mon 10/08/2020

Blu-ray: Women in Love | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Women in Love

Blu-ray: Women in Love

Exemplary package celebrating Ken Russell’s compelling DH Lawrence adaptation

Glenda Jackson’s Gudrun Brangwen and Oliver Reed’s Gerald Crich share a tender moment in ‘Women in Love’

Women in Love was Ken Russell’s first cinema film to directly reflect his work in television. He had directed The Billion Dollar Brain (1967), but that was an adaptation of a Len Deighton book. French Dressing (1964) was a few steps removed from a Carry On film. As an adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel, Women in Love (1969) tapped into the ethos of his work for the BBC and featured Oliver Reed, with whom he had worked in television. While Reed’s naked wrestling scene with Alan Bates was a sure-fire attention grabber the film, nonetheless, didn’t have quite the free-spirited spark of Russell's small-screen work.

Russell is less sure-footed than he was a year later with The Music Lovers, which also cast Glenda Jackson. In Women in Love, dialogue scenes drag on a little: Reed and Bates’ pre- and post-wrestling chat wears out its welcome. Glenda Jackson’s Gudrun Brangwen is too sharply pitched, while Jennie Linden’s Ursula Brangwen becomes less and less of a presence, offering Jackson less and less of a counterbalance. The final Alpine scenes have a harshness at odds with the rest of the film. But if this were not a Ken Russell film, none of this would niggle. It is only the knowledge of what came before and after that fosters such quibbles. Taken overall, Women in Love is compelling (and outclasses the BBC’s heavy-going 2011 television version). It also says much about the issues relating to gender and sexuality in the air at the time it was made.

This first-ever Blu-ray release of Women in Love is stuffed with bonuses. Insightful essays in the booklet are complemented by separate commentaries from Russell and writer-producer Larry Kramer. The audio track of an 1982 on-stage Glenda Jackson interview is heard (disconcertingly, it plays over the film itself). There is also an interview with cinematographer Billy Williams.

The highlights though are The Pacemakers: Glenda Jackson and Second Best. The former is a fascinating 1971 government-sponsored short in which Jackson discusses acting, Women in Love and her then-current film Sunday Bloody Sunday (on-set footage is included). Second Best is an amazing, brooding, half-hour Alan Bates-produced adaptation of a Lawrence short story in which he appears with his wife Victoria Ward. By incorporating the power of the landscape into its narrative, it has the dark, enigmatic atmosphere of the best of British television’s early Seventies short-form dramas. This significant package gives Russell’s landmark film the consideration it deserves.

'Women in Love' says much about the issues relating to gender and sexuality in the air at the time it was made

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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