The Arrangement, written and directed by Elia Kazan (you know, the guy half the audience walked out on or ignored when he got an honorary Academy Award) is now available on DVD. The Arrangement is a stylistic gem but the many cinematographically stunning effects outshine the story and get in the way of its understanding. Elia Kazan, the director of classics such as On The Waterfront, East Of Eden, and A Streetcar Named Desire, has less of a body of work than you might think but The Arrangement is the kind of DVD serious movie fans will watch over and over again both because the camera work is brilliant and there are many visually interesting or simply stunning moments and because it is kind of hard to figure out what its point is though it probably has to do with a man having a mid-life crisis when he realizes he hates what he has become.
Kirk Douglas plays Ed Anderson, an advertising executive who tries to commit suicide by truck while listening to his ad for the Zephyr cigarette. A more modern audience will probably immediately understand why Anderson hates himself for selling cancer sticks but the irony of a clean cigarette you trust was probably somewhat lost at first on most at the time. Faye Dunaway is great and often undressed as Gwen, a woman who has some kind of mysterious job (probably boss' mistress) at Anderson's workplace and makes him aware he has wasted his life. Deborah Kerr gives a solid performance as Kirk Douglas' wife. She is a mixture of the faithful, strong woman who loves her man while still being self-centered and lifestyle conscious.
This is a movie with a good story, solid performances, strong directing but also way to artsy for its own good. A perfect example of that is the scene where Douglas tries to make love to his wife after his attempted suicide and the bed scene cuts between Kerr and Dunaway. Even weirder is the short Batman TV show style moment. The movie also kind of gets lost when the Kirk Douglas goes back east to see and take care of his ailing father and also reconnects with Gwen who has an arrangement of her own.
There are however many really great dark moments such as when Eddie goes back to work and you hear a radio newscaster tell the story of a man who killed his entire family or, earlier on in the movie, when Eddie's bosses come to visit while he watches a documentary about jungle animals and the giraffe who cannot even voice its pain when being eaten alive. Ed's first day back at work is a surreal experience any desk jockey will be able to relate to.
A contemporary audience will immediately recognize Ed Anderson's problem as either a nervous breakdown or a burnout and maybe this is what Kazan is trying to portray at a time where much less was understood on the topic.
Death by a thousand cuts might well apply to The Arrangement Elia Kazan DVD. Kazan'z theatrical origins are also obvious at times and these also get in the way. This is a stylistically brilliant movie where there is more style than substance but it is worth watching at least once.