Tuesday Weld, Orson Welles, Jack Nicholson — you’d think it would be impossible to make a lame film with a cast like that but in A Safe Place Henry Jaglom makes it look easy.
The film is relentlessly ugly to look at. Jaglom says he’s not much interested in the visual aspect of filmmaking — he leaves all that to his cinematographer. The film is punctuated with aimless zooms and the continuity is fractured — stylistic quirks that may have been intended to make the film seem au courant in 1971 but just feel silly today.
The fractured continuity annoyed critics when the film was released — they called it incoherent, but in fact it’s all too coherent, parading trite psychological insights that the quirky style can’t disguise. It’s basically a portrait of a vexing but mentally unstable woman, played by Weld, and consists of a mixture of her dreams, memories and actual experiences.
Weld and Welles and Nicholson are luminous film presences and brilliant actors — it’s a joy to watch them work, even with shoddy material like this. You have to give Jaglom credit for creating the occasion for this work, even if he’s using it to shore up a half-baked vision.
Weld is the real revelation here — an actor rarely used well by Hollywood but undeniably great. She’s just riveting in this film and more than holds her own with Welles and Nicholson, which is saying a lot. Sadly, those three actors inhabit a different artistic universe than Jaglom’s.