fbpx Biennale Cinema 2017 | James Toback - The Private Life of a Modern Woman
La Biennale di Venezia

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James Toback - The Private Life of a Modern Woman

Usa / 71’
language English
cast Sienna Miller, Alec Baldwin, Charles Grodin
screenplay James Toback
cinematographer Larry McConkey, ASC
editor Aaron Yanes, ACE
production designer Rick Butler
costume designer Melissa Vargas
music Jeanne Fox
sound Tommy Douglas, Austin Moore



Vera Lockman, a successful actress, living alone in a stunning New York loft, thrashes during a nightmare in which she struggles with, shoots and kills her drug-dealer, ex-boyfriend, Sal. Jolted awake, she reveals in her journal that the killing in her nightmare actually occurred the day before and that Sal, dead, lies in a trunk in her living room. Leon, Vera’s lover, arrives and is dismissed, permanently. Franklin, a filmmaker/ friend, stops by, concerned. He grills Vera, provoking confusion and a hint of dread. Vera drives the trunk to an isolated area and rolls it into a lake. She returns to her loft and is startled by a narcotics detective, McCutcheon, who asks about Sal. Vera believes that McCutcheon accepts her false story. Vera serves dinner to her beloved but decaying grandfather, Arthur, and her mother, Elaine. Carl Icahn, Arthur’s former high school classmate, stops by afterward. Vera and Carl connect emotionally. The next day Vera, calm for the first time, writes. Her mood is shattered by the crescendo of police sirens. She springs to the window and sees McCutcheon. Their eyes meet. Arrest awaits her.


I conceived and wrote The Private Life of a Modern Woman for Sienna Miller. My own preoccupations constitute the thematic core of the film: the forging of a self, the impulse to create, the unresolved tension between anger and love, the ever-present awareness of death. Structurally, I sought to adhere (with poetic license) to the Aristotelian unities of time, place and action—the framework for Greek tragedy. By literary analogy the film is a novella, rather than a short story or a novel. As always, I felt compelled to integrate works of art which have enriched my life wherever they enhanced the film: The Brahms German Requiem, The Shostakovich Seventh, The Bach B Minor Mass, The Cleftones version of Please Say You Want Me and Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.

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Biennale Cinema
Biennale Cinema