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The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean

The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean (1966)
April 15, 2021 - 4:00 pm

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Note: this is a one-time live screening.

Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Century Arts Foundation

The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean

U.S., 1966

Written, directed and produced by Juleen Compton, The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean is the story of a clairvoyant teenage girl, Norma Jean (Sharon Henesy), taken advantage of by a boy band, fashioned after The Beatles, who are determined to exploit the young woman's powers as part of a hoax revival.

Filmed in the Ozarks with a cast of young, unknown actors (a 25-year-old Sam Waterston co-stars in his first film appearance), the picture's opening title sequence—the two young leads walking through a bucolic setting with Michel Legrand's sentimental score—suggests a tender tale about a pair of young companions. However, the movie quickly takes an unusual turn when Norma Jean and her friend Vance (Robert Gentry) pick up an enormous plastic dome they've ordered. The narrative never reveals the structure's origins or purpose, but the image of the looming, magical, two-story high edifice provides an engaging and enigmatic set piece for the rest of the movie.

Compton’s work is stylistically accomplished. Her first feature film, Stranded, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965, and The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean are impressive examples of American independent feature filmmaking during the mid-1960s, and both center on an uncommon portrayal, for the time, of female agency.

During the 1970s, Compton moved to Los Angeles in hopes of directing features in Hollywood. In 1974 she participated in the inaugural year of the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women and wrote scripts for television movies. Frustrated with Hollywood's sexist hiring practices, after completing her third film, the independently produced Western Buckeye and Blue (1988), Compton returned to New York City during the 1990s to run her successful off-Broadway theater company, the Century Center for the Performing Arts.Maya Montañez Smukler

The one-time live screening of the film will be preceded by an introduction by Senior Film Preservationist Jillian Borders and Archive Research and Study Center Officer Maya Montañez Smukler, and followed by a pre-recorded conversation with filmmaker Juleen Compton.

The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean was scanned from a restored 35mm print held by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Digital, b&w, 82 min. Director: Juleen Compton. Screenwriter: Juleen Compton. With: Sharon Henesy, Robert Gentry, Marco St. John.

Restored from the 35mm original picture negative and 35mm original track negative. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory. Sound services by Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Simon Daniel Sound.