Whenever I see Sandy Dennis I think, "Someone is going to be sad." In this one she's like a trapped bird who's looking for someone to make her feel less lonely. "And you can cage the songbird \ But you can't make her sing \ And you can trap the free bird \ But you'll have to clip her wings \ 'Cause she'll soar like a hawk when she flies \ But she'll dive like an eagle when she dies"
Altman's second feature is a stylishly directed, if slight look at a lonely woman's obsession with a mute drifter she takes into her apartment. The plot really doesn't really go anywhere interesting beyond it's initial premise until the final twenty minutes or so, making it a sort of slow burning character study, with Sandy Dennis' performance here usually being reserved and a bit hard to read, emotionally. Strange.
Early, pre-MASH Altman, notable in the development of his already remarkable way with zoom lenses and sound design. Gorgeously directed, for sure, with a few terrific scenes. But this psychodrama, part of the same hip-meets-square late 60s trend as Petulia and Faces, is also misshapen as hell, moving under sedation for an hour before going all Bava in a bonkers finale that makes neither literal nor symbolic sense.
We are born alone. Yet, as the days go by, our desire to be with someone gets stronger. Many have given this a name. They call it friendship. Some say it's sex. Many more prefer the word love. For Frances Austin (Sandy Dennis) this is a bit unclear. An early Altman masterpiece, THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK is about the horror of living, imprisoned by the social contract of sexual repress; and how one woman goes bonkers.
The incandescent beginning of Robert Altman's in-the-early-days-not-so-covert covert war on sex. Altman is not opposed to the libidinal, in general, but rather to how the social disfigures desire, and how sex becomes about absorption into a perilous social contract. Also: best honorarily-Canadian American feature evah!