Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Driver's Seat
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VINE VOICEon September 2, 2009
"It takes one day to dye, another to be born..." Elizabeth Taylor reportedly said those words to her director Griffi when she came on the set the day after she left Burton for their first divorce. So with that mindset she went to work on one of her most unusual, daring and controversial films. From the moment "The Diver's Seat" begins you know you are in a strange place. In Europe the movie was called "Idendikit" so, with two names tagged to it thus making it schizophrenic from the first it easily falls into the realm of the ambiguous art film genre of the late 60's and early 70's.
It's star, Elizabeth Taylor, appears here in one of her most remote and dangerous roles. She plays Lise a woman who is consumed by insanity and the desire to find the ultimate lover, the be all and end all of boyfriends you might say.
As the film opens you are presented with a shattered view of a woman on the edge of something terrible. The camera moves past bald mannequins in a disjointed way. Is this Lise's view of others or is it a reflection of her ultimate fate? Upon being told to take a holiday from work after causing a scene in the office the film opens with her preparations to take flight to Rome. The film jump cuts from past to present as the police in Rome try to reconstruct her final fatal holiday in terrorist gripped Rome. Even Rome comes off as off kilter. This is not the Rome of Audrey Hepburn or Marcello Mastroianni but a city one hardly recognizes from the lack of typical filming locations one associates with "Made In Rome!" movies.
Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi succeeds in presenting a uniquely Italian cinema verite film of the Muriel Spark novel. This is a unique film and very much of it's day. Its non-linear, experimental, almost documentary style will be hard to get into for any one not used to movies of this sort. But it is well worth the effort. So strange and challenging a film it is that it left the opening night audience at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival in stunned silence.
The cast is well chosen and gives some oddly memorable performances. Ian Bannan as the macrobiotic sex-nut who tires to pick up Lise on the plane to Rome seems almost as mad as she is. It is a wickedly off kilter wild-eyed performance. The charming and always wonderful Mona Washbourne is sweetly touching as the woman who befriends the mad Lise and in doing so leads her to meet the man of her dreams.
But the glue that holds it all together is provided by Miss Taylor who tops off her short list of insane characters from Susanna Drake to Catherine Holly with this daring and shocking portrait of Lise. She opens up as an actress that at the time would have been unthinkable to most of her contemporaries from the old M.G.M. days. That's one of the wonderful things about her film career. She came from an era in old Hollywood where she was trained and groomed to be glossy and perfect. But as times changed so did she and in doing so became much more than an MGM glamour girl, she became an actress with guts. In "The Driver's Seat" she shows her chops as an actress and her willingness to accept challenges in her roles and in Lise she found a great one. One stunning image of her is when in her loud madwoman dress and raccoon painted eyes she challenges the airport security to frisk her. In that scene she seems totally there, totally gone, and totally in control as an actress.
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on February 22, 2010
Of course few would really appreciate this film. It's too BRILLIANT. It's too much ART. Not bland enough for the average film viewer. Elizabeth Taylor is a freaking genius. You cannot believe it's HER in this film. She plays the most mentally disturbed woman with such genius. There is a scene where she checks herself out in a mirror, one of my favorite scenes just because it was done so deftly and perfectly. No one else could act as brilliantly as Elizabeth does in this entire bizarre film. You have to be CONSCIOUS of the fact that Elizabeth is ACTING to really appreciate the job she does here. All the mannerisms, the look in her eyes, her facial expressions...I don't know how she managed to look and act so insane without over-acting as most other actors would have done. The fact she did not over-act it, the fact she did such a strange job of it shows her immense talent. There will never be another Elizabeth Taylor. Her best films are mentioned the LEAST often...if I ever hear another mention "Father Of The Bride" again I will throw up. And that's what you will get after Elizabeth passes away...nothing but tributes that mention all the same films over and over.... but if you want her at her most brilliant, see THIS film, and see "Night Watch", and she was lovely in "Boom" , she was fascinating in "Secret Ceremony" {and the ending of that movie was excellent,as a creep played by Robert Mitchum got what he deserved}. This film is disturbing but SO WHAT, its one of the most amazing jobs of acting I have ever seen, or will ever see. Its so underrated I could scream. Just look at Elizabeth's face on the cover ! She NAILED IT.
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In Euro-made THE DRIVER'S SEAT, Elizabeth Taylor plays an unmarried woman on a quest for her own private Kevorkian. Oddball Andy Warhol cameos here as an oddball Lord/diplomat.

