Lumière Spotlight:

The Slender Thread



Sydney Pollack's seldom-seen debut film is led by two magnificent actors and driven by the suspense of a real-time thriller.

A woman wanders through Seattle, past its tall modernist buildings, to the beach along the bay. There are Antonionian overtones to this character in distress, though to some extent psychology reasserts itself: the desperate housewife, played by Ann Bancroft, is devastated by her husband's disenchantment with her because of a long-kept lie that is suddenly exposed. So, she sits in a hotel room, takes pills and waits to die. But she has called a support centre anyway - a local SOS helpline - and the volunteer trainee who picks up the phone, played by Sydney Poitier, now has only one goal, to keep her alive. Between them, there is a "slender thread", that of the telephone line, of their conversation, which must last as long as possible…

This was the very first film made by Sydney Pollack, who was only 31 years old. He put his acting career on hold and Burt Lancaster encouraged him, saying "You must become a director”. Thus, Pollack spent four years directing TV soap opera episodes, just to get the hang of it. There he affirmed what was to become his strength: directing actors. Pollack was lucky enough to inherit two recent Oscar-winning actors for his debut: Ann Bancroft and Sydney Poitier, who would never cross paths on the set, and play their quasi-monologues with potency... He would also succeed in the narrative tour de force of the film in real time (the flashbacks are meant to illustrate the account of her life that she gives to her interlocutor on the telephone).


TRENTE MINUTES DE SURSISThe Slender Thread, 1965

The story is based on an article from Life magazine, chronicling a rise in female suicides in the United States, while Pollack also cultivates this documentary power: everything is done to identify as quickly as possible - in the space of a film - where the call comes from. There is a shot of a telephone exchange, thousands of connections, a mass of tangled wires. There will be a similar shot in Three Days of the Condor, ten years later. Ah, the mise-en-scene and its eternal recycling.



The Slender Thread (1965, 1h38)
Lumière Institute Sat9 5:15pm | Comoedia Mon11 2pm | Pathé Bellecour Wed13 10:45am

Categories: Lecture Zen