WOMEN IN LOVE
Review by Gordon Justesen
Bates, Oliver Reed, Glenda Jackson, Jennie Linden
Director: Ken Russell
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
Features: See Review
Length: 131 Minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2018
ďYou canít have two kinds of love. Why should you?Ē
ďIt seems as if I canít. Yet I wanted it.Ē
ďYou canít have it because itís impossible.Ē
ďI donít believe that.Ē
At the time of its release, Women in Love (based on the classic novel by D.H. Lawrence) was internationally adored by critics, and itís easy to see why. There was hardly ever a mainstream film that pushed boundaries regarding erotic subject matter like this one did. It was also director Ken Russellís first major breakthrough piece, and it helped establish him as an eccentric visionary.
And sure enough, Russellís unique directing style and the performances delivered by the quite tremendous cast are the best things about Women in Love. Narratively speaking, though, the film as a whole simply isnít as effective. It mostly plays like a series of vignettes all centering around the same issue: the meaning of love.
That very meaning is explored through two sets of men and women. A pair of sisters; Gudrun (Glenda Jackson) and Ursula (Jennie Linden) find themselves drawn to two very different men after meeting them at a friendís wedding. Gudrun falls for industrialist Gerald (Oliver Reed), while Ursula becomes smitten with the free-spirited Rupert (Alan Bates), who is close friends with Gerald...but deep down maybe desiring that friendship to evolve into something more.
This could be just a case of a guy (me) just now stumbling across a film that has largely been cherished since its release and failing to feel the impact it delivered at the time. Iíve seen many a film with boundary pushing qualities regarding eroticism and love, and seeing them prior to this one may be another fault of mine. Then again, I did see Chinatown long after first seeing L.A. Confidential and still felt the itís strong impact.
As I hinted at earlier, I cannot fault the film for the filmmaking on display. Russell captures the 1920s setting with mystifying beauty. Not only do we get a sumptuous capturing of England, but the scenery becomes even more gratifying when the four take a trip to Switzerland, which is photographed in a most awe-inspiring form!
Glenda Jackson won the Oscar for Best Actress, and it is most deserving as the more strong willed of the two sisters. Equally tremendous are Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, whose relationship is just as vital to the film as their relationships to the two women. In fact, this might be the best work either actor has ever committed to film!
Itís only in the storytelling department where the film comes up a bit short. Itís far from a bad film, and lord knows Ken Russell would go on to make much more questionable films. The strengths of Women in Love are so marvelous that I only wished the story at hand could equal those qualities.
Criterion marvels once again with their un-surpassable restoration streak. Once again encompassing a 4k digital transfer, fans of this film are in for quite the treat as the only previous offering was a non-anamorphic DVD release. Here, the imagery pops right off the screen in ultimate glorious form. Again, the scenery looks absolutely astounding, especially when the action jumps to Switzerland. Colors are put to breathtaking use and image details are every bit as pristine as one could hope for in a restored picture!
The PCM mono mix is superbly handled here. Though a dialogue-oriented piece, the spoken words are delivered in a super grand form, as is the music score by Georges Delerue!
Another unbeatable lineup of supplements provided by Criterion for this release. Among them are two commentaries; one with director Ken Russell, the other with screenwriter/producer Larry Kramer. We also get segments from a 2007 interview with Russell, as well as Russellís own biopic in the form of ďA British Picture: Portrait of an Enfant TerribleĒ. Thereís also an interview from 1976 with actor Glenda Jackson, as well as interviews with producer Larry Kramer and actors Alan Bates and Jennie Linden from the set, new interviews with director of photography Billy Williams and editor Michael Bradsell and ďSecond BestĒ, a 1972 short film based on a D. H. Lawrence story, which is produced by and features Alan Bates. Rounding out everything is a Trailer and an insert featuring an essay by scholar Linda Ruth Williams.
Women in Love is a beautiful piece of filmmaking marred slightly by a narrative that isnít as strong as it could be. Nevertheless, fans of this film shouldnít hesitate to take advantage of this bravo Blu-ray release from Criterion, which features the precise presentation and extras they will appreciate immensely!