When Allan King died at the age of 79 last May, I was struck by how difficult it was to find opportunities to screen his films. MoMA curator Laurence Kardish gave him an excellent retrospective in 2007, but other opportunities are hard to come by – at least in the United States. (In Canada, King’s native country, he has a more prominent reputation). After his death, I was contacted by the Canadian filmmaker Astra Taylor (EXAMINED LIFE) who graciously offered to help coordinate a King tribute for Stranger Than Fiction. We chose his breakthrough title A MARRIED COUPLE (1969) that looks at the lives of a middle class pair trying to muddle through the social upheavals of their times. The film is a significant precursor to other documentary observations of domestic life such as AN AMERICAN FAMILY; SECOND TIME AROUND and so much of reality television.
For the post-screening discussion, Taylor was joined by film critic Dennis Lim who contributes to the New York Times and edits the indispensable on-line magazine Moving Image Source. In his remarks, Lim placed A MARRIED COUPLE in the context of John Cassavetes’ FACES which came out the year before. As for the ever vexing documentary question of whether the camera causes subjects to “perform,” Lim felt it was irrelevant since people are always performing whether its for a camera or each other.
Prior to the screening, I was concerned whether such an old film could attract an audience in the midst of holiday party season. Those fears were allayed by an enthusiastic crowd that filled nearly all of the seats in the IFC Center’s Theater 2. Audience members included Nancy Gerstman (Zeitgeist Films), David Sampliner (director of DIRTY WORK), and Michel Negroponte (whose latest film I’M DANGEROUS WITH LOVE will screen at STF on Dec 15).
STF’s house photographer Joshua Weinstein (director of FLYING ON ONE ENGINE) pronounced A MARRIED COUPLE “one of the best films screened this year.”