The Romantic Englishwoman


Comedy / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 34%
IMDb Rating 6.3 10 1040


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April 08, 2019 at 06:57 AM



Michael Caine as Lewis
Kate Nelligan as Isabel
Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth
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926.29 MB
25 fps
1hr 56 min
P/S 2 / 5
1.76 GB
25 fps
1hr 56 min
P/S 1 / 6

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by maurice_yacowar 8 / 10

Novelist husband exploits wife's restlessness

Joseph Losey's theme here is borders — the limits that we set in order to transgress them.

Borders are arbitrary, disputable. So in the railway car one man says they are in Germany, the other France.

Between them is Elizabeth (Glenda Jackson) who has left her family and posh French estate in search of a cure at the waters of Baden Baden. But she limits her escape to wildness to an intemperate bet at roulette. She spots the handsome young gigolo Thomas (Helmut Berger) but responds with bemusement not lust. The latter is what her novelist husband Lewis Fielding (Michael Caine) imagines for her when on the phone she tells him she's going for a lift (aka elevator). As she lives her life she also lives his more lurid — and cliché — fantasy.

Dashing young Thomas makes a career of crossing borders. He hijacks a hotel dinner cart to sup outside. His passport declares him "poet" — the wilder version of the husband novelist. Rootless and amoral, he delivers hot cars and cool cocaine to shady men and romantic delusions to wealthy spinsters. "The English women are the worst," he says, "They want everything."

That covers Elizabeth: she has the optimum home, cute son, handsome successful loving husband, but she also wants — she knows not what. There is still a fire in her marriage, as we see when she and Lewis make wild love on their lawn, interrupted by their neighbour's headlights (another scene of transgressed borders). The title elides the border between English and Woman.

The other border scriptwriter Tom Stoppard plays with here is that between fiction and life. That's his familiar territory. He made his name with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the brilliant modernist comedy that moved between the familiar life of Hamlet's play and the off-stage life centered on his two bit-part friends. Our experience of Elizabeth's life is paralleled by — or filtered through? — her husband's attempt to draw a fiction out of his life. He's writing a screenplay (this one?) about a woman who goes somewhere to find herself. To avoid the cliché he tries to turn that into a thriller.

Which is what he does to his wife's life. Lewis likes to set up a life situation to see what will happen. After his phone chat with Elizabeth we see he's having a drink with a scantily clad girl. She's their au pair but Lewis ends his experiment by sending her off to bed. The girl finds herself in another man's plot later when Thomas takes her to a movie, then distracts her from her duties — dangerously — with the pretence to help her English. The girl is fired but Thomas's stay as Lewis's putative secretary continues. The authors survive their characters.

Lewis has invited Thomas first to visit, then to stay, as a kind of experiment. He wants to see what will happen between Thomas and Elizabeth, to see if they have indeed cuckolded him as his aberrant fantasy tells him. As a writer he wants to watch what develops. As a husband he tries to exorcise — or exercise — his insecurity. He is determined to catch his wife at infidelity. He pushes them into the date at which Thomas is spotted by his nemesis, forcing his departure, the brief intimacy with Elizabeth that Lewis catches, and the lovers' escape to Italy (over another border) where they play out their — and Lewis's — doomed fantasy. When Thomas calls Lewis to come take her home, Lewis is followed by the shady men whose cocaine Thomas has lost to the rain and he's finished. He has crossed his last border.

As a vagabond rapscallion Thomas identifies himself with a Fielding character, Tom Jones. Not his fault it's the wrong Fielding. He read him in translation.

The normalcy to which Lewis returns Elizabeth is the sadly escapist party they had planned and — as we did — forgotten. Our glimpse of that festivity is of a desperate, pathetic attempt to kick over the traces — cross the border — of our normal, contained life. That is a hardly promising vision of the life to which the lively wife, reined in, returns. It's yet another scene her novelist husband has arranged for them to "live."

