Lionsgate // 1967 // 108 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // September 3rd, 2008
It's as naughty as a pink lace nightgown, as delicious as a piece of gossip, as sharp as a shot of wry [sic], as rare as a stroke of genius.
Not really, it's just another '60s sex-com, high in concept, middling in results.
Woman Times Seven stars Shirley MacLaine in seven roles in seven vignettes about l'amour fou. Set in Paris and co-starring several "internationally famous" type gents -- Michael Caine, Rosanno Brazzi, Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin, Philippe Noiret, among others -- the film was directed by Italian neo-realist legend Vittorio De Sica, whose work ranged from brilliant (Bicycle Thieves) to embarrassing (A Place for Lovers).
Woman Times Seven isn't embarrassing, but it's far from brilliant. It's pretty standard stuff for its time, and the gimmick of the multiple MacLaines wears thin well before the halfway point.
MacLaine was always a talented performer and an engaging presence, but with few exceptions -- notably Desperate Characters, reviewed recently by Judge Chris Kulick -- she was not an especially adventurous actress. She's just three years older than her brother, Warren Beatty, but while his bold choices made him the epitome of New Hollywood, Shirley remained solidly in the mainstream. She'd received Oscar nominations for Some Came Running, The Apartment, and Irma la Douce before embarking on Woman Times Seven. This was her third anthology movie; she'd appeared in one segment of The Yellow Rolls-Royce and had top-lined What a Way to Go! as a woman romanced (in a series of vignettes) by Dean Martin, Dick Van Dyke, Gene Kelly, Paul Newman, and Robert Mitchum.
Perhaps De Sica intended this to be an American version of his successful Italian film, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, an anthology piece that starred Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. The vignettes in that film were more focused than the ones here, and longer, so Loren and Mastroianni had more room to develop characters. Additionally, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow was far more sophisticated in its storytelling, and De Sica used Loren's earthy charms to great advantage.
The vignettes in Woman Times Seven are simple and silly, sketches, really; a decade or so later, they'd be segments on The Love Boat. As much as I like MacLaine and admire her talent, a little of her goes a long way here. Subverted by the material, she's reduced to mugging, shrieking, and generally overacting. In one horrible segment, she plays a "free spirited girl" who invites two men to her apartment and then strips naked and reads them T.S. Eliot. Anyone excited at the notion of seeing a little celebrity skin can forget it; Shirley's bits go the way of a pregnant sitcom star's belly, camouflaged by unnatural camera angles and strategically placed furniture.
The best segment features MacLaine and Arkin as lovers who meet in a dingy hotel room to carry out a suicide pact -- not just because they are trapped in loveless marriages to others, but because the world is such an awful place. With good performances and dialogue, and a well-used single set (MacLaine's character writes "merde" on the walls to express her misery), this is an amusing and neat little one act. The final episode, about a married woman being followed around by a handsome stranger (Caine), is charming with a bittersweet twist ending.
Lionsgate cranks this one out almost grudgingly: dull print, mono audio, zero extras, not even a trailer. This really is a shame -- trailers for gaudy '60s sex comedies were always so colorful and bouncy, usually featuring brassy scores, pop-artsy graphics, and all kinds of double-takes and suggestive dialogue snippets. Posters for these films also made them seem far racier than they actually were, but Lionsgate doesn't give us an ad gallery, either. You'd think such things would be fairly easy to come up with, and they'd at least create the impression that the studio cared a bit about the release.
More of a relic and awfully "of its time," Woman Times Seven is passable entertainment, but no great shakes. Lionsgate's indifferent treatment makes it tough to even get worked up over the nostalgia value here.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Poster