Appellate Judge Tom Becker is wearing cotton under his denim.
Sex and rebellion on two wheels.
Look, it's Marianne Faithfull naked!
OK, you can stop looking.
That's a lot of what you get with Girl on a Motorcycle, a 1968 British film that was released in the U.S. with the more enticing and no less accurate title, Naked Under Leather. An occasionally interesting attempt by the great cinematographer and so-so director Jack Cardiff to make a trippy, hippie youth film, Girl on a Motorcycle is an uncomfortable relic. Its reason for existence seems to be as a showcase for singer, bad girl, and Mick Jagger paramour Faithfull, and even her most strident fans will find they've had their fill of her before the half-way point.
Lovely newlywed Rebecca (Faithfull) leaves the marriage bed, gears up in her best leathers, hops on her motorcycle, and heads out to meet—her lover, Daniel (Alain Delon, Purple Noon). It was Daniel who "initiated her" one wild night, then slipped off, only to encounter her later, after she'd been engaged to the pleasant but unexciting Raymond (Roger Mutton). She rides and rides, through Switzerland and Germany, and she thinks and thinks, and…
And, that's it. We get her story, which is less than fascinating. Her husband's a nebbish, and she'd be much happier if he got tough with her from time to time. Her lover is a wild thing, like herself, who offers her passion but not security.
When Cardiff has Faithfull interacting with other characters, the film becomes a passable '60's Eurosoap with some beautiful camerawork. Unfortunately, much of the running time is devoted to leathered-up Faithfull astride her bike; behind her, cheesy rear projection shots pretending to be scenery and on the soundtrack, Rebecca's running monologue.
Faithfull was around 20 when Girl on a Motorcycle was shot. She is truly beautiful, and Cardiff capitalizes on her beyond-her-years experience—while still a teen, Faithfull charted several albums and became involved with Jagger, her exploits earning her an early scandalous reputation. She is in virtually every shot, and Cardiff's camera objectifies and fetishizes her, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. She's not an especially good actress here, but she has enough presence to carry it off, to a point.
Unfortunately, the film really doesn't go anywhere. Cardiff's direction doesn't help. An unfortunate use of "psychedelic" graphics—pulsating still shots, "trippy" visuals, paint effects—date this and make it look awfully silly. Les Reed's score seems geared less to young hipsters than to fans of old British espionage thrillers and lounge dwellers. Alain Delon and Roger Mutton play their roles—suave and selfish lover and dweeby husband—as expected, consistently and politely yielding the spotlight to obvious center-of-attraction Marianne. While there's not much to the story, the script offers a few unintentionally funny moments, like when leathered Rebecca leaps into her lover's arms and is told, "Your body is like a violin."
Girl on a Motorcycle was previously released by Anchor Bay, an edition that is now out of print. Evidently, that release offered a few supplements, including a commentary by Cardiff. This re-release from Salvation comes up short, offering a trailer and a still gallery as its only extras. The picture is in fair shape with small nicks and scratches, and soft and dark—a pity, since Cardiff's cinematography is the draw here. The audio is the original mono track. There are no subtitles on the disc.
Girl on a Motorcycle is not the worst "youth" film to come out of the '60s, and it's probably worth a rental just to say you've seen it, but the film and its presentation by Salvation really doesn't warrant too much attention.
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