Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom, 1964. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, De Grunwald Productions. Screenplay by Terence Rattigan. Cinematography by Jack Hildyard. Produced by Anatole de Grunwald. Music by Riz Ortolani. Production Design by Pamela Cornell, John Jarvis. Costume Design by Anthony Mendleson. Film Editing by Frank Clarke. Golden Globe Awards 1965.
Anthony Asquith and Terence Rattigan team up to recreate the success of The V.I.P.s with another all-star affair, three stories of disappointed love linked by the titular vehicle. It begins in the 1930s, when the luxury car makes its way straight from the factory into the possession of aristocrat Rex Harrison, who buys it for his beloved wife (Jeanne Moreau) for their anniversary. They spend a day at the races where he looks forward to his prize horse winning the Gold Cup, but Moreau has plans to spend the afternoon in the back of her new car with his handsome assistant. The beautiful roadster is then back in the dealership window, this time on the Italian Riviera where new-money gangster George C. Scott buys it for his tacky moll (Shirley MacLaine) during a trip where she catches the eye of a handsome photographer (Alain Delon in ridiculous pancake makeup) and discovers true love. Years later, Europe is on the brink of a second World War and the car is rescued from the dust of a garage by a snobby American widow (Ingrid Bergman) who unwittingly gives a ride to a Yugoslavian freedom fighter (Omar Sharif) on her way to a meeting with the country’s new king in Belgrade. The whole thing is an excuse to spend money and splash it on screen, a ridiculous indulgence in location photography and costumed extras, with only the last story achieving any poignancy thanks to the genuine heat between Bergman and Sharif (the only chemistry that actually works), while its elevated political background gives it meaning and humour missing in the others. It’s a bloated affair but if you’re in the mood for this kind of champagne cinema, by all means be my guest; goodness knows it’s never been hard to fall in love with Ingrid Bergman, and ending it with her delightful (if uncreditable) transformation from flouncy indulgence to idealistic warrior certainly leaves a good taste.