‘The pain of being a woman is too severe!’ – The films of Roberta Findlay: From Holly with Love (1978)





“La photographie, c’est la vérité et la cinéma, c’est vingt-quatre fois la vérité par seconde.” – in a nutshell: Cinema is truth at 24 frames a second – is an often quoted wise saying by French cinema stylite Jean-Luc Godard. Well, when speaking about Roberta Findlay’s cinema though his German counterpart Rainer Werner Fassbinder seems to have been closer to the truth for once. “Film ist Lüge, 25 mal in der Sekunde.” – Film is a put-on, 25 times in each second. It might not always be as integral to the appeal as it is in “From Holly with Love”, but Findlay’s flow of imagery is a lie, a beguilement involving just about everything – her intentions, feelings, the undersold wisdom that lies buried in her work – and extending to externa of her filmography. Golden Age of Hollywood smuggling as a coping mechanism for being forced to work on projects she took no immediate interest in or even found distasteful, the elaborate (and even I have to admit it: screamingly funny) stand up comedy routine “An hour of self-deprecation with Roberta Findlay” most of her rare public appearances have a tendency to evolve into sooner or later – it’s all part of the deal. A gentle one though by an amiable con artist, for at least on film it is decontructed and partially righted by the most powerful instrument of truth, of profound introspect she knows: Music. Nowhere this is more obvious than in this double-headed film, a bookended excourse opening up with a visual lie and ending on a narrative one.

    Holly
    Can it be
    That you remember me
    I’m the one
    Who never said goodbye

Coupled a nostalgic pop composition and nightly shots of NYC neon lights, fleeting glimpses at aimlessly wandering cars, faceless pedestrians shrinked by enormous shop windows all but drench the city’s never-resting shimmer in a candy-colored tone of melancholia.

    Out on the streets
    You get what you pay for
    Girl by the corner bar
    Where you’re bought and you’re sold

Then all turns sarcastic as the little narrative comes to the point right when the editing decides to do the same, slyly switching to fellow director and sometime-actor Carter Stevens in the act of enjoying said services from the titular character of song and film alike while the uncredited singer is busy drawing out above line’s second, perhaps more important verb. With Findlay’s trademark intimate but far from gynecological camera work lending a tender touch to the encounter, young Holly’s first time with a costumer recreates the way that certain other first time, the stuff of countless romantic movies of the funny or decidedly unfunny persuasion, is usually painted. “By the way – that’s ten bucks!”, exclaims Holly, removing another layer of an onionlike opening sequence (that accordingly and in all honesty made me cry more than once). Back into amusing territory it is one should think and yet that heavy-hearted melody never ceases to run alongside the compositions, sometimes tripping on purpose to let the fun breath, always catching up in the end though. Having something catch up to you, a dreaded notion all too common in her work – mental illness for real or as a devious ruse in “A Woman’s Torment” (1977) and “The Tiffany Minx” (1981) respectively, non-consensual sexual encounters inevitably setting the stage for self-discovery through a set of different ones in “The Altar of Lust” (1971), the lingering hunch of a more happy childhood gone astray in “Lurkers” (1988) – and of course her stage antics as well. “I never imagined my past would come back to haunt me like this!” – her recent honoring in Brussels’ defining turn of phrase seems far more like a life’s motto when exposed to the same thorough projector’s light that brings her films to life.

    And Holly does it hurt
    Do you think your love’s a course
    That’s hardly here and never seems to stay

