There’s as much eye-am-a-camera spying in They All Laughed as in the most obsessive works of Hitchcock and De Palma, but while those directors dissect the medium’s inherent voyeurism, Peter Bogdanovich prefers to use cinema’s eager peepers to connect viewers to the evanescent yearning of romantic movies. Set in an airier, less hermetic Manhattan than the one heralded (and embalmed) by Woody Allen, the film is a delicately staged roundelay of intertwined pursuit that, through its private-eye plot and point-of-view editing, encourages audience involvement with the characters’ longing. Members of New York’s Odyssey Detective Agency, the men are ineffectual sleuths smitten with the married women whose supposed infidelity they were hired to document: John (Ben Gazzara) falls for Angela (Audrey Hepburn) and Charles (John Ritter) falls for Dolores (Dorothy Stratten) while fellow shamus Arthur (co-writer Blaine Novak) rollerblades through the story with affairs of his own. As in Bogdanovich’s much-maligned musical At Long Last Love, there’s a sense in which flesh-and-blood people strain to match the silver-screen characters of their memories, just as the director himself aims to fill the shoes of auteurs from classical Hollywood; here, however, such tensions are resolved by incorporating their shortcomings into the film’s accepting mood of tender, bittersweet humanity, with Bogdanovich fondly channeling rather than deconstructing cinema’s past. Supposedly created as a showcase for Stratten (whose tragic death cast a pall over the film’s release), the picture instead offers a splendid ensemble, from Gazarra’s world-weary suavity and Ritter’s slapstick acuity to Hepburn’s autumnal grace and, above all, Colleen Camp’s marvelous blend of abrasion and snap. Indeed, the actress embodies the garrulous yet vulnerable charm of They All Laughed, which, for all the Hawksian ping-pong of the dialogue, is closer to the melodic élan of a Jacques Demy film, as wistful and fragile as a sand castle.
- Moon Pictures
- 115 min
- Peter Bogdanovich
- Peter Bogdanovich, Blaine Novak
- Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, John Ritter, Colleen Camp, Patti Hansen, Dorothy Stratten, Blaine Novak, Linda MacEwen, George Morfogen, Sean Ferrer, Glenn Scarpelli, Vassili Lambrinos, Antonia Bogdanovich, Alexandra Bogdanovich, Sheila Stodden
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