Susan (Tuesday Weld) may be Noah and Noah may be Susan, depending on where she is in her life, but currently she appears to be in some form of communal home for the mentally unwell. In her mind, she has become unstuck throughout her life, where she may be a child in a woman's body, or a grown woman looking back on the choices that have brought her to this point, but she cannot be certain for her memories are unruly and emerge as a montage through her confused thoughts. She does remember the magician (Orson Welles) who entertained her and Fred (Phil Proctor) who tried to woo her, but there were other, darker presences there too...
Writer and director (and occasional actor) Henry Jaglom began his screen career as an auteur with this jumbled stream of consciousness movie, an item that has a small cult following, yet seems more likely to infuriate most who stumble across it. A Safe Place earned its not-so-safe place in movie history by its production, one of the releases from the independent BBS who had such huge hits with Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show; those were put out at just the right time to surf the wave of interest in bright, young, cynical things who emerged from the hippy era to become major players in the cinema world, either as independents or as part of the crisis-struck Hollywood system.
A Safe Place, however, was simply too esoteric to chime with the general audience and as a result hardly anyone caught it at the time, leaving it the subject of casual interest from fans of the time who were curious about what it could have been like, since it was rarely revived. When it hit Blu-ray, they finally had their chance to find out not so much what the fuss had been about - there had been no fuss, it was so obscure - as more if it had been worth its place in the BBS canon which had produced such remarkable work, and indeed where it landed in the movies of the turn of the nineteen-sixties into the seventies. What relevance did it feature, basically - if any.
As it transpired, this wider release in the twenty-first century, the biggest exposure it had had in decades, generated a minor shrug from those who gave it a go, and precisely no more interest in Jaglom's work than any of his other films post-the mid-eighties did. You could view him as the ultimate cult director, in that anyone who really loved his work would find themselves as part of a tiny coterie of fans, but mostly it made you surprised he continued to receive funding for efforts so far under the radar he might as well have invited the sparse audience around to his house to watch them on his television. For the paltry interest Jaglom generated, he was never going to be held up as a great auteur in the way his European arthouse heroes like Federico Fellini or Jean-Luc Godard would be.
Back at A Safe Place, the feeling of watching somebody's home movies was never far away, albeit home movies that happened to snag the talents of Weld, Welles and Jack Nicholson, who surely cannot have worked for more than a day and apparently only showed up as a favour to the team who had helped his stardom along. Welles seemed to be enjoying himself, but that was clearly because he was given the opportunity to perform his beloved magic tricks, and his emblematic appearance was typical of those younger filmmakers who idolised him but couldn't find much of interest for him to do as his career entered its twilight years. Weld rambled away to little effect with only her often-neglected offbeat charisma to help her through scenes that started on nothing in particular and ended up nowhere in particular, for as a character study of a woman torn between two lovers it was only the loose, eccentric style that gave it any distinction. You'd need a lot of patience to get through this with so little reward.