“The Romantic Englishwoman, (1975), a 125 minute romantic drama, is an oddity in more ways than one among British films. It is packed with stars of the time before and behind the camera, and yet has become obscure to the point that it is only now being released on DVD. And released without subtitles, a penny-wise pound-foolish economy for a movie that has a presumably witty script by Oscar award winning screenwriter/playwright Tom Stoppard ( SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, BRAZIL, EMPIRE OF THE SUN), who was hot hot hot at the time. But of course, my husband and I, though we were able to follow the main lines of the script easily enough, missed the entire dialog. The film, which comes with a reputation for being incomprehensible anyway, as it is one of those once so popular explorations of ‘what is reality and what is fantasy,’ is known in some quarters as LAST YEAR AT BADEN BADEN, a play on Antonioni’s film LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, another film about a spa that’s similarly incomprehensible to many (including moi). It was directed by the American Joseph Losey (THE SERVANT, THE GO-BETWEEN, MONSIEUR KLEIN), similarly hot hot hot at the time. (He had exiled himself to the United Kingdom, as he had been blacklisted for his Communist affiliations by Hollywood during the regrettable McCarthy years). At this point the film may be best known as an obscure entry in the catalog of its two-time Oscar-winning star, Michael Caine (THE DARK KNIGHT, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS). He plays Lewis Fielding, middle-aged novelist with writers block. His wife Elizabeth is played by two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson (HOPSCOTCH, SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY). She has decided to go to the German spa Baden Baden. There she becomes slightly acquainted with Thomas, a German would-be poet/drug dealer/ gigolo, played by the handsome German Helmut Berger (THE GODFATHER III, IRON). But Lewis imagines Elizabeth’s having an affair in Baden-Baden. Things get even dicier when Thomas shows up in the U.K., comes by for a rather comical literary chat (he credits Lewis with the centuries earlier work of that other Fielding, Henry, author of TOM JONES), and is hired by Lewis as his secretary. Caine and Jackson both deliver powerhouse performances here, and, of course, Berger, who must share many scenes with them, isn’t up to their standard, still, he keeps his head above water. Other stars include Canadian-born Oscar nominee, once tipped to be a big star but never quite got there, Kate Nelligan (EYE OF THE NEEDLE, PRINCE OF TIDES). She’s substantially wasted in the small part of Isabel, Elizabeth’s friend, where she principally gets yelled at by Lewis. Also Michael Lonsdale (OF GODS AND MEN, RONIN), as Swan, an underworld associate of Thomas’s. Jackson gets to wear designer duds; the producers seem to have balanced the movie’s costume budget by allotting only one, an odd-looking white suit and hat, to Lonsdale. It surely is a 70s movie; it’s bursting with browns. Sumptuous interiors, particularly in Baden Baden. Many reflections in mirrors and windows. Caine works at a partners’ desk, with a Selectric. Stoppard has snuck in an homage to CASABLANCA (is it possible that only I have noticed it?), when Elizabeth tells Thomas she has come to Baden-Baden for the water. That’s one of Humphrey Bogart’s more famous lines in the earlier, Oscar-winning picture. There’s also an eerie precognition: a sculpture, apparently of Caine’s hand, in the novelist’s office. (In 1981, Caine was to make THE HAND, a horror classic). I can’t honestly full-heartedly recommend this motion picture, but it may be an interesting one-shot viewing for fans of its stars, and their good acting, now that it’s available on DVD.
Pages to are hidden for
"Romantic Englishwoman, The"Please download to view full document