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The French Lieutenant’s Woman

August 30, 2010

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
Director: Karel Reisz
Actors: Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Lynsey Baxter

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Synopsis: The love-lives of an actor/actress (Jeremy Irons/Meryl Streep) on-screen and off-screen.

Review: Having become increasingly familiar with Lyme Regis due to my aunt and uncle moving to the town a few years back, I decided to revisit the most recognisable cinematic document of Lyme, Karel Reisz’s 1981 adaptation of John Fowles’ seminal novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Unquestionably, its postmodernist slant of a Victorian story of an eminent paleontologist falling ‘under the spell’ of a mysterious local woman framed by the real-life romantic travails of the two actors playing those parts, cannot help but seem more than a tad meek and outdated in today’s more brazen intertextual cinematic landscape. The Victorian segment is played very archly to thematise the notion of thwarted romanticism which echoes into the present-day situation, but this Victorian section plays neither as pastiche nor more serious drama, hence its sole existence as a literary construct to shade the more meaningful present day section makes it somewhat of a dramatic and spectatorial ‘lame duck’.  (May 2008)

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