Friday, June 04, 2010

Astrology Found Lurking In Arty-Farty Movie

Among the booty brought back from our last trip was a DVD ($1) - the slim jacket attracted me: photograph of a young Tommy Lee Jones, long-time favourite of mine, and an astrological glyph. The title Eliza's Horoscope. I'd thought I knew of all Tommy's movies but had never heard of this one, from the early 1970s. I've since discovered that it was the only film made by Canadian writer/director Gordon Sheppard. It won several awards on release, then disappeared without trace until some pirated copies hit DVD status after Tommy Lee Jones was Oscared for The Fugitive. An interesting article by Sheppard about the film's history is HERE.

Back in the New Mexico junk shop, a glance at the blurb on the jacket had indicated to me an early example of a chick flick. With astrology as part of the storyline, this one was for me!

Boy! Chick flick? Was I wrong! This was another in the same genre as The Holy Mountain , mentioned in a previous post. An "art" film. There's the faintest imprint of a chick flick there, but a mass (or mess) of would-be Fellini-esque arty-fartyness, possibly meant to be symbolic, heavily overlays it. We watched in quiet astonishment, unable to switch off for fear of missing the point of this 2 hour stint in front of the TV.

A quick run-down of the storyline: Eliza is a naive country lass, with Sun in Pisces, come to the big city, Montreal, to have her horoscope done and, she hopes, find the love of her life, and have a child. She visits an old Chinese astrologer (Rose Quong) in a run-down lodging house. The astrologer undertakes to calculate her horoscope/natal chart and have it ready in a couple of days. This, of course, was well before the advent of astrology software.

Eliza (Elizabeth Moorman) stays in the lodging/flop-house with a middle-aged off-the-wall religious theatrical woman, who encourages Eliza to abandon her astrological quest and turn to Catholicism. She soon meets another of the manic residents, Tommy Lee Jones who plays Tom, Aries, a Native American construction worker with plans to blow up a city bridge in protest against the government. Tom falls for Eliza, but Eliza has other plans. He takes Eliza to meet his grandmother, a lovely Native American lady who tells Eliza how life has changed since settlers industrialised the city and the area.

On returning to the astrologer, Eliza is told, with the aid of two hand-drawn charts, that she will meet, during the next 10 days, the love of her life, a handsome man "full of riches" who will be either Sagittarius or Aries - but there will be danger.

Now, as all good astrology buffs know, no astrologer could possibly divine that much detail with any degree of accuracy....but the movie uses artistic licence I guess. Anyway, the prediction sets Eliza on track to find her wealthy man, leading to several encounters which grow weirder and weirder. There's a guy who has a larger than lifesize model of a centaur in his house, upon which he loves to ride, with assistance from a pretty assistant (Eliza). Then there's a wealthy composer, played by Richard Manuel of The Band, who feigns interest in astrology and lures Eliza to a peculiar quazi-religious orgy peopled by hippie-like cultists.

Behind all this are entwined flashes from Eliza's earlier life, the death of her young brother, and other, indecipherable mysteries. There's a feeling of nightmare or drug-induced vision throughout.

Tom blows up his bridge and gets himself shot in the ensuing chase.

Eliza realises, too late, that Tom was "the one", his "riches" being spiritual, stemming, I guess from his desire to fight oppression.

This is a movie - bad as it is - which can be interpreted in several ways. I've outlined a straightforward version above, but have since read reviews by some who see the film as having a religious and anti-astrology, or spiritual, or even political significance. One reviewer wrote :

Eliza's Horoscope, can even be seen, I should think (knowing nothing of the film-maker's politics), as a kind of Marxist parable populated by those whom the world of commerce has cast aside, ruined (the boarders in the lodging house, the American Indians), or whom the world has rewarded with ill-deserved riches and the ability to indulge their rottenness.

Yes - now I can see that! Maybe I'll need to watch it again......or perhaps not, at least not without several large measures of Scotch.


Wisewebwoman said...

My friends and I get a lot of amusement out of the movies that demand you work hard at making some sense of them (particularly in the areas of awful editing, dropped characters, meandering to nowhere plot lines, etc.).
This sounds like one of these strange breeds...

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yes it's one of those alright! I was gobsmacked as it unfolded, having felt certain it'd be just a run-of-the-mill chick flick.