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ELIZABETH TAYLOR IN 'ASH WEDNESDAY' WITH KEITH BAXTER

VHS Cover for Ash Wednesday
A brilliant idea for former A-list actress and sex symbol who had been turning the first slightly-wide curve of her late-thirties and early-forties: With the famously lean, young, pointed beauty long gone, in 1973 Elizabeth Taylor plays a woman of around sixty-five that gets a facelift in Switzerland...

Elizabeth Taylor in Ash Wednesday
Having her seem not only terribly ancient but life-beaten, weathered, bushed, and downright horribly melancholy — thus her "new" face is really what Taylor actually looked like in 1973, and the way the surgery is treated, shown in an up-close, realistically bloody montage...

And as learned through five minutes of exposition... it's obvious the entire procedure wasn't as as common as today, and is even years ahead of modern standards, providing a science-fiction vibe beneath the mundane surface, but only inside the hospital, which is more of a rest home for the super rich, where injections cannot stop the aging process from the inside to fit the outside, but will "retard" the process of aging and, having lost a fair amount of weight, Liz winds up looking better here than other 1970's films... mostly odd, independent movies wherein, this is the most lightweight and entertaining...

Ash Wednesday Scores ***1/2
The scene-stealer of Act One is dapper, cleft-chinned Keith Baxter (who almost played Mark Antony to Taylor's CLEOPATRA, and did star in Orson Welles's jigsaw puzzle Shakespearean piece, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT) as a wry, blunt, flamboyant fashion photographer going through a followup procedure...

That Liz's morose Barbara Sawyer, who has bandages covering most of her face for at least thirty minutes, has to not look forward to, and that the expository Baxter "teaches" her and the audience about...

After which, Taylor and her new self winds up at a Swiss hotel, waiting for the love of her life — her lifelong husband, Mark, played by Henry Fonda, a man she completely depends on — and the only reason she got the facelift in the first place although we get plenty of hints, especially from her visiting daughter — the only person who knows the truth: that the marriage was in peril, facelift or not. In that, Taylor is a humble yet equally oblivious version of Blanche DuBois, and you have to watch twice to see her reactions to particular moments when she realizes that the inevitable is in fact, inevitable...

Helmet Berger & Elizabeth Taylor
And yes, there is romance — sort of — as Barbara is flirted with in the hotel by a handsome, has-been ski-bum played by a stern and brooding Helmut Berger: Throughout the entire picture, Liz discovers her youth through everyone else's reaction, and scenes where she catches glimpses of her image provide moments of her usual graceful, royal acting skills, without words... Most of the dialogue is taken by reoccurring visits from Keith Baxter, with a quip for just about everything — and everyone...

Shortbus Opening Montage
An entertaining yet slow-paced film that's neither arthouse or conventional, ASH falls within a sort of wish-fulfillment romantic melodrama with a heavy theme on marriage — or love lost — or both. During the one bedroom scene, Berger's Erich turns to Barbara and says she shouldn't have waited so long. She thinks she might have been inexperienced in bed and he really meant, to sleep with him...

Portion of an unfolded poster for ASH WEDNESDAY
Well if the one sexually-driven romantic moment happened any quicker, ASH WEDNESDAY, with glorious and rich, cascading score by Maurice Jarre like an Italian music box befitting the Italian locale, would be nothing short of straight-out propaganda for face-lifts, or a just another Harlequin romance novel on screen...

In which there are hints of each and yet, as a whole, it's one of many counter-culture era films about finding oneself, but with a pretty neat twist: And last but certainly not least, the biggest surprise is the lack of unintentionally funny moments, as occur in many ambitious low budget vehicles of this decade, often referred to as "Howlers" like, for example, Taylor and husband Richard Burton's BOOM! — that's with the exception of the opening credit sequence, pasting images of the young and famous Taylor and Fonda to look as if they're actually a couple — getting the camp value out of the way early.
Helmut Berger as Erich in ASH WEDNESDAY aka Meu Corpo em Tuas Mãos
Margaret Blye as Taylor's stunned daughter in ASH WEDNESDAY aka Die Rivalin
Keith Baxter in Ash Wednesday a hybrid of Timothy Dalton and Ron Wood
Elizabeth Taylor in Ash Wednesday aka Δεν μπορούμε να ζούμε με αναμνήσεις
Elizabeth Taylor in Ash Wednesday aka Porque morre o nosso amor?
Elizabeth Taylor in Ash Wednesday YEAR: 1973
Elizabeth Taylor in ASH WEDNESDAY directed by Larry Peerce
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