Friday, May 04, 2012

Blu-ray Review | "The Girl on a Motorcycle"

When one thinks of Jack Cardiff, one immediately thinks of his great works of cinematography on films such as The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus.  Few ever think of him as a director, although he had several directorial credits to his name.

For its inaugural release from its new Jezebel label (which specializes in erotic titles), Kino Lorber has chosen Cardiff's 1968 cult classic, The Girl on a Motorcycle to kick things off. Its an appropriate title to get things started (the film was known as Naked Under Leather for its American release), because unlike the films of Kino's Redemption label (the flagship of which is the erotic horror films of Jean Rollin), The Girl on a Motorcycle is mostly straight erotica, although it's pretty tame by today's standards.
Blu-ray capture courtesy of DVD Beaver.
Based on the novel, "La Motocyclette" by André Pieyre de Mandiargues, The Girl on a Motorcycle is a road movie of a different kind. In fact that's really all it is. Rebecca (Marianne Faithfull) is a nymphomaniac who sets out on a transcontinental journey across Europe to reunite with her lover, who provides her with far more excitement than her stuffy husband, a Swiss schoolteacher who is a constant object of ridicule for his young students. On her journey she looks back over the events that lead her to that moment, and the steamy affair that led to her love of motorcycles. The result is a wildly erotic and psychadelic head trip that ultimately leads nowhere, but fits right in with other such exploitation films of the era.

Cardiff photographed as well as shot the film, so it's filled with striking imagery and flashy colors (especially in its out of left field moments of acid-trip like insanity). Sadly the film itself leaves much to be desired. It is filled with long sequences of motorcycle driving where very little actually happens. Rebecca rambles on at length in her own mind, musing over events and narrating her actions with a kind of dreamy detachment. But for an exploitation film there is precious little sex. The exploitation elements seem to stem form the motorcycle itself, which represents the very image of 60s era rebellion.  It's almost a purely visual film without any real substance, even of the trashy kind one has come to expect of films of this kind. What makes it worth it is Cardiff's unmistakable visual sense (and a commentary track by Cardiff himself, which is a gem indeed). Fans of Cardiff's work may find The Girl on a Motorcycle to be an interesting, if hardly essential, facet of his career, but fans of exploitation cinema may find the film uneventful and ultimately rather bland.

GRADE - ★★ (out of four)

THE GIRL WITH A MOTORCYCLE | Directed by Jack Cardiff | Stars Alain Delon, Marianne Faithfull, Roger Mutton, Marius Goring, Jean Leduc | Rated R | Now available on blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

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