13 November 2007 | reviewerinoimdbino
A scabrous "comedy" about the ugliness of human longing.
While there is delicate humor here, as in the movie's satire on the twee reassurances and stereotyping of an English soap opera's portrayal of homely English village life, this movie is in the end an unsettling portrait of the human condition, of the ugliness, the uncontrollable and incendiary nature of our sexual and emotional longings and need.
I spent years wanting to see this movie, if only because of its legendary nature and Coral Browne's presence in the cast, and it's nothing like what I imagined. Given the title and all the talk in books about scenes set in a dark and intense demimondaine world of lesbian bars, I pictured some sort of police procedural about lesbians being killed by a serial killer, a Sidney Sheldon-type story.
Ostensibly a portrait of an aging actress's dying career, the heart of the picture is the competition among the characters for love, for the ruthless quest for success and the money and companionship that go with it.
There is constant sado-masochistic emotional gamesmanship here, with characters playing roles that are alternately passive and active. One character pretends to be not much more than a slip of a girl and sits by and watches as others compete for her attentions.
The sex scene in the movie, while ugly in the extreme, is vital to the film's message. (I'm amazed that this aired, even late at night, on Turner Classic Movies, so that I, thankfully, got a chance to see the movie.) Coral Browne's face, stripped of its mask of demure self-possession, exposing the animal (the monster?) that we all are at the core of our being--that's something to see. And unsettling.
I'll never particularly care for Susannah York. She'll always strike me as a bit of an over-praised, over-successful relic of the 1960s, a kind of prissy relic, but what a film, even with some longeurs. And the towering--both literally and figuratively--Coral Browne: what a presence.