Friday, May 04, 2012

"Gloria" (Cassavetes, in 1980) tests the limits of a circumstantial maternal bond


Having reviewed “Julia” (April 23), I went back and rented the film by John Cassavetes, “Gloria” (1980, Columbia) that had supposedly inspired the recent film. At the time I was not aware that there is also a 1999 version of the “Gloria” plot by Sidney Lumet.

In Cassavetes’s film, “Gloria” (Gena Rowlands) is a former mistress of a mobster planning to return to a former life with her savings. One day, her neighbor Jeri (Julie Carmen) in her low-income Bronx apartment building, gets a mob hit (motivated by her husband Jack’s  (Buck Henry) “cheating”, as Gloria is visiting to borrow coffee.  Gloria winds up on the lam with Jeri’s six-year-old son Phil (John Adames), who says “I am the man”, after his whole family is gone.

Gloria gradually bonds to the boy, and the film tests the boundaries of circumstantial motherhood, which happens in nature (as in a NatGeo film where a mother leopard was actually trying to feed a baby baboon).  Sometimes both of them test the bond.  Gloria is not above drawing weapons to protect the boy, but she is not as greedy as the character “Julia” in the later movie.

I was living in Dallas when the movie appeared but apparently skipped it.  It would have attracted attention because of the popularity of the “Godfather” movies.  The film does was not originally whon in Dolby Stereo, which in 1980 was still a bit of a luxury.  The musical soundtrack by Bill Conti reminds one of Elmer Bernstein and is quite impressive, and seems to come through in stereo (like an “AAD” compact disc) in the DVD.

The film opens near Yankee Stadium, and then shows Jeri before it shows Gloria, a curious way to introduce the story. 

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