Romantic Englishwoman, The by stdepue

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									“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.

								
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