Anyone wanting to know about Jaglom as a person would be well served to watch the documentary Who is Henry Jaglom? Jaglom has been working in films for four decades, believes strongly in the Actor’s Studio (encourages improv big time), makes often women centered films and continues to do so at a fairly productive rate. He is his own editor and often finds the film in the editing room. I have seen all his films, and I have found that the one thing that bounds them is a sense of community, just as Jaglom often uses the same troupe of actors, the characters in his films share joy and sadness with a makeshift community (usually playing actors or themselves in some way). What I am getting at is Jaglom films are about being with friends and talking and revealing and listening in a way that few other films are. They are often breezy and wonderful because of this.
1. A Safe Place (1971): incomprehensible to me, but historically important for Jaglom since he worked with Welles (a long time friend and business partner) and Jack Nicholson. Anias Nin loved the film and considered it a feminist artwork. This interest in feminism will inform much of Jaglom’s later work.
2. Tracks (1976): Tracks was the first Jaglom film that had a good humor and a sense of anarchy about it (Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo plays over the credits) about it, if you ask me, Tracks is a very strange picture (maybe a continuation of the subject matter of Hearts and Minds which Jaglom produced). A soilder played by Dennis Hopper is escourting his fallen friend’s coffin home via train. If this film were made about any other war, the passengers on the train (by and large hippies and future new agers), would not have such apathy for the uniform. This is played very well. The soilder, for his part, tries to fit in with everyone, including Dean Stockwell’s character who tries to set him up on a date. A decade after this film Hopper and Stockwell will have major career upswings. Michael Emil (who can’t not be funny) and Zach Norman (who produced this and the next Jaglom film Sitting Ducks) provide comic relief as two exaggerated personalities riding the train. As the film goes on, it becomes apparent that Hopper cannot fit it. He is unstable. This is never played mockingly but with good nuance and understatement, probably the most sincere Hopper has been (there is that word sincere again) at least until Carried Away. The mental issues are shown through soundtrack cues, very creative and miles better than the oversurrealist Safe Place (Jaglom’s debut film). A great film this is.
3. Sitting Ducks (1980) This is a freewheeling comedy and the zaniness ante is always upped. In some ways the best (and funniest) film Jaglom has made. Michael Emil (his brother) stars with Zack Norman as con men. The film has a screwball kinkiness to it and real chemistry with the leads, Emil who is balding and speaks in a monotone could not be any funnier. A sequel Lucky Ducks was shot in the 90s but Jaglom has never found a satisfying edit of it.
4. National Lampoons Movie Madness (1982): Jaglom’s first for hire gig; he did not write or edit the film and it is much worse for it. The film is an anthology film; his part, Municipalians, is a 30min cop parody featuring one of the director’s better casts: Richard Widmark, Robby Benson and Christopher Lloyd. Tracks was largely improvised and felt structured, this is scripted and feels badly improvised. The joke is that Lloyd is a serial muderer who leaves a photo copy of his driver’s license at every crime scene and police are too dumb to catch him. The only funny scene involves Henny Youngman playing a lawyer but doing his standard joke routine anyway.
5. Can She Bake a Cheery Pie (1983): This is one of the best rom coms ever made. Emil has no chemistry with Karen Black but they are both so honest with each other somehow it works. Every couple should watch this because it is much more about a couple then what brings a couple together, the concern of most rom coms.
6. Always..But Not Forever (1985): The title along with the 40s romance songs heard on the protags jukebox points out a damning aspect of the way most of us address love. We can say forever but not know it, even if we believe it. Do we really love that person more than any other on Earth. How sad would it be if a person was sincere when he said, “I can’t smile without you.” That would seem a quite a burden. David (played by the great Henry Jaglom) might be such a lovestruck sincere individual but two years ago his wife Judy (Pat Townsend, Jaglom’s real life ex-wife) had fallen out of love with him and is agreeing to meet up with him tonight to “celebrate the divorce.” with a dinner. David is still in love “My happy future is in my past.” And Judy may have love to a certain extent as well. Both get to find out as the notary, gives them an extra day to think about things, Judy gets food posioning and is unable to leave David’s place and then the old friend guests come along.
