The teenaged me received quite an education in life from the movies of 1969.
There were MIDNIGHT COWBOY, THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS, EASY RIDER, THE WILD BUNCH, DE SADE, WOMEN IN LOVE, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE, MAROONED, THE STEWARDESSES, MEDEA, and SWEET CHARITY – just to name a few of the most memorable. Scenes from each of these films — feats of daring! blood splatters! nude male wrestlers! beheadings! bare breasts! — are permanently etched into my brain.
But the one film that still resonates the most strongly after all of these years is THE STERILE CUCKOO, a heartbreaking story of young love, longing, and loneliness. Liza Minnelli shines in the role of Pookie Adams, a fragile and kookie college coed desperate to make an impression and a connection.
Liza’s performance, for which she received an Academy Award nomination, is riveting in its honesty and depth. In fact, ever since 1969, I have used her portrayal Pookie as the benchmark to compare other actress’s acting chops, as in, “She was OK in the role, but she sure wasn’t Liza in THE STERILE CUCKOO.” Consider the telephone call scene….
Director Alan Pakula created a visually stunning environment to frame the development of this quiet story and Ms. Minnelli’s fragile character. And to add even more intensity to the sad tale of young love lost is the film’s theme song, “Come Saturday Morning,” by Fred Karlin and Dory Previn, which was also nominated for best song.
This little crystal of a movie was released on DVD just yesterday, October 16. If you have never seen it and you have a fondness for coming of age stories that will break your heart, put THE STERILE CUCKOO on your to-be-watched list today.