found their origin but merely popular appreciation) as a format to merge contextual elements with a deliberately fractured and obscure aesthete in order to replicate the conditions of schizophrenic debilitation of the mental process.

      The effort put in by director Schatzberg is appreciable as the first-time director adapts to the demands of an entirely different expressionist aesthetic, eliciting an uncomfortably distorted approximation of  the dislocation of Lou’s shifting break with reality.  We are constantly drawn the model’s perspective of events only later to find that we have been subject to an entirely unreliable point-of-view in which uncontrolled delusion, deliberate self-delusion and actual occurrences intermingle within the film’s narrative, ironically made all the more intricately obscure by the dependence on Lou’s clarity of recollection as puzzle3the film is structured as a biographical inquiry by Lou’s longtime associate Aaron Reinhardt (obviously based on Schatzberg who was also a noted fashion photographer, though as portrayed by the excellent Barry Primus through much of the film with the infliction of a  bizarre perm he is more reminiscent of photographer-cum-actor Allan Arbus) who himself is preparing a film based upon Lou’s life and experiences; thus the film travels in a rather elliptical pattern of distancing between first-person experience (however reliable that may be) and its representation through necessary editorial selectivity by an intimate but still exterior artistic sensibility; the film representing several varied layers of truth, itself obscuring the line between reality and fiction as it is based primarily upon Schatzberg’s own similarly taped recollections with 1950’s supermodel Anne Saint Marie.

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
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