hepclassic

Women In Love (1969)

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The Criterion Collection recently released a restored version, and its been a short while since I saw it, and it was really interesting. The film is controversial in its time, and explores sexual liberation and sex on film. But, given the late 60s, early 70s of the time of its original release then the American release, and the subsequent Oscar afterwards for Glenda Jackson, I saw something I didn't see before. 

Gerald Crich's sexuality or lack thereof, and Gudrun Brangwen's relation to him, and relationship to him. When I first saw it, I was thinking Jackson's Gudrun is a feminist force of nature (and she still is in this film and in real life), but I also saw, what I hate to say- this film and what I remember of the original novel of their relationship- is that she is Gerald's beard, and Gerald needs her to be so because he can't accept who he is- which is a suppressed mess brought on by emotionally distance from his parents and the weird obsession with women as pedestaled perfection he can't reach. Maybe I am analyzing more than I need to, but it amazes me how Gudrun picks up on this, asks for more in their relationship, and ends up not getting what she needs. 

I know this is a novelization of D.H. Lawrence's ideal of the perfect coupling, and there seems to be an absolute that suggests that bisexuality is a no-no (and Russell seems to not be judgmental it seems), but I can't help but wonder- is this really about the struggle of a beard? 

Thoughts? 

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I've seen this one quite a few times. Intriguingly, it was filmed between September and December of 1968 at a time when gay and lesbian characters were popping up all over screens practically overnight. The Detective, The Sargent, The Killing Of Sister George, Theresa And Isabelle and Andy Warhol and Paul Morissey's Flesh were just a few released that year that director Ken Russell must have been well aware of. Midnight Cowboy came out while he was editing it for its fall '69 release in the UK. Obviously he knew he could "go there" now even if D.H. Lawrence was way too nebulous in original print.

We have two blatantly gay men at the ski resort, one not accepted by his family because of his attractions. I always thought Gudrun's friendship with them was some sort of "test" on Gerald. After the rather silly, but legendary, wrestling scene before the fire, it is Gerald who turns away from Rupert first as if "glad this is over... I can put my clothes back on". I am not sure if he even has any attractions towards guys, but he definitely has a lot of intimacy problems.

That scene of him looking at the two naked lovers dead after the lake is drained follows Rupert and Ursula's heterosexual "consummation" scene. I am instantly reminded of lustful Gudrun telling some "bloke" that she wants to "drown in flesh. Hot, physical, naked, flesh". Well... Gerald saw drowned naked flesh before his eyes and it impacts him much as many soldiers were impacted in the Great War seeing dead bodies (often clothed though). In the finale, he walks into the snow and... well, he was pretty depressed.

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4 hours ago, hepclassic said:

This may jog your memory: 

 

Both this 1970 American trailer and its contemporary for Radley Metzger's The Lickerish Quartet always keep me in stitches.

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Homosexuality is a common subject in D.H. Lawrence's novel. The man himself was almost certainly gay, or at any rate conflicted. Btw The Fox will be on TCM in September.

 

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In college, I remember reading "Sons and Lovers", which I liked, and his poetry, which I liked.

But I need to get re-acquainted.

What novel would you suggest?

I have "Lady Chatterly's Lover", which I never read.

Would you suggest that one?

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I don't have that one but it is easy to get through Barnes & Noble if you want to pay $23+. I am surprised that TCM Shop only carries Metzger's later Score. I've discussed that one enough already. Now... that movie is an interesting companion piece to Women In Love.

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I've read Sons and Lovers and read Women In Love. I have yet to read Lady Chatterly's Lover. 

I don't think that Rupert Birkin is gay from recent viewing. There is a genuineness in his attraction to Ursula that Gerald doesn't have towards Gudrun. I think Birkin might be bisexual, and Ursula is the traditional romantic, innocent of the world. Gudrun is more realistic to me, who wants the reality of love. Gerald just seems like a person who prefers the iron closet. Gerald rejects Rupert's love too, especially at the end of the Sweden trip before Gerald's death. 

