The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman

Downloadable Video - 1981
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Anna and Mike fall in love despite the fact that Mike's character is engaged. After a short, passionate affair, Anna's melancholy character leaves Mike.

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ThomasWMutherJr
Oct 09, 2018

This is a real curio of a movie, more a dry experiment with form than a story concerning fleshed-out characters. The primary focus is on the plot developments of a film within the film--a story of two illicit lovers in 19th century England--while a secondary narrative follows the two leads in that film who pursue a similar relationship to the one they portray. The way these two stories intercut back and forth is, unfortunately, one of the few interesting things in the movie. Unique to this presentation is the way the Victorian Era scenes are shown only (with the opening scene being a lone exception) as a finished product, that is, we see that part of the film as its theoretical audience would. There are no shots of cameras in the foreground, no scenes of director and crew watching rushes in a darkened theater. This device might have allowed the viewer to become more involved in the "old-time" goings on--if only we had been given something, anything onto which we could have hung our collective emotional hats. This is the insurmountable problem of "The French Lieutenant's Woman." While the Victorian Era plot is luxuriantly mounted--while the characters are played by wonderful actors--the "heart" of this film is occupied by this film within a film device. While interesting, it's not enough to keep our interest from flagging. In both story lines, emotions are uniformly muted, or absent altogether. The 20th century story is about two bored actors who engage in their affair simply as a distraction from the tedium of making a movie. No hint of passion here. The Victorian narrative at least provides a HINT of feeling, but always held at arms length--and further attenuated by the inevitable return to the modern story, reminding us that the "costumer" portion of the film is not only not real, but TWICE removed from reality. There is a scene at the end of the movie where all signs point to some grand cathartic denouement--a scene where, finally, we will be swept up into the currents of these players' lives, the promise of romance finally realized. Instead we are given an awkward, bumbled scene without so much as a kiss or an eloquent avowal of love. We are left with a muted, distant view of the two purported lovers on a lake--its surface as calm and unmoved as the film's audience. A disappointing end to a disappointing film.

a
akirakato
Jun 19, 2018

Directed by Karel Reisz in 1981 based on the 1969 novel by John Fowles, this British romantic drama explores two affaires: a Victorian love affair between the gentleman palaeontologist Charles Smithson and the complex and troubled Sarah Woodruff; the other love story between the actors Mike and Anna, playing the lead roles in a modern filming of the story.
The two parallel stories in the movie have different outcomes.
An enigmatic and self-imposed outcast, Sarah seems like a woman with dark sides.
In the modern story, in which Anna plays Sarah and Mike portrays Charles, Anna becomes increasingly cool about the affair.
In any case, 80,000 prostitutes worked in the Victorian London and one house in 60 functioned as a brothel.
Amazing, but both stories appear bleak and not so impressive.

j
Janice21383
Jun 19, 2018

Based on the novel of the same name, half of which is author's commentary comparing the 19th century with modern times, and includes more than one ending. Playwright Harold Pinter came up with an inspired solution for the screenplay: alternate scenes of the lovers in the story with scenes of actors/lovers shooting the film. One story comments on the other. Now, was that so hard to understand? The French Lieutenant's Woman is a drama rather than a romance; if you're looking for frilly costumes and easy to understand characters, it is not for you. But if you're looking for superb performances, gorgeous cinematography and music, and a thoughtful story about the changing yet eternal nature of love, check it out.

h
hesselugano
Jun 18, 2018

This film simply didn't hold my attention. The revelation of Streep's character was so slow and oblique, I lost interest. I can't imagine what Harold Pinter was trying to achieve by setting john Fowles' story as a movie within a movie. I didn't mind time shifting in reverse in the Ben Kingsley and Jeremy Irons movie "Betrayal" because the reversal of time went smoothly from scene to scene, but in "French Lieutenant's Woman" the constant jumping back and forth in time becomes disconcerting. I never saw the film on it's release and I have now discovered that I hadn't missed much. I greatly admire Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons but in my opinion this is not one of the highlights of either of their acting careers.

n
nordicleather
Jan 04, 2018

The French Lieutenant's Woman keeps going back & forth in time between two different affairs concerning different people. One affair occurs over 100 years ago & the other affair in modern times. I can't follow this going back & forth in time.

m
Me_Tarzan
Oct 23, 2016

In this story-within-a-story, I guess one really needs to be able to appreciate the screen charisma of Meryl Streep and one of her many accents to fully recognize the finer merits of this film.

Anyway - As the story goes - A scandalous romance between a soon-to-be-married gentleman and a tainted woman in Victorian England is contrasted with a contemporary love affair between the actor and actress who are playing these roles in a movie.

At first the juxtaposition between what's happening in the past and what's going on in the present is quite jarring and somewhat confused, but after a short while it actually becomes fairly engaging as the film quickly progresses along.

To be sure - 1981's "The French Lieutenants's Woman" is rich with elegant period detail. It was adapted for the screen from John Fowles' novel.

(Watch video-trailer*)

v
voisjoe1_0
Oct 25, 2015

This newly restored Criterion Collection version has given me a new opportunity to see this film, which I first saw in the theatres in 1981. When it was released in 1981, everybody was talking about these newer highly acclaimed actors Meryl Street and Jeremy Irons. It is the story of two Hollywood actors making a new film and we actually get to see the personal lives of the actors and interspersed we get to see the film that they are making. And in one short scene, we get too see them as actors practicing some of the lines of the film they are making. In 1981, Irons played 11 straight weeks on Brideshead Revisited and in 1982 Streep would win an Oscar for her magnificent Portrayal of Sophie in Sophie’s Choice.

Adamrose36 Jul 07, 2014

Decent movie about two actors Jeremy Irons, and Meryl Streep. I didn't understand most of the movie it was hard to make out what they were saying at times. I wish this movie had an English Transcript which would of made the movie easier to understand. I get that it's a French film but sometimes English is nice if you don't speak much French since many don't in America. Most like 40-49% speak English I think If I'm not mistaken. The others are Spanish(25%), Italian(10%), Albanian(5%), and Hebrew(11%)? Making a total of 100%. 49+25+10+5+11=100.

nickqian Jul 07, 2014

hard to understand many parts without English transcript.

wooknight Jul 22, 2013

The metaphorical implications in the movie were amazing.The parallel stories as well as references between the stories was wonderful , it also has interesting message that just because you know something does not mean that you will always act on it

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