Losing Ground (1982)
March 30, 2020 4:30 PM - Subscribe

A comedy-drama about a Black American female philosophy professor and her insensitive, philandering, and flamboyant artist husband who are having a marital crisis. When the wife goes off on an almost unbelievable journey to find "ecstasy", her husband is forced to see her in a different light.
posted by latkes (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is streaming on Criterion Channel right now.

I found this delightful and engaging. Definitely has an unpolished quality of an early 80s art house movie, but feels finished, composed, and very beautiful. I can recommend Collins' short story collection, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love as well.

Would love to discuss the characters and story if anyone else checks it out!
posted by latkes at 4:38 PM on March 30, 2020

Just got around to watching this. I was a little distracted by some audio issues earlier on in the film, there were a few shots where the characters move from the foreground to the background during a conversation and since the ceiling is in frame there's nowhere for a boom mic to go and they get much quieter as they move away.

However, minor technical issues are forgivable when we're talking about one of the first feature films ever directed by a black woman. From the credits it sounds like she worked with different crews during different weeks of shooting and the back half of the film was more consistent on that front as well.

I found the theme of the film very moving, about the struggle between the repression of the "superego" (for lack of a better term) and giving in to a higher power or internal feelings/impulses, which the main character describes as finding "ecstatic experience". I thought it was interesting using religious experiences, drug/alcohol use, and artistic expression as methods of finding ecstasy, of channeling your inner self.

I think it makes an excellent point about the balance of self-repression within a long-term relationship. No two people are perfectly compatible and we need to make allowances for another person even if at times it can annoy, hurt, or inconvenience us. But too much of that one way or the other and you "Lose Ground", you give up yourself and become consumed by the other person's needs and desires.

At least that's what I took away from it, interested to hear anyone else's thoughts!
posted by JauntyFedora at 4:20 PM on April 8, 2020

That's interesting about the production side. I was pretty riveted wondering HOW Collins pulled off making this movie with what I imagine was very limited financial and institutional support.

Re theme: If the theme was the struggle between impulses and self control, I guess the Bill Gunn character represents falling on the wrong side of that? With the lead character, it always remains ambiguous to me: the movie is clearly sympathetic to her search for ecstasy , but also that search will be punished, by death, so...

I loved the visuals of the film: it works very much as like a visual art piece, which is interesting as it's also sort of about a painter. I was thinking about that same thing - showing painting in movies, and creating echos of the medium of painting in the movie, when I was watching Portrait of a Lady on Fire too...

Speaking of Bill Gunn, Want to watch Ganja and Hess?
posted by latkes at 11:00 AM on April 9, 2020

Yeah I'm not sure of the conclusion it settles on, if any, on the impulse/self-control debate but to me it's the issue of balance, both within the self and in our relationships. The husband chases his artistic muse whenever he wants, has a glass of wine while working, pushes for his wife to accompany him upstate even though there is no suitable library. Meanwhile she puts up with his philandering and gracefully avoids attention from some of her students.

You've definitely got a point with regard to the movie feeling like a painting sometimes. Part of the reason for the audio issues was some static, painterly camera shots, especially when she and her husband were together.

Then again, other times the camera evokes other artistic outlets, like the frenetic camerawork set to Latin music during the husband's painting outing in the village, or his dance with Celia on the beach. Then there is the use of the student director's monocle as a framing device. Then when Sarah comes on the movie set, the camerawork on the movie moves just like the director is instructing the camera to move on the film within the film. I thought it was pretty funny to have the director exclaim "Look at that mise-en-scene!"

I'm down to watch Ganja and Hess, I see it's on Prime video right now.
posted by JauntyFedora at 3:44 PM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

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