A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

miscellaneous news
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND #10 (article first published : 2006-03-6)

When I was but a young girl I well remember (how can I forget?) going – on a blind date - to see a film called Madame X, and being extremely surprised when the usher (in those days you were politely guided to your seat by torchlight) handed to every female entering the cinema a large box of tissues. The film could only have been ten minutes into the storyline when Lana Turner had me glued to the screen, on the edge of my seat, as the drama unfolded. Midway, I’d almost reached the end of the box of tissues and in the last ten minutes or so, my date had to hand me his handkerchief (no respectable young man ever dressed for a night out without one). By the final moments, this was totally drenched with my snot-en-trane (Afrikaans for snot-and-tears) and I could not in any way envisage returning it until it had been laundered.

Years later, by now married and living in the UK, the film was featured on TV, a 1981 version of the old war-horse play by Hal Erickson. I warned my hubby it was a real tearjerker but, brave warrior he liked to think himself, he informed me HE would have no need for such feminine nonsense as a box of tissues or a handkerchief to hand. By the middle of the film I had to get up and close all the windows tightly, I was SO embarrassed at the pitch of his WAILING and recall that at one point he even fell off the couch and onto the floor, clutching a pillow for comfort, so powerful was the climax of the film. I could also tell the tale of how this macho man, some years down the road, once back again in South Africa but now divorced, came to my door begging for a hot-water-bottle – an article he’d previously always made fun of my using for any sort of pain – to help with toothache that had beset him. But that’s another whole other story!

However, in the early years of our marriage I recall another film that kept us up until the wee small hours, trying to fathom the storyline. This was the classic The Magus, from the book by John Fowles (where Candice Bergen did a fine job of portraying the twins) and which later caused me to take the book out the library and read it not once but TWICE – yet still not QUITE getting it.

Another movie that made an indelible impression on me was the Ira Levin story starring Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby. I don’t think I slept through the night ONCE for a week or more, so chilling was that tale.

Well, THIS time the movie that so impressed me was the remake of yet another Ira Levin classic, The Stepford Wives. As I watched it over breakfast one recent grey morning, it had me chuckling so heartily that the lady who’d just arrived to commence her fortnightly task of cleaning my windows stopped her work and joined me to see it through to the end.

I’d seen the original many years ago – and think it became SUCH a classic that it coined the phrase of a Stepford Wife, a programmed robotic type of female perfectionism. This, however, was a more contemporary version of cynical satire on male chauvinism featuring Nicole Kidman (lovely performance) and Matthew Broderick as the husband and wife who move with their two children to the suburbs, where they encounter couples who live perfect lives. This state of being is brought about by the Stepford Men’s Club chairman (wonderfully played by Christopher Walken - his wife portrayed by Glenn Close) who formerly worked in the micro-chip industry and has devised a clever method of programming all the wives in the town to do their husbands’ bidding at the touch of a remote control switch.

There’s a hugely comical scene where the women meet to do their workouts to music with a dressed-to-the-nines Glenn Close as their instructor. Joanne, just arrived in this new town due to having been recently fired from her post as a producer of TV reality shows due to poor ratings (wonderful send-ups at the start of the film of series such as Temptation Island, The Love Cruise, and so on), is derided for her shabby dark-coloured sweats and stringy hair. All the others are perfectly coiffed, with their well-lacquered bouffants and beautifully turned out in their Fifties style starched frocks, nylons and high heels, performing not the gym circuit we know today but playing at being washing machines, going through every cycle imaginable, never allowing one hair to stray out of place. I particularly enjoyed the performance of an actress whose name I’ve yet to establish but recall seeing in a support role to Kirsty Alley in the TV sitcom Veronica’s Closet – and here too she pulls off a superb imitation of the sexily soft-spoken dumb-blonde Marilyn Monroe stereotype..

Bette Midler deserves special mention – marvellously manic as always when playing comedy, this time as a ditzy Jewish cookbook author whose own home is in complete disarray! But before long she too has been sucked in to this plot and becomes the model homemaker, verging almost on OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Amongst all these “ladies-turned-sex-kitten bimbos” is the token gay couple who have most certainly climbed out of whatever closet they were in before relocating to Stepford and bringing an additional comedic touch to the satire.

Our Nicole (or Joanne) becomes wise to the fact that something unnatural and untoward is going on, and gets onto the Net to do a spot of research, discovering that all the women in this town were former executives, CEOs and even judges! She is devastated to come upon the system employed to transform them where they’re embedded with chips bearing all the idealised qualities a man could possibly desire!

When her hubby later ventures into the morgue, where the wives’ FORMER bodies are stored (which reminded me very much of the really spooky scene in the film Coma by medical thriller writer Robin Cook), he presses the nano-switch, deleting the Stepford Programme, and all the files are corrupted, thus de-programming all the wives and there’s an hysterical scene where their batteries start to fail, as a sort of apocalypse begins to take place. Right away, all the men simultaneously reach into their pockets for their remote controls – but to no avail, as the system is now totally corrupted, and chaos ensues.

Jo and hubby, who’ve undergone a “pretend” wedding (where she’s transformed into every man’s dream of a blonde wavy haired bombshell) then confess to being “onto” the head of the Men’s Club, and he’s physically attacked, his head coming off as he collapses into a heap of spare parts. His wife then returns to her former romantic self and confesses to having once been a brain surgeon who became stressed out by modern life and just wanted her vision of a “perfect world” to be brought to life by turning back the clock and altering all the women, aiming to later bring off her next plot, to begin on the men. In the end the HUSBANDS are the dominated species and under house arrest from their women!

I have to say, I haven’t had such a great big belly-laugh in a long while so, if I’ve not given away too much of the plot to spoil your enjoyment of this film, I’d urge you to get it out of your nearest video outlet without delay, should you find yourself requiring a spot of escapism from reality! Till next time, then, happy viewing! – Bev Pulè




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart