Is free love like speeding intoxicated through Europe on a motorcycle? So it seems to be for Marianne Faithful's character in 1968's The Girl on a Motorcycle, a visually nice but ham fisted and misogynist film.
Directed by the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff, the film is certainly not short on great compositions, one of my favourites being this one of Faithful approaching a petrol station through early morning fog:
Bright and carefully coordinated diffuse light familiar from the films Cardiff shot for other directors are recognisable in this film. Featuring the mad ride of one woman through Sweden, France, and Germany, the film also has some great location footage from Europe in the 60s.
Though Faithful's stunt double is a bit obvious even in shots from a great distance:
The story begins with a not terribly subtle dream sequence involving a circus where Rebecca's (Faithful) husband Raymond (Roger Mutton) is playing the cello while Rebecca's lover, Daniel (Alain Delon), rides circles around him on a motorcycle.
So Rebecca wakes up, walks out of bed naked, puts on only her leather riding suit, and decides to drive across three countries to reunite with Daniel. Along the way, we hear her internal monologue where she talks about how soldiers she sees look too serious, wishes Raymond would be more forceful with her, and thinks about how wonderful it feels to be riding the motorcycle wearing only the suit.
She orders drinks and petrol without being concerned that she didn't bring money and generally comes off as a bit of an asshole. In flashbacks we see how Daniel sneaked into her room during her honeymoon with Raymond (they had separate rooms for some reason) and raped her and afterwards Rebecca asserted it was the happiest day of her life. We see how her father (Marius Goring) took a firm hand with her, forbidding that she accept the motorcycle anonymously given to her as a wedding present, so Rebecca resents Raymond for saying she can keep it if she wants to. Meanwhile, we see Daniel, a professor, giving a lecture on the value of the emerging free love culture. It's not hard to see the message here.
It's a shame because Marianne Faithful gives a good performance and so does Alain Delon though he doesn't have as much screen time. Cardiff, however much the screenplay he co-wrote seems to hate Rebecca, also certainly seems to love Faithful with the camera.
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