Coming Apart (1969) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's notes

A psychiatrist is in some sort of mid life crisis, and rents an apartment in Manhattan where he entertains women, and tapes these encounters. He is avoiding his pregnant wife, and supposedly trying to document his collapse. The film, which was made for $2,000 (that's not a typo), takes place in a one-room apartment and is shot entirely by a single stationary camera aimed at a wall mirror across the room. Thus the film consists entirely of conversations mixed with some sexual encounters.

Coming Apart (1969) was writer/director Milton Moses Ginsberg's first and last film in that dual role. Critics at the time hated it with very few exceptions. It played a few nights in theaters, was buried by the savage reviews, and then finally resurfaced on DVD.  Despite its failure, Ginsberg says he made exactly the film he wanted, and claims he would do nothing different.  He feels that he was simply decades ahead of his time. Probably true, although its difficult to pinpoint exactly how many decades, since his time has yet to arrive. If he's still waiting, I hope has a perpetual calendar.

There are some positives. Ginsberg feels (with some justification) that he got excellent performances from Rip Torn and Sally Kirkland. Those two made the action seem real and improvised, even though the film was tightly scripted. And then there is the nudity, which is top-notch, especially considering the year. The sexual content was enough to earn the film an X rating. That could have been because of an orgy which included a cross-dresser, but probably had more to do with a stark naked Sally Kirkland masturbating on camera by humping Rip Torn's leg. In fact, she took the gold medal for leg-humping that year, defeating a heavily favored Aleutian dog sled team and a particularly inventive gay Pomeranian.

The high rating at IMDb proves Scoopy's maxim that there is an audience for nearly any film. Such a high score clearly demonstrates that Coming Apart does have a narrow appreciative audience, but I suspect that only a select few of the cinema verité crowd really enjoy anything about this except the copious nudity.



  • Coming Apart 2: Q&A with Rip Torn, Sally Kirkland & Milton Moses Ginsberg
  • Milton Moses Ginsberg's Short: The City Below The Line (1999) (36 min.)
  • An essay by director Milton Moses Ginsberg: How To Fall Into Oblivion And Take Your Movie With You



Nudity includes breasts from Julie Garfield, Lois Markle as a woman with dozens of cigarette burns on her upper chest, and Lynn Swann as a young mother who tries to sell her body to Rip Torn. Sally Kirkland is naked for half the running time, including full frontal and rear nudity before her implants.

Scoop's notes

Rip Torn plays a psychiatrist who keeps an apartment in the city. In that apartment he secretly tapes his encounters with various women, almost all of a sexual nature. The entire movie is filmed by a single B&W camera shooting into a couch in front of a mirror. Neither the zoom nor the camera's position ever changes, more or less as if we were really watching a compilation of secret tapes made by the psychiatrist character with a hidden camera.

This movie came out in 1969, lasted about a week in the theaters, and then disappeared until now. I'm sure existentialists and proponents of cinema verité would argue that this is a lost work of genius, but I was basically watching it with my jaw slack, except when I was fighting to stay awake.  Roger Ebert can't ever sit down to write his column and say "Boy, is this movie fucked up," but I can. And hereby do.

I was impressed by the actors' ability to maintain the illusion of reality, and with the hollow irony of some of the conversations, but not with much else. Anyway, the quality of the film is irrelevant. The key point for us is that this was some pretty naughty stuff back in 1969, including Sally Kirkland full-frontals, transvestites, an orgy, and a very strange scene in which a naked Kirkland masturbates by humping Torn's leg. The film was simply the lame justification which allowed all of that to occur on camera legally in the sixties.

I think it was Leonard Maltin who wrote the famous one-line review of a movie called From Hell It Came. The review: "And Back to Hell it Can Go."

The same review could apply here.


The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, Tuna says, "This film is a C-, a film that is inexplicably beloved by a small audience." Scoop notes: "I guess Tuna is right about that score, but if I had simply watched the film without knowing anything about its history or the IMDb comments, I would have rated it a D or lower. In my mind, its only positives are that there are a couple of good actors in it, and that there is a lot of flesh on display. The acting must be the lesser of the two, because if everyone stayed dressed it would not be possible to watch this for more than five minutes."

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