The film is structured like a play (and indeed Tanna Frederick a favorite new actress of mine starred in a play version recently) in the best sense, the sets are interesting and the human drama is amplified in a way that seems fitting for the stage without being showy. One powerful scene involves David trying to talk Judy out of calling her work (a yoga studio, nice to see things like health food and yoga in an 80s film not played for easy laughs) then seeming oblivious to the fact that she is calling her work, hard to explain but it in a very organic way shows problems that might have developed in the relationship years ago (problems of listening and control). Funny to say this about a Jaglom film, but the biggest issue here is plot, the device of the notary giving them extra time seems silly and the extra characters take away from the main attraction. The film might have been a truly great comment on human romantic ideas (Someone to Love after it and Can She Bake a Cherry Pie before it both achieved more in my opinion) if it had just been a two person character study, not even unlikely that a about to be ex would spend a weekend with her husband without any plot devices keeping her there, as it is tho, it is still pretty brave and good.
7. Someone to Love (1987): A man wants to save an old theater and meets some friends along the way, a beautiful film. If you love the clip below, you will love the film.
8.New Years Day (1989) It is a film about beginings and about friendship between women. Milos Forman shows up as the landlord to the apartment that Jaglom comes to occupy before the previous tenants, three girlfriends, have moved out. Enjoyable film
9.Eating (1990) subtitled a serious comedy about women and food, no food subject is left uncovered and as one could imagine it is both funny and sad. The first of the topic films. More on this in a moment.
10. Venice/Venice (1992): Dean (played by Henry Jaglom) is an indie personal film director who is the only American to have a film in the current Venice Film Fest. Jaglom is a huge admirer of Phillip Roth, but this particular confessional reminds me most of Updike’s Bech at Bay, in terms of explaination of technique (Dean’s approach to editing and preoccupation with a certain types of stories, not to mention distribution methods are Jaglom’s too, far as I can see) and the whole rigamarole that comes with being honored.
Dean spends a good deal of time with a pretty French journalist (Jeanne played by Nelly Alard), she does not have much in the way of good questions but she is sincere (a trademark of most good Jaglom characters). She is confused by Dean’s ability to make touching “real” films and then deal with the unromantic business side of things. She is in love with the him she imagines from his films [the film like Eating, Babyfever and other seemingly female centered topic films includes a number of on camera confessions about romance in film and its effect on audience, seems strange since Jaglom’s films are not Hollywood romances in any way but then again a move star crush mirrors Jeanne’s crush, the best line from the confessionals: In real life one could not be Gidget “the bimbos were ruthless and the Moondoggies were stupid.” This works on its own level plus the fact that Jaglom appeared on the Gidget tv series.]. As he points out, “I have to live a certain way to sell these films.” Jeanne is the sort of irrational character that puts a pall on some of the fun, plus there are at least one too many conversations about reality. The movie moves slowly, but one has to appreciate the style and questions themselves. This is, after all, still a good movie.
11. Babyfever (1994): Another female topic film, handled by on-camera confessions about babies and birth and making those type of decisions, I like it about as much as Eating. It is the introduction of Victoria Foyt (his wife at the time and co-creator of a few of films, more on this in a bit).
12. Last Summer in the Hamptons (1995): This is one of the warmest films ever made. It is about actors and selling out, a preoccupation with Jaglom. The setting is lovely and the company is first rate.
13. Deja Vu (1997): I will gloss over Fern and John, who seem to represent respect and stability and are providing the London hotel where the all important couples of the film are staying; I will gloss over Skelly (played by Vanessa Redgrave) who represents risk and avoidance of stability, its glories and consequences.
