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This film (written by Alan Plater from the story by DH Lawrence, and
directed at a slow pace by Christopher Miles) is engrossing, evocative,
and boasts fine performances from Franco Nero as the Gypsy and Joanna
Shimkus as the frustrated, rebellious Yvette.
Yvette has been away in France at school and returns to the stifling atmosphere of the family Rectory (father Maurice Denham is a righteous sort who resents the desertion of his wife when Yvette and her sister Lucille were children; aunt Kay Walsh is a ranting religious nut who sees the presence of the devil in Yvette's free spirited ways; Grandma Fay Compton is senile, difficult, and has a viper's tongue; Uncle Fred, Norman Bird, is laid back and given to quiet tolerance of the family ways; and sister Harriet Harper is full of guilt at the betrayal of the mother when she flew the nest).
She finds free spirited friends (Honor Blackman and Mark Burns as the shockingly living-in-sin pair Mrs Fawcett and Maj Eastwood) and becomes enamoured of the brooding gypsy (Nero) whose blue eyes look at her with true desire.
There are recurring motifs throughout the film - mainly of water, which has much to contribute to the climax of events which make up Yvette's mind conclusively. Does she stay and marry Leo (a rich man's son with little personality - played by Jeremy Bulloch) or does she take her chance in a world which accepts her? It is interesting to compare this film with the earlier 'Sky West and Crooked' which took similar themes (and the same story as a starting point of suggestion) but went in a quite different direction.
The Virgin and the Gypsy was a novella by D. H. Lawrence that contrasted the suffocating closeness and inhibited atmosphere of an English cleric and his extended family with the awakening sexuality of his eldest daughter and the free spirited influence of a gypsy whom she meets.
The excellent screenplay by Alan Plater who also did the screenplay for "The Priest of Love", a biography of D. H. Lawrence, complements the direction by Christopher Miles. Their efforts helped create a film that matches if it does not surpass, the prose of D. H. Lawrence. A few scenes still stand out; the hysteria of Aunt Cissie who screams insults through the door at Yvette., the comedy of the church social evening when Uncle Fred sings a bawdy, music-hall song and the scene in which the Gypsy confronts and stares down several English youths.
I saw Franco Nero earlier in the film "Camelot." He plays the Gypsy in this film with quiet, machismo, atitude. Joanna Shimkus also played with quiet, understated style that plays well with that of Nero.
I saw this film during its initial release in 1970. I hope television networks may eventually air this film again or that it finds its way into a video or DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Christopher Miles' take on DH Lawrence is perhaps more delicate in its
execution than Ken Russell's Women in Love, but no less appealing to
watch. He strongly evokes the period of Lawrence's novella and the
stifling home atmosphere that the heroine, Yvette, returns to. In that
role, Joanna Shimkus displays beauty, spirit and conflicting emotions
in equal measure, kicking against the straight-laced boundaries of her
family and trying to come to terms with a dark secret at its heart,
when no-one else will.
Into her life comes Franco Nero's saturnine gypsy, who has an immediate and increasing effect on the young woman. Having recently seen him as the pure of heart, but initially pompous Sir Lancelot in Camelot, his performance here is more akin to that seen in Django - a man of very few words, inclined more to action to express himself. It's not hard to see why Yvette is attracted to him - not only strikingly handsome, but also the absolute opposite of the young men she knows in the village, who all seem pervaded with post-WW1 uncertainty. There are plenty of sensual moments and a strong feeling of the desire he has created in her, as much to escape the familial bonds as anything else.
The denouement of the film almost seems a little rushed in the end, but perhaps this is down to its faithfulness to the original book which is just 10 chapters long. Worth a viewing if you enjoy other Lawrence adaptations, period tales or romantic dramas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the magnificent verdant landscapes of old England ,a young girl and
her sister stifle in a puritan sexually-repressed atmosphere;the
father,a minister ,is surrounded by a family living in the past
-particularly the grandma- ,the mother left the house a long time ago
and the relatives tell them their branch of the family is degenerate
;the meal ,when the girls come back from France ,is subject to holy
writ quotations (the prodigal "daughters " and the fat calf),and when
the eldest tells her dad she needs an occupation,he suggest she give
Sunday school lessons.This milieu is rotten to the core ,the heroine
seems to live in a gilded cage .Leo ,the local bourgeois lad ,enjoys
looking at the others when they work(the dam is a transparent metaphor
which will be smartly used for the conclusion) .Even the "modern "
couple" is not that liberal,particularly the woman who is horrified
when the girl tells her she is in love with a gypsy:sexual
liberation,OK ,but stick with your own kind! When th gypsy opens the
car door and let the maid out ,he opens the floodgates :freom this
moment on,the good girl will rebel against her milieu:the show,which
includes risqué jokes and French can -can(not shown),the slap in Leo's
face ,the visit to those "persons" who live like animals , the swimming
in the nude ;in fact the gypsy's presence is not long on the screen ,he
has no name ,he is the en-lightener : a crude uneducated man is the
only person who has understood the girl's lack of love and tenderness.
The bursting of the dam may be simplistic symbolism:it destroys the house,drowns the grandmother who represents a past ,a puritan past ,and allows the two lovers to sleep together in the girl's own bed! The last picture ,a car running across the smoking ruins makes sense,although the divorced woman might be a bourgeois rebel ,almost an oxymoron.
In its muffled atmosphere,"the virgin and the gypsy " is really a sleeper which should be rediscovered.
Like this?try these....
-Lady Chatterley's lover (same writer,several versions)
-the go-between (Losey)
Obviously made to cash in on "Women In Love" but lacking in the
former's brooding atmosphere or rampant sensuality, The Virgin & The
Gypsy promises much but fails to deliver.
The racy (for its time) title and the full-on nudity of its predecessor must have brought out the dirty mac brigade in droves when it was released. If so, they were to be sorely disappointed. Here we find Franco "Sex On Legs" Nero paired with an unremarkable lead actress of charisma-bypass proportions. No chemistry between them. None.
The editing seems to be remarkably clumsy and I've yet to see a print that has been remastered which all adds to the the impression of a moth-eaten also-ran. The pace is slow. The production values are cheap. It's just not very good.
Browsing through and cataloguing my tapes just now (I genuinely had nothing better to do) I found this film 'The Virgin and the Gypsy', which I must have taped off channel 5 some time back for the sole purpose of forwarding through to the saucy bits, weapon at the ready and perched alertly over the remote.
Now that I'm too old for such shenanigans (and not living at home has taken away the 'someone-could-walk-in-at-any-minute' edge), I thought I'd actually watch the film.
To summarise, it's not that great, not that bad, some nice photography, I just found out the main bird is Mrs Sidney Poitier, she is very good looking in it, but provides very little amusement for adolescent armchair residents, especially in these days of the internet (where nothing less than a horse-midget combo will do). And I reckon the guy (the 'Gypsy' of the title) inspired Kevin Rowland's Dexy's 'look'.
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