Secret Ceremony (1968)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
The DVD-copy of the film I recently purchased, has excellent colour and image quality, which gave justice to Loseys very detailed work with the environment and sceneries. The claustrophobic but yet shielding Victorian house is a secret hideaway for the women who have been deeply hit by tragic events. In their recluse they can revive and live out the relationship they have been deprived of in reality. I don't find their relationship necessarily lesbian, although it is hinted that there are tendencies of sexual role playing of the two (escepically when the "man" arrives in the form of a poignantly seedy and sexually beastly Mitchum). Mia Farrows Cenci is a seductive tease in spite of her absurd black long hair and pale white face. Liz Taylors Leonora is a washed-up prostitute, and I agree with some reviewers that it is a shock to see Liz so plump and bloated, she is actually fatter than in Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolf. But I disagree with for instance Ralph Benner that Liz doesn't convey the role of Leonara convincingly, actually she does a good job in spite of her diffuse accents (Liz penchant for using different accents is a long story probably stemming from the fact that she's been raised in England until eight years old, and often sways from British to American accents in an unpredictable fashion). and when the interaction with Mia Farrow starts, they are both heavenly to watch.
And let's not forget the two kleptomaniac sister-in-laws, vultures of the worst sort and a direct menace to the secret ceremonies of Leonara and Cenci. Pamela Brown and Peggy Ashcroft are deliver two scary old spinsters with no shame.
What is the story all about then; we cope with our tragedies and losses differently, some even drown in the process, some survive but as the other mouse left in the milk bowl, standing on a pile of butter - lonely.
To sum up, a true Gothic feast, mystic, beautiful photography, Hollywood legends and British professionals giving very good performances, haunting scores, and beneath the surface a dark absurd humor.
The plot is a psychological inversion of the classic haunted house story -- Liz and Mia take shelter from an outside world that threatens their relationship. And that relationship is, to put it mildly, weird. Mia lures Liz into her huge, empty home because she resembles her late mother. Liz indulges Mia's fantasy because as a homeless prostitute she's in need of shelter, plus, she lost a daughter who looked a lot like Mia. This arrangement could be sweet to the point of treacly if these two grown women didn't enjoy doing things like bathing together and discussing ex-lovers. And Mia has a particularly repulsive ex-lover in Mitchum, her former stepfather who started molesting the girl in her early teens. Though the experience clearly ripped Mia to shreds, the creep still has some power over her and the film becomes a battle of wills between Taylor and Mitchum. Along the way there's a fake pregnancy, a nightmarish seaside holiday and a visit to Mia's two horrid old-maid aunts. The movie isn't particularly pleasant or coherent, but it does pull off the impressive feat of telling its story the way its characters are experiencing it, and that's pretty damn disturbing when you're dealing with a bunch of warped people. See it, then watch a romantic comedy or something so you're able to sleep that night.
Admittedly, "Secret Ceremony" is probably an acquired taste. I first saw it on network TV in its mutilated form, with new non-Losey scenes filmed to supposed "explain" what was happening. Nevertheless, what remained of the original film was good enough that I sought out the uncut original.
The story is bizarre but consistently intriguing, and the Taylor/Farrow combination works. Taylor is very good in this film; I think it's one of her best performances (her scene at the very end is excellent). I highly recommend this film for those with eclectic, adventurous tastes.
A psychological thriller, the movie depicts the fantasy world created by the young girl and the older prostitute The girl thinks Taylor is her mother, and she brings her home to her once resplendent, now faintly decayed London town house . The two women, locked away from the world outside, enact a "secret ceremony" in which fantasy mingles with and reshapes reality, and Taylor is only too willing to exchange her role of streetwalker for that of the mad girl's rich mama
"Secret Ceremony" is a thickly dark, arty movie, and her role is tricky, complex: the hooker must become a big lady Nervous, agitated and confused in the face of a supply of illusion and reality, Taylor uses her Virginia Woolf number for a role that needs cunning shadings
"Secret Ceremony" looks terrific (Joseph Losey again going to work on a magnificent dream like house), but this is no triumph for Liz The role pushes against Taylor stereotype, but she isn't elastic enough to transcend her new-found image