I will focus on Dana, as played by Victoria Foyt. Foyt is a pretty actress who seems vulnerable and did a number of roles in Jaglom’s middle period, Jaglom’s Mia Farrow if that helps. Foyt co-wrote the script, in fact the film is listed as a Jagtoria production so much of the credit ought to come her way, and there is a lot to credit here. The film is a romance, full of whimsy and beautiful scenes of travel (Jerusalem, The White Cliffs of Dover, London) the kind that Grant and Dunne might have starred in. But in that it is about ease versus desire, I guess the leads could more easily be compared to Holden and Novack in Picnic.
Dana is on a business trip to Jerusalem where she talks up an old woman (at lunch) with a weepy tale about lost love and a beautiful pin that her suitor had given her during the war. The pin is left behind. She tracks down its maker and leaves the pin (and accidentally) her engagment ring with this jeweler. Very telling that she leaves her ring because she was distracted by a guy outside the shop who she will eventually (very soon in fact) decide she loves.
The man, Sean, who she meets up with at a train stop in Dover, reminds her of someone or at least makes her feel a certain sense of memory. She is ready to drop everything for this man, and it is to Foyt’s credit that this instant infatuation from this engaged woman never seems silly. She keeps saying, “I feel like I know you,” and he does too. He offers to drive her to London where she is meeting up with friends Fern and John and her fiancee Alex. Once there she hears a story of 30’s Hepburn never getting over a man she had locked eyes with in passing, the movie owes much to Jaglom’s good friend Welles’ Kane:
Sean ends up staying at the hotel Dana is staying at. Sean is married but smitted in a way that will turn out to involve serendipity and a bit of spirit magic, but I will skip those elements because I feel the film could have. The romance is very involving, Dana and Alex are somewhat ill-matched as is Sean and his wife and the whole don’t let a love pass you by vibe is very catching for this audience member. The best scene is Dana leaving with Sean, much like Hal ran off his Madge), but the problem is this film, rather than end there (and had it ended there it would have been a 5/5) loses a star because it spends too much time on the aftermath, and when you think maybe Dana should just put on the gray hat of compromise, as Fern did, the film switches itself again. All in all, a very good movie marred by the last act.
14. Festival in Cannes (2001): If Venice/Venice is about the festival atmosphere and the artist side of a finished cinematic dreams. Cannes is about the producer’s cinematic dreams and since the producer is often peddling just an actor or an idea, this is the begining of the dream and it is very exciting because at the begining stages (much like with love) anything can happen. The film has many subplots but all meld together well with the jazzy french music and wonderful editing.
Cannes is a place where a hooker and a limo driver (played by the beyond charasmatic Jaglom regular Zach Norman) past his prime can make a go as producers, where a sleazy producer can fall in love with a idealistic actress and finally where an ingenue (Jenny Gabrielle) can get her big break before deciding she does not want it. The film fits comfortably into Jaglom’s filmography; there are echoes of 1992’s Venice/Venice already mentioned plus questions of selling out in Last Summer in the Hamptons; should the actress do the Tom Hanks film or a small deeply felt film that may be based on Jaglom’s unrealized project When I was a girl, or should the ingenue just go back to doing LA theater?
Further the ingenue theme will reappear in Hollywood Dreams (where she will be played by the great Tanna Frederick). Cannes ingenue is a different beast though, in awe of the festival scene but most unknowledable and not impressed by fame. Tanna’s character (Margie Chizek) is a Hollywood addict and will become a bit of a fame whore (though a sweet one). Plus its something of a sequel to Cannes since Zach Norman’s character, Kaz Naiman, shows up in Dreams and its follow up Queen of the Lot.
15.Going Shopping (2005): The impact of shopping in a woman’s life, makes a good companion piece to Eating and Babyfever, more plot driven then those two and in my opinion more entertaining, Foyt’s last film.
