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UCLA Festival of Preservation

Stranded / The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean

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Friday 2/9
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Juleen Compton, US, 1965, 35mm, 90 min.

Juleen Compton was an independent American filmmaker—and one of the only women making features during the decade—working in both Europe and the United States during the 1960s.  As a teenager, in the 1950s, Compton moved from Phoenix to New York City where she became part of the tight-knit theater community; she was close friends with playwright Clifford Odets; and studied acting with Lee Strasberg who recommended that she take classes with Harold Clurman, co-founder of The Group Theatre.  In 1961 Compton and Clurman were married until his death in 1980.  During these years, Compton began a successful career in real estate and interior design; a secondary profession that would finance her work as an independent filmmaker.

Compton's first feature was the autobiographical Stranded, which she wrote, directed, starred in, self-financed and distributed.  Released in 1965, the film shares the cinematic experimentation and stylish, youth-centric rebellion of the French New Wave made even more radical by its progressive portrayals of female independence and sexuality, beatnik culture, and discussions of homosexuality.

follows Raina, a young American woman (played by Compton), traveling through Greece with her American lover (Gary Collins), and her French, gay, best friend (Gian Pietro Calasso).  Raina partakes in several love affairs rejecting marriage offers for no other reason than she likes her life the way it is.

Made just prior to the arrival of second wave feminism, Compton, as writer-director, never judges her on-screen alter-ego the way similar female characters were frequently punished in other films during this era by stigmatizing female sexuality.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Century Arts Foundation

Followed by:

The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean

Juleen Compton, US, 1966, 35mm, 82 min.

Written, directed, and self-financed by Juleen Compton, The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean is the story of a clairvoyant teenage girl, Norma Jean (Sharon Henesy), taken advantage of by a boy band, fashioned after The Beatles, determined to exploit the young woman's powers as part of a hoax revival.

Filmed in the Ozarks with a cast of young, unknown actors (a 25-year-old Sam Waterston co-stars in his first film appearance), the picture's opening title sequence—the two young leads walking through a bucolic setting with Michel Legrand's sentimental score—suggests a tender tale about a pair of young companions.  However, the movie quickly takes an unusual turn when Norma Jean and her friend Vance (Robert Gentry) pick up an enormous plastic dome they've ordered.  The narrative never reveals the structure's origins or purpose, but the image of the looming, yet magical two-story high edifice, provides an engaging and enigmatic set piece for the rest of the movie.

Stylistically accomplished, the movie is an impressive example of American independent feature filmmaking during the mid-1960s and an uncommon portrayal, for the time, of female agency.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Century Arts Foundation

The UCLA Festival of Preservation is Co-Presented by Louis Bluver.