Welsh novellist Tyvian Jones (Stanley Baker) has had his first big success with the film adaptation of his autobiographical coal mining tale, at the after party his Francesca reminds him how much she is hoping to be married soon. Returning home however, Tyvian finds that a couple have sheltered in his house to get away from a storm. Instantly he falls for Eva (Jeanne Moreau) who repells his advances. He discovers that she is a rather loose woman and like many before him, becomes obsessed with her, making it his mission to have her for himself no matter what the cost...
Based on a little known novel by British writer James Hadley Chase, Eva seems to have a pretty basic storyline of a man who has everything, wanting what he cannot have. However, a distinctly European twist leaves the film a world away from the social-realist "kitchen sink" dramas that were predominant in early 1960s English cinema, instead Eva boasts gentle, languorous pacing with a fine dose of surreality.
The languorous (or some might simply say slow) pacing comes from the film's curious narrative flow which skips over a lot of details that would typically be expected to provide the meat and bones for this sort of story. For instance, towards the start, after Tyvian has encounted Eva in his house in Venice, he then appears at her house in Rome. We do not see him track her down or travel to Rome - this is left for the audience to fill in. Later as well, we suddenly encounter Francesca and Tyvian's wedding with no detail at all of the preparations for this big day - we don't even find out how long has passed. There are no logical jumps in these gaps, but a viewer does have to pay close attention to keep up. What this leaves us with therefore is a number of lengthy encounters between Tyvian and Eva in which very little takes place. Since the story is framed as a flashback however, this does fit in well with the idea of a man recalling the events in his life but an audience hoping to see detailed characterisation or a plot with lots of twists and turns will certainly be disappointed.
What makes the film watchable then is Joseph Losey's direction. Again he proves himself a master of the monochrome picture and every frame looks like a page from a coffee table photobook, he also makes strong use of the Roman and Venician locations that prove this is not just a studio-bound production. A visual highlight is an eccentric nightclub act that is instantly remniscent of Jess Franco's work. A contemporary jazz soundtrack gives the film strong backing.
The role of Tyvian seems to be written specifically for Baker and it is perfect casting. A world away from his usual "tough as nails" criminals, soldiers or cops, he gets to show an emotional depth that he rarely got to express on the screen. His drunk acting is particularly strong and avoids the usual clichés. The two women as also strongly cast - art-house regular Jeanne Moreau expertly handles the disaffected and listless look of Eva, while Virna Lisi (looking incidentally, far more attractive as a brunette than she did as a blonde) has the soft and caring attitude but still the achingly good looks required for Francesca.
The Eva we see is a beautifully directed and well acted production, but with a storyline that doesn't go anywhere in particular. Sadly this theatrical cut of the film is a mere shadow of Joseph Losey's original, near 3-hour production, making it very hard to pass proper judgement on a version of the film that was put together by producers rather than the original filmmaker. Even major storyline elements like Eva's enigmatic past might just be the result of big chunks of storyline being cut out. Certainly of interest to fans of Losey and Baker, the Eva we have today can only stand as a tease of a better film.
|Anyone famous in it?||Stanley Baker - the hardened Welsh actor who came to fame with trucking adventure Hell Drivers (1957)
Jeanne Moreau - a French actress, best known for starring in Truffaut's romantic drama Jules et Jim (1962)
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Joseph Losey - American born, but forced out by the anti-communist witchhunts, he also directed Baker in crime picture Criminal (1960) and had an amazing trio of works with writer Harold Pinter including Accident (1967).|
|Any gore or violence ?||None|
|Any sex or nudity?||A couple of very fleeting topless shots.|
|Who is it for?||Fans of Joseph Losey and Stanley Baker will certainly want to see this, but more for what it could have been.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Black and White.
A generally strong print with good detail and only very minor damage.
|Audio||Original English mono - sounds fine and the music comes through well. Some occasional lines of dialogue in Italian and French - subtitled.|
|Subtitles||Optional English subs for the non-English sequences.|
|Extras||This disc includes:
|Region||Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL|
|Availability||Only available in the Optimum Joseph Losey Collection.|
|Other regions?||Released in the US by Kino video with a mediocre print for the theatrical cut, it did include a rare copy of a 119 minute version of the film (not the full original cut that the DVD case promises) but with a very low quality print.|
|Cuts?||The DVD is believed to be fully uncut as per the final theatrical print and runs for 104 minutes (at PAL speed). French language print.
The film was re-edited heavily by the producers and the original cut is now believed lost.