It’s a shame that Alan Arkin’s directing career never took off. The Oscar-winning actor’s direction infused 1971’s Little Murders, based on the satirical Jules Feiffer play, with energetic visuals, biting wit, and outrageous absurdity. The film stars the perfectly cast Elliott Gould as Albert, a man of intense apathy whose career as a photographer is stuck in existential mire and who strangely enjoys getting the shit kicked out of him by perfect strangers. Eventually, Albert runs into a peppy little ultra-consumer named Patsy (Marcia Rodd), and love blossoms, prompting Albert to poke his numb little head out of his numb little shell and take a peak at the domestic possibilities and emotional dead-ends of materialism.
Throughout Albert and Patsy’s courtship, which culminates in a riotously funny marriage ceremony featuring an unforgettable appearance by Donald Sutherland as a confrontational priest, various acts of violence and anarchy encircle their New York City environs. Patsy’s family doesn’t help matters much, dwelling in an oppressive atmosphere of xenophobic terror and pristine conformity in which sniper-blocking steel shutters are constant reminders of outlying threats. Following a tragedy, however, the absurdity and paranoia that hover around the darkly comedic action are ratcheted up to extreme proportions and Little Murders reveals itself to be a very brave and worthwhile, if under-appreciated, film.