The first of director Robert Altman's films to really bear his distinctive signature, That Cold Day in the Park is an ultimately unsatisfying psychological thriller that explores themes and ideas Altman would examine more fruitfully in later efforts such as Images and Three Women. Park is intentionally claustrophobic, as befits a film that deals with a man becoming trapped and imprisoned, but it becomes a trifle too suffocating. Rarely has Altman utilized his "fly on the wall" technique more fully, and his penchant for using slow zooms is quite effective throughout. He's aided by star Sandy Dennis, whose ease and familiarity with her character's intensely neurotic personality is so keen as to cause discomfort. Altman and cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs absorb everything Dennis throws at them, and brilliantly frame the characters so that their place in (or rather on the outside of) normal society is brought home forcefully. Unfortunately, all this expertise is in the service of a story that is ineffective and simplistic; rather than exploring characters in depth, Altman ends up exploiting them for a rather shallow effect. Compounding this problem is the fact that neither of the lead characters is particularly pleasant to be around. Park is valuable as a peek into the early mind of a master filmmaker, but as a film itself, it is lacking.
by Craig Butler review