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Elizabeth Taylor is one of the most beautiful and exciting actresses ever
grace the screen. In this film she exemplifies these qualities, along with
her talent for portraying a woman of wild abandon and audaciousness. Her
work in this film will remain with the viewer long after the credits roll.
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.
Those sadly uneducated critics who dub this Liz' worst film have evidently never seen Boom!, based on Tennessee Williams' play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. I don't believe Boom! has ever been released in any video format; it is unbelievably horrendous. Compared to it, Identikit (or The Driver's Seat) is a work of genius. Liz' rant at the saleslady in the very first scene is worthy of comparison with Mink Stole's opening sequence in Desperate Living. I'm also fond of the scene at the airport, where she shouts at the security people, "You're all so suspicious! SUSPICIOUS! SUS-PI-CIOUS!" Her wardrobe looks like it was designed by a clown(her landlady asks derisively if she's off to join the circus), her hair must be seen to be believed, and I give this piece of vintage Liziana three out of four stars.
Amusing or alienating as many people as it intrigues, this fragmented psychological drama has some attention-getting elements, but can't quite overcome its limitations. Taylor plays an unusual and deeply troubled woman who heads to Rome, ostensibly to escape from her normal existence, but actually to complete a more deadly plan. Argumentative, demanding, disinterested and yet appalled, she wanders about airports, malls and parks, rather aimlessly awaiting the arrival of a man she feels destined to meet...but she isn't even sure who he is! The story is told in a fractured, flashback and flashforward-laden style. Taylor's intentions aren't spelled out clearly and the film often has a confusing or detached feel to it. This is, however, mostly intentional as her disintegrating mental state is exhibited. Sometimes Taylor's intensity during her episodes of anger and delusion gives the film an unintentionally humorous twist, such as when she resents being searched at the airport, throws a hissy fit over a smudged drinking glass, sprawls on the bed and fondles her own breasts and especially runs and falls after a car-bombing. Her story is punctuated by various encounters with strangers who find themselves in direct contact with someone who will later be the focus of a police investigation. Bannen plays a zealous macrobiotic swinger who wants to wine and dine Taylor. Washbourne is a kindly, but dotty, old lady who accompanies Taylor on a brief trip to a shopping center. Warhol is an austere and mysterious member of political society. She also encounters a skittish plane passenger and a lascivious (but scorchingly sexy) auto mechanic. Taylor, who is buried under a deliberately atrocious costume, huge, back-combed, frizzy hair, thick make up and a few extra pounds of weight, still manages to look beautiful in a few scattered shots. In certain light and at the right angle, she appears as striking as ever, though usually for just an instant or two. Somewhat rare, for her, is the amount of nudity she allows here, at one point standing for a long time with the sheerest of bras barely concealing her breasts. The cheapness of the titles, camera setups, dubbing, background music and lighting detract from the overall impact of the piece. Also, the script isn't coherent enough to really get it's points across. However, there is a certain level of interest in seeing Taylor go through the paces of this disturbed character. It's no classic, but it's unusual enough and striking enough, at times, to hold interest.
Another film difficult to follow. The reason? Because it is boring to death. Instead of happening on screen, death, the death of Elizabeth Taylor's character, it overwhelms us, the audience, at least those gifted with discernment. I was in love with Elizabeth Taylor when I was a teenager, just'd seen her in The Taming of the Shrew, when it was at the peak of her voluptuousness woman (she was 35 then...). Here, at age 42, she still has some charm but, thanks to a scenario without a little salt and pepper, we all suffer from it, the actors, the fans, everyone. Giuseppe Patroni Griffi is a good director, he knows his job well(I enjoyed The Divine Nymph (1975) Divina creatura (original title) very much...) but, what can you do with a bad poor script? Not much! There is also a Andy Warhol in it, a small appearance in Klaus Kinski's style but, far from the great talent and personality of Kinski. Only for forever lovers of the unique Liz with those violet eyes .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Actress Elizabeth Taylor pulls out all the stops in
playing the very unstable and self-destructive Lise who's life seems to
have been shattered for reasons that's never really explained in the
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!
It would be tempting to write "The Driver's Seat" off as one of the worst movies ever, but it's rather seductive on a slim budget...fascinating in its wrong-headedness. The film has such a loopy, surreal quality, and star Elizabeth Taylor is actually attempting something (rather than just posing), that the weirdness of the entire enterprise becomes compelling. Filmed in Italy, the story concerns a highly troubled, manic woman on the hunt for the perfect man...to be her murderer? Incoherent for the most part, though perhaps that's what keeps you watching. Taylor is all dolled up, but she doesn't look her best here--and one can only wonder what she made of this verbose script and her odd, underwritten character. Still in all, I watched to the very end, and I have to say the bizarre finale (with all those chairs) struck me as original, and stylish in a tacky way. Most bad films are boring or uninspired; "The Driver's Seat" is bad, but not for these reasons. It has a certain movie-making fever, but it's been put together by unconventional--dare I say it?--talents who have little idea how to construct and mount a film. ** from ****
Once again Elizabeth Taylor proves she was the greatest actress of her time. This off-beat,virtually unknown film is a triumph all the way around. But it is Taylor who carries it virtually in every scene. An Italian film with a stunning Italian cast, especially the men everyone of whom is a knockout. Your eyes will dance every which way trying to keep up with the hunks in this film. There is one scene in particular where the stud is wearing overalls that zip right down the front and which are unzipped immediately whereupon the action takes place in the front seat of a car and the windows do steam up fast. Yikes! Only the Italians could create such a sensuous, utterly erotic setting for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor. No American film ever quite make her such an object of desire, but then American films are so kindergarten anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's fascinating, because it's quite unexpected to find one of Hollywood's greatest female stars - an actress who defines "star" - not just peripherally involved, but leading such a shoddy production (even the location filming in Italy feels cheap, plus there seems to be a lot of dubbing). And it's boring, because there are many long, pointless sequences which add nothing to our understanding of this woman's actions. I did like the use of non-linear narrative - it helps you stay with the picture expecting (or hoping) that a major event awaits you at the end of it. But no, the only thing that happens is what you know will happen all along. So ultimately the non-linearity turns out to be much ado about very little. Despite all that, Taylor does still project some of her star power even in a film like this. ** out of 4.
I first saw this movie on VHS with a friend. He used it for comedic
commentary and I never really got to see it as it was intended. Years
later I found it doubled with Lovers & Liars a Goldie Hawn movie that
she made in Italy in the the dollar rack at Target.
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 !!!
Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi clearly saw something Warholian in this psychological drama based on a popular novella at the time. The film focuses on the pointlessness of Taylor's Lise's life. But Lise is not through searching. Ostensibly embarking on an odyssey intended to end her life, Lise explores every happenstance and chance meeting with an intensity that is positively riveting. But Griffi is interested in the pointlessness of it all. Warhol himself even pops up in a brief role. But here is the rub. In a Warhol outing the heroine (usually Edie Sedgewick) is unaware of the pointlessness of her existence and is making every attempt to function within modern life. When the pointlessness becomes clear it is heartbreaking for the audience. Here our heroine, as lovely and fascinating as she may be is well aware of the pointlessness and intends to follow it. The result is, well, pointlessness. It can go nowhere else. And the disinterested observation approach taken by the director doesn't help. Taylor is brilliant in an otherwise (deliberately) empty film.
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