Saturday, December 08, 2012

Room Shaping

When one thinks about abortion in the early 1960s, one is likely to think of the social stigma attached to it and the necessity for women to undergo the procedure in dangerous and clandestine circumstances. 1962's The L-Shaped Room shows the stigma that could be had for not getting an abortion. Leslie Caron stars as Jane Fosset, a young French woman in England who decides she's going to make a go of it as a single parent after she becomes pregnant from her very first sexual encounter and marriage is out of the question. It's a well shot, decent ensemble film, at times dated in its moralistic even-handedness, but ultimately enjoyable for its well performed characters.

Certainly it's a change of pace for Leslie Caron, who I was used to seeing exclusively in big budget, Hollywood musicals. The L-Shaped Room is black and white, filled with location shots and cluttered, realistic lived in looking sets after the manner of New Wave imitations in vogue. Cinematography is by Douglas Slocombe, who would go on to shoot the first three Indiana Jones movies. The third name familiar to me was Brock Peters.

He lives in the room created by the L shape of Caron's top floor quarters in a shabby boarding house, otherwise populated by prostitutes and a penniless young writer, whose indignation at learning Caron's pregnant after he's pursued her we're meant to sympathise with. We're supposed to sympathise with Caron more, of course, but Toby--the writer--is meant to be the other side of the issue.

It ends up being a somewhat sentimental film, reminiscent of Hollywood misfit ensemble pieces like Separate Tables but with a slightly New Wave package. It introduces the other tenants, particularly the prostitutes, as loveable and quirky, in particular an endearing lesbian former show girl, who reminded me why I'd decided to watch the movie in the first place;

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