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The Driver’s Seat


‘…a picture of a disturbed woman who is utterly exhausted by her relationship with men, the star-power of Elizabeth Taylor drives this strange, yet fascinating project with some verve…’

‘I keep making mistakes,’ announces Elizabeth Taylor in Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s fairly obscure adaptation of a novella by Muriel Spark; anyone who attempts to be a Taylor completist will know that her 70’s output is even more wayward a watch that Richard Burton’s, and that’s saying something. The title was changed to Identikit, which is the one that appears on this freshly restored print from the BFI, and this is firmly a crime story, but with a difference; Taylor’s character Lise is both murderer and victim in this super-weird narrative about a woman who sets out to kill herself. This is not a twist, but something the book makes clear in the first few chapters; Spark considered her book as a ‘whydunnit’ and why Lise is acting in this odd fashion is the question that the film attempts to answer in a frowsy, blousy way.

We first see Lise while she examines some mannequins like she’s Princess Anne inspecting the troops; this is her everyday super-glam life in fashion. Lise explodes with rage when a helpful shop-assistant offers her stain-proof clothing, taking her offer as a sartorial insult; ‘I need a vacation’ she declares. It’s the early 70’s, so Lise fixes her make-up and heads to the airport where she dallies for a moment in the airport shop before buying some deadly ornamental daggers. Back in the 1970’s, being able to buy a set of eight-inch ceremonial daggers to take on the plane with you was something that airports clearly encouraged, but in today’s snowflake society, that’s exactly the kind of enjoyable pursuit the woke brigade want to deny us all.  ‘Why do you dress like that? Are you going the circus?’ Taylor is asked about her outlandish outfits, which are more Koko the clown than Coco Chanel, but there’s method in her madness; she’s trying to make an indelible impression on everyone she meets for her own reasons, and sporting psychedelic outfits is certainly one way for Lise to make herself memorable.

Lisa has a fondness for pulp novels; an elderly woman at the bookstall holds up two books and asks ‘Which would be more exciting, more sadomasochistic ?’, and its clear from the way Lise pulls her seatbelt that she’s something of a glutton for pain. ’I don’t like being touched’ she shouts at her follow airline passengers. Fellow travellers include a randy Ian Bannen in a sports jacket, offering a lip-smacking performance as a man obsessed with microbiotic diets, Ying, Yang and orgasms; ‘I’ve been in hotels all over the world’ he proudly boasts but she resists his advances. ‘I’m not interested in sex, I’m interested in other things’ she explains. But what other things is Lise interested in? On arrival in Rome, Lise does some shopping with Mona Washbourne who is on the look out for a pair of slippers in a cavernous department store which seems to contain three hats but is somehow the size of a munitions factory. Lise also meets up with a mysterious English Lord (Andy Warhol, of course, ideally cast), and gets caught up in a couple of violent incidents; we get regular flash-forwards to Interpol investigating Lise’s death, so there’s plenty of foreshadowing to keep us on our toes.

Sort by the great Vittorio Storaro between The Conformist and Apocalypse Now, The Driver’s Seat looks swanky on blu-ray, but not amount of visual polish can balance the wilfully odd dialogue; ‘Excuse me, my lord, the airport has become an inferno!’ sounds like Googletranslate English as she is wrote, while Europudding pretension shows in such elliptical lines like ‘presence is the lack of absence’. Eventually Lise’s quest ends when she finds a good man who is willing to strangle her, but he manages to get grease on her hideous blouse in the process; ‘This stain won’t come out’. The Driver’s Seat doesn’t quite get across the nuances of Spark’s prose, but as a picture of a disturbed woman who is utterly exhausted by her relationship with men, the star-power of Elizabeth Taylor drives this strange, yet fascinating project with remarkable verve.

Thanks to the BFI for providing Blu-ray access to this film, out now (from June 26th 2023)

 Special features include…

  • Restored in 4K by Cineteca di Bologna and Severin Films, and presented in High Definition
  • Introduction by Kier-La Janisse, author of House of Psychotic Women (2022, 6 mins)
  • Audio commentary with curator and programmer Millie De Chirico (2022)
  • A Lack of Absence (2022, 22 mins): writer and literary historian Chandra Mayor on Muriel Spark and The Driver’s Seat
  • The Driver’s Seat credit sequences (1974, 4 mins)
  • Darling, Do You Love Me? (1968, 4 mins): in a parody of her media persona, Germaine Greer stars as a terrifyingly amorous woman who pursues a man relentlessly
  • Waiting For… (1970, 11 mins): a woman embarks on a filmmaking project after being given a camera and told to capture her everyday reality
  • The Telephone (1981, 4 mins): a young woman enacts imaginative revenge on her boyfriend
  • National Theatre of Scotland trailer (2015, 2 mins): a promotional clip for the UK’s first stage production of The Driver’s Seat
  • ***First pressing only*** illustrated booklet with new essays by Simon McCallum and Bruce LaBruce, an essay by Kier-La Janisse originally published in the book House of Psychotic Women, notes on the special features and credits

Product detailsRRP: £19.99 / Cat. no. BFIB1489 / 15Italy, West Germany / 1974 / colour / 102 minutes / English language with optional descriptive subtitles / original aspect ratio 1.85:1 / BD50: 1080p, 24fps, LPCM 2.0 mono audio (48kHz/24-bit)



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  1. Always wanted to see this. So will seek it out. Sorry to say I skipped the review because I never read reviews before I go to see a movie. No matter how the critic tries to limit information, there’s alays some spoiler.

    • If I could solve this mystery, I’d look into how Indiana Jones could make a film about Nazis and moon landings and not make a real connection…

  2. Never heard of this. Sounds different, but not quite different enough to bother with. God Liz during these years was a horror, but she was always a star.

    • Burton’s diaries are a good read. They both seem driven mad by celebrity. Fascinating people, great stars, but man did they make lousy films. Rewatching Boom, which is something else…

  3. “woman who is utterly exhausted by her relationship with men”

    Is there a movie about a man who is exhausted by his relationship with women?

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