TNB Night Owl–Apology

Macaroni and Cheese. Photo by Naotake Murayama

We all have that one movie we adored in our youth that, upon later viewing, isn’t quite as magnificent as it was then. For me, that’s a made-for-HBO movie APOLOGY (1986). I’m not sure what caused my multiple watches. It may have been the “artsyness” that appealed to my young, pretentious self. It may have been a teenage crush on Peter Weller. Whatever it is, the movie never made it to digital media and, thus, the affection of my youth had not been tainted. This month someone uploaded an old VHS copy onto YouTube and I was able to watch it again for the first time in decades.

The premise was based on a real-life project, the Apology Line, created by artist Allan Bridge. Flyers were posted all over New York inviting people to anonymously call and confess whatever they did that they needed to apologize for. Bridge received calls about infidelity and petty theft, but he also heard from people claiming to be guilty of assault, murder, and worse. Two years prior to the movie Campbell Black wrote a novel based on a killer’s apology. It was somewhat loyal to the real life man (albeit with an unsatisfying ending, but that’s just my opinion). The film took a few more liberties.

The first thing was they changed Allan to Lily (played by Leslie Ann Warren). She is recording the apologies to play in a giant walk-through sculpture. What’s it supposed to symbolize? We’re not supposed to delve too deep into it. Another way the film veered from the original story was that in Bridge’s original line there was a criminal who confessed to gay bashing and robbing homosexuals. The film went much more dramatic and had him murdering them.

Lily is so wrapped up in her art that she neglects all her relationships, from her teenage daughter to the gallery owner who has more than professional interest in her. Meanwhile, New York City cop Rad Hungate (a fabulous name for a character, and the one portrayed by Weller) is so wrapped up in his work (and guilt over shooting a suspect) that he neglects his relationships. It’s painfully obvious where this is all going. Lily is alone. After a few minutes Rad is alone. He’s investigating the murders. She hears the confessions of the murderer. There’s no subtlety here. We know this has to all build to a big climactic confrontation in her studio, with the huge industrial looking sculpture playing as integral a part of the story as the romantic liaisons between Rad and Lily.

Looking back on this movie with older eyes I can see the cliches from a mile away. It worked on one level when I was a younger, less jaded movie watcher. Now it works on a different level–there’s a comfort to the familiar. APOLOGY delivers on all its promises. The setups all pay off, whether romantic or murderous. All the actors do a fine job with their roles. Sure, nothing is groundbreaking, but everything is satisfying.

Question of the night: what’s the strangest art piece you’ve experienced?

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