Friday, March 02, 2012

The Girl on a Motorcycle: Take Two

Jack Cardiff's The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) / La motocyclette (aka Naked Under Leather), based on André Pieyre de Mandiargues' short 1963 novel La Motocyclette, delves into psychology and philosophy partly through the professor (play by Alain Delon) and partly through Rebecca (played by Marianne Faithfull). The two characters meet at Rebecca's father's bookshop, where the professor seeks, among other things, the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1782). In addition to Swedenborg, he finds Rebecca.

While Rebecca subsequently rides her motorcycle from husband (a high school teacher) to paramour (the professor), she passes by a large World War One cemetery, and later a convoy of troops. At those points, she muses on blind acceptance of received authority, and the violent deaths of a million men now buried in the cemetery.   

At other points, both Rebecca and the professor wonder about the nature of love and the nature of marriage. Some of their musings consider marriage as mostly a form of "protection" or stability in the unstable greater world. Enter Swedenborg's Wisdom's Delight in Marriage ("Conjugial") Love: Followed by Insanity’s Pleasure in Promiscuous Love (1768, 1949). Sample: "That with man marriage love is within the love of the sex, as a gem in its matrix." Or so sayeth the dude. 

Note: This promotional should read MARIANNE FAITHFULL, not MARIANNE FAITHFUL.  Possibly a Freudian slip, more likely a typo.

In any case, Rebecca is torn between the protection of marriage, which she also projects as stultifying and routine, and the freedom to engage in "free love," but also wonders about the effects of both stability and instability on her identity as a person. Her free love is not free, but rather comes at a cost; while marriage also comes at a cost of freedom curtailed. It's no wonder that, while considering her internal imbroglio, Rebecca's most coherent thought may be: "God, I must have a drink." And she does, in a bar in Alsace, a region fought over for centuries between speakers of different tongues.

Today's Rune: Protection.   

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