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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 <email@example.com>
It's hard to believe a movie this such illustrious collaborators could be without interest, but "Story of a Love Story" is pretty hard to watch, testing patience even as an object of curiosity. No wonder it was barely released.
Bates and Sanda play people married--more or less happily--to others, though naturally their strong attraction (and on/off involvement) with each other creates marital problems. That's about it for plot, such as there is any. These characters are well-off, and they travel hotspots from Paris to Morocco just to wander about and pose against scenic backdrops. Bates is a writer; some of what we see is apparently from his writerly imagination rather than the real world, though like everything else here those divisions come off muddled and pointless.
Why the two lead figures are so into each other is baffling, particularly since the performers have zero chemistry. Sanda, who could act for the right director (Bertolucci etc.), is in her waxy ex-model mode here, beautiful as a Grecian statue and about as animated. The usually wonderful Bates is working so hard to be antic and likable here--perhaps to compensate for there being hardly any character to play--that he's actually rather grating. Director Frankenheimer's wife Evans Evans plays Bates' wife and Michel Auclair (twice Sanda's age and then some) plays the other husband. Both are dullish, but then they're not given much to work with.
"Story of a Love Story" has a lot of nudity (none male) without being erotic in the slightest; it has vaguely Fellini-esque fantasy sequences that Frankenheimer shows absolutely no flair for; both leads narrate at times, which adds to the sense that this movie is grasping at straws structurally. It's written by Nicholas Mosely, and the intentions (as well as their failure) are better understood if you know that it's based on one of his highly intellectual, idea-focused, challenging literary novels, which even their admirers often confess being unable to "follow" completely. (He also wrote "Accident," which works much better in Joseph Losey's film version. That movie suggests the kind of chilly meta-narrative gamesmanship that "Story" simply flails at--and even if it did a better job, would find those sharp edges curled by Michel Legrand's sugary score.)
In any case, whatever was being attempted here, it utterly fails, coming off as a murky international co-production soap opera with half-realized arty pretensions. Maybe Frankenheimer was just too literal-minded a director for this material (though it's hard to imagine anybody making some of the clumsy dialogue work). The movie might sound offbeat and interesting in description, but it's a thoroughly tedious failure in execution. (Too bad he and Bates only crossed paths twice, the other occasion being "The Fixer," which in its very different way is nearly as bad a literary adaptation.) Even a scene (SPOILER) in which a baby is accidentally drowned has no tension or drama, with Sanda actually seeming more bored than distraught.
Anyway, this is one of those "lost" films, difficult to see even originally and still very hard to find, that can seem like a Holy Grail until you've seen it--but then all you can do is shrug it off. The best (maybe the only good) thing about experiencing it is that you'll never have to, or want to, again.
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