Director Milton Moses Ginsberg dies
Milton Moses Ginsberg, who made two ambitious but eccentric films before sinking into oblivion, one about the collapse of a psychiatrist and the other about a press secretary in a Nixon administration who becomes a murderous werewolf, died May 23 in his Manhattan apartment.
He was 85 years old.
The cause was cancer, said his wife, Nina Ginsberg.
Milton Ginsberg, an editor determined to make his own films, wrote and directed “Coming Apart” (1969), a raw black-and-white film that used a single, almost entirely static camera to document loveless dates and lovemaking. psychological disintegration of a psychiatrist, played by Rip Torn, who surreptitiously records his encounters with a camera inside a mirrored box.
“Coming Apart” has received mixed reviews at best. But the one that devastated Ginsberg was Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice, who wrote that “if everyone in the cast had refused to undress for action or inaction, ‘Coming Apart’ would have collapsed commercially. into a half-baked home movie unable to sell enough tickets to fill a phone booth. “
Ginsberg blamed this review for the film’s box office failure.
He followed up “Coming Apart” in 1973 with another low budget film: “The Werewolf of Washington”, a campy political parody inspired by the classic horror film “The Wolf Man” (1941), which terrified Ginsberg when he was a boy, and by President Richard M. Nixon, who terrified him as a man.
In Ginsberg’s film, released more than a year after the Watergate scandal, Dean Stockwell plays an assistant press secretary who turns into a werewolf at inappropriate times, like when he’s bowling with the president, and murders characters based on Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, and Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of Attorney General John N. Mitchell.
“The film is not presented as a documentary,” wrote syndicated columnist Nicholas von Hoffman, “but when you think about what’s going on in this city, you can’t tell it apart from the plot.”
In 1975, after Ginsberg was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he fell into a depression which only disappeared after he met and married Nina Posnansky, a painter, in 1983. She and her brother, Arthur, him survive.
After the commercial failure of his feature films, Ginsberg returned to editing. He has worked on various projects, including the Oscar-winning documentaries “Down and Out in America” (1986), about the unemployed and homeless people left behind in the economy, directed by actress Lee Grant, and ” The Personals “(1998), about a group of old people in a theater company.
He was in limbo, he wrote in Film Comment in 1999, for directing “Coming Apart”, which he ironically called “audience murder”.
Milton Moses Ginsberg was born on September 22, 1935 in the Bronx. Her father, Elias, was a tailor in the garment district and her mother, Fannie (Weis) Ginsberg, was a housewife.
Ginsberg’s disappointment with the response to his features eased somewhat when the Museum of Modern Art screened “Coming Apart” in 1998. MoMA has shown it a few times since.