Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Romance of a Horsethief (1971)

Romance of a Horsethief is an uninvolving and largely forgotten feature from one time blacklisted writer and director Abraham Polonsky, a man whose career never really reached it's full potential thanks firstly to McCarthy's paranoia and later because of an enforced retirement from directing on medical grounds.

A light and insubstantial take on Polish Jewish peasants - including Eli Wallach in their number adopting his usual comic bandit acting and the lusty busty beauty Lainie Kazan - who make their boisterous living stealing, smuggling and trading horses, suddenly finding their livelihood threatened when placed under the Cossack rule of Yul Brynner who orders all horses to be requisitioned for Russia's war with Japan.  

Into this tale steps the beautiful Jane Birkin as a prodigal daughter newly returned from Paris with her weedy bourgeois husband played by then real life partner Serge Gainsbourg (who else?) and socialist ideas that she hopes to spread among the villagers, whipping them into action against their oppressors. 

British actor and face of the 70s Oliver Tobias, making his film debut, plays an honest and handsome village boy who falls for Birkin. It's certainly true to say his acting at least improved in later years because, whilst he would never reach Olivier standard, he is truly terrible here.

Inconsequential and just not funny - surely a failing for anything purporting to be a comedy? - this is one for ardent Jane and Serge fans only, even if their roles are ultimately quite one dimensional and slight.

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