Lou Andreas Sand, a once famous model, recalls her past as she tries to make success in the modeling world of New York, her stressful workdays, her affair with Mark, an advertising executive, her friendship with photographer Aaron, and her downward spiral into ruin.
FASHION MODEL HITS THE ROCKS
PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD is about a famous fashion model who's burnt out on the business and moved to a cottage by the sea to reflect on her splintered life. Years of being treated as an object by photographers, stylists, agents, etc., has left her with a serious identity complex and an addiction to pills...although flashbacks show that she was somewhat unhinged to begin with. The film isn't really that good; as critic Pauline Kael noted when the film came out, "I have a constitutional aversion to movies about women whose souls have been lost, stolen or destroyed, especially when it isn't made clear -- and it never is -- whether the heroine had a soul in the first place." But what IS very special about the movie is simply the way that Dunaway LOOKS. Rigged out in precise red lipstick, false eyelashes and liquid eyeliner, she's meticulously photographed by director Jerry Schatzberg, a former lover and onetime fashion photographer. The story is inspired by the true life life of Anne Saint Marie, a fashion model who later came unglued. Schatzberg taped conversations with Anne Saint Marie and used her comments as a framing device for the story. Not a great film, but an interesting one nevertheless.
One of the most underrated films of the 1970's
For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone doesn't put this film out on DVD or video. Puzzle of a Downfall Child is a hauntingly spare film about the breakdown of beauty. Although less well known than The Panic in Needle Park, it is Jerry Schatzberg's masterpiece. His use of non-linear storytelling coupled with some incredibly dreamy flashback sequences made me feel as if, like heroine Lou Sands, I too was coming slightly undone. For Faye Dunaway fans (and really who isn't a fan of Faye's?), this film showcases not only her incredible beauty--the eyelashes are to die for--but also her talents as an actress. She is more believable as an actress portraying a model than any model portraying an actress could ever hope to be. If it should ever make its way to an art-house near you, you will do yourself a disservice if you miss it. After I left the theater, I kept thinking of that trite adage about how they don't make them like they used to.