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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Lord Summerisle, I presume ?

This is a review of The Wicker Man (1973)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

18 October

This is a review of The Wicker Man (1973)

If The Wicker Man (1973) were really a Laplacean fantasy (wicker is produced, because the material is pliant), subverting the notion of free will, one would be better off with The Game (1997), or reading Borges.

As it cannot sustainably be viewed on that level, comparisons with the novel The Magus, even if John Fowles disowned it, are inevitable (and the Anthony Quinn film of 1968, which was made from it, and which pre-dates this one) : an island, beautiful women, playing games, a man in charge who claims to be a channel for other forces, temptation, death.

Only that Quinn is a much better ambiguous conjuror than Christopher Lee's nature-worshipping, free-loving laird, and his discrete retreat is more sinister than a whole island of cult-followers. That said, I would have more time for Edward Woodward any time than for Michael Caine, most of all in these films.

Pondering on the cult following for these cult followers (and their - female - nakedness)...

Not that his shock and anguish at the happenings are not to be more than counterbalanced by the charms of Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento and Lindsay Kemp, in a film that - as films of those times did - celebrates sexual freedom by largely having the bodies of females exposed, with the men's libidos represented by a dimly lit orgy, preceded by bawdy songs in the pub.

Apparently, Ekland complained that the naked gyrations in front of a cupboard, cut with shots of her walking topless around her character's bedroom, were not hers - they were out of keeping stylistically, and almost showed more than they should. That (and the apparent dubbing of Ekland) apart, she acted excellently as a succubus, and Woodward's frustration, desire, were palpable in his acting.

A horror film ? If one had not seen the poster, it might not have been evident where all this was going, and the horror only consists in Woodward's heartfelt cries of grief, grounded on the beliefs that we have seen set in opposition throughout to those of the islanders - I have no notion of the genre, but I cannot see any more than a <i>Lord of the Flies</i> sort of extremity to the drama.

A cult film ? I am told that, as with <i>The Sound of Music</i>, there are sing-a-longs (unlikely to attract the same audience, as the songs are lewd ?), but cannot quite fathom why that would appeal - cult following would suggest that seeing Woodward duped and suffer over and over is a pull, but I do not feel such a desire, as it is not even as if the journey is that clever or brilliantly executed.

Interestingly, screenwriter Anthony Schaffer (Peter's brother) married Cilento in 1985...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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