16. Hollywood Dreams (2006): Anything can happen in the movie business. If Venice/Venice is concerned with the director and Cannes the producer, Hollywood Dreams is concerned with an actor’s story. And it is a story of discovery, small town Mason City, Iowa girl (character name, Margie Chizek played by the one of a kind Tanna Frederick ) begins making it in Hollywood after running into Norman’s producer character (Zach Norman playing the same hustling producer, no longer having to hustle anymore and inexplicably gay, with a lovely partner played by David Proval. Last we left him, he was making his way with a beautiful former escourt in Cannes.) in the park, as old timey and classic as Lana Turner’s discovery in a drug store window. This is apropo because the film is very concerned with old Hollywood (as is the protag). Tanna is referenced as and references Garbo, Holliday, Fred McMurray, Turner and even Dietrich (her habit of spitting out everything she chews in an effort to lose weight is just as out there as rumors that Marlene had ribs removed to appear thinner) Don’t you know stars are flawed and a dream factory is not real. It helps the second film (Queen of the Lot) quite a bit that Bogdanovich (Justin Kirk, who plays Robin, the love interest of Dreams reads Who the Devil Made it at one point) shows up to share stories of Lubitsch, his director character is tapped to do a remake of Trapped in Paradise that he is deathly against. It also helps that Tanna is a born star, comparable most to Ball or Burnett, a wholly belivable persona that always seems on the verge of laughter or tears and either would be appropriate since she is on the cusp of something bigger than herself and taking part in a major lie. Robin has gotten fame by pretending to be a gay actor, per his manager’s advice, kind of the opposite of what the Hollywood factory used to do. In Hollwood, anything can seem possible, Margie knows karate (as does Tanna) so the producers want to put her in action films. Anyway, though the film is about deception, it is also about finding bliss and it is light and fun in a way that few films centered completely on a strong female lead are.
17. Irene in Time (2009): Time is the most recent topic film, concerned with girls and their fathers. It is Jaglom’s best drama and maybe his best flick. It is a complex film. It’s pop references (starbucks, dating books) and the song interludes recall Godard’s Keep Up Your Right. Some of the friendships recall HJ’s earlier New Years Day. But the film has a real plot (much like Hollywood Dreams, which has enough story for upcoming sequels) and real dramatic heft. It is never afraid to be sad and revelatory.
18.Queen of the Lot (2010): Queen of the Lot takes place three years after Dreams. Margie is well known for karate films and more dubiously for wearing an ankle braclet after two DUIs. Margie has not squandered her fame yet but has been careless. There are not the days (referenced in the film) when Bette Davis could do the same thing and not be on the news for it. But, secretly or maybe not so, Margie revels in all the attention. She checks her google points every day. She has a bad boy married boyfriend from a famous family. This is a film about fame, about the annoyances of fame, cell phones at dinner, deals that could make or break one, selling out, buying in, envy, rehab and finally a drive to kill oneself. And its funny, particularly Michael Emil (who ought to be in every Jaglom film and everyone elses) as an “under durress” member of a therapy group. When all is said and done, Tanna will get her values back or maybe never lost em even falling in love with a nice guy writer, and he will write her something Just 45 Minutes From Broadway that will inspire the next Jaglom project.
18.Short from National Lampoon’s Movie Madness
17.A Safe Place
16.Always (But Not Forever)
14.New Years Day
10.Someone to Love
09.Festival in Cannes
07.Queen of the Lot
05.Last Summer in the Hamptons
03.Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?
01.Irene in Time
Wow, Dennis. Ths is a really cool analyis of Jaglom’s movies. You’ve made some very interesting points that will send me back to watch a couple of them again.
I am going to go into more detail as I rewatch other films and new films that he makes.
I’m looking fotward to your comments Denns. I love Jaglom’s films.
He wrote a hit play called Just 45 Minutes From Broadway and it ran for almost a year in LA. He’s made that into a movie. I don’t know when it’s going to be released but I saw the play and it was incredible.
I am very excited about 45 Minutes. Last year I was invited to the Queen premiere but could not attend, maybe I can worm an invite this year.
