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Originally, this subject was offered by the Hakim brothers, who produced it, to Jean-Luc Godard to direct. Godard was anxious to sign Richard Burton for the leading role, but failed and then dropped out of the project. The Hakims instead obtained the services of another Welsh actor, Stanley Baker, who insisted on them hiring his friend Joseph Losey to direct. See more »
Filmed in noir et blanc this is more noir than blanc. `Film gris' might be a better category. Venice in the winter with stormy waters, in more ways than one, provides the backdrop to this tale of two strong characters, Eve (Moreau) and Tyvian Jones (Baker). Neither character deserves, or gets, a shred of sympathy from us, she being a ruthless gold digger and the personification of evil, he a womanising writer who takes plagiarism to new heights (or depths).
Despite this, the powerful interaction between them draws us in to their world as their doomed relationship develops. This development is far from straightforward, as one would expect with Losey directing a French/Italian production. Both main characters appear deaf to each other's needs or demands. The film starts more or less where it finishes but we do not get taken around a clear circle, rather we fly off at irregular tangents. Whilst not making for easy viewing it does, nevertheless, hold our attention.
Moreau is central and dominates every scene in which she appears. In truth when she's not on screen the film falls rather flat. I'm not convinced that casting Baker, whose expertise lay in hard man roles either military (`Zulu') or criminal (`Robbery'), was right. He just about got away with it as a university don in Losey's later film `Accident', but as a writer moving in artistic circles this may be a stretch too far. If a freebooting Welsh Lothario (in Dylan Thomas mode) was required just think what Richard Burton might have made of it!
Watch out for a brief, but wonderful performance by James Villiers as a lugubrious, plummy screenplay writer.
This is not a film for recalling the `funny bits' but I defy British viewers not to enjoy Moreau's last words in the whole film - `Bloody Welshman'. Not a term unheard in English, Scottish or Irish rugby circles but coming from Jeanne Moreau? Hilarious and wonderful.
The film is probably about 15 minutes too long some of the scenes between the two main characters have elements of repetition and add little to the overall development. An interesting, if flawed, movie.
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