|Index||4 reviews in total|
'Woman In Flames' begins with an unhappy wife leaving her home to
pursue life as a call girl. What is perceived immediately is the
abruptness of the move; there is only the monologue of Eva (played by
Gudrun Landgrebe) for us to digest as testimony to her overwhelming
As soon as she moves out she calls and meets up with a madame; or the female equivalent of a pimp, is seems. Almost immediately Eva is thrust into and is apparently successful at being a call girl. Her clientele is upscale enough and the circles she travels in are such that almost no hint of danger is discernible; sadly, neither is there any hint of emotion on our part, either.
Landgrebe assumes an accomplished, extremely graceful and subtly erotic persona; acting, in a word, superbly. Her 'provocative smile', for which she is called on at a party by Chris, is indeed coquettish throughout. That she might be a successful call girl is entirely within the realm of possibility. Eva is one smooth operator.
Her liaison with Chris early in the film (he operates in a male parallel universe to Eva's) turns into love; and it is their outwardly enviable lifestyle that will be their undoing. Their relationship is not nearly as passionate as we would expect, and instead they seriously underplay their attraction. Several mild twists and small surprises occur, not the least of which is Eva's increasing skill at satisfying domination/submission clients.
Eventually we see that neither party is happy with the arrangement nor can they continue in this fashion. We know they will part, but we can't imagine how it might end, which is enough reason to see it through.
Incredibly cruel and violent, the ending is less satisfying than the noir-like path of the story prepares for us. The unbelievable turn of events is one of two false notes in the film the other being the opening! But overall the mechanical world of love-for-hire is presented stylistically and non-judgmentally, placing 'Woman In Flames' somewhat in the manner of David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet', but without the onslaught of craziness. We are voyeurs but cannot in the final analysis care or feel sorry for any of them.
Rating: Three Stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie ends with two womens laugh: Eva and Yvonne. Eva the former bored upper-class housewife leaves, contacting Yvonne. It is not a today, impulsive idea but well thought of. The number she had some time back is used. She changes her bourgeois life for high-class prostitution. "How long can I go" is her question in the diary. She is new here. Has to find her own style. And she does. Perfection! Later she offers her clients everything, whatever is wanted and wished. Even dominatrix. Eva has nothing to loose, receiving the clients with their wishes, whatever they want of her. Behind their 'boyish, shyness they want to be seen. Not looked at. As long as they pay. And they pay. Right from day one she meets the call-boy Chris. They move together and work together. And fall in love. Does it work: love and work? For her it does but not for the man-boy Chris. While she can keep apart work and love, does not mix work and love - it is difficult for Chris. The 'man'-boy Chris has not the capacity or possibility to keep 'it' apart. The result: jealousy when he sees her with her clients. Followed by what the German title says: 'Die flambierte (flambéed) Frau': burning in slow-motion she gets up and runs. Cut: Eva enters the café where all started. Joined by her friend Yvone. The waiter tells them to leave. Chris said so. Sitting on their chairs both are taken out on the street. The two laughing. Not a laugh of hate or pity but pure laugh with its root at the heart. What else? When men, actually boys, can not be taken serious for what they do. Just boys. As Evas clients. Some halfhearted dominant. Eva meets by chance her husband. Her answer is the turning point of the movie. Prostitution is part of the marriage: not payed. Eva was honest. She enjoys her new life. Without lies and 'as if', playing her part with which she is not good at.
When this movie came out it was all over town, the "sinfulest" movie
around: I would have given an arm and a leg to have seen it at the
cinema, but I was too young for it then.
Decades later, I have just seen it for the first time, and to my delight it lived up to its reputation (unlike so many other movies). It turned out to be well worth the wait! This is one hell of a smart, erotic, intriguing, well-told movie. It's one of the best of its genre, one of the most memorable movies of the Eighties, and one of the classiest to have come out of Germany. It remains shocking and edgy until today, and was like a cultural bomb in its time when, years before the internet, homosexuality and sadomasochism were still very much on the cultural dark side of the moon.
Unlike many other movies dealing with prostitution (American Gigolo and Pretty Woman come to mind) it doesn't sugar-coat the business, although it's still pretty glamorous and probably a far sight from being documentarian. There is a synthetic, hypnotic atmosphere throughout, enhanced by the dubbed soundtrack (which is often detrimental to the atmosphere in other movies). The figures are well-defined but remain intriguing through their ambivalence -- main character Eva (Gudrun Landgrebe) is at the same time enticing and revolting, her gigolo-friend Chris (Matthieu Carrière) slick and vulnerable.
Only the final scene, it has to be said, is a bit of a letdown. I don't know what the director was thinking here -- maybe he was trying to avoid an X rating for "excessive violence" or something.
I saw this movie in 1983 when it was released. Gudrun Landgrebe acted superbly as a wife and woman with no respect. If you find it in the video store, please rent it and cheer her on!
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