SYNOPSIS--
The highly neurotic Lise (Taylor) arrives in Rome on a mandatory vacation and seeks out in the city's seamier districts a mate willing to love her and leave her... DEAD. Lise desires to be ceremoniously bound and then murdered with a knife. From appearances alone this woman is clearly unbalanced: smeared mascara, a max-tacky wardrobe and wild behavior are an attempt to stand out from the crowd as well as her desperate cry for help.

Macabre atmosphere captured through skilled cinematography, sets and lighting amply give a sense of the insanity that haunt's Lise's conscience. The obvious semi-deranged self-absorption of this character is wonderfully conveyed by Liz in one of her least remembered yet most-difficult roles.

If you're seeking typical popcorn fare you'd do best to try elsewhere, but if a logic-challenging movie with an offbeat performance by one of Hollywood's greats is your goal, then look no further-- cuz you've found it!

Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 viewer poll rating found at a film resource website.

(5.5) The Driver's Seat (Italy-1974) - Elizabeth Taylor/Ian Bannen/Guido Mannari/Mona Washbourne/Luigi Squarzina/Andy Warhol
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on March 15, 2011
This movie absolutely made my jaw drop to the floor. This is a Liz Taylor that really freaked me out. It's one of those artistic movies that makes you want to stop the DVD because of not knowing what the heck is going on, and yet, you just can't stop looking. You get deeper and deeper into it and it takes you to total exhaustion as you study the world of a mentally challenged woman. The ending is brutal and shocking and is not for the squeamish. When the movie was over, I applauded Ms. Taylor for challenging herself in this very morbid and unconventional movie.
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on September 25, 2010
For those who were spellbound by Liz`s glamour in other films, you probably will be disappointed in this one, not that she still isn`t beautiful. A friend of mine once said it was a low point in her career, I thoroughly disagree. I like mystery and horror, so I was delighted in this off beat psychological story. In my opinion Liz did herself proud in doing a totally different film. By the way this film is available on budget DVDs with good picture quality; glad they let this one slip by.
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on January 12, 2011
This movie is very disturbing. I don't think I grasped the whole concept of what it was Lise was seeking so avidly, until the very end. Elizabeth is brilliant in her portrayal of the unstable and self-consumed Lise. Her mask of insanity is so subtle that you may miss it if you aren't watching closely. There seems to be a quiet madness brewing perpetually underneath that boring facade. For all purposes, Lise seems like your typical normal next door neighbor until you look closely at her eyes and take in her unimpressive wardrobe. And then there are her explosive tirades. The fact that she is looking for an all consuming love without the sexual aspect is a dead-on of how unbalanced she is.

Ian Bannen's portrayal as a sex-starved man who keeps trying to pick Lise up makes him appear as unstabled as she is. The film left me with a strange sense of distrust and wariness attributable to the bizzare, dark content and the outcome of Lise's illogical and sick desire.

If you're looking for a movie that's not your run-of-the-mill; one that challenges your thinking, get this one.
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on April 24, 2015
Don't want to give the story away, but I kind of can't believe someone came up with this plot. It is a creepy story. I was in disbelief at the end. Not sorry I watched it- entertaining if you're looking for something weird. You'll need a shower afterward though.
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on March 19, 2016
There was a time in recent history when Elizabeth Taylor was considered the ultimate movie star. Talented, scandalous and ravishingly beautiful, Taylor made a number of fine films during her storied career, culminating in her Oscar-winning performance as in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”? It’s hard to know whether the studios stopped providing acceptable scripts for a maturing actress or if she simply wanted to branch out into artier, edgier material more commonly found in European cinema. Whatever the case, Elizabeth Taylor, from the late 1960’s to the mid-70’s, found herself headlining a series of eye-popping oddities and overwrought psychodramas, none of which were stranger than Italian director, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s 1974 head-scratcher, “The Driver’s Seat”. Based on Muriel Spark’s novella of the same name, “The Driver’s Seat” is a wildly bizarre concoction that presents Taylor, in psychedelically gaudy attire and hair styled in a wind tunnel, as she drifts from one implausible encounter to the next as she searches for a man who is “her type” (which is code for a man deranged enough to agree to kill her). The main character, Lise, lives in a northern European city and has had enough of life; angry and combative, she’s exhaustively disagreeable and immeasurably sad. She has a vaguely defined job and lives in a building run by a landlady who scorns her. Hopping on a plane to warmer climes, Lise winds up in what is, possibly, Rome, or maybe Naples. It’s hard to discern because there are no clear landmarks; with all that beauty and history abounding in the region, director Griffi doesn’t bother to expound on the surroundings much, preferring to keep his camera trained on Lise and her rapidly shrinking view of the world as she marches resolutely forward on her desperate journey towards death. This isn’t the first film where a main character has presented a morbid obsession with his/her own violent death, although I can’t remember one so drenched in eroticism. At least, that seems like the idea Griffi was trying to get across in the film, and yet the film isn’t erotic whatsoever. With Taylor’s combative Lise constantly finding herself on the verge of getting arrested, raped, kidnapped, blown apart by a bomb, and nearly raped again, it’s like watching a train wreck in the making, thereby obliterating any erotic punch the director may have intended. (The film also jumps back and forth in time, apparently discombobulating some viewers. I don’t really understand this because certain TV drama’s—“How To Get Away With Murder” immediately comes to mind—do this regularly and no one seems to mind).

