Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Priest of Love

PRIEST OF LOVE. Only 1 review of this 1981 film on IMDb? Ian McKellen’s first starring role in 1980 as D.H. Lawrence, didn’t attract too much attention at the time; I passed over it myself as I did films like RETURN OF THE SOLIDER, perhaps there was a glut of costume dramas at the time, all those Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson films. This was directed by Christopher Miles (brother of actress Sarah) who also directed the Lawrence tale THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY in 1970 and is another look at that Lawrence era of the 1920s lovingly recreated. Here D.H. and his German wife Frieda (a rather too strident Janet Suzman) have to leave England in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War I and they travel to the United States pitching up in Taos, Santa Fe as guests of wealthy patron Mabel Dodge Luhan (Ava Gardner, enjoying herself hugely) and Lady Dorothy Brett (Penelope Keith, ideal as their deaf companion and fellow artist). Later we move to Italy as Lawrence’s health deteriorates after the banning of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and the burning of “The Rainbow” and the raid on the art gallery showing his explicit paintings. John Gielgud is very diligent in his pursuit of the filth in Lawrence’s books, having to re-read them to extract full value.

The casting here is the thing, even to the smallest role. It intriguingly begins suggesting D.H.’s bisexuality showing him leaving his Cornish farmhouse and sleeping wife for an early morning naked swim where he is joined by a strapping Cornish farmer – Graham Faulkner, required to strip again but showing a more robust physique than he did as St Francis in Zeffirelli’s BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON. In Italy too the manager of their estate, Italian pop singer/actor Massimo Ranieri is pleased to disrobe to pose for D.H.’s paintings. Other names in the extensive cast include Julian Fellowes (now writing DOWNTON ABBEY) and Gareth Forwood (the actor son of Glynis Johns and Anthony Forwood, later Dirk Bogarde’s partner). Scripted by Alan Plater and filmed at the places the Lawrences stayed at it looks handsome and perfectly in period. Miles directs with a sure touch (his sister Sarah appears in one of the deleted scenes) and the new dvd has extensive interviews (including a new one with McKellen) and additional material. One wonders how that other Lawrence expert maestro Ken Russell would have souped it up?

For Miles's THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY review, see Franco Nero label.

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