 

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As for the gay men at the ski resort, I did notice a jealousy from Gerald and a greater upset that Gudrun preferred the artist over him.  I think maybe Gudrun wanted Gerald to be free to be himself as she was free to be herself. Why else would she passively say "truth is best?" 

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5 hours ago, rayban said:

In college, I remember reading "Sons and Lovers", which I liked, and his poetry, which I liked.

But I need to get re-acquainted.

What novel would you suggest?

I have "Lady Chatterly's Lover", which I never read.

Would you suggest that one?

My favorites, in order:

The White Peacock (definite gay subtext, with characters who are basically youthful Rupert and Gerald. The youthful Rupert (Cyril), just as the older Rupert, is a surrogate for Lawrence himself).

Sons and Lovers

The Rainbow

Woman in Love

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I will have to read the book and see the movie again. Russell does a great job directing but let's not forget the contributions by Larry Kramer who adapted the novel into the a screenplay. I wonder how influential he was in the films gay angle

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Yes, I remember him winning an Emmy for the TV movie The Normal Heart, and thinking- "that monk did everything for visibility." 

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He was quite sick at the time of the Emmy win for "The Normal Heart". 

the-normal-heart-sequel.jpg?w=1000&h=563

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I re-watched it again and, as usual, caught little details here and there not caught before.

The statement that Rupert says to Ursula in the finale is pretty bold: that you can have two kinds of love towards people of each gender. To be fair, Ursula's experience with the only-loves-men artist Loerke didn't suggest much "love" to her. He came across as one with no interest in commitment. Not to mention his lack of consideration annoyed her, dropping his cigar ashes into the whipped cream she is eating. Therefore she is clueless what the heck Rupert is talking about when he suggests love lost on Gerald's passing.

This brings me to horses. She comments that Loerke sculpted the horse as too "stiff" and that such animals need a sensitive approach. Earlier in the film, she is horrified by the way Gerald abuses a horse in front of a train. Gundun, in contrast, just thinks he is showing off.

It is interesting that Gerald first uses the L-word with Gundun after she frightens the cattle, which he thinks is totally crazy. Never mind the fact that he was crazy on a horse!

The first sex scene between Gerald and Gundun is edited with shots of his VERY crazy mother laughing at the time of his father's funeral. Gerald is really thinking of her instead of Gundun, whom he is actually in cahoots with. Then he falls asleep on her, now that Mother is out of his system. We get extended sequences of Gundun trying to figure out how to get his dead-weight body off of her.

All of the talk about women causing him so much suffering is dictated to Rupert. It is no wonder he starts to question if THEY should be lovers. He very much enjoys Ursula as the antidote to his bad experiences with Hermione, but that wrestling scene with Gerald must have still been a turn-on for him.

Probably a more accurate comparison to Rupert and Gerald is François Truffaut's Jules and Jim. They attended the Turkish bath houses together and displayed plenty of brotherly love (and possibly more), also fearing one might shoot the other by accident during the Great War (since one was on the French side and the other German). That is, as long as Jeanne Moreau's Catherine isn't around... and even when she is around, one is happy the other is with her. (The most frequently re-shown clip in movie documentaries shows her dressed as a guy with a drawn-mustache running away from them, since she knows what get-up will prompt both of her boys to chase her.) Pity she is the one who destroys the bro-mance at the end by driving the car off the bridge so that one is left to suffer as a widower losing "two kinds of love".

One final note on the camera compositions. The clever edit of Rupert and Ursula in embrace matching that of the drowned newlyweds Laura (Gerald's sister) and Tibby is the most frequently discussed in movie circles. Yet equally intriguing is the scene of Rupert and Gerald discussing in front of a large mirror so that Rupert is seen, back-view, talking to two Geralds and vice versa. One wonders if both have split personalities and are only revealing one of these to the other.

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14 hours ago, Jlewis said:

I re-watched it again and, as usual, caught little details here and there not caught before.

