Sunday, March 13, 2011

Venus and Mars and a French Lieutenant's Woman

Meryl Streep in the French Lieutenant's Woman

I taped and watched the 1981 movie The French Lieutenant's Woman today and my husband came into the livingrooom and said, "I HATED that movie when I saw it."

Well, that's good symmetry, I guess. The first time I saw that movie, it truly blew me away. Perhaps more than any other movie and, certainly, in a weirder way. I totally identified with the Meryl Streep character.

Now, the movie had had a lot of publicity, even made the cover of Time Magazine. But I can't quite remember exactly when I saw it. I do know, like my husband, I saw it in a theatre. Unlike him, I had gone alone.. And I seldom went alone to movies.

And then it had that powerful effect on me. I was about 27 and I had been writing down my dreams for a couple of years. I had hundreds and hundreds of dreams chronicled.

I think I had reached some deep place in my psyche that this movie touched upon.

(Then again, it has a Harold Pinter screenplay and I always identify with Pinter movies....)

Since then, I've only seen the movie a few times. Once, in the 1990's I rented it on video and I found it rather dated and, how do I put it, stiff.

I was surprised, actually.

Today, as I watched it once again, but on the big screen HD, I realized why I did not like the movie that much the second time around. The French Lieutenant's woman is a movie within a movie: two modern actors are having an affair as they play two characters in a Victorian melodrama.

The Victorian story is the emotion heart of the movie, but they exaggerate the melodrama for effect, and that gets grating after a while.

Anyway, this movie, also featuring Jeremy Irons in one of his first movie roles (I think I read somewhere that he was also filming Brideshead Revisited then, a mini series that is not dated, in my opinion, indeed, it's one of my favorites, if not my very favorite.

Upon viewing The French Lieutenant's Woman with my husband on the couch, my husband made it clear he STILL has no idea what the movie is about.

It's about women's sexuality though the centuries, I said. Suddenly getting it. (I have never read the book.)

I wonder what Flo or Edith would have thought about this movie. I wonder if they read the book. They died in 1977 so they just missed it. But my husband says Gunsmoke was their favorite TV Show, so I 'm not sure they would have liked it.

Anyway, this isn't the first movie we've not agreed up. I recall watching The Constant Gardener with my husband at a theatre. When it finished, I arose from my seat enraptured. I thought to myself, "What a great movie. Too bad there weren't more love scenes. My husband got up saying, "What the hell was that about? It would have been better had they left out the loves scenes."