“It may be over between us, but it’s not finished.”
I find it immediately annoying that the first two listed stars of WOMEN in Love are Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. Women can’t even star in their own movie! But I stopped being annoyed almost immediately. I think this was Ken’s third theatrical feature after Billion Dollar Brain and the little-known French Dressing, and it’s intoxicating, successfully applying all his (and his actors’) stylistic excess to a period novel by D.H. Lawrence about doomed rich people.
Jackson taunts some cows:
Linden and Bates:
The doom begins early on, as all our main characters meet at the wedding of two vibrant young lovers who drown together soon afterwards. I think Oliver Reed (star of The Devils) was the bride’s brother, and Bates (The Go-Between, Dr. M) is his friend.
Also at the party: two sisters with great names (Gudrun and Ursula) and extravagant, attention-grabbing host Eleanor Bron (four years after Help!), who is dating major romantic Bates until he takes up with Ursula (Jennie Linden, lately of a Dr. Who movie), while his more intense, coal-mine manager buddy Reed goes with red-haired Gudrun (Glenda Jackson of Hopscotch, later an anti-Thatcher member of parliament who ran twice for mayor of London)
Thinking ’bout Eleanor Bron:
Bates and Ursula get married and take a ski trip with the others. Reed is jealous and old-fashioned, disapproves of Gudrun’s friendship with a local sculptor, finally nearly strangles her then tromps off into the snow to freeze to death.
The title made me think there’d be a lesbian story but instead we get Bates and Reed wrestling completely nude by the fire, and the ending implies that the great love story of the film was Bates and Reed’s friendship.
This movie got heaps of award nominations including 11 from the Baftas (but Midnight Cowboy and Oh! What a Lovely War cleaned up) and 4 from the Oscars, with Glenda Jackson winning most of them, and made Russell’s reputation in Britain. Wikipedia says the book was a sequel (the sisters appeared in earlier novel The Rainbow) and Bates’s character may have been Lawrence’s stand-in.