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Harry is a married writer who has an affair with a woman whose husband knows that she is unfaithful. As a result of his work, Harry has trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality leaving us to wonder whether the affair is real or just a figment of Harry's imagination. Written by
David Claydon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film is the nadir of Frankenheimer's and Bates's careers, to say nothing of others involved here: Dominique Sanda, Claude Renoir (director of photography), and Michel Legrand (the score). It came as no surprise to learn that the film never received a theatrical release in the United States or Britain, and was but briefly seen in France and Spain.
There is not a moment of conviction in the film regarding the plot or the characters. The dialogue is absurd and sophomoric. "That makes me feel like God." I can't count the times Harry said something was "like God." Much of the dialogue is made up of non-sequiturs. And the actors fail abysmally at delivering it, but my sympathy was with them. I imagine they were confused by the lines they were asked to deliver and by the plot.
It is impossible to follow the plot. To me, it was a story of Harry, an English novelist, vacationing with his wife Elizabeth, and their four children in Italy--and I can't be sure of that. Maybe it was the south of France. Harry is working on a novel, and his publisher needs the last two chapters soon as the publication of the novel has already been announced in the firm's fall catalogue.
The bulk of what follows in the film may be nothing more than scenes from the novel that Harry is writing. Or it could be a mixture of reality and his fiction. Here it is: Harry is having an affair with Natalie, who is married to an older businessman, Georges. He knows of the affair, and Natalie has lied to him several times, telling him she's ended the affair. Harry's wife also learns of the affair, I think.
At one point, we see Natalie stab Georges to death, after which the police arrive to question Harry about Natalie. But this murder sequence later proves to be entirely fictional.
Eventually, Natalie becomes pregnant with Harry's child, each divorces his spouse, and they go--to the south of France? to some seacoast area of Italy? Who knows? And there Natalie gives birth to the child. Harry's sons visit, and the group go out in a small boat. A storm comes, the boat is capsized, all are thrown overboard, and the baby is lost.
Then we come to a scene in Venice (I believe) where we see Harry walking across the famous square. Natalie's husband and daughter walk past Harry; then he sees her sitting at a nearby table. He sits down across from her and they talk.
Based on the events here, I'd say Harry is a dreadful novelist. If this "Love Story" is indeed Harry's novel, it meanders everywhere and has no unity or makes little sense. In his dialogue, Harry is usually pontificating, saying clichés, other self-evident things, and a lot of nonsense. Scenes here are melodramatic or soap-opera-ish. And certainly, if his work has no more narrative logic than this film, it must not sell well at all.
The film says nothing meaningful about reality/illusion; it uses the dichotomy as a trick. As another poster has written, the film is derivative of Joseph Losey (English garden scenes), Fellini (fantastic dream sequences), and other New Wave films, all made ten to fifteen years earlier than this one. Was Frankenheimer so lost he knew of nothing else to do than imitate others? Natalie narrates a long section at the end in voice-over. I wondered if Frankenheimer gave up imitation and decided to have someone tell the story rather than to invent dialogue and episodes to reveal by action the characters and plot.
In Fellini-like dream sequences, there are plenty of naked women but no naked men. Some people may have heard that Alan Bates does a nude scene here, but if they are looking to see bare Bates, they will be disappointed. In the few seconds in which Bates is naked, he is carefully posed to show no more than would be seen if Bates were wearing boxing shorts. If it's nude Bates you want, then "Women in Love" is the film to look for.
The real drama here would be to discover the story of how Frankenheimer, Bates, and everyone else became caught up in this mess. Then, what went wrong.
I can say nothing favorable about the acting of anyone here, except that they all bravely soldiered forward and crossed the field--even if they met disaster. They deserved some thanks for doing that.
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