The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Then why isn't this remembered as one of the timeless classics of the cinema?
Oh, I know it sounds impressive to string together names like Pinter, Streep, Proust, Hardy, and Bronte, but I believe it was either Oscar Wilde or Casey Stengel who said "nothing exceeds like excess". The 19th century romantic novel was larger than life to begin with, and this movie kept expanding the genre to uber-Byronic proportions.
Also, I think I might be violin-intolerant.
|Imagine dialogue like:
"you were seen walking along the heath, not twice but thrice, my dear girl"
("gasps" and "oohs", and whispers from the servants)
"I shan't caution you further, miss, to confine your promenades to places suitable for a proper young lady"
And that was in the 1980 section. (Rimshot!) In the Bronx. (Rimshot!). But I wanna tell ya .....
|The plot(s) are as
Charles, a proper British paleontologist (Irons) end up destroying his life after he sees Sarah, a mysterious black-shrouded woman (Streep), standing precariously upon a seaside pier during a storm. A mere glance backward from her is enough to get him to renounce his prior marriage proposal to a woman of high station, and follow the woman in black wherever life takes them, even though she may or may not be a whore. But the mysterious woman, after briefly loving him in moments both dear and passionate, and after causing him to renounce all his claims to respectability in society, simply disappears with no forwarding address. He begins to search for her, using up the last of his wherewithal.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a 20th century actor and actress (also Irons and Streep) are playing the parts of Charles and Sarah in a film being made of their lives, and the actors are having an affair behind the backs of their spouses.
The two stories are seamlessly interwoven. 19th century Streep walks through a door, and we see 20th century Streep walking through the door of her trailer. By a strange unexplained coincidence, some of the 20th century and 19th century scenes take place in the same house. (And that is unrelated to the filming locations!) Unfortunately, Irons chose to play or was instructed to play the two characters almost identically, and the 20th century actor even has similar facial hair because he is playing the 19th century character in the film-within-a-film. This may or may not mean that Mike was repeating David's life, or that people don't really change over the centuries, or something.
I don't know.
The good news: one of the two stories has a happy ending, one has a sad ending. Perhaps there will be one there to satisfy you.
By the way, while watching this, I realized that Irons is the official prototype for Joseph Fiennes. It seems to me that Fiennes the Younger has never played anything but a moony-eyed distraught lover infatuated with a woman he cannot have, a woman who belongs to another, usually someone powerful or important. Well, that represents Irons' entire career. Movie after movie of anguished looks, offering perfect love to a woman who doesn't return it or is unworthy of it. Sometimes there aren't even minor variations on the theme. The character of Charles in this faux-Proust story was so suited for Irons that he played the same story out in Proust-verité just two years later, in Swann in Love. (Swann gives up everything for the hooker he loves, although she seems not to return his love)
|Does this all sound rather highbrow
and precious for your taste? If so, I agree with your assessment. It
is some seriously pretentious, over-the-top romanticism. Great
ingredients don't guarantee a great stew, especially when too many are
combined, because nothing exceeds like excess, and this film is
Is it a poor movie? No, of course not. It's pretty frigging good. Hell, it was nominated for five Oscars. With so many fine ingredients, one may not contend it is bad. In certain circumstances you may love it. You may be a great fan of this type of film. If Wuthering Heights is on your top five list, then this is your kind of picture.
But it is as bad a film as such great ingredients are capable of producing.
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