Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Arrangement (1969) @ the Harvard Film Archive

Ever since I've known Kevin, I've been bugging him to watch Elia Kazan's The Arrangement (1969). We both missed watching the film before Kevin's Kazan lecture in November of '07, but finally I pulled the DVD out of the Netflix sleeve and sat down to watch this strange and alluring film a month later. Fast forward to August of 2009 and Kevin still hadn't seen it. I had to make right that severe wrong.

As part of the Harvard Film Archive's salute to Elia Kazan, they showed The Arrangement (1969) on Monday evening. I dragged Kevin (he was willing) to go see it. The print was in poor quality, very grainy and scratchy. However, it was still a treat to watch this film on the big screen.

I have written about this film in the past and I highly recommend you read my original post. I was quite impressed with myself when I read the post recently. Here is a quote I pulled from it:

"Based on his own novel, The Arrangement (1969) is a lesser-known Elia Kazan classic. Its a film that contemporary film afficianados might enjoy because of its chaotic, psychadelic, A.D.D. type of cinematography. Shots come at all sorts of strange and interesting angles and any remotely chronological timeline is thrown askew by patches of memory flashbacks. Watching this film felt new, fresh and invigorating in a way older films don't usually.."

In watching the film a second time, I find that those 4 really trippy scenes that I pointed out in my original post are still my favorites. During the movie, I kept poking Kevin in the arm to make sure he was alert to them.

1) Kirk Douglas hallucinating, holding grapes over the pool.
2) Kirk Douglas hallucinating while flying an airplane.
3) Beach sequence camera trick, with torn photographs.
4) Kirk Douglas hallucinating, his naked manic self in bed with his past self fully-clothed.

Visually this movie is quite delicious and I found many things to savor. The film is also really quite a head-trip and parts of it can leave you feeling confused. What's amazing is that it really delves into the main character's mania by showing you his hallucinations as he experiences them and also by the use of experimental cinematography. Finding yourself in the midst of the character's mental anguish makes you really sympathize with him.

In the end, I had a ball and Kevin seemed to enjoy the film. I was happy we got to share it together.

Here are a couple pictures of Kevin and I at the HFA. Until next time...


  1. i saw the arrangement only once about 12 years ago and i was severely disappointed. i should give it another viewing one of these days though because i think i would have a much better understanding of what kazan was trying to do with it. part of it is that i generally do not enjoy 60's head-trippy type films anyway.
    you describing that print quality reminds me of when i saw psycho in the theater once. terrible print, bad sound, scratches, skips, blips etc etc etc and believe it or not the film actually broke right as 'mothers' knife was just about to take the first plunge into janet leigh in the shower!! i kid you not, it seemed like it was almost planned it was so perfect!

  2. I have never seen this Kazan picture and I don't really hear this title brought up that often. The way you describe the film it sounds quite interesting. And Kirk Douglas - of course I have to see it!

  3. It has been years since I have seen The Arrangement, although your post really makes me want to see it again. You don't hear quite as much about it as Kazan's other films, but I do remember enjoying it a lot.

  4. Hi Raquel,

    Thanks again for a wonderful evening. I wish I had seen "The Arrangement" before I gave that lecture nearly two years ago. Movies like this one and "America, America" were very personal to his own story, but not necessarily as good as some of the ones he is more well-known for. I really enjoyed Kirk Douglas in the movie, as well as the camera visuals! I hope we can still check out "Gentleman's Agreement". Let's make sure we don't sit anywhere near that weird guy who's always there. LOL!



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