The Driver’s Seat AKA Identikit (1974)

“There are so many lunatics running around.”

In perhaps the most bizarre role of Elizabeth Taylor’s career, she stars in The Driver’s Seat as Lise, a neurotic woman who goes on holiday to Italy. The first scene establishes that there’s something wrong with Lise. She’s trying on a dress and irrationally becomes hysterical when a saleswoman mentions that the dress is stain-free. Apparently, Lise is buying an outfit for her trip to Rome, and she settles on a bizarre combination of a multi-coloured striped coat and a patterned dress. Once at the airport, Lise appears to be vaguely looking for something, and it becomes clear that what she’s searching for is a man. She subjects each man to scrutiny, but in the terminal, no one seems to pique her interest. Then she sits next to a single young man on the plane and makes him feel so uncomfortable, he moves. This leaves Lise sitting next to Richard (Ian Bannen) a randy macrobiotic diet fanatic who insists he must have a daily sexual encounter as part of his programme. Lise brushes off his advances with vague hints that she’s meeting someone at her hotel.

When Lise arrives in Italy she meets a range of people as she searches for the man who is her “type.” She meets a sweet old lady who is so addlepated, she only vaguely notes that Lise is extremely peculiar. With her bizarre, loud clothing, wild gestures, heavy make-up and searching gazes, some men assume Lise is a prostitute–or at the very least, a desperate, lonely women out looking for a ‘good time’. As her search continues for the man who is her “type”, Lise sheds–with relief–parts of her past.

This Italian film (also known as Identikit) directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi uses a backdrop of 70s terrorism to create a sense of a volatile, dangerous world, and the plot swings back and forth between Lise and her search for her “type” and the police who question anyone who saw Lise from the time she got on the plane. Some of the dialogue is dubbed, and the picture is a fairly typical 70s production. To add to the film’s bizarre qualities, Andy Warhol has a small speaking role as an English lord. The DVD is produced by Cheezy Flicks, and yes, it’s cheesy, but as a fan of the novel by Muriel Spark, I was very pleased with the quality of the film. Elizabeth Taylor delivers an impressive performance as Lise–she contains just the right amount of distraction, suggested violence, and explosive tension.

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