Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tao Ruspoli's MONOGAMISH continues the everlasting search for what works best re marriage, love, sex, kids and all the rest

A not-uninteresting combination of visual/verbal confessional, educational films from the 1940s and 50s, other archival snippets from film and TV, the filmmaker's family history, along with that of the idea of marriage itself, and talking-head interviews with sociologists, marriage counselors and advice columnists, MONOGAMISH, a new, four-years-in-the-making documentary from Tao Ruspoli (shown two photos below), reopens (once again) that seemingly eternal discussion of whether or not monogamy really works and is the best resolution for folk who are in love, want to marry and start a family -- or who would simply rather fuck for awhile, before moving on to greener, or at least other, pastures.

Now, if you're anything like me, you had your first discussion about all this during college (for TrustMovies, that took place back in the late 50s/early 60s), and the same subject reared its fascinating head again during the late 1960s with the hippie crowd and its anything-goes sexuality, and then the following decade with the me-generation, its swingers and the explosion of the porn industry.

Part of the charm -- and, yes, it must be also said, the naivete -- of this documentary arrives, for us old folk, at least, from the realization that, oh-oh, here it comes again: that old question, Does monogamy work? Of course not, or not very well. But, as one of the many quotes from the famous featured in the film (and paraphrased here) reminds us, monogamy may not work well, but it's the better than anything else we've got. Or is it?

By the surprising, amusing and fairly jaw-dropping finale of this film, much of what you've seen and considered will be called into question. (No answers will be provided, however, for that would require a re-visit to or by Rispoli in perhaps another ten years.). This filmmaker first arrived on my map some eight years ago, with his narrative movie (done in documentary style) called Fix, which was unusual and great fun, too. Since then he has concentrated on documentaries, none of which I've seen -- until this one. One of the reasons for his making this film was the split from his significant other, actress Olivia Wilde, and its repercussions.

The talking  heads from past and present includes everyone from the right-wing uber-idiot, George Putnam to the sensible and quite easy-to-take gay columnist Dan Savage (above), who is clearly a good friend of Ruspoli whom the director turns to for help in his time of need. As his film tackles monogamy and its discontents, it also explores history, women as property, and the rise of feminism. As one fellows asks in the course of the film, "Do you want to overturn thousands of years of civilization?" No, but maybe thousands of years of patriarchy, yes.

Along the way we get a great quote about marriage and second marriage from Oscar Wilde, a lovely poem by William Butler Yeats, interviews with a number of folk who are experimenting with what we used to call "alternate life styles" (above). The director even includes a little narrative interpolation featuring a hitchhiker (below) and the lucky pair who pick her up.

The movie may be all over the place, but it manages to -- yet, again -- raise enough interesting questions about an old, old subject to hold our attention. And that ending, a humdinger, does indeed make the trip both thought-provoking and worthwhile. And please, Tao, let us know what happens here. (Since the movie was finished back in 2014, I suspect that plenty has already occurred.)

From Productions and running a lean 74 minutes, the movie opens tomorrow, Friday, October 13, and will expand to wide release in November. Theaters? Well, in New York City, it's playing at the Roxy Cinema in Tribeca. That's all I know so far....

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