In Praise of Older Women
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 109 min
Astral Bellevue Pathé
Andras Vayda (Tom Berenger) grows up in Hungary amid war, occupation, communism and revolution. He is tutored in the ways of love, passion and politics by two older women: Maya (Karen Black), a beautiful poetess, and Bobbie (Susan Strasberg), a sensual Jewish violinist who nurtures Andras’s revolutionary tendencies. After the Hungarian revolution is defeated, Andras comes to Canada where, as a charming refugee, he has difficulty adjusting to the cultural and emotional differences of his new country.
Finding that he is too impulsive, too open and forthright for a world of Anglo-Saxon reticence, Andras nevertheless insists on living with the passion of a true romantic. After several romantic encounters – some embarrassing rebukes as well as several passionate affairs – it is finally a shy, middle-class housewife (Helen Shaver) who teaches him his greatest lesson and provides him with an intriguing conclusion to his amorous adventures.
In Praise of Older Women, based on Stephen Vizinczey’s best-selling coming-of-age novel about a Hungarian Lothario, launched Robert Lantos’s career as a Canadian producing mogul and was already notorious before its release. Fussed over by nervous censors before its release, its world premiere at the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival®) in 1978 caused a near-riot as the tickets were oversold and the crowd became unruly. All this gave the film an edge of controversy which, in retrospect, seems unwarranted. It is simply a mildly titillating tale of a young man and his sexual relationships with seven older women.
Received rather indifferently by critics, the film parlayed the solid momentum from its controversial premiere and popular source material into decent box office returns both domestically and internationally.