Seven mini-stories of adultery: "Funeral Possession," a wayward widow at her husband's funeral; "Amateur Night," angry wife becomes streetwalker out of revenge; "Two Against One," seemingly... See full summary »
Seven mini-stories of adultery: "Funeral Possession," a wayward widow at her husband's funeral; "Amateur Night," angry wife becomes streetwalker out of revenge; "Two Against One," seemingly prudish girl turns out otherwise; "Super Simone," wife vainly attempts to divert her over-engrossed writer husband; "At the Opera," a battle over a supposedly exclusive dress; "Suicides," a death pact; "Snow," would-be suitor is actually a private detective hired by jealous husband. Written by
Herman Seifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In "The Suicides" vignette, the characters scrawl a French profanity on the wall of their hotel room, yet when they play a long scene in front of a mirror in which the word is reflected, the word doesn't appear backwards as it normally would. See more »
Boasting swinging '60s ambiance, handsome set design, and a sumptuous score, "Woman Times Seven" is a somewhat underwritten set of sketches with Shirley MacLaine playing seven different roles. Some are more rewarding than others, but stick with it to the end and you will find much to enjoy.
Other than MacLaine, the common elements in the film are the score, the Paris setting, and a common thread of romantic hopes found wanting. The subtitle mentions "7 Stories Of Adultery," which is more than a bit of exaggeration.
In the first sketch, Shirley plays a mourning widow being wooed during her husband's funeral procession by a bearded Peter Sellers. I watched this film just to see Sellers, but his segment is the slightest and second-weakest in the film. Basically, it's a one- joke premise where the viewer is left to wonder whether Paulette (MacLaine's character here) is really grief-stricken or merely holding out for a better deal from her new, rich suitor. It doesn't so much end as fizzle out.
The next two segments are similarly thin plot devices. Maria Theresa (MacLaine) finds her husband with another woman and decides to find a man on the street to be unfaithful with, even if she has to be a prostitute for a night. It's a bit shaky in its exposition but manages a few laughs. Then, as Linda, we see rather a great deal of MacLaine as a brainy nudist who leads two horny men to her apartment to discuss art and poetry. Other than getting naked (in ways that shield her from us if not the guys), Linda doesn't make much with the time given her, and the sequence limps to a wet, predictable conclusion.
But just as one is about to give up on this movie as a slim curio of its time, it finds its legs. In the next sequence, Edith (MacLaine) is the forlorn wife of a writer too caught up in the fantasy of his latest creation, the capricious Simone (MacLaine actually plays eight roles in this film as we see her as Simone in dream sequences). Edith goes all out to win back his interest. It's not that clever, but it is endearing, with MacLaine showing depth as the wistful, dowdy companion of a faithful but distracted man.
Director Vittorio De Sica was a legend for films made well before this one, and may have been coasting here, offering up bon-bons in place of substance. But he finds nice ways to give the film interest even in the slacker parts. In the Paulette sequence, he plays up how differently younger and older people react to the passing cortège, the younger ones carefree and bored, the older ones respectful and oddly intent. In the Edith sequence, there's a moment in a supermarket when we see her talking to a beautiful woman who marvels at her husband's passionate prose. The woman stands in front of a counter full of cookies, while Edith stands in front of a row of dog biscuits.
The last three sequences are the heart of the film's charm and lasting power, each comedic in different ways, each giving MacLaine worthwhile characters to play. Eve is the rich consort of a captain of industry, so bent on making a big splash at the opera in a new gown that she arranges for a bomb to go off in the car of a fashion rival. Her husband is suitably aghast.
"You have never taken a risk for me, ever!" she whines at him. It's a fun, farcical dig at high finance and haute couture that makes its pointed digs with gentle good humor.
As Marie in the penultimate sequence, MacLaine plots her own suicide in a seedy hotel with her squeamish lover (Alan Arkin). Here the humor is of the black variety, but rather effective, especially as they argue over which way to do themselves in. Romeo and Juliet they aren't. This may be her best acted part of the film, as she's quite funny in a role that could be deadly serious.
The last, and by far best sequence, features a woman named Jean (MacLaine) who alternately laughs at and lusts over a man (Michael Caine) who follows her around the City of Light to her husband's apartment. "He's got that little-lost-boy look going for him," purrs Jean's more worldly companion Claudie (Anita Ekberg). The sequence ends memorably and cleverly, but really benefits from a second viewing, once you have learned the Caine character's secret. Our last look of MacLaine staring out a window at footprints in the snow has an affecting beauty all its own.
Add to that Riz Ortolani's music and the visual treat of Paris itself shot during a time it truly was the City of Light, and there's a lot to enjoy. Even if a couple of sequences are not gems in themselves, better material follows, and all is presented with ample, lasting charm.
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