The statement that Rupert says to Ursula in the finale is pretty bold: that you can have two kinds of love towards people of each gender. To be fair, Ursula's experience with the only-loves-men artist Loerke didn't suggest much "love" to her. He came across as one with no interest in commitment. Not to mention his lack of consideration annoyed her, dropping his cigar ashes into the whipped cream she is eating. Therefore she is clueless what the heck Rupert is talking about when he suggests love lost on Gerald's passing.

This brings me to horses. She comments that Loerke sculpted the horse as too "stiff" and that such animals need a sensitive approach. Earlier in the film, she is horrified by the way Gerald abuses a horse in front of a train. Gundun, in contrast, just thinks he is showing off.

It is interesting that Gerald first uses the L-word with Gundun after she frightens the cattle, which he thinks is totally crazy. Never mind the fact that he was crazy on a horse!

The first sex scene between Gerald and Gundun is edited with shots of his VERY crazy mother laughing at the time of his father's funeral. Gerald is really thinking of her instead of Gundun, whom he is actually in cahoots with. Then he falls asleep on her, now that Mother is out of his system. We get extended sequences of Gundun trying to figure out how to get his dead-weight body off of her.

All of the talk about women causing him so much suffering is dictated to Rupert. It is no wonder he starts to question if THEY should be lovers. He very much enjoys Ursula as the antidote to his bad experiences with Hermione, but that wrestling scene with Gerald must have still been a turn-on for him.

Probably a more accurate comparison to Rupert and Gerald is François Truffaut's Jules and Jim. They attended the Turkish bath houses together and displayed plenty of brotherly love (and possibly more), also fearing one might shoot the other by accident during the Great War (since one was on the French side and the other German). That is, as long as Jeanne Moreau's Catherine isn't around... and even when she is around, one is happy the other is with her. (The most frequently re-shown clip in movie documentaries shows her dressed as a guy with a drawn-mustache running away from them, since she knows what get-up will prompt both of her boys to chase her.) Pity she is the one who destroys the bro-mance at the end by driving the car off the bridge so that one is left to suffer as a widower losing "two kinds of love".

One final note on the camera compositions. The clever edit of Rupert and Ursula in embrace matching that of the drowned newlyweds Laura (Gerald's sister) and Tibby is the most frequently discussed in movie circles. Yet equally intriguing is the scene of Rupert and Gerald discussing in front of a large mirror so that Rupert is seen, back-view, talking to two Geralds and vice versa. One wonders if both have split personalities and are only revealing one of these to the other.

Jlewis, I know its been a while, but I do miss reading your film analyses. If I can add something to this, is that when it came to the mirrors into Gerald's cold, sad soul, that maybe they reflect his desires- the first towards Rupert, who he is, the second away from Rupert towards Gudrun, who he is absent to, and the third, himself- conflicted, and going with convention. 

I also wanted to add that I guess we can count it progress that Rupert and Gerald are a step above Ben Hur and Massala, although I am sure Massala was freer in Rome. 

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I do think we have discussed this film before. Problem is: I have to keep going back and re-watching it. I do like the movie, but the personalities are way too talkative and scattered, unlike characters in other movies I am more fond of. I think I favor Ursula the most because Jennie Linden reminds me of people I have known personally in the past. She is both practical and romantic, one who just accepts things as they are. She doesn't complain about Rupert's messy man-cave, but you just know she will rearrange things whether he wants her to or not.

Glenda Jackson is very talented but a bit too much of a "look at me!" actress. I think Gundun the character must always have an audience. This is why she enjoyed Loerke  so much, since he dressed her up as Cleopatra and cheered on her performance. Gerald wasn't the ideal "audience" she needed to keep her happy. Instead he just gets jealous and runs off into the snow after his attempted strangling of her.

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5 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

Glenda Jackson is very talented but a bit too much of a "look at me!" actress. I think Gundun the character must always have an audience. This is why she enjoyed Loerke  so much, since he dressed her up as Cleopatra and cheered on her performance. Gerald wasn't the ideal "audience" she needed to keep her happy. Instead he just gets jealous and runs off into the snow after his attempted strangling of her.

