Erotica rarely gets a decent treatment in film and that basically is due to the fact that, despite plots that are drenched in the essence of highly sexualized relationships, the norm is to have actors whose visual appeal is excessive, but their acting skills a non-existent concept. Adding to insult, the norm seems to have a director whose sole interest is to pan and scan -- slowly, of course, the perfect voyeur -- over the glowing skin of perfectly toned bodies writhing around each other like a pretzel making love to itself and occasionally hint at some personal conflict that finds its necessary resolution in yet another dramatic sex scene. I wonder if there is, today, such a thing as intelligent erotica -- not that I'm against the sex per se, that's rather dandy with me -- but it would be great to imbue the embellished, engorged incursions into intimate debauchery with some notion of inner/outer turmoil. Anais Nin, at least, knew what she was doing when she wrote her masterpiece "A Spy in the House of Love." She also wrote a dissertation on the author of what became the film WOMEN IN LOVE. Hers was, at the time, rather revolutionary since women weren't at the forefront of literature and much less erotica, but Nin wasn't the ordinary creature. She was first and foremost, a keen observer of a person's place in the world, fragmented in time and space, here and there, and the eroticism implicit within her stories (even the more frank ones which she wrote for a dollar in order to survive). There was a powerful poetry already palpable and rarely have I read anyone like her. Now, as for the writer whom she admired and defended, his work is also quite arresting even when then it was considered too controversial -- which by default makes it horribly dated. D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love" is a sequel to "The Rainbow" (which also would see a transition into film form later, with Glenda Jackson playing her character's mother) and it is, in a nutshell, an erotic quadrangle between two men (Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, the first a man who represents old money, the latter a man who is a part of the new society) and two free spirited women (Jackson and Jenny Linden).
A story that meanders around how these people meet, get involved with each other and eventually get tangled in their emotional conflicts which come to a head in the Alps, Ken Russell's WOMEN IN LOVE is a visually arresting tour de force of beauty and sensuality. The now-famous sequence involving a nude wrestling match between Reed and Bates is a sight to behold, and anyone with a minimal level of understanding can figure out what is really taking place between them: this is made even more erotic due to the extraordinary similarities between both actors who even comb their hair in the same fashion. Bates is the perfect feminine counterpart to Reed's tormented masculine self, the man who's there for the asking, but who cannot see this desire for Reed come to a fulfilling thing. The two women fare equally well, Glenda Jackson being the more masculine of the two -- closer in essence to Katharine Hepburn even in her choice of words and mannerisms -- and Linden, almost thankless in her ethereal beauty. That Jackson winds up in the arms of Reed and Linden in Bates is a part of what makes them tick: Jackson is a stronger presence than Bates and therefore can withstand Reed's incursions into Heathcliff-like behavior while Linden and Bates make what can be only considered the perfect couple. All in all, this is a stunning movie, a work of art that breathes, and an allegory of the battle of the sexes that would see itself become more pronounced as people became less tied to conventions. Haunting even in some of the quieter moments -- such as when Bates walks out, naked, and lets himself feel the garden in a very powerful journey of self-discovery, it's one of those that can make anyone view it again and again and see its own petals reveal new colors for the first time.
Women in Love
Action / Drama / Romance
Women in Love
Action / Drama / Romance
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The battle of the sexes and relationships among the elite of Britain's industrial Midlands in the 1920s. Gerald Crich and Rupert Berkin are best friends who fall in love with a pair of sisters Gudrun, a sculptress and Ursula Brangwen, a schoolteacher. Rupert marries Ursula, Gerald begins a love affair with Gudrun, and the foursome embarks upon a Swiss honeymoon. But the relationships take markedly different directions, as Russell explores the nature of commitment and love. Rupert and Ursula learn to give themselves to each other. The more withdrawn Gerald cannot, finally, connect with the demanding and challenging Gudrun.
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