23 August 2016

THE BFI PRESENTS: WOMEN IN LOVE. (1969) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




WOMEN IN LOVE. (1969) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY D.H. LAWRENCE. DIRECTED BY KEN RUSSELL. SCREENPLAY BY LARRY KRAMER. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY BILLY WILLIAMS. MUSIC BY GEORGE DELERUE AND MICHAEL GARRETT.
STARRING OLIVER REED, GLENDA JACKSON, ALAN BATES, JENNIE LINDEN, ELEANOR BRON, CATHERINE WILLMER, NIKE ARRIGHI AND MICHAEL GOUGH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Cor blimey. It ain't half hot, Mum. Or, what I mean to say is, the rich ain't half queer. This film, considered by many to be controversial director Ken Russell's best film, tells the story of two rich blokes' relationships with two schoolmarm sisters in a mining town in post-World War One England.

The film is blessed with beautiful typically English countryside scenery, fabulous costumes and interiors of English country mansions and excellent music, but you may not exactly fall in love with all of the characters, some of whom are rather easy to dislike!

Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen are the two sisters. Glenda Jackson won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the more dominant of the siblings. I don't like her much. She treats rich handsome mine-owning boyfriend Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed) like dog dirt on the sole of her shoe and is a total head-wrecker towards him. I know they say 'treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen' but she really takes it too far.

I like the soft, blonde pretty Ursula a lot more. She just wants to be loved. She's barking up the wrong tree with the married Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates) though. She couldn't have picked a more emotionally unavailable man, never mind the fact that he's actually married to the indomitable and ridiculously super-posh Hermione.

On the face of it, Hermione, whose embarrassing dance for the entertainment of the men is one of the highlights of the film, is a bit of an ogre. I personally think she's just dreadfully insecure after being married to an utter shit like Rupert for a bit. He cheats, he blows hot and cold, he's gay for Gerald, he can't even commit to buying a chair, for Christ's sake. This is the man with whom Ursula is so desperate to throw in her lot. God help her, is all I can say.

I sometimes think that the two head-wreckers, namely Gudrun and Rupert, would have been better off together. They could have driven each other demented with their stupid mind-games, ludicrous pronouncements and annoyingly inconsistent behaviour. This would have left Ursula and Gerald free to attempt a life together, seeing as both of them seem genuinely to be in search of love.

Gerald's emotional needs appear to stem from his rejection by his dotty mother. The character of Mrs. Crich is brilliantly nasty. She emasculates Gerald and pushes him away, even going so far as to tell him that he's not wanted at his own dying father's bedside. What a wagon, as we say here in Ireland.

She quite literally 'releases the hounds' on her husband's mine-workers, as she's convinced that Mr. Crich cares more about them than he does about her. Can't say I blame the old guy, really.

Even Gerald himself says of her: 'A strange lady, my mother.' And have you ever heard the song 'Take Me To Church' by Irish musician Hozier? She's 'the giggle at a funeral,' all right...! Wish we could have seen more of the batty old witch. What a great twisted character to get your teeth into.

Gerald might need love as a result of his poor mothering, but he's not a perfect character by any means. He's dead-set on replacing many of his miners with machines which, while it's in keeping with the march of progress and all that, will leave many of his frail old father's long-time employees out of their jobs, their incomes and, in some cases, even their homes. His uncaring behaviour towards the miners is distinctly at odds with his overwhelming need for love.

The film is probably most famous for its homo-erotic nude wrestling scene between the two male leads. At times their tussle is as poetic and beautiful as any ballet, other times it's just a couple of blokes bitch-slapping each other with their willies flopping madly about, and speaking of which...

After careful reflection, I'm able to report that, while both men are similarly hairy and strongly-built, Olly Reed has the edge with regard to his penile endowment. Snigger. That's right, off you all rush
now to You-Tube...! I'll wait here till you're done. Right. Done? Good. Let's finish up.

Dear old Michael Gough, who plays a splendidly uptight Arthur Holmwood in Hammer's 1958 version of DRACULA starring Christopher Lee, is here cast as the sisters' Daddy. He's another character of whom I wish we could have seen a bit more. He's just so morally prim and proper and cuddly.

Nike Arrighi, who portrays the beautiful Tanith in Hammer's other masterpiece THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968), has a small role in the film as a Contessa. It's so small I fear I actually missed it. I think she's one of Hermione's dancers...!

I love the image of the drowned couple locked eternally in each others' embrace at the bottom of the drained lake. It's like something out of a painting. Check out Alan Bates nudie roll in the ferns as well and Olly Reed's walk of shame home through the laneways at first light after getting the ride from Gudrun. Eeeeh, ya dirty stop-out...!

The women, by the way, have armpit hair to rival the mens' but they have gorgeous olde-timey drawers, stockings and suspenders and little buttoned-up boots. Undressing the Sheilas in those days must have been quite time-consuming but probably a lot of fun too, a bit like unwrapping a present with a million layers to it.

I love the scene where Ursula and Rupert are in the middle of a screaming match (at least, Ursula is!) when Rupert says suddenly: 'There's a bicycle coming...!' Ursula has to shut up yowling for a minute while Rupert politely greets the passing cyclist.

It just reminded me so much of rows I've had with guys in the past and all the unwelcome interruptions that seem to happen when we women are trying to unburden ourselves to mean, cruel unfeeling blokes who don't get where we're coming from and never will...!

This iconic film is being released on Blu-Ray by the British Film Institute on August 22nd 2016. An array of special features includes commentaries, interviews and short films and as usual there will be an illustrated booklet. That's always my favourite part of the package. This one will contain new writing by Michael Brooke, Paul Sutton and Vic Pratt and full film credits as always.

I strongly recommend a peek at this famous film. It's full of odious characters like the rat-like Loerke, whom Gudrun meets on holiday in Switzerland, and of course the head-wrecking Rupert Birkin himself, but it's great craic and it really is a look at how the other half lives. And, as I said at the beginning, rich folk are apparently dead, dead queer...!

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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