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The French Lieutenant's Woman


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Editorial Reviews

OscarÂ(r) winners* Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons star as two separate pairs of lovers in this "jarring, engaging [and] beautifully visualized" film (Leonard Maltin). Embraced by audiences andcritics alikeand garnering five 1981 Academy AwardÂ(r) nominations**, including Best Actress (Streep)The French Lieutenant's Woman will forever remain one of the most literate, imaginative and stunning love stories ever to grace the screen. As Mike and Anna, two film actors involved in a tumultuous affair, and Charles and Sarah, the star-crossed Victorian lovers whomthe actors portray, Streep and Irons are at their compelling best. Just as his character Charles' reputation is ruined by the enigmatic Sarah, Mike finds he cannot accept the intangible affections ofthe wiley Anna. The skillful interweaving of these two love storiesone period, one contemporaryyields a fascinating insight into the passion and mystery that can pull two people together...and just as easily tear them apart. *Streep: Actress, Sophie's Choice (1982); SupportingActress, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)/Irons: Actor, Reversal of Fortune (1990) **Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing

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Product Details

  • Actors: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae, Emily Morgan, Charlotte Mitchell
  • Directors: Karel Reisz
  • Writers: Karel Reisz, Harold Pinter, John Fowles
  • Producers: Geoffrey Helman, Leon Clore, Tom Maschler
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: September 4, 2001
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005LOKU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,025 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The French Lieutenant's Woman" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep are great actors.
katygene
The film tells the interwoven love stories of two actors and the characters they are portraying in a film.
Andrew Ellington
There is so much going on in this movie, a lot of it beneath the obvious surface.
Rashchupkina

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 13, 2004
Format: DVD
Harold Pinter's screenplay of John Fowles's novel, combined with Karel Reisz's direction, creates a stunning vehicle for Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons as they bring an enigmatic 19th century love story to life. But this film is actually two love stories. Streep and Irons also play contemporary actors making a film of the 19th century love story, and their relationship clearly parallels the story they are filming. Sarah Woodruff (Streep), known as "the French Lieutenant's woman," is an outcast in mid-19th century Lyme Regis, where she lives, because she has broken the taboos of society. Needing work to stay alive, she must accept the stultifying strictures of Victorian society and work as a governess or lady's companion, or become a prostitute, the only other option open for a woman without an inheritance or family.

Charles Smithson (Jeremy Irons), an amateur geologist and Darwinian in the early story, is the rather stuffy fiancé of Ernestina Freeman (Lynsey Baxter). Smithson becomes the only person offering to help Sarah when, concerned for her safety, he follows her out onto a slippery quay during a storm. Despite his engagement and the fact that Sarah keeps herself a mystery, he is increasingly drawn to her and wants to know her story. Meanwhile, Mike the actor (Irons) and Anna the actress (Streep) playing these parts in the film, are having an affair, each ignoring their marital obligations in their attempt to find excitement.

The cinematography (Freddie Francis) emphasizes the lush countryside, the untamed sea, and the seaside community, with its ancient buildings. Several dark interior scenes of second-rate hotels add emphasis to the precarious position of someone like Sarah who has loved too well and lost.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on January 12, 2002
Format: DVD
It's a real shame that so few people have seen this film. It is a hidden treasure. Streep and Irons play present-day actors who are making a film about two people having an affair in Victorian England. The actors themselves are also involved in an affair, making the story a sort of movie-within-a-movie. I have not read the Fowles novel, so I don't have any of the gripes that other reviewers have voiced. I can only tell you that the story, the performances, the settings, the cinematography and the writing are all first-rate. All connected with this film obviously took a lot of time and effort to make a visually stunning film. It still looks great 20 years after its release, and looks even better on DVD (despite the fact that the disc offers no extras except the theatrical trailer...oh well...). Even if you end up hating the story, I don't think anyone would complain about the superior performances by Irons and Streep.
Possibly the reason this film has been largely forgotten is the timing. This film was released in 1981, a year or two before Streep's blow-you-away performance in 'Sophie's Choice.' That performance was so spectacular that many have forgotten just how good 'French Lt.' is. If you want to see one of the finest actresses of our time, Meryl Streep in 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' is a performance you will not want to miss.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Themis-Athena on March 3, 2004
Format: DVD
"Outside of marriage, your Victorian gentleman could look forward to 2.4 f*cks a week," Mike (Jeremy Irons) coolly calculates after Anna (Meryl Streep) has read to him the statistics according to which, while London's male population in 1857 was 1 1/4 million, the city's estimated 80,000 prostitutes were receiving a total of 2 million clients per week. And frequently, Anna adds, the women thus forced to earn their living came from respectable positions like that of a governess, simply having fallen into bad luck, e.g. by being discharged after a dispute with their employer and their resulting inability to find another position.

This brief dialogue towards the beginning of this movie based on John Fowles's 1969 novel succinctly illustrates both the fate that would most likely have been in store for title character Sarah (Meryl Streep in her "movie within the movie" role), had she left provincial Lyme Regis on Dorset's Channel coast and gone to London, and the Victorian society's moral duplicity: For while no virtues were regarded as highly as honor, chastity and integrity; while no woman intent on keeping her good name could even be seen talking to a man alone (let alone go beyond that); and while marriage - like any contract - was considered sacrosanct, rendering the partner who deigned to breach it an immediate social outcast, all these rules were suspended with regard to prostitutes; women who, for whatever reasons, had sunk so low they were regarded as nonpersons and thus, inherently unable to stain anybody's reputation but their own.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jinx on December 4, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Most of John Fowles' novels, including TFLW, tease us by unexpectedly revealing and obscuring the line between the world in the book and a wider world in which we are reading the book, throwing us off balance, reminding us that we have traveled into the author's invented reality, inviting us to question our own reality. Characters in his books are puzzled, then believe they have figured it out, and then are thrown again into confusion. TFLW also was full of modern-perspective commentary about the Victorian world by an omniscient narrator, another device to pull us back and forth across the reality line. How to convey in a movie this uneasy element in the story, and still immerse us in the vivid passionate immediacy of the dangerous and irresistable love affair? Pinter's invention of the filmmakers and the parallel forbidden love affair between the actors seems to me perfect.

Another perspective on book vs. film: I'd found several of Fowles' books fascinating, especially The Magus, and should have liked TFLW because of its Victorian setting, a particular interest of mine. Yet I found the book impenetrable, just could not get involved with it - until I saw the film. When I picked up the book again, I could not put it down; the visual images of the film-telling made the literary telling alive and irresistable for me. ...Not my usual experience of book vs. film.
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