Upon first viewing, some of the dialogue may seem cheesy (such as when the unnamed farmer character says to Rochelle, “Here, stand by the fire. Take off those wet clothes, you’ll catch cold”, and she replies “Oh, my hand’s so cold, I can barely get these buttons open”), but closer analysis reveals that the cheese is in fact the liberating kind; the kind of cheese a short bald man might want to bite into as though it were an apple.
The performances are all top-notch, particularly Frances Bay, who’s hauntingly brilliant in the title role. The farmer is played by an actor I didn’t recognise, but whose voice sounded almost like Larry David. Look for Eduardo Corrochio and Art Vandelay in small roles as two of Rochelle’s conquests.
There is a legitimate debate to be had as to whether the constant female nudity is gratuitous. For me, it was so central to the dialectic nihilism underpinning the narrative that it was neither gratuitous nor excessive in the least. It helps, of course, that Bay is so pleasing to the eye.
I’ve listed the director as Terrence Malick, though I should acknowledge this is an unconfirmed rumour. Bizarrely, the film has no director credit; could this be the ‘missing film’ in Malick’s career, made at some point in his 20-year hiatus between 1978’s Days of Heaven and 1998’s The Thin Red Line? I think we all know the answer to that question.
I really can’t recommend this film highly enough. Unfortunately, readers of this review may have trouble tracking down a copy; it still hasn’t received the DVD or Blu-ray releases it so richly deserves. Please join me in lobbying for a Criterion Collection release!