The one thing you should see this week: the Canadian precursor to today’s reality TV craze
This week’s pick: A Married Couple
Before Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica and Jon and Kate Plus 8 there was A Married Couple, a 1969 documentary discomfiting in its universality and its particularities. Today’s reality TV craze can be traced back to the director Allan King, who edited 70 hours of footage down to 96 minutes to create an “actuality drama”—in this case, an indelible portrait of the fracturing marriage of Billy and Antoinette Edwards, an ad exec and a stay-at-home mom in Toronto.
Every topic is a potential landmine for the couple—their toddler, their dog, the weather, harpsichords—but gender politics cause the biggest blowouts. An argument over vacuuming and unreturned records ends when Billy shoves Antoinette out of the house. It’s an appalling, can’t-look-away kind of scene, with the couple serving as a late-’60s case study of the effects of shifting gender roles. He makes the money and wants the respect he feels that he’s owed; she runs the home and wants the respect she feels she’s owed. Instead of respect, all they get is bickering and belittling. They feel trapped—by their love for each other, by their hate for each other and by the rapidly changing world that has thrown their inadequacies into grand relief. When Antoinette says to Billy, “It’s never going to be anything marvelous between the two of us,” you can’t help but agree.
N.B.: the Friday and Saturday screenings will be introduced by Zoë Druick, the author of a book on the film.
The details: April 15 to 17. $12. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-968-3456, tiff.net/tiffbelllightbox.