Two interviews with the iconic Faye Dunaway: the first in bed from 1987, just after she had made Barfly; while the second comes from 1994, when the work was mainly coming from TV series and films.
If Ms. Dunaway had been a man or, had the title “Dame” before her name, I’m sure she would be better appreciated for her talents, rather than put-down as a “ball buster”, or one of those other sexist terms men with small dicks, or people with no talent, use to describe strong women.
Good for her if she is a ball buster, for Faye Dunaway is one of Cinema’s true greats, who rightly deserves to be cherished.
In Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Faye Dunaway plays a neurotic, spaced-out, emotionally unstable model by the name of Lou Andreas Sand living in a remote beach house, trying to recover from a nervous breakdown that saw her institutionalized.
The script for the film was inspired by the life of iconic 1950s fashion model Anne Saint Marie. Director Jerry Schatzberg (Panic in Needle Park) taped hours worth of interviews with Saint Marie—who suffered a nervous breakdown at the height of her career—and these sessions became the basis of the film. Actor Barry Primus plays a photographer who is interviewing Dunaway’s character. The conceit of the interview gives the almost cinéma vérité-ish film a non-narrative structure that allows for an effective use of the jarring flashback and flash-forward editing style popular at the time, and contributes viscerally to explaining how truly disconnected from reality Lou has become.
The film provides quite a good showcase for Dunaway as an actress, it’s raw at times. She’s stunning in it, too. What a great beauty she was then. Puzzle of a Downfall Child is also beautifully shot. First-time director Schatzberg was a noted photographer—he snapped Dylan for the Blonde on Blonde album cover and the Rolling Stones in drag—who worked for Vogue and other major magazines. It was when he shot Dunaway for Esquire that he pitched her the idea. The two became lovers and Schatzberg’s wife of 18 years divorced him, although Dunaway would leave him in 1969 for Marcello Mastroianni.
Sadly Puzzle of a Downfall Child has never come out on home video and so is not widely known. It was restored by Universal in 2011 and shown at the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival with Faye Dunaway and Jerry Schatzberg in attendance, but it’s still unavailable (except in France)
Lucky for you, if you’ve read this far, some kind soul has posted Puzzle of a Downfall Child, in its entirety and in great quality, on YouTube:
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical movie Barfly, with Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, director Barbet Schroeder and the great, Bukowski, who explained the film’s title:
‘I was the barfly. I would open the bar and I would close the bar and I had no money. It was a place to be. It was my home.’
Bukowski wrote the script for Schroeder, who was so passionate about making a film with the poet, that when backers Canon planned to exclude the project form its production schedule, the director threatened to cut-off his own finger with a battery-powered saw if he didn’t get the finance to make it.