Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Buttercup Chain

I watched a rather forgotten old movie today, The Buttercup Chain, starring two favourites of mine Jane Asher and Hywel Bennett alongside Leigh Taylor-Young and Sven Bertil Taube.

It's a beautiful cast isn't it?

The film itself (from 1970) is a bit of a curio. A soap opera detailing the lives of four middle class bright young things and their bohemian lifestyle as they swan around from London, Spain, Rome and Sweden forging an inevitable incestuous love quadrangle. 

Hywel and Jane plays France and Margaret, cousins who have been inseparable since birth. They're clearly deeply attracted to one another yet refuse to face up to that truth. When Margaret returns from her schooling, France decides that she must take a lover (perhaps to distract his own feelings towards her) and immediately stumble upon Swedish student Fred (Sven-Bertil Taube) who declares his undying love for her. Next France must find a lover for himself and, equally straightforward, Manny (Taylor-Young) comes along.

Then Manny starts to have feelings for Fred, and before you know it, Manny's pregnant (the father is inconclusive; it could be France, it could be Fred, it could even be George, Manny's kind hearted successful businessman lover played by Clive Revill, whose driver is played by a young Michael Elphick) and she and Fred marry. 

There are no recriminations however, this foursome are so close, entwined and to steal a quote from Keith Richards 'not concerned with your petty morals' that falling out would be simply too trivial. This is the free love era after all, or rather the fag (joint?) end of it. 

Leigh and Jane playing at being twins with director Robert Ellis Miller

The Buttercup Chain would be quite insufferable were it not for its capable and talented cast who imbibe it with a real flair and seriousness that perhaps it doesn't always deserve. There's something of the Britt Ekland about Leigh Taylor-Young, an actress I am ashamed to admit I know little of. She deserved bigger film roles. Sven-Bertil Taube struggles a little with the more carefree aspects of his role yet totally nails the more dramatic requirements that come later in the film, a huge turn in the last half hour that totally grips. Bennett is the same Bennett he had been and will continue to be in the films he co starred alongside Hayley Mills; handsome (though he doesn't suit the dark hair and facial fuzz he's forced to wear here) aloof, jovial but with a dangerous air about him, there's always something hard to pin down about the best of Bennett's characters, a sense of an undercurrent beneath the smooth silky facade. And then of course there is the beautiful Jane Asher. It's not Jane's best role (that would be Deep End) but there's a fragility and empathy here that is a delight for the viewer, even though sometimes you do want to shake her and get her to face up to what's going on around her.

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