The Wedding Party (Brian De Palma / U.S., 1969):

The groom (Charles Pfluger) arrives by ferry, a Mack Sennett ride takes him to the bride's (Jill Clayburgh) Long Island mansion, out of The Great Gatsby and Through a Glass Darkly (or "between Kiddieland and an old folks' home," rather). Jump-cuts, marital jitters -- the backyard houses a cemetery, the older generation is seen through a filter like remembrances from the 8 spa, the father-in-law putters amid stuffed animals and clarifies husbandly duties ("Expect to get measles from the children... Learn to mow the lawn and wash the car on Sundays"). Clayburgh has a granny nightie picked out for the honeymoon and prepares her darling a gruesome breakfast: Prison grating is superimposed onto an improv scene between the young actors as doubts proliferate, fueled by Pfluger's chums (William Finley and Robert De Niro). Brian De Palma shares the credits with Wilford Leach and Cynthia Munroe, but the steady torrent of gags exposing the groom's anxiety decisively shows off the hand of the future maker of Sisters and Blow Out. Disembodied garrulity is the norm, lifted grandly into horror during a wedding banquet "both high-spirited and sobering;" Les Mistons is fondly pointed out, Valda Setterfield offering a sloshed toast is a sketch fulfilled by Fiona Shaw in The Black Dahlia, Judy Thomas wide-eyed at the organ is a thing of beauty. Romantic aching is an integral part of the artist, it is said somewhere, and the protagonist who tried to flee rediscovers his feelings before his beloved on the church steps -- De Palma, as one character puts it, is "not knocking love, just the institution." A far greater movie than The Graduate, in other words. With Raymond McNally, and Jennifer Salt. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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