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  Driver's Seat, The A Change Is As Good As A Rest
Year: 1974
Director: Giuseppe Patroni Griffi
Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Ian Bannen, Guido Mannari, Mona Washbourne, Luigi Squarzina, Maxence Mailfort, Andy Warhol, Anita Bartolucci, Gino Guiseppe, Marino Masé, Bedy Moratti, Dino Mele, Alessandro Perella, Quinto Parmeggiani, Nadia Scarpitta
Genre: Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Life has become suffocating for Lise (Elizabeth Taylor), and when she goes to try on a new dress she has ordered, she is very pleased with it until the shop assistant remarks that it is stain resistant and Lise flies into a rage, storming out of the emporium - another example of how she is at breaking point. Knowing she needs to get away from this psychologically cramped existence, she books a plane ticket to a place in the South, and after getting laughed at by a housekeeper because of her new outfit, she heads off for the sun - but that's not all she's headed off for, as she has made up her mind to take drastic action to shake herself up...

For a certain type of bad movie lover, the later films of Elizabeth Taylor, specifically the ones she made in the late sixties and seventies, have yet to be bettered as an example of a once classic star in decline, as if to say, hey, Liz was human after all, she made mistakes and now we can appreciate her all the more. Sure, there were the trashier efforts of Lana Turner or Joan Crawford to take into account, but Dame Elizabeth attracts this kind of attention like few others, and even in her most obscure films like The Driver's Seat there is a fanbase perversely drawn to seeing her fail in works that are downright weird.

This was based on a curious, short novel by Muriel Spark, and perhaps Taylor was thinking, well, if Maggie Smith can secure the Oscar for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, then I must be in with a chance here. As it was, the film was barely released and was never under consideration for the Academy Awards, with its rarity fuelling rumours that she had deliberately suppressed the film as she was so embarrassed by it. There's no doubt she gets up to some dubious behaviour here, and so for that matter do her co-stars, but it was all there in the novel, and you can sort of see how it would have all come across better on the printed page as when the plot is acted out it quickly becomes absurd.

Glossing over the star's see-through bra that she dons in the first five minutes, the fact that this was the seventies and film was pushing the envelope of what was acceptable onscreen is all too apparent here. Take the man Lise meets on the plane: we are introduced to Bill (Ian Bannen) as he grins inanely at her from the seat beside her, an unintentiionally funny moment only underlined when he starts coming on to her like a randy dog, babbling about his macrobiotic diet, which includes rice ("I hate rice" claims Lise) and the benefits of enjoying an orgasm every day. Lise tells him in no uncertain terms that he will be doing that on his own and not with her, but he still finds it difficult to take no for an answer.

He's not the only one, as a mechanic later takes Lise for a drive after she witnesses a terrorist attack (!) and fully expects sexual favours for his trouble, practically raping her and then as she struggles, forcing her to perform oral sex on him, which ends much as you would expect. But the funny thing is, Lise really is looking for a man, only she's not interested in bedding him, she wants a further thrill that is, well, illegal. Earlier, she was hanging out with Mona Washbourne's rich widow who happened to mention that her nephew was in town, and Lise has a brainwave: a young chap like him will be far more malleable and give in to her desires. In truth, although you can chuckle at the way the film fumbles the plot and makes it seem ludicrous, you can't actually see how it would have worked out any other way, and by the end a queasy atmosphere has settled over the proceedings. Very strange, but not necessarily in a good way, and Andy Warhol shows up long enough to prove he was no actor.

Aka: Idenitkit.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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