The Driver's Seat (1974)
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Cruel fun has been poked at the (admittedly) hideous wardrobe Taylor sports throughout this film. Proof, if any were needed, that film critics on the whole do not read books. Every detail of these garish clothes has been copied faithfully from the novel. Her vile dress sense is meant as an outward sign of Taylor's disintegrating psyche, and her desperate need to stand out form the drab and over-regimented world that she (like most of the film's viewers) is forced to inhabit.
The same is true of the often absurd dialogue. "When I diet, I diet - and when I orgasm, I orgasm!" That's how Taylor fends off an amorous businessman (Ian Bannen) who tries both to lure her into bed and to convert her to a macrobiotic diet. If you watch The Driver's Seat with your eyes open, it becomes clear that the whole film takes place inside a mind that has lost all reason. Realism was never the aim here, so it's poor logic to gripe when Realism is not the result.
Every shot, in fact, is stylised to the level of a dream. The opening - where Taylor prowls through a gallery of naked store mannequins. Her shopping trip with an elderly widow (Mona Washbourne) - which winds through a quasi-surreal labyrinth of mirrors and white walls. The final deadly 'climax' - in a phantom Villa Borghese, conjured out of mist and moonlight. The camerawork by Vittorio Storaro seems to drain all colour out of the landscape, until Taylor and her iridescent shawls are the last remaining sign of life.
It was all too much for critics and public back in 1974. Nowadays, the extreme alienation that oozes from every frame - and a socio-political background of blank-faced consumerism, terrorist attacks and rabid police and airport security - may well strike more of a cord. It's no accident that Andy Warhol turns up as a corrupt diplomat. The Driver's Seat is truly a film for the modern age.
That's what I though this movie was. At first viewing one wants to hate it, perhaps because it's difficult to understand. I hated "Terminator 3" because I couldn't comprehend all the senseless violence. I also couldn't comprehend why the people in front of me let their young children stay, even though they were terrified, and why the guy behind me felt he could have a cell phone conversation during the whole film. Maybe I'm prejudiced. Anyway, I watched "Psychotic" and couldn't figure out why the things that happened did. I supposed that Elizabeth Taylor was so starved for some sort of attention that she felt she had to go to desperate lengths. She also had to rat her hair up enormously high and dress like some sort of psychedelic Muppet. I could get past that--she's trying to be noticed, and it works. Everyone makes comments about how bizarre she looks, and she makes such an ass of herself that everyone remembers her plainly. That certainly helps the police in this movie. Then there is the sex angle. Everyone wants to have sex with her, even the security woman at the airport gets grabby. (Of course, we're treated to a close up of Elizabeth's chest, with the security woman sensuously untying her scarf, etc. etc. etc.) For some reason, Elizabeth Taylor refuses to let anyone actually get anywhere. As she tells Ian Bannen, "When I diet, I diet. When I orgasm, I orgasm." He's speechless, as who wouldn't be. Then there's the disturbing scene where the garage attendant tries to get his paws on her, only to have her run down the road screaming hysterically.
It seems that she has to find the right person--when she sees him, she'll know. She sees him at the beginning of the film, but doesn't meet him until the very end. (He sees her and runs away. Literally. She has that effect on some people.) Telling what happens would be considered a spoiler, so I don't guess I'll elaborate on that. I just thought it was somewhat sickening, in a compulsively watchable way.
There were also several little things that made no sense, such as Andy Warhol giving Elizabeth a book, and then refusing to speak to her later. He does say that he must see the sheik. Okay--who are you and why do you need so see him? We'll never know, and I don't think Andy did either. The old lady that becomes friends with Elizabeth, only to vanish completely is another curiosity.
To summarize--I watched it, I may watch it again, but I don't know why.
The film is almost impossible to describe. I saw it not long after seeing Luis Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie...and I must say that I sensed some similarities between the two. While Bunuel allows mundane situations to evolve into surreal jokes and absurdities, and injects social commentary, The Driver's Seat portrays surrealism literally, in the form of a psychotic character who appears ridiculous and unintelligible, but in fact mirrors the chaos and violence of the society in which she lives.
Lise is on a trip to Rome from her home in London not just to see the sights and go shopping for clothes but also meet the man of her dreams. That man Pierre, Maxence Mailfort, shows up unexpectedly as the person sitting next to Lise on her flight to Rome. Sensing that there's something very wrong with her Pierre bolts from his seat, as the plane was airborne, to get away from Lise who was making a play for him. This leads to another passenger Bill (Ian Bannen), who's a crazed health nut, trying to pick Lise up and take her to his hotel-room to party.
Lise having nothing at all to do with the lecherous Bill has him arrested by the police in having him framed as a drug dealer with his stash or drugs being nothing more then some dozen plastic bags with his favorite rice & vegetable mixture. It's later in the movie, after he was released by the Rome Police, that Bill tries to rekindle his relationship with Lise only, after getting kicked in the groin, to find out that she already has a boyfriend the scared of his own shadow Pierre.
Later in the movie Lise gets involved with this grease monkey Carlo, Guido Mannari, after she was almost killed in a terrorist attack on a visiting Middle-Eastern diplomat. Like Bill Carlo ended up on the short end of the stick in his trying to seduce Lisa, as he was supposedly driving her to her hotel, as well as ending up in police custody-as a suspect- in what he knew about what happened to her later in the movie. As things turned out Lise finally did track down the elusive Pierre through his aunt Mrs. Fiedke, Mona Washbourne, whom she met by chance in shearing a taxicab! Finding Pierre staying at the same hotel that his aunt was it soon became obvious what Lise wanted from the shy and terrified, of her, young man and it had nothing to do with romance!
