A New Leaf
This long overdue release is accompanied by a video essay in which critic David Cairns laments the feature’s unremarkable box office performance. Had A New Leaf taken off, he argues, it could have established writer-director-star Elaine May as cinema’s first female clown auteur. As things transpired, she immediately fell out of favour with Paramount and was never again granted full control of a project. Though her subsequent work offers tantalising glimpses of a unique comic voice, nowhere else would it seem so distinctive and fully formed.
Here May pays homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, but maintains a disconcertingly lackadaisical pace of her own. It’s great fun to watch Walter Matthau play against type as a spoilt trust fund kid – emanating deadpan fussiness as he plots to restore his fortune by marrying and murdering an uncouth heiress – but it’s the versatile and inventive May that both he and the audience fall for. [Lewis Porteous]