Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Women In Love & Don't Look Now

 Women In Love and Don’t Look Now.

I watched two films from the 70’s a few nights ago that I liked very much when I first saw them in my 20’s, and I’m pleased to say that they hold up very nicely. The first one was Ken Russell’s wonderful adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel “Women In Love” with a screenplay by Larry Kramer, before he became the angry political but worthy AIDS and gay activist provocateur. Set in England during the early 20’s the movie follows the romantic paths of two close sisters Ursula played by Jennie Linden a school teacher and who is the more conservative middle class one, and her passionate sister Gudrun who has ambitions to be an artist. This is of course the film that made a star of Glenda Jackson who also won a very well deserved Oscar for her magnificent performance. The film resonated with us back then ( and for me still does) for several reasons including the strong feminist theme that runs through the film and several set pieces including the outdoor luncheon where Alan Bates rhapsodizes on the wonders of the fig, and the erotic nude wrestling scene between him and the dark and disturbed Oliver Reed. which mirrors the sex scene between Bates and Ursula that precede it. Both actors are wonderful in their acting and their skin. The film is complex with complicated relationships between the four major characters, and Russell takes his sweet time in telling the story. Some might get bored, but not me, I just love this film, and I cannot say enough about the greatness of Jackson, who sadly left films for a career in politics. For those who think of her as boxy, lumpy and homely please see this film where she is is absolutely stunning thanks to a makeover by none other than Vidal Sassoon. Also in the cast is the great Eleanor Bron who was mostly known for her comedic turns on British tv and her role in the Beatles film “Help“. Here she plays the very rich aristocratic and bitchy “artistic” Hermione Roddice who has her hooks out for Bates, but can’t quit reel him in, loosing him to the simple and unpretentious Ursula. I also liked very much Catherine Willmer who plays Reed’s very unbalanced mother, and Vladek Sheybal who plays the intrusive homosexual artist Loerke who plays a pivital role in the final part of the film. The transfer is nice with deep saturated colors and with a somewhat self conscious but beautiful period look in it’s art direction and costumes.

“Don’t Look Now” was released during the Christmas season of 1973 and was the scary movie that we went to when we couldn’t get into The Exorcist. The movie is based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, and concerns a beautiful married couple played by the beautiful Julie Christie and the handsome Donald Sutherland who after suffering a terrible tragedy in their lives go off to Venice where Sutherland who is an Art historian and has a job working on the restoration of a church. This is not the Venice of David Lean’s “Summertime” but a dank, cold and dark Winter city full of rats and a crazed killer on the loose. Still hurting badly from the tragedy, Christie takes up with vacationing British sisters one who is blind and a psychic that she meets while dining in a restaurant with Sutherland who is more than cynical when dealing with the two old biddies. The movie is full of dread and darkness, and the director Nicholas Roeg can be accused of too much telegraphing of his plot, but it all works nicely with a more than creepy ending that made audiences scream out loud. I remember waiting in the lobby of the old Sutton Theatre on the eastside of Manhattan waiting for the film to end, and a hearing this convulsive loud scream emanating from the theatre at the films end, and just being able to see the most beautiful and wonderful Julie Christie again is more than enough for me to recommend this film.


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