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Directed by: Martin Scorsese.
Produced by: David Susskind & Audrey Mass.
Written by: Robert Getchell.
Director of Photography: Kent L. Wakeford.
Edited by: Marcia Lucas.
Music by: Richard LaSalle.
Released by: Warner Home Video.
Country of Origin: USA. 112 min. Rated: PG.
With: Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Green Bush, Diane Ladd, Harvey Keitel, Valerie Curtin & Alfred Lutter.
DVD Features: Commentary by Martin Scorsese, Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson & Diane Ladd. "Second Chances" making-of featurette. English, Spanish & French subtitles. English & French audio. Trailer.

Made during the burgeoning women's liberation movement, 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is rooted in convention. Indeed, it is unlike the more typical fare of director Martin Scorsese's output. It is essentially a genre piece in the tradition of the old-fashioned studio melodramas helmed by such masters as Douglas Sirk. Alice, a quietly despairing housewife (played by the guileless and sardonic Ellen Burstyn) has structured her life around her husband. When he dies, she pursues her dreams while raising their son by herself.

From the outset, the viewer is aware of the tension between the film's realistic, modern content and its form, through its treacly musical soundtrack, its wild juxtaposition of bright colors, and its silhouetted figures in a perfectly-composed bravura opening shot. These all reek of a MGM big-budget extravaganza, in contrast to the grittiness of this loopy Alice in Wonderland-type fantasy (a story that is obviously referenced in the film's title). The disparity is evident in the film’s handheld cinéma vérité shots and its blatantly absurdist flourishes, such as the antics of Vera, an implausibly oblivious waitress at the diner where Alice works (hilariously played by Valerie Curtin). As a whole, Alice is ambivalent: even when pointing out that women should not allow men to compromise their lives, the heroine declare she does not know how to live without a man.

DVD Extras: On both the commentary and featurette, Burstyn and Scorsese reveal the film's ambiguous ending emerged from the studio execs and filmmakers reaching a compromise. Kris Kristofferson's character leaves town with Alice so she can fulfill her dream of becoming a singer, instead of her having to sacrifice her goals to stay with him. Significantly, while the actress states the ending is appropriate, the director views it as more of a concession to the requirements of the melodrama genre. Scorsese insists the film's coda is not meant to detract from its true ending, which he considers to have occurred earlier. Finally, Scorsese confesses he sees his own family dynamics in the relationship of Alice and her son Tommy (a delightfully bratty Alfred Lutter). Reymond Levy
October 27, 2004



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