Looking far slimmer then she looked in years the gorgeous, at age 41, Elizabeth Taylor was never better with or without her clothes on. In fact Miss Taylor showed much more skin in "The Driver's Seat" then she did in her famous wet swimsuit scene in the 1959 sexy and psychological shocker "Suddendly Last Summer". The ending of the movie may well shock many viewers in how sick and deranged Lise really was. The person who was shocked most of all was Lise's dream man Pierre who was both seduced and forced to carry out her bizarre and murderous plan!
Funny thing is, even with my friend's mindless babbling through the whole picture,the movie and very many of it's scenes are still vivid 20 years later.
Watched it again last night for the first time since and found it to be a totally enjoyable, atmospheric, creepy and unsettling movie. And strangely up to date. I don't think I have been so satisfied with the entire package of a movie in a long time. It has a lot more depth and storyline than the critics have given it credit.It doesn't deserve the drubbing it has gotten.
Having seen all three of Liz's "Overseas Adventures Series": "Nightwatch","Ash Wednesday" and now "The Driver's Seat",this one is the most interesting and entertaining of the set.
My first viewing of it was hampered by the performance of my friend trying to turn it into some "camp classic". He obviously believed the reviews and took them to heart.
If you have a preconceived notion of this movie, it's wrong. Watch closely and find out. You can't take your eyes off it and it's impact will linger for a long time after. Sonmetimes even 20 years !!!
I never like to give spoilers, but I'll just say this: The only person who will like this movie is that one person in the world who actually liked Looking for Mr. Goodbar. No one else should watch it. It doesn't matter that Liz is a beautiful woman. She's made dozens of films for you to choose from if you want to watch her beauty. For the love of God, skip this one.
Liz plays a mentally ill woman who never gives any insight to her character or why she's so messed up. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating. This woman should be in an institution. She's on vacation in Rome and meets several wacky people during her journey, and she purposely gets into incredibly dangerous and stupid situations with some men. If someone starts talking incessantly about how badly he wants to have sex with you, and you've told him repeatedly you don't want to, would you get in his car and let him drive you to a secluded park?
The Driver's Seat is all-around creepy. The movie splices back and forth between Liz's horrifically ominous encounters and police interrogations of the people she's met with. We don't know yet until the end why they're being questioned, but it's obvious from the get-go that something's rotten in Denmark. In the beginning, you'll want to keep watching to find out what the mystery is. Is Liz an escaped lunatic? Has she committed a crime? What's going on?
Please don't stick around to find out. This is an extremely upsetting movie to watch, especially if you actually like the beautiful star. I don't consider this a spoiler, since it's incredibly obvious every time she gets herself mixed up with a man, but there are some very disturbing sexual and violent situations. Unless you are an extremely sick person, you will be very shaken up by this movie, from start to finish. And not in a good way.
Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to graphic violence and disturbing sex scenes, I wouldn't let my kids watch it. Also, there may or may not be a rape scene.
This is an artful film with subtle and a few quite "out there" psychotic episodes from Lise (Taylor) - not to mention the two men on the plane with her and Andy Warhol. There are some other weird characters too.
It's an intelligent type of "madness" movie that is not for just anyone. Some find the film boring because they don't get the subtle things going on. If you get subtle things in films then you will get this film. I guess you can call this piece of cinema an acquired taste. I get the subtleness so this is my type of flick.
The only reason to see this movie is to see how low even the highest star can fall. Why did she agree to do it? I can't imagine any reason she could find to star in it, unless she was offered a huge salary and a daily All-You-Can-Eat buffet.
Poor Liz. She hadn't had a good movie in years ("Taming of the Shrew", 1967, being the last one.) This ranks along with "Boom!", "Secret Ceremony", "X, Y, and Zee" and "Ash Wednesday" as one that has to be seen (only once, though) to be believed. Even appearances by Andy Warhol, Mona Washbourne and Ian Bannen are embarrassing, as is such dialog as "When I diet, I diet. When I orgasm, I orgasm. I don't believe in mixing the two cultures." Nobody but Liz was out to destroy her career at this point. No wonder she drank! But la Liz survived, rising back up through turning to the theatre and becoming a major champion in the fight against AIDS so she can be forgiven these cinematic turkeys. The cruel wags of the 70's and 80's would have to find another victim for their vicious barbs.
Save yourself two hours of torture (unless you are like me determined to see every movie every major star has ever done). Liz had bad films that successfully pass the camp quotient, but this one doesn't get that honor, just simple disgust.
Keep your remote control handy to re-play the opening "dressing room" scene, because you may do a "double-take" upon seeing Taylor looking sexy in a very revealing see-through bra. Also note, the title "Identikit" is a misnomer; while made in Italy, "The Driver's Seat" is basically an English language film.
The main attraction is watching Elizabeth Taylor essay another of her most unusual 1970s roles. She is not entirely successful, and may have abandoned all hope of continuing a serious acting career with this one. Taylor had been, for a solid decade, one of the Hollywood's most respected actresses - but, sometime after "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966), she began to falter. There were, still, occasional interesting roles and moments; but, the missteps hurt Taylor's reputation. Critics would drool over each new Elizabeth Taylor film project (most with companion Richard Burton) because, frankly, their reviews were an opportunity to be more (perversely) entertaining than the films. Ironically, Taylor put film critics in "The Driver's Seat".
*** The Driver's Seat (5/20/74) Giuseppe Patroni Griffi ~ Elizabeth Taylor, Ian Bannen, Guido Mannari, Mona Washbourne