A Safe Place (1971)

safe place poster 1971 movie orson welles
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun visuals of old New York City and Central Park, good looking

Nonlinear story never feels very coherent

Movie Info

Movie Name:   A Safe Place

Studio:   BBS Productions

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   October 15, 1971 (New York Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:   PG

safe place tuesday weld phil proctor

I’m the ultimate nice guy…treat me however you’d like

Noah (Tuesday Weld) lives in her own world. It is New York City in the early ’70s but Noah is trapped between the New York of her childhood and dreams of a Magician (Orson Welles) while trying to choose between a relationship with nice guy Fred (Phil Proctor) or the more dangerous Mitch (Jack Nicholson). New York is Noah’s playland, but sometimes a person must grow up or disappear.

Written and directed by Henry Jaglom, A Safe Place is an experimental drama. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1971 and was extremely polarizing to reviewers. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film as part of the America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Criterion #548).

I will say this for A Safe Place, it isn’t a movie you just pop in and watch without paying attention. As you start to watch the movie, you start to question what you are watching and if you are watching anything or missing a deeper meaning…finishing the movie, it leaves you with a big question mark.

safe place jack nicholson tuesday weld

I do what I want

The story for the movie is this weird overlapping fantasy/reality story with events maybe happening or not happening at all. Hippy Noah (whose real name is Susan…she takes the Noah from the Noah’s Ark at the Central Park Zoo) has weird dreams of a magician played by Orson Welles who had a significant impact on her life, but it is unclear his role in it. He has an obsession with making things disappear and she has an obsession with the belief that she flew as a child. You have the nice, straight laced (aka boring) Fred and the edgy Mitch vying for her and in the end she disappears or flies away quite literally…very little is explained.

The cast is strong and help carry the lack of a story. Tuesday Weld is actually kind of charming and you can see she does have a magnetic personality as Noah. Phil Proctor is kind of dull, but he is also meant to be. Jack Nicholson did the movie as a favor and was paid with a new color TV. Orson Welles steals every scene as the Magician (which feels a lot like his F is for Fake role), but the fact his character isn’t really explained is part of the fun.

safe place magician orson welles rainbow

Is Orson Welles the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Visually the movie does excel. There was a lot of criticism about the editing (intentional jump cuts, etc.), but I thought that was one of the more interesting aspects of the film.  Plus, it is great to see “old” New York City and remember a time when someone like Noah could live there. Now, NYC is a pipe-dream for most people and to live anyway like Noah lives (even in this time her home off of Central Park seems a big stretch) would be amazing. It might have been dirtier and less safe, but it was interesting and fun.

I can’t really recommend A Safe Place. It was kind of fun to watch because it was so odd, but it isn’t a movie that has much of a direction or honestly a point. The visuals and the cast keep you watching, but don’t expect much from the story.  A Safe Place feels like one of those weird, subversive film that would have been put out by Andy Warhol’s Factory…without the fanfare.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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