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 7 / 10

THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (Joseph Losey, 1975) ***

From the film's title and credits, I had assumed it would be a hysterical melodrama but, in general, I was pleasantly surprised by the result! As expected from this director, it's a stylish film but not an easy one: in fact, it's been likened to Alain Resnais' LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (1961) - though it's not quite that mystifying!

Still, the plot does blur the confines which separate fact from fiction, especially in the way novelist/screenwriter Michael Caine bases the affair between a man and a woman who meet while on holiday in a foreign city - and which we see enacted from time to time - on the one he suspects went on between his wife (Glenda Jackson) and a young German gigolo (Helmut Berger) in Baden-Baden. The latter, however, is not as naïve and innocuous as he seems to be; apart from being a crook, when invited by Caine to England, he insinuates himself into the couple's household: charming the nanny who takes care of their child, intriguing the apprehensive Caine (playing a character named Lewis Fielding, whereupon Berger presents himself as an admirer citing "Tom Jones" as his favorite novel - actually written by Henry Fielding!) but who still makes him his secretary, while Jackson is annoyed and evidently uncomfortable with the whole tension-filled set-up.

The three stars are excellent, but Caine's character is especially interesting; curiously enough, when presented with the idea for his script, he finds it boring and proposes to change it into a suspenser but, after realizing that the drama held greater resonance for him than he had anticipated, he is unaware of the parallel thriller subplot wherein Berger falls foul of his criminal associates (led by the smooth Michel Lonsdale)! The cast also features Rene' Kolldehoff (as Caine's extravagant producer), Nathalie Delon (severely underused, despite her "Guest Artist" credit) and Kate Nelligan (as a gossipmonger friend of the Fieldings).

The script by Tom Stoppard and Thomas Wiseman (from the latter's novel) is actually very funny, particularly Caine's explosive put-down of Nelligan on her very first appearance (though when Jackson eventually leaves him for Berger, she goes to see how he's doing and they make up), a society dinner in which Caine ends up drunk and Delon is mistaken for a hooker and, again, Caine's close encounter with gangster Lonsdale. Here, Losey also does some interesting things with his camera (Gerry Fisher was the cinematographer) and Richard Hartley's score is notable, too.

I've only watched this and MR. KLEIN (1976) from Losey's final period (1972-85), during which there were evident signs of decline; even if overlong and emerging, ultimately, as a lesser work, the film is more enjoyable - and rewarding - than could be gleaned from a mere reading of its synopsis...

Reviewed by mark-whait 6 / 10

Fascinating entry in the Caine back catalogue

When I first saw this movie in 1992, I always felt it was a lot cleverer, and stronger than many people first thought. After watching it again recently, I still think it has a highly original side to it that still shines through. Caine plays a highly successful writer who becomes obsessed with his wife's (Glenda Jackson) potential infidelity with a handsome German (Helmut Berger) during a recent trip to Baden Baden. Things are more complicated by the fact that Berger suddenly arrives at the Caine household to work as his secretary, and that the movie is full of imaginary scenes that we are led to believe Caine is playing out in his authors' mind. Joe Losey directs in his wonderful trademark style, and although the movie is in danger of being nothing more than an arty, soulless piece, Losey keeps it moving with enough originality to keep the viewer interested - even though it would have benefited from being 20 or 30 minutes shorter. During early scenes, the dialogue is stilted and wooden, but as the movie wears on we realise that Caine and Jackson are actually highly deft at weaving tremendous delivery from the script. Caine's best scene is his rant at his wife's friend Isabel (Kate Nelligan) whilst puffing on a huge cigar, and Jackson shows that the cinema's loss was most certainly the Labour Party's gain. Berger is less convincing, his square jaw good looks not able to support a complex role that probably demanded a better effort, but it's hardly surprising he can't get a foothold in against two acting heavyweights. The Baden Baden backdrop is stunning, and all in all this is a film without doubt one of the most interesting entries in Caine's body of work.

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