The Greatest Midlife Crisis Movie Ever Made

 


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Early on in Save The Tiger the apparel executive Harry Stoner is trying to mediate a dispute in his dress factory between an ancient tailor and a young, flashy designer. The two quarrel ferociously; Harry, needing to keep both happy, tries to be diplomatic and not take sides. The designer storms off with a cruel barb to the old man: “I can't wait till they replace you with a laser beam!" All *he* means is to hurt the old man's feelings, but we take this remark, from our perspective in 2005 (the film is from the mid 70s) as a prescient comment about how quickly the world around us can change.

Just as an idea of how fast things move, let's look at another brief scene from Alvidsen's film (Rocky would be his next project): on his way into the office Harry stops on an LA boulevard to pick up a hitchhiker, a young hippie girl with nothing to do but smoke pot all day. He makes a call from his car phone, a huge contraption hooked into the dashboard with a long cord, and the girl is simply incredulous - she gapes, “My God! You have a phone in your car! Are you, like, super rich?" In just thirty years an episode goes from being so far out of the ordinary to being as ordinary as possible.

Such is life!

The plot of Save The Tiger is relatively simple: Harry and his business partner, Phil, have cooked the books in their apparel company for years and lived the high life. Now time has run out, there are no more accounting trick rabbits left to pull out of the hat, they're going bust. The solution: hire an arsonist to burn the factory to the ground, collect the insurance settlement, cash out.

Why is this so important? Because Harry is having a midlife crisis of major proportions. He screams in his sleep, remembers the names of baseball players from his youthful days in Brooklyn, recalls lovemaking scenes with his wife from twenty years ago, has mirages of his old company from World War 2 before his eyes. Upon repeated viewings one comes to understsnd that this is a movie about time - not clock time, necessarily, but psychological time, the time inside, Heidegger time. How you wake up one day and you're fifty years old all of a sudden and people you've known your whole life are dying all around you.

The brilliant metaphor of the title comes when Harry is walking down the street and an activist with a poster of a tiger that is going extinct calls out, “Hey mister! Wanna help save the tiger? Only a few thousand left in the world!" Even the mighty tigers die out, are not immune to the ruthlessness of time.

At the end of the film, after giving the arsonist a deposit, Harry walks slowly, in loneliness, past a park where some kids are playing baseball. One whacks the ball out of the park, and Harry gives chase and throws it back onto the field. A young player protests - “Hey mister! You can't play with us!" Harry at once seems to accept this remark, as he has not throughout - has in fact fought against accepting it. He sees himself among the youngsters playing, and comes to an understanding that only true reflection and contemplation can lead to. And we see with him.

Peter Quinones is the author of Amethyst Secrets, published by I Universe. His work has appeared in anthologies with some of the most esteemed speakers in the world such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, and Dr. Warren Bennis. Peter's websites are http://www.peterq.net and http://www.cultureboutique.com .

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