Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Films of Michael Caine #8: Woman Times Seven

In the hope of getting some work done today, here's another extract from Starring Michael Caine - and this one's quite the oddity.


Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Paulette, Maria Teresa, Linda, Edith, Eve, Marie and Jeanne), Alan Arkin (Fred), Rossano Brazzi (Giorgio), Michael Caine (Young Man), Vittorio Gassman (Cenci), Peter Sellers (Jean), Anita Ekberg (Claudie), Elsa Martinelli (Pretty Woman), Lex Barker (Rik), Robert Morley (Dr Xavier).
Crew: Vittorio De Sica (director), Arthur Cohn (producer), Cesare Zavattini (writer), Riz Ortolani (music), Christian Matras (cinematography), Teddy Darvas and Victoria Spiri-Mercanton (editors), Bernard Evein (art direction).

Synopsis: The film is compromised of seven vignettes. In Funeral Procession, a grieving widow is wooed by her dead husband’s lawyer. Amateur Night sees an angry wife contemplate prostitution after catching her husband in adultery. Two Against One has two men competing for a disaffected woman’s attention. Super Simone finds a quiet wife making increasingly bizarre attempts to catch the eye of her preoccupied husband, until he concludes she is going insane. A fight for an exclusive gown turns murderous in At the Opera. Two lovers contemplate killing themselves in Suicide but both change their mind. Lastly, a handsome stranger follows two women across Paris in Snow. Jeanne and Claudie decide to split up, so they can discover which of them their stalker is pursuing. He follows Jeanne, the meeker woman who has never found a man with whom she felt it was worth having an affair. The stranger follows her home in the snow and lingers outside for a while. Jeanne’s husband Victor gets a phone call telling him what she has been doing all day. Victor is relieved to hear she is not having an affair and thanks the private detective. The handsome stranger leaves a nearby phone booth, having completed his job – he was being paid to follow Jeanne by her husband. She watches the stranger walk away, intrigued by him…

Italian director Vittorio De Sica was best known for his classic 1948 picture Bicycle Thieves (called The Bicycle Thief in the US), which won a special Oscar in the era before the academy had a regular award for best foreign language film. By the mid-1960s American actress Shirley MacLaine was a star in Hollywood, able to wield considerable power. She had chosen Caine as her leading man in Gambit (1966). For her next project MacLaine decided to collaborate with the acclaimed Italian director on a film made up of seven vignettes, each starring the actress as a different woman.

MacLaine called in favours from friends she had made in the business, persuading several significant actors to appear in Woman Times Seven for a fraction of their normal fee. Caine was among those who grabbed the opportunity of working with De Sica. Having just finished filming on Billion Dollar Brain (1967), Caine travelled to Paris for his wordless appearance as a private investigator stalking MacLaine in the final vignette, Snow. His part in the 12-minute sequence was shot on the city streets, with De Sica using a hidden camera to capture footage without alerting the public.

Woman Times Seven was released in the US during June 1967 but did not reach British cinemas for a year, when it was rated X. Critics were underwhelmed by the picture, considering it a minor work by all involved. The movie was released on video in 1986, reclassified 15 in the UK. This has since been deleted and no DVD version is available.

Reviews: ‘Most of the blame … must fall on De Sica, who has wasted such talented actors as Arkin, Sellers, Michael Caine … in a ponderously directed, flaccid work.’ – Time
‘Some funny moments, some perceptive comments, but what that cast and director, it should have been much better.’ – Leonard Maltin

Verdict: Woman Times Seven is a vanity project for MacLaine, showcasing her comedic talents. The vignettes are slight and most outstay their welcome, underlining how dated the style and social commentary are in each. The highlights are a wry opening sketch with Peter Sellers and the suicidal couple played by MacLaine and Arkin in the penultimate piece. Caine’s appearance is well handled but could have been played by any one of a thousand actors. This film is strictly for the most dedicated of Caine completists.

1 comment:

jock said...

another killert poster... cheers for digging these out david.