After a chance meeting with avant garde writer Francoise, an elderly millionaire starts to manipulate her life, drawing in equally unsuspecting and happily married Mark. Francoise however ... See full summary »
After a chance meeting with avant garde writer Francoise, an elderly millionaire starts to manipulate her life, drawing in equally unsuspecting and happily married Mark. Francoise however is able to recall visions of the past and to conjure up apparitions at will so when the old man invites her and Mark to his mansion he finds things turning out unexpectedly. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
THE WOMAN WITH RED BOOTS (Juan Luis Bunuel, 1974) ***1/2
The younger Bunuel's finest cinematic achievement is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the closest film in style and plot to his famous father's work; actually it proves more bizarre than any of them, if also resulting in a slightly pretentious whole. Incidentally, as would be the case with his subsequent effort, LEONOR (1975; see review above), the old man's regular collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere lent a hand in the screen writing and, characteristically, the title has very little bearing on the storyline.
It benefits greatly from the presence of two of the elder Bunuel's most prominent stars: Catherine Deneuve (typically enigmatic, and shown in a quick, unexpected and genuinely heart-stopping full-frontal nude early on that was shrewdly incorporated into the theatrical trailer) and Fernando Rey (at his most Macchiavellian and eccentric), who had already appeared together in his masterful TRISTANA (1970); no less notable, however, is Laura Betti's belated participation as Rey's snobbish housekeeper. Frankly, I have watched several of Deneuve's movies over the years and, while this may not be one of her more popular movies, I doubt if she (who was 31 at the time) ever looked lovelier on screen!
Basically, the premise deals with ageing financier Rey, an aficionado of 3-D chess (at which novelist Deneuve emerges to be remarkably adept herself), who likes to treat human beings in much the same way as pawns on a board; besides the female lead, also involved in his machinations are her painter boyfriend, another young man (who, having married into and being currently employed by a wealthy family, is unceremoniously given the gate when tragedy and fate renders him a widower) and the latter's impressionable wife herself (played by Euro-Cult favorite Emma Cohen). Ultimately, Rey is revealed to be an enemy of the arts who has been imprisoning and eliminating various protégées inside his mansion for some time!
However, the film's mainstay are its plethora of surreal moments, most of which are brought about by Deneuve's unexplained magical powers (that include second sight): Rey having a fit in an art gallery, then being led blindfold to the car by his devoted chauffeur, while ordering all the paintings therein to be sent to his residence; Deneuve following the young man, an unknowing admirer of her writings, down a stone stairway suddenly finds herself amid the vastness of a forest; she later imagines a visiting lawyer with a muddied boot on top of his head though he can still feel the dirt it leaves on him!; Rey venting his frustration by biting down on a pillow, which he then cannot get rid of until Betti turns up to do the same and rip it apart; despite his presumed neglect of the latter, he dreams of engaging in a gypsy dance (with violinist accompaniment, no less) with her; when Deneuve's two lovers quarrel at table in Rey's mansion, she has Cohen's husband shackled in chains; Rey himself drops a bottle of ancient and invaluable wine here when it metamorphoses into a hog's head in his hands; the picnic at the climax which, as the situation comes to a head, envelopes the scene in thunder and darkness (a scene which, bafflingly, not only turns to black-and-white on occasion but virtually breaks in half although, I cannot fathom whether this was an intentional artistic choice or a fault of the unimpressive DVD transfer!); and the Cocteau-like final shot as novelist and painter literally inhabit his latest canvas (which displayed amazing depth to begin with).
It must be said here that all three of Juan Luis Bunuel's films improved on a second viewing for me but this, in particular, is the one that really makes one bemoan the fact that his cinematic career never really took off!
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