Here it is a strong sense of longing for the innocent playgrounds, architectual and mental alike, of early adolescence stitching contrasting directorial decisions back together. At times “From Holly With Love” seems just like a quiet reservoir collecting what comes in from two disparately running streams, rivaling some of the best work of Austrian master Harald Reinl, who was able to get away with the most brutish revelations, an utterly fatalistic world view by simply cloaking his challenging cadrage in far more inconspicuous, downright simplistic plots. Speaking of which: There is almost no such thing on display in Findlay’s film. The backstory, the dialogue – its more flavor than anything else, flimsy guidelines to the all-telling movement going on. No politics, no agenda, just impressions. Taken purely on a surface level this is likely the closest she ever got to the naive nudie cuties that were all the rage in the late 50’s and early 60’s, with ample room being handed to the beach frolicking of Holly and a bunch of young adults she met the previous summer. Glisteningly the sun enlightens their happy faces while playing beachball, sharing laughter or curious encounters. Still it never leaves their side – a now instrumental version of the title track. While many of Roberta Findlay’s earlier pictures (up to about “A Woman’s Torment”) had indulged in a variety of different musical genres selected (or “stolen” as she prefers to put it) with the utmost care and attention to detail, the later 70’s marked a noticable surge of catchy pop themes presumably written by her then partner of life and creative ventures, renowned recording pioneer Walter E. Sear. Like a haunting memory they tend to return over and over again, always differing just a sliver in tone, consistently tipping the scales of mood a tad more in averse directions. A complex puzzle of conflicting visual and aural cues created by a little bit of writing talent and a hell of lot more feel for the results’ effective usage.

    And would you rather chance
    Another cheap romance
    With any John that comes along down Broadway

Whether Holly is eagerly exploring her own body while she listens in on her bigger sister’s lovemaking or Michael Gaunt is following a miscalculated ball throw in our general direction – the insistent soundscape seems to push them in their paths or out of them even more. Like an invisible forcefield it compels Gaunt to turn around, to hide away his excited grin from the audience. It even succeeds in flipping Findlay’s habitual approach to filming sex on its head. So closely does her camera lense follow Holly’s finger that it nearly gets lost in the all of a sudden menacingly wide experimentation field between her thighs. There is an undiluted discouraging quality about “From Holly with Love” that still easily avoids plain cold-heartedness. Mirroring the undecidedness of youth it calls out Holly’s reminiscences as fabrications, a sophisticated ruse for more customer empathy and thus money, cheerfully throwing away all that went before this over board in a very much Sirkian bastardization of an unhappy happy ending. In all this it becomes quite possibly the only pornographic depiction of what would seldom be depicted in the confines that could, for obvious reasons, never focus on the propensities of real teenage talent. One of the most subtly experimental and still, in the very same breath most easily consumable features of Roberta Findlay’s career, “From Holly with Love” remains an alluring filmic illusion, a testament to the daring artistic choices made by her, above all: A frank glimpse into the mind of a pornographic filmmaker averse to porn itself, at emotions normally obstructed by the silver screen.


From Holly with Love – USA 1978 – 81 minutes – Direction: Roberta Findlay – Production: Roberta Findlay, Walter E. Sear – Screenplay: ? – Cinematography: Roberta Findlay – Editing: (Roberta Findlay & Walter E. Sear?) – Music: Walter E. Sear – Cast: Beth Anna (as “JoAnna Miquel”), Crystal Sync, Tony Perez, Michael Gaunt, Robert Kerman and many more


Dieser Beitrag wurde am Dienstag, April 2nd, 2019 in den Kategorien Ältere Texte, André Malberg, Blog, Blogautoren, English, Essays, Filmbesprechungen, Filmschaffende, Midnight Confessions, other languages veröffentlicht. Sie können alle Kommentare zu diesem Beitrag über den RSS 2.0 Feed verfolgen. Sie können diesen Beitrag kommentieren, oder einen Trackback von ihrer eigenen Seite setzen.

Eine Antwort zu “‘The pain of being a woman is too severe!’ – The films of Roberta Findlay: From Holly with Love (1978)”

  1. Filmforum Bremen » Das Bloggen der Anderen (08-04-19) on April 8th, 2019 at 17:50

    […] – Nach dem Kinderfilm jetzt zum Abschluss noch unanständiges von Frau Findlay auf Eskalierende Träume. André Malberg schreibt (auf Englisch) über „From Holly with Love“. […]

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