For the rest, it's easy to see why these directors made no name for themselves outside Sweden. I was particularly annoyed by Sjoman's silly, childish sketch with the man trying to hide a young black woman from his wife in his apartment.
Finally, I acknowledge Ingmar Bergman's supremacy in the film industry, but his grainy home movie is not in the least interesting. You find the impulse to fast-forward through this one is irresistible.
I was attracted to this story by the presence of Alexander Knox (1907-1995). He'd been so effective as Ingrid Bergman's husband in Europa 51, as the scientist in The Damned, as the president in Wilson, to name only three. As a supporting player he had very few equals.
Joseph Losey directed, so we are assured of some wonderful interior scenes (Freya's house is beautifully rendered, with the jagged sculptures mounted everywhere) but the night invasion of the top-secret nuclear facility is poorly executed. Losey was never good with action sequences, and there are several here. So you must choose style over dramatic tension if you want to enjoy this picture.
The idea of having the characters as museum sculptures works wonderfully well, especially for Lawrence Zazzo as Caesar. He sings and acts with great panache, and I much prefer him to Scholl in Salzburg. Natalie Dessay is wonderful as Cleopatra--she's fast and light in her coloratura, whereas Bartoli sometimes gives me the feeling she's singing Aida, she's that full-voiced. The only weak link in the cast is the underpowered Varduhi Abrahamian; Anne Sofie von Otter is clearly superior in the part of Cornelia. Unless I can meet up with the Glyndebourne production, this must be my preferred version.
I don't see Peter Sellers improving it, even with his superb comic timing, for there are no jokes, nothing to work with. Felicia Farr is very graceful and lovely to look at, and Ray Walston moves and speaks with practiced ease: the 3 stars are all for them.
I was wrapped up in Charles's attempt to solve a crime at the same time as he struggles with a debilitating disease: that's a fine piece of acting. Now if the director had just known how to cut 20 excess minutes out of his final cut, we would have had a really superb film.
Karl Maldon had a reputation for playing solid, likeable characters whose motivations were usually honourable: I think of the priest in On the Waterfront, the baffled husband in Baby Doll, the grim suitor in A Streetcar Named Desire. Here he's astonishing in his forceful, even relentless playing of the tobacco boss who will stop at nothing to get the upper hand over the other growers. Hard on himself as well as on others. Shame there was no Oscar for him. Claudette Colbert was always a sympathetic type, not instinctual like Crawford or Stanwyck but a thinker. You always knew she was going to work it all out in her mind. I liked what she did here; tough to convince us she could be happy as Malden's wife. The other performers give solid support. Dean Jagger as rival grower Sala Post has to put up with a lot, stoically. Connie Stevens whom I can remember only from Hawaiian Eye, does an excellent job as Lucy, sexually free and touchingly vulnerable. Diane McBain, faced with the near-impossible part of Alison, manages to cope. Sharon Hugueny is determined and little else. I don't know why Daves used Troy Donahue so many times--recall Sirk and Rock Hudson--maybe there was no other male actor with that athletic physique? Anyway, Donahue delivers his lines capably enough, and even shows some panache in the party scene with Hampton Fancher (the creepiest actor imaginable).
If birth order is of no concern to you, I'd like to say that Nathalie Baye gives another superb performance as the mother. She's a gold standard now among French actresses. Lea Seydoux does well as the confused, lonely Suzanne. Cassel and Ulliel do the best they can with their parts.
The stalwarts Jeremie Renier and Olivier Gourmet contribute solid performances here, and bit players are often effective (the black actor playing the pimp is really scary) but it's Haenel you'll remember for a long time. She was the girl on a survival course in Les combattants, and the really vain teenager in Naissance des pieuvres; now she has made a really important title for her filmography.
Mylene Mackay is an actress new to me; I'll be watching out for her work in the future. She has a long, angular face that reminds me of Julia Roberts... and in a way her film is like Pretty Woman, only there's no part for Richard Gere.