Otto Preminger’s work in the late ’60s and early ’70s did not do wonders for his critical or commercial reputation, but there’s something compelling about nearly all of the genre-flouting work he made during the period — even if one doesn’t find the films particularly good.
Olive Films has done an excellent job of resurfacing a number of these maligned, mostly forgotten films, including the bonkers Elaine May-penned rom-com satire Such Good Friends, dubious racial melodrama Hurry Sundown and star-studded flop Skidoo, and it’s done it again with a long-awaited release of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.
Junie Moon is not as disconcertingly strange as some of Preminger’s other films of the era, but it’s still resolutely determined to avoid settling into one tonal groove, bouncing along from message-movie melodrama to broad comedy to an ultimately poignant depiction of outsiders forming their own community.
It also represents a nearly perfect alignment of the sensibilities of director and star, as Liza Minnelli’s inherently off-kilter performance style is exactly what makes the disparate scenes of Junie Moon cohere. Minnelli would win an Oscar for her next film, Cabaret, but I’ve always had the sense that her acting has never garnered the respect it deserves, her celebrity persona generally outshining her dramatic skills.
As Junie Moon, a woman disfigured in a brutal battery acid attack (depicted in a flashback that jackknifes from uncomfortably funny to completely horrific), Minnelli wears her heart on her sleeve, every emotion playing across her face like a bright neon sign. Some might credit the death of her mother, Judy Garland, during production for Minnelli’s raw emotions, but her performance is assured. It’s a confident portrayal of a character whose confidence has been stolen, and it centers a film that can’t help but meander.
Marjorie Kellogg’s script, based on her own novel, is relentlessly episodic, as Junie and her friends Warren (Robert Moore) and Arthur (Ken Howard) attempt to establish a life for themselves after leaving the hospital. Warren, who’s gay and confined to a wheelchair, is periodically suicidal, while Arthur is beset with epilepsy and a tendency to experience vivid hallucinations.
The effectiveness of individual scenes and the authenticity of the film’s treatment of illnesses both mental and physical is highly variable. Still, the film’s final act, in which the trio goes on a seaside vacation full of attempts at reinvention is both funny and moving. The film might clumsily stumble toward its sentiments, but they’re certainly not soullessly manufactured.
Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon arrives on Blu-ray from the Paramount library looking pretty nice. Olive’s 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer is a little faded and dull, but colors are stable and images are generally clean and finely detailed. Some speckling exists, but the elements are in good shape overall. The DTS-HD mono soundtrack features persistent low-level hiss, but is fine otherwise. There are no extras.