CAN HEIRONYMUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPPE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS? (1969)
Article 3360 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-13-2010
Posting Date: 10-26-2010
Directed by Anthony Newley
Featuring Anthony Newley, Joan Collins, Alexander Newley
What it is: Art film, vanity project style
Heironymus Merkin, feeling the onset of old age, makes a movie that tells the true story of his life to that point.
If this movie is more or less an autobiographical account of Anthony Newley’s life up to that point (I haven’t read any extensive biographies about him, but IMDB’s mini-biography matches up somewhat to the some of the story points here), then he at least should be given credit for not painting himself as better than he really was; his character comes across as a selfish jerk whose main redeeming point is that he’s aware that he’s a selfish jerk. And at least he didn’t call his movie ONE (as in reference to Fellini calling his film 8 1/2), as this was his first directorial effort. In fact, the script name-drops Fellini as well as Bergman. He casts his own children to play his children, and his own wife at the time (Joan Collins) as his wife; apparently, Collins has said that the movie contributed to the decline of her marriage to Newley, and if the movie paints any sort of real portrait of him, you can see why. Still, when it comes to art films, I’ll opt for anything by Fellini or Bergman over this one; despite the autobiographical bent of it all, it seems somewhat superficial and lacking in depth. I doubt that rewatching the movie would unlock anything more than I got the first time. As it was, I mostly found myself waiting for the various appearances of George Jessel (as the Presence) so I could hear his next joke. The fantastic content here is the usual trappings of a movie of this sort; Newley visualizes himself as a puppet and as an automaton with a mouth and a wind-up key, most of the action takes place inexplicably on a beach, and near the end there’s a fairy-tale sequence involving an enchanted donkey. The movie got an X rating initially, partially for the nudity and partially for a story line involving the main character’s involvement with an underage girl. I don’t really hate the movie (quite frankly, I found the distancing techniques kept me from attaching to it in any emotional way), but I think there’s less here than meets the eye.