MADE IN 1969, Coming Apart is getting a re-release in honor of... well, I don't know exactly, but it's good to see it. The film stars Rip Torn as Joe Glazer, a disillusioned, soul-searching psychiatrist who begins withdrawing from his practice. Moving out of his wife's home and into his ex-girlfriend's apartment building, Glazer sets up a hidden camera and secretly films the people who come over. Heady enough (you could try to pass these kinds of movies off as potential moneymakers back then), but that description doesn't scratch the surface. Coming Apart is a fearlessly, even recklessly reductive film -- not just structurally (all but about two minutes of the film consists of nearly identical shots of Glazer's couch), but also in its portrait of human activity, which the movie pares down to having sex, feeling conflicted about sex, and of course, watching people have sex.

As woman after woman finds her way into Glazer's apartment -- ex-patients, a model towing along her baby's perambulator, vote-canvassers for McCarthy -- he chats them up, lays on thick his counter-culture patter and good-old-boy smile, and keeps the camera rolling as he talks them into bed or, more often, grows disgusted at how willing they are to hop in bed with him. It's all very much the self-lacerating male thing (Ginsberg has written that the film is more autobiographical than he's comfortable admitting), but enlivened by the lucid consistency of that one shot, and the rock-steady dependability of Torn's performance. He captures the screwy, misogynist sadness eating up Glazer, and he's even funnier because of it.

Not all the women are as successful at riding out the film's tone (Warhol meets Antonioni), but it's clear from her first scene that Sally Kirkland, as the neurotic former lover, is destined to take over the film. As hungry for connection as Glazer, but minus his defensive pretentiousness, she's obviously a ticking time bomb. He alternately uses, humiliates, and dismisses her. By the end she finally explodes -- beautifully, and in slow motion.

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