Blu-ray Review: Puzzle of a Downfall Child

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Jerry Schatzberg | CAST: Faye Dunaway, Barry Primus, Vivica Lindfors, Roy Scheider, Barry Morse
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 15, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $9.99, Blu-ray $16.59
BONUSES: commentary, director’s interview, alternate studio-edit opening, more
SPECS: R | 105 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

The 1970 drama Puzzle of a Downfall Child marks the directorial debut of Jerry Schatzberg, who would go on to helm such notable Seventies entries as The Panic in Needle Park, Scarecrow and The Seduction of Joe Tynan.

Faye Dunaway in Puzzle of a Downfall Child

It tells the tale of beautiful but disturbed former model Lou Andreas Sand (Dunaway) and her downward spiral into drugs and depression, resulting in suicidal tendencies and a nervous breakdown. Living alone in a beach cottage, Lou recounts her sad story to fashion photographer turned director Aaron Reinhardt (Barry Primus, Boxcar Bertha), who records their conversations in the hopes of developing them into a feature film.

Handsomely mounted by fashion photographer turned director Schatzberg, Puzzle’s splintered chronology bounces between Lou and Aaron and then various episodes in Lou’s life—fashion shoots gone wrong, romances gone wrong (one with Roy Scheider), business dealings gone wrong, and so on. The real puzzle of Puzzle is how Lou made it as far as she did to begin with…!

Schatzberg receives a co-story credit on Puzzle, along with screenwriter Adrian Joyce, the pen name for Carole Eastman, who based her script on recordings Schatzberg had made of his friend, model Anne St. Marie (while Aaron was in part based on Schatzberg, himself).

The fragmented confessions and self-destructive tendencies of the one of the beautiful people presented in a consciously arty and jagged style was more innovative and provocative half a century ago than it is now, though the performances here keep it more interesting than not. And at the center is Lady Dunaway herself, giving audiences a preview of the overly theatrical mode she would shift towards a decade later after a quick stop in Chinatown and Network.

Buy or Rent Puzzle of a Downfall Child

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.