Elaine May: Laughing Matters

Carrie Rickey at Sight And Sound:

May, by contrast, the elusive J.D. Salinger of comedy, was happy in the eddies writing and directing four films that have surprising consistency. In A New Leaf, The Heartbreak Kid, Mikey and Nicky (1976) and Ishtar, the viewer experiences something rare: a woman’s gimlet-eyed view of the varieties of male vanity and narcissism. Her movies are a series of seductions, negotiations and fights. Notable in May’s films, and in many of the screenplays she wrote for other people, is the introduction of a fourth kind of human encounter: betrayal. With her directorial debut, the black comedy A New Leaf, which May also wrote and starred in, she became the first woman since Ida Lupino (The Trouble with Angels in 1966) to direct a studio film. The central character is Henry, played by a surprisingly dapper Walter Matthau, a narcissistic playboy (is there any other kind?) who has burned through the family inheritance and is horrified by the prospect of working for a living.

more here.