I just caught Irene in Time on television and I was pretty amazed by it. This is my first Jaglom by the way. I have never seen a film that so accurately depicts the hardships of developing relationships with people. I love how the character realistically deal with how they perceive real truths and how they eventually cope with what is actually real.
@ Tommy – if you liked Irene In Time, check out Festival in Cannes, Hollywood Dreams, then Queen of the Lot – in that order. Then watch some of the others. Henry Jaglom has created a fascinating body of work and all of his films are worth watching.
If you loved irene I would start with Going Shopping
I’m going to try and get into much of his work no matter whether it’s good or bad, or perceived to be anyway. That’s what I usually tend to do with most directors I find interesting. Going Shopping and Fetival in Cannes are two that in looking forward to. And anything with Tanna Frederek in it. :-)
Tanna Frederick is the bomb. She does plays, too. She’s currently in an A. R. Guerney play called Sylvia. It’s the funniest play I’ve ever seen. Check it out if yu’re in LA. It’s at the Edgemar Center in Santa Monica. And by the way, it’s a hit. It opened in May and it’s been extnded through December.
This is a really cool intro to Jaglom’s films. Thanks, Dennis.
thanks matt would love to hear others rankings of his fiilms
I’m working on getting to another of his films soon. I added a ton to the top of my dvd queue and there’s still a few on the instant streaming.
I love this compendium. It is great to see clips from all the movies. I just saw Tracks and it was incredible. Hopper outdid himself. Jaglom just completed shooting The “M” Word. It’s all about “menopause, menses and men.” I think it going to be very funny. It starts Tanna Frederick (of course), Francis Fisher, Michael Imperioli (Sopranos) and Gregory Harrison (Trapper John MD). I talked to a friend of mine who’s in it and she said it’ll have the same interview style as Eating, Babyfever and Going Shopping. Looks like Jaglom’s hit on a great topic.
sounds very good, he should team with Eve Ensler one of these days
maybe I can get an invite to the premiere (:
Fantastic write-up, Den.
thanks Bart, hope it causes someone to seek out a film or two
The documentary Who Is Henry Jaglom is good but I wouldn’t take it as gospel. Michael Emil, Jaglom’s own brother, said at the screening of Sitting Ducks a few days ago, that told them what he thought they wanted to hear. What he said wasn’t exactly true.
There’s one thing missing from it for me and that is more of Jaglom’s filmmaking process. What is he thinking or trying to create? I’ve seen him in interviews and Q & As where he talks about those things and I’m always hanging on every word.
I’ve heard from people who work with him that he can be difficult – mainly impatient. Some people mistake impatience for meanness. I’m not sure how I would take it but I don’t have to – I’m not an actor – just a moviegoer.
I am fascinated with the moviemaking and the stories behind the films and stories about the actors and directors/ This is a great compendium, Dennis. Thanks for doing it.
Glad you bumped, Den. More people need to see more Jaglom.
19.Short from National Lampoon’s Movie Madness
18.A Safe Place
17.Always (But Not Forever)
15.New Years Day
14. Going Hollywood
12. Last Summer in hte Hamptons
11. Festival in Cannes
10. Deja Vu
09. Hollywood Dreams
08: Going Shopping
06: Sitting Ducks
04: Just 45Mins From Broadway
03: Someone to Love
02: Can She Bake A Cherry Pie
01: Irene in Time
I will have a write up on Broadway when I get back.
It is a very enjoyable comedy and Tanna’s second best film.
Henry’s best film as you can see in post above is Irene in Time.
Here he used Tanna (who is a shot of good energy) in service of a recognizable theme (as with Eating, Baby Fever, Someone to Love, Going Shopping etc), father-daughter relationships.
His next film (in less he decides to release Lucky Ducks, a sequel to Sitting Ducks that he has been sitting on for some time) should be one to look forward to as it follows an interesting theme. The M word starring Tanna and Francis Fisher about menopause.