My favourite opera film before this was Ingmar Bergman's delightful 1975 THE MAGIC FLUTE, but Losey runs him a close second. Is the Mozart opera an attack on the aristocracy and its immoral behaviour? We are on the eve of the French Revolution and Mozart was a freemason ...whatever, it is all as gloriously visual as AMADEUS. Masterful opera singers, stupendous sets and costumes, the magnificent setting of a 16th century estate, Mozart's music and Losey's direction of it all makes this opera film a triumph, and one to relish again.
As the manager of the council's women-only steam baths, Vi (Diana) finds herself acting as den mother to the walking wounded who come to the baths - including 2 middle-class ladies - abandoned wife Nancy (Redgrave) and ex-hippie now lawyer Sarah (Miles). There is also older Brenda Bruce and her mentally challenged daughter. The baths is a place where they can escape the world - and their men - as they talk about their humdrum lives, vicious boyfriends, money worries and dead end jobs. Then the Council want to close it down and build a new leisure centre, as these type of communal baths are now obsolete, and it does frankly look like it has seen better days. The girls get together and fight back and succeed in keeping it open .... a fantasy ending I am sure. The feisty Josie (Patti Love) is the one with the abusive boyfriend and she is often bruised .... Love played the part on the stage and still seems to be playing to the back of the gallery, as she seems far too loud compared to the others. During one long monologue one begins to wish for her to shut up.
|Losey and Sarah Miles|
|Brenda Bruce & Diana|
One Losey I have not seen is his 1974 THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN where Glenda and Helmut also strip off .... (below).
Nora Helmer has years earlier committed a forgery in order to save the life of her authoritarian husband Torvald. Now she is being blackmailed lives in fear of her husband's finding out and of the shame such a revelation would bring to his career. But when the truth comes out, Nora is shocked to learn where she really stands in her husband's esteem.
|Fonda & Seyrig|
A DOLL'S HOUSE, the Claire Bloom version, as directed by Patrick Garland and produced by Bloom's husband of the time, Hilyard Elkins, is the more traditional reading of the play, as scripted by Christopher Hampton, and is overall the better and more engrossing film. This too has a great cast: Bloom is terrific as Nora, a part she was playing on stage then, with Anthony Hopkins as the uncomprehending husband, Ralph Richardson is a terrific Dr Rank, aware of his impending mortality; Anna Massey is Kristina, and Edith Evans has a few glorious moments as the nurse and servant. Nora here realizing that her marriage to Torvald (Hopkins) is a sham, that he only wants his wife to be his little "squirrel" and not meddle in their family affairs, she has to be cunning and seductive to deceive him; he will not let her have any money of her own as she will only let it run through her fingers.
She gets more and more desperate to keep that forgery she is being blackmailed about, secret from him, and then witnesses his fury and fear when it is found out as the facade of their happy marriage crumbles. She sees he is no longer the man she loved and is prepared to leave him and that home ... Denholm Elliott is the rather seedy, sleazy yet pitiable blackmailer, while Hopkins captures all of the pompous, arrogant and authoritarian husband's manner, oblivious of his insensitivity to his wife's feelings and needs. It was of course quite shocking back then for a wife to walk out on her husband and children, but seems to have struck a chord with feminists back in the '70s. This is the more engrossing production.
A SEVERED HEAD. 1970 British comedy based on Iris Murdoch's novel and hit play.
Antonia, the pampered wife of Martin an upper class wine merchant, tells her husband that she is in love with their best friend, the psychiatrist Palmer Anderson, and she wants a divorce. Palmer and Antonia want to deal with the situation in a civilized way, by remaining friends with Martin. Meanwhile Martin tries to keep his mistress, Georgie Hands, a secret, but Palmer's sister, Honor Klein, who taught Georgie at Oxford, tells Palmer and Antonia about her. Furthermore, Honor introduces Georgie to Martin's womanizing brother, Alexander. This is just the beginning of the various liaisons ....
This is frankly a rather tiresome, dated comedy, but the 1970 look of it all looks rather seductive now. The cast is the thing here, with Lee Remick and Attenborough very droll - they were also in the film of that other hit play, Orton's LOOT, that year - I must get back and re-see that, Remick is a scream as the devious Irish nurse, with that accent! Claire Bloom is also fascinating here. Directed by Dick Clement (OTLEY, THE LIKELY LADS). (Lee Remick was living in London then, I met her that year 1970 at her BFI appearance - as per NFT, Remick labels).
Soon: Brush Up Your Shakespeare: All those HAMLETs and THE MERCHANT OF VENICE ... plus more Ibsen with Ingrid Bergman's HEDDA GABLER, a BBC production from 1965.