Tag Archives: Joseph Losey

The Romantic Englishwoman (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Writer suspects wife’s infidelity.

Unhappy in her marriage Elizabeth (Glenda Jackson) goes off to Baden-Baden, Germany for a little respite and there meets up with the dashing Thomas (Helmut Berger). Although quite charming Thomas is also caught up in the criminal underworld and being chased by gangsters. After the two share a brief tryst she returns home to her husband Lewis (Michael Caine). Lewis suspects that Elizabeth was unfaithful during her trip, but can’t prove it. He invites Thomas to stay at their place in order to help him finish a screenplay that he is working on and in the process the affair between Thomas and Elizabeth starts up again, but this time Lewis is determined to stop it.

The concept is intriguing, but the film gets ruined by playing its cards too early. A far more interesting scenario would’ve been to have Lewis not suspect Thomas at all or even his wife’s longing for him and instead simply invited Thomas over as a genuine writing partner and only slowly becoming aware of the tensions boiling beneath the surface. Unfortunately having Lewis almost immediately figure things out even before Thomas arrives makes for a very boring first hour with the couple arguing over the same staid, redundant infidelity talking points that have been done a million times before.

The story’s only interesting wrinkle has Thomas starting up a relationship with the nanny (Beatrice Romand), which made more sense as Elizabeth was way older than him and I failed to see why he would’ve been attracted to her to begin with. The nanny was young and cute and it was fun seeing Elizabeth seethe with the same type of jealousy as Lewis, but the film quickly kills this storyline by having the nanny forced to move out and everything goes back to the same formulaic love triangle.

Having Lewis recreating scenes in his screenplay that replicates what he is going through in real-life had potential as it nicely illustrates the thin line between fact and fiction that writers routinely do. Unfortunately the film treats these scenes in a campy/hooky manner and then drops it just as quickly as the romance scenario mentioned above.

The direction is static with a camera nailed to the ground and everything captured in a dingy, shadowy way. The opening bit detailing how Elizabeth first meets Thomas had a naturalistic quality, but the shot were she spots Thomas from across the room and her eyes remained locked on his and she never turns away is not believable. If two people are strangers and one catches the other one staring at them it’s sheer human reflex that the other one will divert their gaze as it’s rude, awkward and off-putting otherwise. Also, to have the word romantic in the title is absurd especially after the two proceed to have sex inside an elevator during their first meeting, which is pure animalistic lust and a more accurate title would’ve been ‘The Horny Englishwoman’.

Spoiler Alert!

The third act helps fill in the gaps in regards to Thomas’ secret past, but having Elizabeth run off with him makes her character seem exceedingly shallow as she essentially abandons her young child in the process. Earlier in the film she got very upset when she saw her child sitting out on a ledge and she fired her nanny for being irresponsible and not watching him more carefully only to then by running off with Thomas behave just as irresponsibly.

The film’s final shot features strange people inhabiting Lewis and Elizabeth’s home like they’re having a party without the owners there. Lewis then after having taken Elizabeth away from Thomas and back with him drives the car the two are in up to their house. Elizabeth looks shocked at seeing all the people inside, but Lewis has a jaded expression and seems to being enjoying watching Elizabeth’s discomfort, but then the film cuts to the credits and never explains what’s occurring and nothing is more frustrating than a film which ends just as it’s finally beginning to get interesting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 26, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joseph Losey

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Steaming (1985)

steaming

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Saving a steam room.

Three women (Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Patti Love) congregate at a London steam room designed like a Turkish bathhouse. Despite their lifestyle differences they become good friends as they divulge their problems to one another and learn to lean on each other to help them cope with life’s difficulties. Then one day Violet (Diana Dors), who is the bath house owner, informs them that the place is set for demolition, which causes everyone to go on a mission to try and save it.

The film is based on the Nell Dunn play, which was highly regarded at the time, but makes for a very poor transfer to film. It starts out flat and never recovers. The dialogue has too much of a conversational quality that is not interesting and the problems that they discuss are not compelling, or original. The humor from the play is missing and the dry, somber tone only makes things even more boring. The only time it gains any traction is when it’s announced that the place is closing, but everything gets resolved in such a sitcom-styled way that it hardly seems worth the effort to watch.

The entire cast is made up of women and there is an abundance of nudity particularly from Miles, which doesn’t seem like a big deal these days. The biggest issue though is the fact that everything takes place from inside the bath house, which is gray, grimy, and rundown. The film should’ve had some segments shot from different locales if to only allow for some visual variety and to help the viewer understand the characters better by seeing how they react in different social settings.

Miles and Redgrave are wasted in drab roles and this goes likewise for Dors whose last film role this was. Love is the only one that shows any liveliness and although her character is a bit annoying she at least has an emotional breakdown near the middle, which adds some mild dramatic tension.

Joseph Losey was a competent director who made many interesting films, so it’s a shame that his career had to end with such a dud. He was already sick with cancer while he filmed this and like with Dors died a year before it was released. The disease may have sapped his creative energy and explain why this production is so ponderously sterile. It’s certainly a far cry from his other works as well as the Bruce Jay Friedman play Steambath, which had a similar setting, but a much more imaginative plotline.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: September 28, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joseph Losey

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 2)

Boom! (1968)

boom

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bitchy lady rules island.

Flora ‘Sissy’ Goforth (Elizabeth Taylor) lives on a secluded island in a large mansion and surrounded by servants who cater to her every whim. She has alienated most everyone she has come into contact with and relies on her secretary Miss Black (Joanna Shimkus) to write down her autobiography that she dictates to her indiscriminately throughout the day. In comes Chris Flanders (Richard Burton) a nomadic poet living on the skids who infiltrates her palace and her oppressed sexual desires with his ruggedness and mystery. Will Sissy fall under his seductive spell, or does this mysterious stranger have even darker intentions?

The film was directed by Joseph Losey who is one of the more inventive and groundbreaking directors who ever lived and sadly doesn’t get enough recognition. Unfortunately he was going through a bout of depression when he made this film, which caused him to abuse alcohol and seriously affected the film’s final result although it still manages to be a fascinating visual excursion nonetheless. The location shooting, which was done almost entirely on the island of Sardinia, is dazzling. The shots of the steep cliffs and crystal blue water, which are literally a part of Sissy’s backyard, are breathtaking. The modernistic mansion that she lives in is equally sumptuous particularly with its myriad collection of art paintings and wet bars that seem to pop-up every few feet in whatever room or patio the characters are in.

The acting is also outstanding as Taylor eats up the scenery with her over-the-top bitchiness and unexplained anxiety attacks, which she takes to an unprecedented campy level. The outrageous hat that she wears to her dinner date is quite possibly one of the most bizarre things ever to be put on top of a human head.

boom4

The normally commanding Burton unfortunately comes off as weak in comparison and overall looks uncomfortable in his role. The script originally called for a young man in his 20’s for the part and thus casting Burton, who was already 42 at the time, seemed misguided.

Dwarf actor Michael Dunn is excellent in support. His character utters only three words, but still makes his presence known with the way he shows complete control over his attack dogs while playing of all things Sissy’s bodyguard. Playwright Noel Coward appears in a fun bit as one of Sissy’s friends who she invites over for dinner. The friends secretly disdain each other in private, but put on a superficial friendship when together and apparently this is also how the two performers behaved with each other behind-the-scenes as well.

Unfortunately the script, which was written by Tennessee Williams and based on his play ‘The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore’ leaves much to be desired. The plot meanders on to an unsatisfying conclusion while rehashing old themes that had already been used in his earlier and better known works.

boom2

Polish Poster

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 26, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joseph Losey

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD (Region 2)