I think given the time period she was in and what the film explores "look at me!" is a good approach to performance- particularly in a barrier-breaking film such as Women In Love (1969). We did talk about the film before at ye olde Classic Film Union. I think her need was more than just sex, though. Before Gerald makes the next room wish they had what their room had, she does say to him that she wants more because she doesn't really know if he loves her the way she wanted to love him. Loerke at least paid attention to her and treated her like a person. 

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Julie Christie won an Oscar despite appearing in her altogether with Darling, but she wasn't blatantly full frontal topless like Glenda is here. Not that most viewers paid all that much attention since more screen time was devoted to those wrestling boys. Yet Glenda got through this taboo and won the award because Gundun is very much a 1920 feminist not too different than a 1970 one post-Gloria Steinem, who accepts men only on her own terms. She and Ursula start the film debating whether marriage is even right for them, something women of 1920 usually weren't discussing. I also think movie goers cheered when she openly stated to Loerke with great pride that she and Gerald were not married in the Tyrolean Alps, after the despicable way he treated her in the bedroom the night before. She was pretty much done with him, her sunglasses and scowling face showing her true feelings. There wasn't a #MeToo movement yet, but her character was certainly a forerunner in that regard.

Again, I am reminded of the cruel way Gerald rode that horse and the way his own mother had Dobermans attack miners visiting the estate. He was too far over on The Dark Side there with all of the damage in his head, although much of what we see here with Oliver Reed is tame compared to The Devils. Intriguingly his sisters, both the one who tragically drowned and the younger one with her pet bunny, come across as much happier and well-adjusted than him. Since I didn't read the book, was that because Mommy influenced him and kinder, gentler daddy influenced the girls? There is still a lot that I don't understand with some of these characters.

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It's been a while since I've read the book, but I can deduce that since his sisters were both younger than him, maybe his parents were actually better parents to his sisters than to him, and his mother knew it, and his father didn't care enough to change anything before he died. 

As for Gudrun, I remember reading how sexually liberating the 1920s were for women and since Britain got the head start on civil rights for women, Gudrun represents what was ahead that maybe Lawrence wanted to show and explore. 

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On 6/4/2018 at 1:37 PM, hepclassic said:

I've read Sons and Lovers and read Women In Love. I have yet to read Lady Chatterly's Lover. 

I don't think that Rupert Birkin is gay from recent viewing. There is a genuineness in his attraction to Ursula that Gerald doesn't have towards Gudrun. I think Birkin might be bisexual, and Ursula is the traditional romantic, innocent of the world. Gudrun is more realistic to me, who wants the reality of love. Gerald just seems like a person who prefers the iron closet. Gerald rejects Rupert's love too, especially at the end of the Sweden trip before Gerald's death. 

I think I've quote this before. It's from Lawrence's first novel, The White Peacock. Cyril and George are forerunners of Rupert and Gerald. Cyril definitely represents Lawrence, as Rupert does in Women in Love. The White Peacock is filled with early, coded hints of gayness; this is the most overt. It's Cyril speaking of George:

"We stood and looked at each other as we rubbed ourselves dry. He was well proportioned, and naturally of handsome physique, heavily limbed. He laughed at me, telling me I was like one of Aubrey Beardsley's long, lean ugly fellows. I referred him to many classic examples of slenderness, declaring myself more exquisite than his grossness, which amused him.

But I had to give in, and bow to him, and he took on an indulgent, gentle manner. I laughed and submitted. For he knew how I admired the noble, white fruitfulness of his form. As I watched him, he stood in white relief against the mass of green. He polished his arm, holding it out straight and solid; he rubbed his hair into curls, while I watched the deep muscles of his shoulders, and the bands stand out in his neck as he held it firm; I remembered the story of Annable.

