Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Chanel No. 5 Part 1

In the 1962 film "Two for the Seesaw" Robert Mitchum plays Jerry Ryan, a man who has walked away from a loveless marriage. His life was cushy, as he was a nobody who had married an heiress. He never had to exert himself much, and after a dozen years of marriage, he was in a very posh but unbearable rut. Shirley MacLaine plays Gittel Moskowitz, a bohemian New Yorker who is struggling as a dancer. Jerry begins an affair with Gittel and she clearly adores him. He is what some people would call an indecisive jerk. His wife sues him for divorce. There is a scene where Jerry gives Gittel a present. She opens it, and is surprised that it is a bar of soap. He explains it is Chanel No. 5 soap, very expensive, ("Five dollars!" he says, remember it is 1962--the same bar would cost approx. twenty dollars today.) Gittel is impressed. But the whole scene says one thing to me: He misses his wife and the scent of Chanel No 5 is symbolic of being near her, with her, enjoying that easy life. His wife took care of everything for him, but Gittel expects him to be a grown up man. An instant later, Jerry is hugging Gittel and says she smells even better than Chanel No. 5. But who is he kidding? Gittel has a collection of perfumes on a dresser in her apartment, so we know she uses scent. The moment Jerry purchases the Chanel No. 5 soap, we know he is not accepting Gittel as she is, and he never will. We also know that Gittel is better off without Jerry. This is an interesting pyschological drama.