A marriage crisis between a writer and his wife leads her to flee to Germany and eventually return with another man, through whom the writer is going to overcome his writer's block.A marriage crisis between a writer and his wife leads her to flee to Germany and eventually return with another man, through whom the writer is going to overcome his writer's block.A marriage crisis between a writer and his wife leads her to flee to Germany and eventually return with another man, through whom the writer is going to overcome his writer's block.
The plot concerns Elizabeth, the "romantic Englishwoman" of the title and the wife of a well-known novelist. While staying in Baden Baden Elizabeth has an affair with a young German named Thomas. Or does she? Is it possible that this "affair" was simply a fantasy on her part? Or does it only exist in the mind of her jealous husband Lewis? Thomas, an admirer of Lewis' work, later comes to stay with Lewis and Elizabeth at their home in England, where Lewis makes him surprisingly welcome for a man who is (or whom he believes to be) his wife's lover. There is also a sub-plot about Thomas' criminal associates, led by a man named Swan, who are pursuing him across Europe, but the exact details remain vague.
There is an adage that one should never judge a book by its cover, and the cinematic equivalent would probably be "don't judge a film by the big names in its title sequence". Even if you have admired the other work of those names. Michael Caine (now Sir Michael) is one of the cinema's greatest stars, appearing in some of the best British films of the sixties, seventies and eighties such as "Alfie", "Get Carter" and "Educating Rita". Glenda Jackson is today best known as a Labour politician, but was a fine actress in her youth. Scriptwriter Tom Stoppard is perhaps Britain's greatest living playwright. Losey was best known to me as the director of "The Go-Between", one of the major British films of the early seventies and one of the films which started the "heritage cinema" movement.
Unfortunately, all this assembled talent does not make for a good film. "The Romantic Englishwoman" goes to show that baffling obscurity was not a monopoly of the Nouvelle Vague and that British art-house film-makers could be just as infuriatingly obscure as their French counterparts. (Losey was American by birth, but I count him as an honorary Briton. He was forced to leave Hollywood during the McCarthy era because of his left-wing sympathies and thereafter worked mostly in Britain). I would not quite count this among my all-time fifty worst films, but it is nevertheless a dull and confusing one which not only lacks a clear storyline but also lacks any perceptible point. There are some films where ambiguity can be a positive virtue rather than a fault, but this is not one of them. 4/10
- Jun 26, 2009