He saw I had forgotten to continue my rubbing, and laughing he took hold of me and began to rub me briskly, as if I were a child, or rather, a woman he loved and did not fear. I left myself quite limply in his hands, and, to get a better grip of me, he put his arm round me and pressed me against him, and the sweetness of the touch of our naked bodies one against the other was superb. It satisfied in some measure the vague, indecipherable yearning of my soul; and it was the same with him. When he had rubbed me all warm, he let me go, and we looked at each other with eyes of still laughter, and our love was perfect for a moment, more perfect than any love I have known since, either for man or woman."

 

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1 hour ago, Swithin said:

I think I've quote this before. It's from Lawrence's first novel, The White Peacock. Cyril and George are forerunners of Rupert and Gerald. Cyril definitely represents Lawrence, as Rupert does in Women in Love. The White Peacock is filled with early, coded hints of gayness; this is the most overt. It's Cyril speaking of George:

"We stood and looked at each other as we rubbed ourselves dry. He was well proportioned, and naturally of handsome physique, heavily limbed. He laughed at me, telling me I was like one of Aubrey Beardsley's long, lean ugly fellows. I referred him to many classic examples of slenderness, declaring myself more exquisite than his grossness, which amused him.

But I had to give in, and bow to him, and he took on an indulgent, gentle manner. I laughed and submitted. For he knew how I admired the noble, white fruitfulness of his form. As I watched him, he stood in white relief against the mass of green. He polished his arm, holding it out straight and solid; he rubbed his hair into curls, while I watched the deep muscles of his shoulders, and the bands stand out in his neck as he held it firm; I remembered the story of Annable.

He saw I had forgotten to continue my rubbing, and laughing he took hold of me and began to rub me briskly, as if I were a child, or rather, a woman he loved and did not fear. I left myself quite limply in his hands, and, to get a better grip of me, he put his arm round me and pressed me against him, and the sweetness of the touch of our naked bodies one against the other was superb. It satisfied in some measure the vague, indecipherable yearning of my soul; and it was the same with him. When he had rubbed me all warm, he let me go, and we looked at each other with eyes of still laughter, and our love was perfect for a moment, more perfect than any love I have known since, either for man or woman."

 

So gay.

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Here is a beautiful passage from The White Peacock -- redolent of nature and sexual imagery -- of Cyril's yearning (Cyril as I've said is the surrogate for the young Lawrence):

I kicked through the drenched grass, crushing the withered cowslips under my clogs, avoiding the purple orchids that were stunted with harsh upbringing, but magnificent in their powerful colouring, crushing the pallid lady smocks, the washed-out wild gillivers. I became conscious of something near my feet, something little and dark, moving indefinitely. I had found again the larkie's nest. I perceived the yellow beaks, the bulging eyelids of two tiny larks, and the blue lines of their wing quills. The indefinite movement was the swift rise and fall of the brown fledged backs, over which waved long strands of fine down. The two little specks of birds lay side by side, beak to beak, their tiny bodies rising and falling in quick unison. I gently put down my fingers to touch them; they were warm; gratifying to find them warm, in the midst of so much cold and wet. I became curiously absorbed in them, as an eddy of wind stirred the strands of down. When one fledgling moved uneasily, shifting his soft ball, I was quite excited; but he nestled down again, with his head close to his brother's. In my heart of hearts, I longed for someone to nestle against, someone who would come between me and the coldness and wetness of the surroundings. I envied the two little miracles exposed to any tread, yet so serene. It seemed as if I were always wandering, looking for something which they had found even before the light broke into their shell. I was cold; the lilacs in the Mill garden looked blue and perished. I ran with my heavy clogs and my heart heavy with vague longing, down to the Mill, while the wind blanched the sycamores, and pushed the sullen pines rudely, for the pines were sulking because their million creamy sprites could not fly wet-winged. The horse-chestnuts bravely kept their white candles e rect in the socket of every bough, though no sun came to light them. Drearily a cold swan swept up the water, trailing its black feet, clacking its great hollow wings, rocking the frightened water hens, and insulting the staid black-necked geese. What did I want that I turned thus from one thing to another?

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