The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) | A leather-clad Marianne Faithfull rides like the wind in Jack Cardiff’s remastered cult

Marianne Faithfull in The Girl on a Motorcycle

Feeling stifled in her marriage to a bookish school-teacher, Rebecca (Marianne Faithfull) sets out on a cross country dawn ride on her beloved Harley to Heidelberg to be with her intellectual lover Daniel (Alain Delon). On her return, she meditates on her relationships with the two men and experiences erotic visions that reach an sexual, but tragic, climax…

Marianne Faithfull in The Girl on a Motorcycle

British cinematographer/director Jack Cardiff made some pretty odd films (check out 1974’s The Mutations), as well as some true classics of the cinema (especially 1960s’ Sons and Lovers), but this has got to be his weirdest. For his adaptation of surrealist author André Pieyre de Mandiargues’ 1963 novella, La Motocyclette, Cardiff tapped into the psychedelic swinging 1960s spirit of rebellion, but the film divided critics when it was finally released in October 1968 (the Cannes premiere having been cancelled because of the riots and strikes that hit the country in May).

Whether you see it as arthouse masterpiece or clichéd, pretentious and dull, the film is a fitting tribute to the eroticism of the pop era, while its star, Marianne Faithfull, was the ideal choice for the role of the rebellious Rebecca owing to her much publicised wild ways and turbulent relationship with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger.

Alain Delon and Marianne Faithfull in The Girl on a Motorcycle

Sure the film has some irksome moments (like the close-ups of a pouting Faithfull flicking her golden locks against the dodgy back projection), but it does feature French heartthrob Alain Delon, who whispers the film’s most memorable line: ‘You’re body is like a violin trapped in a velvet case’, a cool Harley Davidson Electra Glide, stunning scenery, and, of course, Faithfull in that iconic skin-tight leather catsuit.

To cap it all, the swinging collectable music score is by former John Barry Seven musician Les Reed, who penned Tom Jones’ hits It’s Not Unusual and Delilah, and is conducted by the talented Douglas Gamley, who composed scores for Amicus’ horror anthologies including Asylum and The Monster Club. The opening credits are also pretty cool too!

The Odeon Entertainment DVD release features a pristine digitally re-mastered print, but no extras. Available from 9 September 2013.

A must see for all lovers of 1960s cult and retro British cinema.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on September 9, 2013, in British Film, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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