The French Lieutenant’s Woman


(out of 5)

Two stories are woven into one in this intelligent adaptation of John Fowles’s novel, one about contemporary actors and the other the film that they are making. In the film-within-the-film, plays a well-to-do gentleman who becomes obsessed with a strange woman ( at her most ghostly) whom he spies standing at the end of a pier, waiting for her lover to return. He threatens his status as a gentleman, not to mention his relationship with his fiance, by becoming involved in this misunderstood woman’s life and her tragic plight. Switch back to modern day, where actress Streep is having an affair with co-star Irons but not being very forthcoming about her emotions or where she sees the relationship going. The classic story is really the one that this film hangs on, with the second tale being merely a conceptual frame, but both are acted impeccably by the leads and scripted with terrific dialogue by Harold Pinter. The sets and costumes are beautiful, the music score unforgettably haunting, but there is an element of passion missing.  Streep is divine in her first lead role but she was to get much better in the years to come, and her performance is sometimes a bit too perfect to the point of being a bit theatrical (and it’s never clear whether or not that’s Streep the actress or Streep the actress playing the actress that is responsible for this).

United Kingdom, 1981

Directed by

Screenplay by , based on the novel by

Cinematography by

Produced by

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

The Criterion Collection

Cast Tags:  , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Academy Award Nominations
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep as “Sara Woodruff/Anna”)
Best Art Direction (art direction: Assheton Gorton; set decoration: Ann Mollo)
Best Costume Design (Tom Rand)
Best Film Editing (John Bloom)
Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium) (Harold Pinter)

Golden Globe Award
Best Performance By An Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama (Meryl Streep)

Best Motion Picture-Drama
Best Screenplay (Harold Pinter)

Los Angeles Film Critics Award
Best Actress (Meryl Streep)

Best Cinematography (Freddie Francis)

British Academy Awards
Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
Best Sound
Anthony Asquith Award For Film Music

Best Film
Best Actor (Jeremy Irons)
Best Direction (Karel Reisz)
Best Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Production Design/Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Editing

Cesar Award Nomination
Best Foreign Film



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