Lise, herself, has been characterized as an anti-heroine and, as played by Taylor, it’s an apt description. Glamorous and beautifully mad, Lise is such an angry, abrasive personality that you want to detest her, yet Taylor imbues her with such humanity that you also hope she’ll somehow pull herself together and give up on her insane and grandiose plan. Along the way, she meets (among others) a spookily grinning Englishman (Ian Bannen) who is on a macrobiotic diet and must orgasm every day without fail; an elderly female traveler (Mona Washbourne) who (very intuitively) wants to introduce Lise to her nephew (Guido Mannari); a savior who turns into an abductor (Maxence Mailfort); and Andy Warhol (as an English lord!). Yet, despite an interesting and eclectic cast, the movie clearly belongs to Taylor; you simply can’t take your eyes off her. She’s loud and often obnoxious, bitter but also bitterly funny, yet with Taylor playing her, Lise, for the most part, maintains a certain elegance and class that only disappears in the film’s final moments when she finally believes she’s found “her type” and demands that he “Kill me! KILL ME!!!” Her loud, rough voice reminded me, incongruously, of a scene in the hilarious Meryl Streep/Goldie Hawn comedy, “Death Becomes Her”, when their characters were shouting much the same dialogue. Once that flashed into my mind, the entire spell “The Driver’s Seat” had cast over me suddenly dissipated, and I realized how much better this project could have been in the hands of a capable director.

What did strike me about this film is how much the events surrounding the characters remind me of those in our own present day. Terrorist bombings, heightened airport security, the building anxiety and underlying sense of danger, all are perfectly highlighted in this movie as being a part of the European landscape circa 1974 (and yet not in the U.S. until 30 years later). Lise’s own mental anguish and fragmentation could also be viewed as a mirror of societal dismemberment, both then and now, although that might be giving the film more gravitas than it deserves.

The Cheezy Flicks DVD is absolutely terrible, obviously taken from an old print complete with dirt, scratches, overlighting, the works, and it’s unlikely that this interesting failure of a film will ever be restored. However, for the low price listed on amazon, it’s worth checking out.
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on September 18, 2013
Elizabeth Taylor took a chance by doing this film, an exploration of the female psyche. Spark's novel, from which the film is adapted, is a satire, like most of her works. The object of her farce, is a woman who is desired by men, men who find their need to be paramount to the needs of the female. Elizabeth Taylor, as with many Cinema stars knows full well the objectification of her image, with her exquisite face and desirable body. She knows it is her selling point, but also that it relegates her as a subservient person. Miss Taylor explores this persona in her role here, in the role of this 'possessed' woman. The film did not do well in the US at the time of it's release, which may have to do with the startling subject matter, as well as Taylor stepping off the pedestal as the Goddess we want her to be. The film is unfortunately distributed by a company called Cheezy Flicks, which advertises the product with a campy flair. The movie demonstrates that it is a product of its time, but it also may be a farce for the ages. It certainly raises my estimation of Elizabeth Taylor as an artist, far above the Hollywood fabrication.
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on April 7, 2014
This screenplay is so convoluted that it falls on its face trying to be enigmatic and "artsy". Awful film. Beautiful Taylor. Her performance is wonderful, however, Taylor is a diamond in this toilet of a film: wasted.
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