Cinema Club: Little Murders

Posted on July 2, 2013


Another New Yorker

Little Murders (1971)

Little Murders is a particularly dark comedy film released in 1971. It centres around the relationship of Patricia Newquist, a control freak of an interior designer, and Alfred Chamberlain, brilliantly played by Elliot Gould, more famous for his role in Friends. I think he was the father of Ross and Monica, but I can’t confirm that. They meet, they get together, they get married. Alfred is emotionally dead though, and Patricia is obsessed with moulding people into her idea of what they should be. This is a task that she is unable to do with Alfred, as he is like stone. Still, their relationship works somehow. The film is coloured with wonderful side characters, in particular Patricia’s quirky and dysfunctional family. The best aspect of the film though, are the 4 major monologues that anchor it. The ‘Son of an Immigrant’ and Alfred’s tale of his pre-read mail in college are great, the insane ramblings of Lt. Practice are glorious, but the it is the performance and speech that Donald Sutherlund gives in his role as the wedding minister that really stood out the most. His speech contained many nuggets of greatness, and many surprisingly logical thoughts about how we live our lives, or in particular how we choose to do so. Let’s get into it.

‘Any step that one takes is useful, is positive. It has to be positive because it is a part of life’.

Believe it or not, but I consider myself to be an optimist. Sure, it might not always seem like it, but the truth is I view things in a positive way more often than not. Too many people get down on themselves because of little trivial happenings, a poor nights sleep, a bad hair day, things of that ilk. We also spend too much time regretting mistakes that we have made or mistakes that we didn’t allow ourselves to make. This is something I’m guilty of. There is not enough time in life to spend so much of it lamenting. Whether you adore or despise the person that you evolve into each day, it is undeniable that everything you do adds and builds to it. No action is pointless, even those without point. Embrace that.

‘I ask you these questions required by the state of New York to, legally bind you. Sinister phrase that’

‘Alfred, do you take Patricia, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love, whatever that means, to honor, to keep her in sickness and health, in prosperity and adversity WHAT NONSENSE! Forsaking all others, what a shocking invasion of privacy’.

People have a lot of reasons for getting married. The most frequent of these is love, but what is love? (baby don’t hurt me). Love, for whatever reasons, has taken absolute precedence above every other emotion that we feel. We no longer understand love to be an emotion, instead it has become a goal, something that one day we hope to feel. It even has the qualifying word ‘true’ often implanted in front of it. When is love not true? When it is fleeting, when it is fickle? Who says love is a lasting thing anyway. Once you love, it is irrational to believe you will love constantly, just as it is irrational to believe you will feel hate constantly. Why we’ve given love this elevated plateau, I do not know, but I would assume it comes from insecurity and our overwhelming desire to, indeed, be loved.

But let’s say you are in love, whatever it indeed does mean. You and your partner decide to get married as a way of validating your love. What exactly does the state have to do with your relationship? Legally bound marriage does nothing more than get the state involved in your personal matters, in your privacy, in your own house. All sorts of legal obligations are imposed, when there are far better options than the validation of a piece of paper. Sexual attraction will not last forever. Getting married seems more and more like a bad idea all of the time.

‘Nothing can hurt if you do not see it as being hurtful. Nothing can destroy if you do not see it as destructive. It is all part of life, part of what we are’.

Once again, there is too much fear in the world. The year is 2013, what exactly do we have to be afraid of? No, scratch that, the year is irrelevant, the point is that we should not be afraid of anything. I’m not saying we should be beyond phobias, far from it, I am steadily developing a serious fear of frogs, but when it comes to matters of the self and actions, what truly is there to be afraid of? The answer, of course, is nothing. It has been said that by changing the way you view your errors it is possible to consider them the opposite. We live, we learn, we fail, then we learn to fail better. Spectacularly even, and when it all comes back around we know which pot holes to avoid.

We are also spectacularly cowardly when it comes to our own emotions, and once more this is a personal flaw. Why are we afraid of how we feel? Not only is it ridiculous, it is also potentially damaging. Why deny yourself the answers to whatever questions haunt you most? Self defeating, oh so so self defeating.

That’s enough of all that. There is a link to the video itself underneath this, and the speech itself starts at around the 3.30 mark. Give it a watch.

Posted in: Cinema, Reviews